Farms & Ranches

Image of Settlement & Agriculture
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Settlement & Agriculture

Close behind the prospectors and miners came the agriculturalists, families from the eastern states and Europe who saw opportunities for stock-raising and truck garden operations on the open grasslands. Following the decline of placer deposits in the Mother Lode after ca. 1860, farming gained importance as a family enterprise, which helped to establish more permanence and stability in the society. Settlers established farms growing hay, alfalfa, and wheat, and planted orchards and truck gardens.

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Spicer Ranch

Thomas and Elizabeth Spicer, natives of England, arrived in California sometime prior to 1851. The couple had eight children: Daniel, Mary Ann, Joseph, Elizabeth, Susanna, Thomas, James, and Ellen; the latter four born after the family’s arrival in California.

In June, 1867, Thomas Spicer purchased the George Duncan Ranch from G.W. Merritt. This parcel was located on Littlejohns Creek, in Sections 16 or 21, T1N, R12E (Calaveras County Deed Book R:102). Duncan’s ranch totaled 160 acres, but had increased to 320 acres sometime before 1867 when it was deeded to Spicer by Merritt (Calaveras County Deed Book R:102). 

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The March House, Burson

The land in the Burson area was settled long before the arrival of the railroad, on a parcel of land patented by John H. Peters on February 20, 1882 (Calaveras County Land Patent Maps). Peters, born in Michigan in 1837, was first noted in the U.S. Census in 1850, when he was residing with the Copernall family in Exeter, Monroe County, Michigan, and working as a 13-year old farm laborer. By 1870 he was living on his own farm in Elliott Township, northeastern San Joaquin County, where he resided with his wife Alice, aged 26, a native of New York, their daughter Ada, born that February, and two young farm laborers from Michigan. His real estate was valued at $600 and personal estate at $700 (U.S. Federal Census 1870).

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The Flanders Ranch

Immediately south of the project area was the ranch of the Flanders family. The exact date of the settlement of the Flanders family in the area of what is now Moran Road between Arnold and Avery is unknown, but as they traveled over the early emigrant road into Calaveras County in 1849, and left an account of their visit to the Big Trees, they would have undoubtedly passed by the land that they later homesteaded (Costello, ed. 1988:16).

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Sciaccaluga/Pyshon Property, Vallecito
By Judith Marvin, 1998

Angelo Sciaccaluga was born near Genoa, Italy, in 1840, emigrating to the United States in 1861 or 1862, as a ship stowaway. He first stayed in a settlement with other Italian immigrants, then come to California and worked as a miner. He was naturalized in 1871, and by 1872, purchased lad from George Major (Major had acquired the Mull Ranch, east of Coyote Creek, in 1865, and another 320-acre parcel on the Vallecito-Murphys Road. By the mid-1870s he had sold all of his lands in the area and moved away).

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The Ansil Davis Ranch
Located in Present-Day Douglas Flat Area

Ansil Davis first registered to vote in Calaveras County in 1867, noting his age as 39, born in Maine, and working as a millman in Angels Camp (Great Register of Voters 1866-1887). Three years later he was working in a sawmill in Avery (U.S. Federal Census 1870), and by 1874 he was residing in Douglas Flat with another miner and raising poultry (Calaveras County Assessment Roll 1873-4). In 1880 he was noted as a miner and millman, and by 1900 he had married Sarah, aged 44, a California native, and noted his occupation as farmer (U.S. Federal Census 1880, 1900; San Joaquin County Directory).

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The Italian Ranch
The De Ferrari/Foppiano/Malatesta Ranch in the Douglas Flat Region

In August of 1863, Giacamo De Ferrari (spelled numerous other ways, as he could not read or write and signed his name with an X) filed a land claim to his property, noting that it was bounded south by Hitchcock’s Ranch, north by that of Moses Towle, crossing Coyote Creek westerly at the intersection of Towle and Holmes’ ranches, and thence southwesterly along the line of an old flume. The land was marked and bounded by a picket and brush fence (thus, it does not appear as if the stone fences had been constructed by that time) (Calaveras County Land Claim Book D:60). The 1861 assessments for Towle and Hitchcock noted the “Italian Ranch” positioned between the two.

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The Bertatta Ranch
Located in Present-Day Douglas Flat Area

The Bertatta Ranch complex, the 15 acres encompassing the residence, barns, blacksmith shop, garage, and stone walls.The property remained in the Bertatta family from 1884 on until the last family members died in 1970. During the late 1880s, Bertatta was assessed for 15 acres with a house, barn, orchard, and fence bounded north by Matteson, south by Ansil Davis, and west by the road, with furniture, a cow, wine, and a dog, with little change through the 1890s. 

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The Hitchcock Ranch
Located in Present-Day Douglas Flat Area

Probably the first to settle the lands now located in the Douglas Flat region was Isaac P. Hitchcock, a native of Pennsylvania and possibly a member of Heckendorn’s 1849 Pennsylvania Company. Certainly he was noted as working the Hitchcock Claim on the north side of Douglas Flat as early as 1850 (San Andreas Independent).

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The Richards Ranch
A Ranch Located in the Washington Flat Area

By 1853, William Richards, his wife Grace, son William Hosking Richards, and daughters Elizabeth and Grace, had settled on a five-ace parcel of land located in the northern portion of the project area, on the east side of Washington Flat Road and north of Angels Creek. The Richards were natives of Cornwall, England, who had immigrated to Grant County Wisconsin in 1844 (Great Register of Voters 1896-98), where both their daughters were born. Two sons, Edward and John, evidently died there or never emigrated to Calaveras County (U.S. Federal Census 1850).

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The Johnson Ranch

The Johnson Ranch is thought to have had at least three owners prior to the Johnsons’ tenancy. In 1857 a newspaper account mentioned the garden of the “Hockman and Reynolds Ranch” containing a general variety of trees, plants, and flowers, but most especially the “Longworth’s Variety” strawberry (San Andreas Independent, November 14, 1857). Sometime prior to 1860 the ranch became the property of Philip Schwartz, who sold it that year to George A. Stoddardt (Calaveras County Deed Book E:543).

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