Spalding was born in Minneapolis in 1886,
but soon migrated to California, where he at-
tended Pomona College and Stanford University,
and eventually found his way into the oil indus-
try, working with the legendary Edward Doheny.
Along the way, he married Caroline Canfield,
better known as Carrie, a daughter of Doheny’s
partner, Charles Canfield. The Spaldings’ only
child, Deborah, was born in 1921.
In 1926, Silsby became the first mayor of Bev-
erly Hills, where he and Carrie owned a mansion
called Grayhall that still stands today. Also in
1926, they acquired Tecolote Ranch, way off in the
wilds of western Goleta.
“He bought the ranch for my mother, to give her
a place to play,” says grandson Godwin J. Pelissero Jr.
Spalding also used the ranch to raise horses
and to house his increasingly fabulous collection
of artistically wrought saddles and tack.
is a word for owl in Mexico and Central
America. The Tecolote Canyon property originally
was part of the Rancho Dos Pueblos land grant is-
sued to Nicolas Den during California’s Mexican
period (1821–1848). During the course of many
lawsuits, the original rancho was split up into
several smaller ranches, including the Spaldings’
spread, which they called Tecolote Ranch. An avid
yachtsman, Silsby Spalding contemplated building a
marina there, but his plans changed when his ocean
frontage turned out to be part of the fabulously pro-
ductive Ellwood Oil Field, discovered in 1928. He
and Carrie leased their beachfront bonanza to an oil
company and built themselves a house way up the
canyon, with views of the mountains rather than of
the oil derricks down at the shore.
To design this house they hired architect Wil-
liamMooser III, who in partnership with his father
had just designed and built the county’s new court-
house, the Spanish Colonial Revival masterpiece
Above – Mid-1930s photo of the Tecolote Ranch interior
courtyard and fountain with a view down Tecolote
Left – Silsby Spalding sitting in a custom Visalia Supreme
Saddle made by the Visalia Stock Saddle Company in
1927. The Marduenos, a family of bit-and-spur craftsmen
in Santa Barbara, etched the Tecolote Ranch owl brand
into the custom silver bit.
COURTESY TOM PETERSON.
COURTESY TOM PETERSON.
Fall 2017–Winter 2018