Whitney Ranch (1 of 3)
George saw a commercial opportunity when his sons called his attention to the poor quality of California wool and the premiums that Californians were willing to pay for high quality wool imported from Australia. So George consulted with William Wells Hollister who ran Saxony sheep on 150,000 acres near his namesake town in San Benito County. On Hollister’s advice George decided to import Spanish Merino sheep from Australia and crossbreed them with some of Hollister’s Saxonies to get a finer, heavier fleece.
George’s sons decided to join the enterprise and in 1855 or early 1856 George’s oldest son George Whitney Jr., headed for Australia to buy the Merinos.
The youngest of the four sons, Joel Parker Whitney, known as Parker then, told his father of the beauty and good agricultural potential of an area in South Placer County that he had passed on his way to a short stint laboring in the Auburn gold mines when he had first arrived in California in 1852 at age 17. In 1856, George Jr. returned from Australia with 120 Merino ewes and the Whitneys hired a herder to run them with a few of Hollister’s Saxony bucks on open rangeland near the place that Parker had identified.
George Jr. died shortly thereafter, possibly from the rigors of traversing 7,500 miles of ocean while tending a flock of sheep.
The crossbreeding project was successful and the Whitney wool was in high demand. So George decided to give the operation permanence. In 1857 he established a sheep ranch with the purchase of 320 acres in the midst of thousands of acres of unoccupied Placer County land. That purchase, which became known as The Whitney Ranch, was a few miles west of a granite quarrying community that later would supply stone for the transcontinental railroad and become a passenger stop which the railroad would name Rocklin, California in 1864.
George and his sons started adding pasture to the ranch in 1860 and continued to expand with several purchases throughout the decade. For land that they bought from private individuals, the federal government and the railroad they paid from ninety cents to 2 dollars per acre. As they continued to expand they recruited outsiders as homesteaders and after a few years bought out the homesteads for up to 5 dollars per acre.
But homesteader O.T. Brown refused to sell. He owned the horseshoe shaped valley near the middle of the ranch called Brown’s Valley, the site of the today’s Whitney Oaks Golf Course and the surrounding homes. So the Whitneys leased Brown’s Valley for 25 dollars per month. There might have been an unrecorded agreement between Brown and the Whitneys because when Brown died in 1901 he had bequeathed the valley to Parker and it became part of the ranch.
Even though Parker entered California mercantile pursuits later than his brothers he had the greatest financial success. He made frequent trips to the East Coast to make large purchases, shipped the goods around Cape Horn or via the Isthmus and then hurried to meet the shipments at San Francisco where he ensured their quick sale. He sold many items before they arrived.
Also, after a short time as a Union officer during the Civil War, Parker promoted Colorado minerals in Europe and invested in several successful Colorado silver mines. By 1870 he had become wealthy from these and a variety of other smart investments. It was mostly Parker’s money that expanded the ranch.
By the early 1870’s the ranch consisted of about 18,000 acres bordered very roughly by Lincoln and Roseville on the north and south, by Rocklin and the trans-Sierra railroad tracks on the east and by the tracks near today’s Indian Casino on the west. This is the area into which Rocklin has been expanding since the late 1970’s.
By the time George Whitney died in 1873, Parker had gained control of the majority of ranch assets. He bought out his brothers’ remaining interests that year. Even though he continued with his international business activities the ranch continued to absorb his creativity. He wanted to diversify away from dependence on his sheep business and into a wider variety of other agricultural opportunities. But for this he needed water.
Next Time: The Magnificent Landed Estate of the Honorable J. Parker Whitney
The foregoing is from a variety of sources including Fortune Built by Gun by Richard A. Miller
Placer County News HeadlinesCalifornia Senate Passes New Gun Violence BillCalifornia's state today passed the "Gun Violence Restraining Order (AB 1014)," legislation that would allow family members or law enforcement to petition a court
Laura's Law Implementation in Placer CountyPlacer County became the sixth county in California Tuesday to implement Laura's Law - a state statute that authorizes court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment of residents with severe
$22 Million Animal Services Center in Auburn Moves ForwardThe Placer County Board of Supervisors awarded a design-build contract on Tuesday that paves the way for construction of a long-planned Animal Services Center in North Auburn that
Autism in Girls Study Launched in CaliforniaAutism is far more common in boys than girls - affecting 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls - but little is known about biological differences between boys and girls with autism.
Sierra Shoot Out Water Polo Tournament in RocklinThe Sierra Shoot Out Water Polo tournament is back for another year at Sierra College. The junior college has hosted this high school tournament for over 20 years
What is Slowing the California Housing Recovery?Realtor, Julie Jalone of MagnumOne Realty in Roseville, writes about why the California and Sacramento housing markets are not expanding as fast as expected. Find out what Julie thinks is contributing to a slower real estate market.
Circus Vargas in Roseville this September Roseville,CA -- Get ready for the ultimate entertainment extravaganza for all ages as the circus comes to Roseville.
Hot Pink Fun Run in Downtown Roseville September 28thRegistration is now open for the 7th Annual Hot Pink Fun Run, a family-friendly run, walk and fun zone on Sunday, September 28, 2014.
Monty Python's Spamalot at Roseville TheaterSPAMALOT tells the legendary tale of King Arthur's quest to find the Holy Grail. However, diverting a bit from the true story, this hilarious musical
High Marks for Sierra College Energy Tech StudentsThe Sierra College Energy Technology students who took the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners Entry-level exam in June 2014, all passed.
Multiple Sclerosis Becomes Counselor's AssetDuring most of the '70s, Kathe Skinner, now a 65-year-old licensed marriage family therapist in Colorado Springs, Colorado, couldn't figure out what was wrong with her body.
Placer Water Agency Eyes $7 Billion Bond OpportunityFunding for water resource improvements in Placer County could be possible if California voters support the $7.12 billion bond issue on the Nov. 4 ballot, it was