There is a volunteer office, barn, farm animal encounter area, and nine habitats home to our big cats and bears. Part of the barn serves as an onsite medical care center which allows us to perform routine medical exams and minor surgeries without having to transport the animals offsite to receive medical attention.
Occasionally history is viewed from the present working back in time. Often we start at the beginning and end at the present. But the best way to understand the history of the LTB ranch is to start somewhere in the middle. Starting with undoubtedly one of the most famous owners of this property, Elihu Granville Martin, most frequently know as Granny.
Granny Martin was first and foremost a Vaquero of grand style (Vaquero is Spanish for cowboy), who lived through the last era of self-sufficiency and knew that most of those who lived in the back country had to make for themselves what they needed for life. In this part of the state he was known as the last of the Vaqueros. He was especially celebrated on a statewide level as a fine reata maker, bit and spur maker, blacksmith, silversmith, horse trainer, and much more. He often referred to himself as a “jack of all trades and master of none”. The legacy of Granny continues to live on locally, as the annual Descanso Vaquero days are dedicated to his honor. You may wonder why start with Granny? It is through his recollections and writing that we have a better understanding of the history of the ranch.
There is an old adobe structure on the ranch. Part of the inside is what currently houses our feed room and volunteer office. Not too long ago, an old bottle was found in the wall of the adobe. In the bottle were some documents, one which included a handwritten history of the ranch as recalled by Granny. What a wonderful discovery! Living in the “information age” of computers, it is easy to forget that not too long ago, history was truly passed down from generation to generation, and documentation was written (by hand) to record it as well. What follows is the early history of the ranch, from Granny’s own written words.
Ranch History – The Early Years
As written on September 25th 1971, when Granny was 75 ½ years old. “I Granville Martin bought this ranch in 1948. It was about to wash away as the roof was all but gone so I have put a new south wall on the kitchen and re-roofed the whole house. This is the last of the early adobes built around Descanso.”
But who owned the ranch prior to Granny?
“Monroe Johnson told me the main part of this house was built after the close of the C.W. (Civil War) possibly 1866 by Silvines Gillette.”
“When Silvines died in 1876, John Combs moved in”
The grave of Silvines Gillette is still located just a few steps from the old adobe and the site of our current office. Mr. Gillette had several children, one who was name Lula.
“Chas. Griffin married Lula and when the place was almost lost for taxes Chas. Moved in in 1910”
It was in 1948 that Granny acquired the ranch.
Ranch History – The Present
The ranch remained in the Martin family until 2003. It was then that Bobbi, with the invaluable help of her husband Mark, purchased the ranch which they have made their home as well as the animals’ lifetime home. Ironically, Mark who was born and raised in San Diego, CA never owned an animal before Bobbi moved back from Texas.
All that changed after Bobbi filled their home with animals and was still flying back and forth to Texas to help other big cats. While in the process of getting all the necessary permits and paperwork together to start LTB, Bobbi & Mark spent many weekends walking different properties, but never seemed to find quite the perfect piece of land.
There were so many challenges, although looking back, it seems as though life opened a new door with each special cry for help. When Bobbi brought LTB’s first tigers from Texas: Raja & Natasha, Bobbi & Mark had property in escrow, but could not build anything there at that point in time. Bobbi had a friend who knew a woman, Elizabeth Nunnery, also know as Cis, with an incredible piece of property. Bobbi approached her about housing Natasha and Raja there temporarily. It turned out Cis is the granddaughter of Granny Martin. She agreed and they began constructing a temporary habitat, getting all the permits and arranging travel for the cats. It started with a modest 24’ x 24’ habitat — and a hose. Bobbi would bring meat up daily in a cooler for them. Bobbi thought it was possible Natasha could be pregnant and sure enough, she was.
After watching Bobbi’s dedication to the animals, Cis decided to sell the perfect piece of property to Bobbi & Mark. The ranch that LTB now calls home!
Of course there is no way of knowing what Granny Martin would think of actual lions, tigers and bears living on the property. But one thing is certain and that is that the spirit of Granny lives on.
Bobbi, Mark, and all the volunteers of Lions Tigers & Bears share the same passion, commitment, and devotion to doing what is right and helping a cause just as Granny did.
Thank you Granny for leaving us the bottle, the history, and your legend. Thank you Cis – for without you LTB would not exist where it does today.