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Banchero Ranch 

 The Banchero home and ranch were located on land claimed as a placer mine on May 19, 1897 by Edgar Freeman Crosby and his wife, Elizabeth Crosby (Mining Claim Book S:439).  The claim included 40 acres on both sides of the Altaville and Murphys Toll Road (Murphys Grade Road) (the NW ¼ of the SE ¼ of Section 28, T3N,R13E), and bordered the Beda Blood Placer Mine, patented in 1888 by Harvey Blood, on the south.  Adjacent to Bald Hill, the area had been placer mined since the earliest days of the Gold Rush, and many important mines were located in the vicinity, including the Calaveras Central, which operated into the 1950s.

Edgar Freeman Crosby died in February 1912, and in August 1913, son Edgar Allen and his wife Edythe Hazel Crosby deeded a lot, with a frontage of 120 feet and depth of 160 feet, plus about 10 acres of the Crosby Placer Mine on the north side of the Altaville and Murphys Road, to Chris (Natale/Nathan Anthony) Banchero (Deed Book 62:50).  The deed noted that the property included a five-room frame dwelling house, barn, and three small hen houses.  Unfortunately for Mr. Banchero, the house was located on the property of the adjacent landowner, who made him tear it down and move it (it was relocated on the Calaveras Central Mine property).  Mr. Banchero then built a new, small two-room house higher up on the hill for his family.  His son, Nat Banchero, recalled that his brother was born in the house in 1916, so it was completed by that date (Nat Banchero, personal communication 1994). 

Assessment rolls from 1926 to 1934 list the lot (valued at $25) and the 9.5 acre portion of the Crosby Placer Mine, with a two-room house, chicken house, shed, and fence, valued at $75, assessed to Chris Banchero.  By 1920, however, the Banchero family was residing on Main Street in a rented house, and again in 1930, evidently in the same home, noted as located on the Altaville-San Andreas Road and valued at $4000 (U.S. Federal Census).  By 1937 they were assessed for the two-story residence (432 Main Street in Altaville, Figure), a 100-ft x 255-ft portion of Lot 9, Block 5 of Altaville Townsite.  The Queen Anne home was built in 1904 for H.M. Price, a local educator, who lived there only briefly.  By 1951, the ranch assessment included only personal property, valued at $100, with no improvements; the two-room dwelling had apparently been demolished by that time. 

Though living in town, the Banchero family continued to operate the ranch, raising chickens and ducks, as well as dairy and feeder cattle and some sheep, and keeping a garden.  May Banchero was recalled as walking over to the farm every day from the Main Street home to collect eggs and work on the farm.  Eggs and milk were stored in a walk-in ice box at their house on Main Street before being sold in town (Tad Folendorf, personal communication 2015).  

The land was irrigated with water obtained from the McElroy Ditch, on the hillside north of the complex, later known as the “Nat Banchero Ditch.”  Water was delivered to the property through the late 1960s, with water pipes extending southerly across the Murphys Grade Road to irrigate the land on that side as well.  That property was eventually sold to Barden Stevenot, who subdivided it and sold a portion of land to the Church of the Nazarene, and another portion to Bret Harte High School (Tad Folendorf, personal communication 2015).

Banchero Family.  Natale Anthony (Chris) Banchero was born in Napa in 1875, the son of Louis and Antonia Rossi Banchero, natives of Italy.  In 1880, Louis was noted as a farmer, residing in Soda Valley in Napa County, where he was residing with his wife, son Natale, daughters Margaret and Louisa, and two farm laborers. 

By 1900, son Natale (Nat) had moved to Angels Camp, and on February 9, 1910, was married to May Elva Walsh.  In 1910 he was working in a soda works, but when he registered for the draft in 1917 he was an agent of the Sierra Railway.  In 1920 he was working as a laborer for the railway, in 1930 as a bottler at the soda works, and in 1940 for the State Highway Department.  He died in Altaville in 1964; May died in Redding in 1966 (California Death Index 1940-1997; U.S. Federal Census 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940). 

The couple raised three children:  Walter, born in 1910, Allan Rossi, born in 1916, and Natale (Nat) Bedford, born in 1919.  Nat, who never married, inherited the farm and continued to raise feeder cattle and irrigate the land until his death in 2010.  It was then leased to Tim Folendorf who kept his feeder cattle there for a few years (Nat Banchero, personal communication 1994, 2000; Tad Folendorf, personal communication 2015; U.S. Federal Census 1910, 1920, 1930).


By Judith Marvin