The Sedgwick Reserve lies between what were once the two largest Chumash villages in the Santa Ynez Valley: Soxtonokmu’ to the northwest and Kalawashaq’ to the south. These villages were populated during the Late Period, which began 800 years ago and ended with mission settlement from 1722 to 1822. By 1822, all of the Chumash in the Santa Ynez Valley were removed from their villages and baptized into missions. During this period and for the next 150 years, the Sedgwick Reserve was used for ranching activities, including grazing by livestock.
In 1845, the land became part of the historic Mexican land grant, Rancho la Laguna de San Francisco. The reserve land changed hands several times over its long history of cattle profits and losses. Pio Pico, acting governor of the Californias, granted original ownership to Octaviano Gutierrez, a retired artillery sergeant of the Mexican army, local politician during California’s American transition, and head of a prominent Spanish family.
Gutierrez sold the land to New York-born Samual B. Brinkerhoff, the primary medical doctor in Santa Barbara in 1865. Later owners included Ohio industrialist Robert I. Gale who, from his residence in Santa Barbara, based out operations and continued the breakup of the original rancho.
In 1948, noted rancher Evan S. Pillsbury II bought it for regular cattle grazing. The Pillsbury family was the first owner to make it their primary home, and was responsible for many of the improvements we now see on the reserve.
Philanthropist, sculptor, writer, and rancher Francis Minturn “Duke” Sedgwick and his wife, Alice de Forest Sedgwick, bought the property from Pillsbury in 1952. They moved from the nearby and smaller Rancho Corral de Quati. They ran the ranch for cattle and used it as their primary residence. Duke Sedgwick established his art studio there as well. In 1997, the land entered the Natural Reserve System (NRS) after the Sedgwicks bequeathed most of the ranch to the University of California for interdisciplinary teaching and research. The remaining portion was acquired through efforts of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and numerous other supporters.