Hidden Villa has a complex history that stretches back long before the Duveneck family called it home. For thousands of years, the native Ohlone people lived in the area. The nearest known Ohlone settlement from pre-European times was discovered along El Monte Road at Summerhill Avenue and was excavated in 1971. Although no verified Ohlone artifacts have been discovered on Hidden Villa land, the close proximity of the
excavation indicates that the Ohlone most likely lived on or near the 1600 acres that comprise Hidden Villa today. During the period in which the Ohlone lived in the area, Adobe Creek ran year-round and the people had access to abundant marshland. The Ohlone would have likely fished in the creek, gathered bunchgrasses in the valley for weaving baskets, hunted deer, and gathered acorns in the hills.
In the mid-to-late 1700s, the Spanish, who had conquered Mexico, needed to find a way to control the vast lands of California, which were part of Mexico at the time. The Spanish sent missionaries, who were usually accompanied by soldiers, to establish missions throughout California. The missions were established, according to the missionaries, to save the souls of the native people by converting them to Christianity. In order to maintain the missions, native peoples were removed from their traditional lands and required to work in the fields and produce goods. Hidden Villa bears witness to these efforts in the form of a grove of olive trees planted during that era. This grove was probably associated with either the Santa Clara or the San Jose mission. Visitors can find the grove on their immediate right as they enter Hidden Villa from Moody Road.
Mexican Independence Era
When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1822, the Mexican government divided California into land grants, which it distributed to wealthy or influential male citizens or military personnel like General Vallejo. Hidden Villa was part of the La Purissima Concepcion land grant. Rancho San Antonio, just south of Hidden Villa along highway 280, was also part of that same land grant. Over time, these large tracts were inherited or subdivided and sold. The land now known as Hidden Villa expanded over the years from 68 acres to its present 1600 acres.
Early Statehood and Beyond
In the mid-to-late 1800s, the land was logged, farmed, and lived on. An 1868 map indicates that grapes were grown in the area near what is now the main parking lot. A vineyard is also indicated along the creek trail. A gentleman named George Thistleton owned a cabin and, perhaps, a small sawmill there, as well.
In March, 1867, George Washington Moody requested that Moody road be recognized as a public roadway. For many years after that, regular stagecoach service ran from the then bustling port of Pescadero, along Page Mill Road, down Moody Road, through Hidden Villa, and on to the Mountain View train station. Remnants of the old grapevines and portions of the old road can still be found on Hidden Villa property today.
In 1887, Otto Arnold purchased 616 acres of land that’s now part of Hidden Villa. Arnold’s purchase included the valley with its farm house and white barn, which were built around 1860. In August of 1888, Mr. Arnold petitioned to have the part of Moody Road that ran through his property decommissioned. Five months after Otto and his wife, Elvira, moved to the property, Otto died, leaving Elvira to run the farm. During her time here, speculators arrived, eager to discuss the purchase of the valley; they intended to dam the creek to provide water for the burgeoning nearby population and vast orchards. According to legend, Elvira threatened these men with a shotgun, saving Hidden Villa from a potentially disastrous fate.
Hidden Villa was threatened again in 1904 when the army purchased the land as a shooting range. Only a technicality of the uncertain ownership of a small strip of land within the property prevented the sale from going through. The land changed hands several more times before that fateful day when Frank and Josephine discovered the entry gate of Hidden Villa and purchased it. Without their stewardship, Hidden Villa’s property would have likely been subdivided and developed into many individual homes.