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50 Features of Special Collections: McKinnon and Ruble Families Papers

9/509/50

As we are in the midst of pear season here in Northern California, it seems apt to highlight the McKinnon and Ruble Families Papers this week. This collection focuses on the life and career of Aloysius John McKinnon, M.D. (1870-1933); the Ruble family of his wife Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Ruble McKinnon (1875-1916); and upon the lives of their children as related to their Rio Vista, California family home and ranch near the Sacramento River. The Ruble-McKinnon Ranch produced alfalfa, asparagus, potatoes, and other crops but was especially known for its pears.

Aloysius John McKinnon (1870-1933) was born in San Francisco to Daniel A. and Catherine MacDonald McKinnon. Circa 1890, Aloysius joined his family’s well-established San Francisco lumber and shipping business, MacDonald and McKinnon. In 1900, while studying medicine at the University of California, Medical Department in San Francisco, Aloysius married Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Ruble (1875-1916). Aloysius received his medical degree in 1903 from the University of California and the following year he and Lizzie relocated to Rio Vista. Dr. McKinnon practiced medicine from his Front Street office and later from an office in his Rio Vista home.

At the time of her marriage Lizzie was the oldest of three surviving heirs to the estate of her twice-widowed father Lewis Cass Ruble (1848-1899). Lewis Cass Ruble’s landholdings became the basis for the Ruble-McKinnon Ranch, which was located on the eastern bank of the Sacramento River and across the river from the town of Rio Vista. After Lewis’ death, his son William maintained the ranch, but circa 1905 upon William’s incapacity, Aloysius McKinnon took over management of the ranch for his wife, Lizzie, and her half-sister, Mabel. In addition to practicing medicine and managing the ranch, Aloysius was active in local organizations including being a founder and officer of the Brannan Island Reclamation District board. He held part ownership of a sailing vessel, the schooner Melrose, and in McKinnon family property located in San Francisco.

Aloysius and Lizzie McKinnon had six children: Lewis Ruble (1901-1956), Louise Isabelle (1903-1991), Ralph A. (1906-1913), Malcolm Bernard (1910-1982), Donald Aloysius (1913-1978), and Kenneth Leo (1915-2003). Lewis Ruble McKinnon studied agriculture at the University Farm School (now UC Davis) in the early 1920s.

The McKinnon and Ruble Families Papers (48.9 linear feet) document the life of a physician and rancher in the California Delta region during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The collection contains biographical information, correspondence, legal and financial documents, family member’s class notes and assignments, ephemera and realia, maps, and photographs. Aloysius John McKinnon and his son, Malcolm Bernard, kept detailed accounts of ranch and household expenses. There are also some records of Dr. McKinnon’s medical practice. The bulk of the papers spans the years 1890 to 1984.

Significant local history information is found in the collection including records of the Brannan Island Reclamation District and items related to the history of the University of California, Saint Gertrude’s Academy, and Saint Mary’s College. Subjects of many of the photographs include McKinnon and Ruble family members, Rio Vista, the Ruble-McKinnon Ranch, the Sacramento River, and San Francisco. The bulk of the photographs date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so a wide variety of historical photographic processes are represented.

An exhibit on our website provides more information as well as select images from the collection.

 Ruble Orchard lug label, 1915 Ruble Orchard lug label, 1915