by Debra Staab
The Patchen Old Town Christmas Tree Farm, located near the intersection of the Old Santa Cruz Highway and Mt. Charlie Road, has served our mountain community since the early 1970s. The gem of a tree farm sells a variety of evergreen trees including redwood, pine, cedar, fir, and cypress of all sizes. The current owner, Jim Beck, gladly helps all customers find their perfect tree. And don’t miss the delightful gift shop full of hand-made wreaths and ornaments.
But, Patchen was not always a tree farm. A century ago it was actually one of the earliest local communities near the Summit. Just a mile northeast of Mountain Charley’s cabin, Jacob V. Fowler established a homestead of 240 acres here by the early 1870s. With the Wells Fargo stagecoach and livery stop just across the road, an official US Post Office was opened at Patchen in 1872 (closed in 1929). By 1885 the hamlet featured a store, a few hotels, and was home to several mountain families.
In the early twentieth century, the homestead was subdivided with ownership of around 23 acres of Patchen going to the Laddick family and then the Castor family. The area survived the 1906 earthquake, but in 1957 a major fire destroyed the main home. Mr. Beck purchased the land in 1969 and converted it to a Christmas tree farm. In 1985 he rebuilt the old barn over the foundation of the burned down home where it now serves as an office, workshop, and gift shop. The last standing bricks of the old post office fireplace crumbled during the 1989 earthquake. A plaque dedicated to Patchen and Mountain Charlie can be found directly across the road from the Patchen Old Town Christmas tree farm.