Fall 2008 Excavations -- Sikes Adobe (SDI-12650H)
 in Association with the San Dieguito River Park

Palomar and Other College Student Participants

Fall 2008 Sikes Adobe Excavation Photos

Note:  the following text borrows heavily from the following historical report:  Sikes Adobe Farmhouse and Landscape Historic Structures Report by IS Architecture (Ione Stiegler and Sandra Escobedo), Walter Enterprises (Stephen Van Wormer and Susan Walter), Wallace, Roberts Todd (Laura Burnett), Vonn Marie May, Melvyn Green and Associates, Philipp Scholz Ritterman, and John A. Martini.

The Sikes Adobe was built on what was originally part of Rancho Bernardo, a Mexican era land grant of 17,763 acres.  On March 30, 1869, Xenas Sikes purchased a portion of the rancho (2,402.5 acres) from previous landowners on the north side of the San Dieguito River.  By 1872, he had moved his family onto the property, so it is probable the original adobe structure was built ca. 1870.  It began as a wheat farm.  By the end of the 1870s, four of his children had married and moved away, leading to a redistribution of the property.  Sadly, Xenas Sikes died from an amputation of his leg on April 2, 1881, as a result of two successive injuries from horses in 1879 and 1881.  He was 51.  Fortunately, Eliza Sikes, his wife, inherited a $6,000 life insurance benefit which she used to extensively remodel the house and purchase new furniture.  By that time, the single room adobe structure had been expanded to include western and eastern porches, a sitting room to the south, and a second addition (possibly moved onto the property) with two bedrooms and parlor room. The property later became a dairy in the 1890s.  The Sikes family lost ownership through foreclosure in 1899.

The Sikes farm operation depended upon supplies and trade with San Diego, but especially with the small community of Bernardo located a short distance to the south.  Bernardo included Patrick Graham's general store and the blacksmiths William Ober and later George Smart.  Graham sold a wide variety of goods and also served as local banker, labor contractor, postmaster and express agent.  Sikes often did business with Graham through barter.

Augustus Barnett of Ramona purchased the property soon after the Sikes lost it to foreclosure.  At his death, the property was owned by Melancton Barnett who apparently lived there from 1908-1917.  During that time modern plumbing was installed in 1912 with 1 1/2 bathrooms.  During the 1920s and 1930s the property was owned and often rented out by the San Dieguito Mutual Water Company and later the City of San Diego.  From the early 1920s until World War II, Frank and Yolanda Hopkins lived there.  Frank worked for several cattle ranchers in the area and did some gold mining in Ramona.  After WWII, the Sikes house became part of various cattle ranching operations.  Hans Starr, a cattle rancher who lived in Witch Creek east of Ramona, leased the house and surrounding land.  The cattle were pastured in the San Pasqual Valley; between 1000-1500 head of cattle were gathered at the ranch and shipped out.   This is when the wooden corrals and cattle chutes (mostly destroyed now) were built.  In the 1970s, the lease was taken over by the San Jacinto Packing Company and cattle ranchers continued to lease the property through the 1980s. 

More recently, the Sikes Adobe was rehabilitated and turned into a docent museum in 2004.  Sadly, it was burned to the ground (except for the original adobe walls) in the 2007 Witch fire.  Steve Van Wormer and Susan Walter conducted excavations under the wooden floor of the northern part of the adobe where the kitchen had been in 2004.  After its destruction by fire, Steve and Susan conducted test excavations within various parts of the destroyed structure in early 2008, including two small units under the wooden floor.

The San Dieguito River Park plans to rebuild the Sikes Adobe within the next year.  Palomar College was asked to conduct excavations with its Fall field school (ANTH 120/205), because the Park lacks funds to hire outside consultants.  Palomar College has been excavating the remaining 2/3rds of the area under the original wooden floor, and has expanded the study to include the east porch and the sitting room areas (as recommended in the Van Wormer and Walter 2008 excavation report).  Many artifacts, largely post-1900 have been recovered, including clay marbles, broken tableware (mostly decal ware and some blue Japanese import ware), a safety pin, 1903 and 1905 Indian Head pennies, window glass, pencil fragments, wooden thread spools, shotgun shells, eyeglass lenses, necklace beads, fragments of early newspapers, bits of fabric, a glass top for a milk or cream bottle with a bail closure, and much more. 

The excavations have been conducted under the direction of Dr. Philip de Barros, Coordinator of the Palomar College A.A. Degree Archaeology Program, with the assistance of Anne Cooper, Sikes Adobe Museum Manager for the San Dieguito River Park.  Most of the Palomar students are students currently taking Historical Archaeology (ANTH 225) at Palomar College:  Paulo Medina, Marty Jorgensen, Julius Miller, Jooweon Park, Dean Kaufmann, Christina Buttry, and Scot Golia.  In addition, several students from San Diego City College and San Diego State have been assisting as volunteers since November:  Donna Sideman, Patrick Hodel, Kjrsten Hefty, Beverly Sickler, and Nara Cox.  Their efforts are greatly appreciated.  The excavation team has been doing a really excellent job.


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This page was last updated on Tuesday, February 24, 2009.
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