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McKinnon and Ruble Families Papers

McKinnon and Ruble Families Papers

The exhibit provides an overview of the papers by describing the life of Aloysius John McKinnon, M.D. (1870-1933), a physician and rancher in the California Delta region during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Of special interest in the exhibit are Aloysius McKinnon’s doctor’s bag and medical equipment, photographs of historic Rio Vista, examples of family correspondence, and medical practice and ranch records.

The papers focus on Aloysius John McKinnon, M.D. (1870-1933), a physician and rancher in the California Delta region during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; the Ruble family, Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Ruble McKinnon’s (1875-1916) family; their children; and their Rio Vista, California family home and ranch near the Sacramento River. The bulk of the papers spans the years 1873 to 1989. The McKinnon Ruble Familes Papers contain appointment and account books that record information about Dr. McKinnon’s expenses, patients, office visits, and house calls as well as examples of early twentieth-century medical supplies, equipment, and ephemera. Ranch along with groups of correspondence, notes, legal and financial documents, photographs, printed materials, artifacts, and ephemera are also included in the collection.

Accessible in Special Collections, the McKinnon Ruble Family Papers present researchers with significant information on subjects including life on the California Delta, early California medical history, and the history of agriculture, especially crop and orchard farming.

More information about the McKinnon and Ruble Families Papers may be found in the collection finding aid which is available on the Online Archive of California.

Aloysius J. McKinnon and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Ruble McKinnon

In 1870, Aloysius J. McKinnon was born in San Francisco. During the 1890s, he served with the California National Guard and joined his family’s well-established San Francisco lumber and shipping business, MacDonald and McKinnon, but, by 1899 he was studying medicine at the University of California, Medical Department. In 1900, while studying at the University of California, Medical Department, he married Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Ruble (1875-1916) of Rio Vista. For the next four years, the newlyweds lived in an apartment in San Francisco’s Mission District. Aloysius McKinnon received his medical degree in 1903.

In 1904, A. J. and Lizzie McKinnon relocated from San Francisco to Rio Vista, where Dr. McKinnon practiced medicine from his Front Street office and later from an office in his home. As a physician practicing in rural Solano and Sacramento counties during the 1900s to 1930s, Dr. McKinnon was required to know something about all aspects of medicine from lab work to obstetrics and from surgery to psychology.

Ruble-McKinnon Ranch

At the time of her marriage to Aloysius J. McKinnon in 1900, Lizzie Ruble, her brother William (1877-1917), and their half-sister Mabel (1885-1959), were the three surviving heirs to the estate of their twice-widowed father Lewis Cass Ruble (1848-1899). L. C. Ruble settled in Rio Vista circa 1870. His landholdings became the basis for the Ruble-McKinnon Ranch, which was located on the eastern bank of the Sacramento River, on Brannan Island, across from the town of Rio Vista. The ranch produced alfalfa, asparagus, barley, and potatoes, but was especially known for its pears. After L. C. Ruble’s death, his son William maintained the ranch. As William’s health failed, circa 1905-1910, Aloysius McKinnon took over management of the ranch.

When Aloysius McKinnon died in 1933, his son, Malcolm Bernard McKinnon (1910-1982), left medical school at Columbia University in New York to return to the family home in Rio Vista. Malcolm managed the Ruble-McKinnon Ranch until its sale in 1980, when the property passed from family hands after nearly one hundred years. Aloysius McKinnon kept detailed ranch accounts, and Malcolm continued the tradition of maintaining meticulous records.


From 1901 to 1915, Aloysius and Lizzie McKinnon had six children:

Lewis Ruble, Louise Isabelle, Ralph A., Malcolm Bernard, Donald Aloysius, and Kenneth Leo.

Following Lizzie’s death in 1916, her half-sister, Mabel, assumed responsibility for the care and upbringing of the children. Dr. McKinnon continued to practice medicine in Rio Vista for thirty years, manage the Ruble-McKinnon Ranch, and tend to his family. As the McKinnon children reached adulthood, they, like their father, chose careers in medicine and agriculture.

Lewis Ruble McKinnon (1901-1956)

In the early 1920s, Lewis Ruble McKinnon (1901-1956) studied agriculture at the University Farm (now UC Davis). Beginning in the late 1920s, he pursued tobacco planting and production in Haiti. (Left) Lewis Ruble McKinnon in freshman beanie at the University Farm, circa 1920.

Lewis Ruble McKinnon (1901-1956)

Lewis Ruble McKinnon and farm laborers in Haiti, circa 1930.

Louise Isabelle McKinnon Craven (1903-1991)

Louise Isabelle McKinnon Craven (1903-1991) studied nursing at the UC Medical Department in San Francisco. In 1931, Louise and her brother Malcolm sailed from San Francisco to New York, where she would work as a private nurse and he would study medicine.

Louise Isabelle McKinnon Craven (1903-1991)

Ralph A. McKinnon (1906-1913)

Ralph A. McKinnon (1906-1913) with aunt Mabel Ruble. Sacramento River at Rio Vista, circa 1913.

Ralph A. McKinnon (1906-1913)

Malcolm Bernard McKinnon (1910-1982)

After his father’s death in 1933, Malcolm Bernard McKinnon (1910-1982) left medical school at Columbia University in New York to return to the family home in Rio Vista, where he managed the Ruble-McKinnon Ranch until its sale in 1980.

Malcolm Bernard McKinnon (1910-1982)

Malcolm McKinnon (third from left) graduated from Saint Mary’s College, California in 1931.

Donald Aloysius McKinnon (1913-1978)

Donald Aloysius McKinnon (1913-1978) served as a physician with the U.S. Navy during the Second World War. Both he and his wife, Eleanor Rodgerson, practiced medicine in Sacramento. Special Collections also holds the Eleanor Rodgerson Papers.

Donald Aloysius McKinnon (1913-1978)

Kenneth Leo McKinnon (1915-2003)

 Kenneth Leo McKinnon (1915-2003) served as a dentist with the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany. He established a dental practice in San Rafael, California.

Kenneth Leo McKinnon (1915-2003)


Letter concerning sale of horse, William Ruble to A. J. McKinnon, Feb. 19, 1910. Pg1

Transcription of letter

Feb. 19, 1910

Dear Al:

Your letter pertaining to the sale of the horse was rec’d this noon, as I went out collecting the first thing this morning and was unable to get this off on the 10:30 boat. will take it down and send it off on the 4:30 however.

Now in regard to that horse being worth $1000, it all depends on how he sized up and whether that founder hurt him any; but this was my impression that he should bring that amount however I may be wrong and expect too much for him. However Kirby is away off himself with that $350 offer and intends no doubt making the bulk for himself or a good piece of money at all events. I also realize that the Ruble Estate is not

Letter concerning sale of horse, William Ruble to A. J. McKinnon, Feb. 19, 1910. Pg2

Transcription of letter (cont.)

in the horse business. Any amount ranging around $500 would be pretty good dope to take, as he may die on your hands any day and besides the horse business is not good at the best. I would suggest however that should Harry Beguhl want the horse that it would be best to give him the preference as he took care of him when he was on my hands during that flood. At all events I think it a good idea to get rid of him and anything you do will be all OK with me although I think Kirby has a few cards up his sleeve. It would not be a bad idea to get the opinion of some of those horsemen around town—Hardy Holmes for instance has pretty good judgment in these matters.

Yes I am feeling a whole lot better than I did at 110 lbs. I can eat good and handle what I eat just like a baby…

Give my love to Sis and spank that kid for me. Love also to Mabel and the rest of your family. With best wishes from all of us, I am as ever,

Yours Truly,

Letter from A. J. McKinnon to his son, Malcolm McKinnon, April 10, 1931

Transcription of letter

Ro Vista, April 10, 1931

Dear Malcolm,

Am afraid I will have to ask a favor if it is possible for you to do it. I notice in last evening’s Bee that there is 6 inches of snow at the summit where there should be 6 ft. Now that means that we are going to have salt water early this year and I am afraid very early.

I intended waiting until you graduated but am afraid I cannot. Would it be possible for you to cut your morning work for Friday April 24th? If so, you could come home Thursday and work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of that weekend. I think in those 3 days you could construct the furrows and get the water started so that Hoy could continue the process.

I may be pessimistic but the above seems to me to be the only way we can use our irrigation system this year and the trees will sure need it because there has been so little rain this year…

McKinnon and Ruble Families Papers

Transcription of letter (cont.)

…Write and let me know what you can do and if you require a written excuse I will write you a dozen of them.

I think I will require you those 3 days because I have a plan of irrigation that I cannot carry out because Hoy would not understand and the only way is to show him how it works. Besides that I do not know if it will work or not so I need you help…

Your Dad

Excerpt from Sept. 3, 1944 letter to Malcolm McKinnon from Donald McKinnon, who was stationed in the South Pacific

“…How is everything back home? You are probably more busy than I because just now we are waiting for some time when they will need us. Apparently it isn’t in the immediate future. No doubt it will be influenced by the course of the war. We are theoretically trained and so now we just brush up on phases of training which we feel we need. No doubt our first combat will reveal many rough spots. The medical dept. never gets a real workout till we reach combat…”

Donation and Use Page

The McKinnon family donated the McKinnon Ruble Family Papers (48.9 linear feet) to Special Collections, University Library, University of California, Davis, in 2004.

For additional information, contact Special Collections,, (530) 752-1621.

Images (unless otherwise credited) are the property of the Regents of the University of California; no part may be reproduced or used without permission of the Department of Special Collections.