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Gregorie Ranch, Jesus Maria

(Dauphine / Gregorie / Jacob / Lancell / Cavanna Vineyard and Ranch)

Established by settlers from France, owned by a French-Cuban butcher, and finally by Italians, the Gregoire Vineyard provided wine and brandy to the townsite and environs for over 70 years.  Francis (Frank) Dauphine was assessed for property in Jesus Maria as early as 1854, but it wasn’t until two years later that he purchased the land where the Gregoire Vineyard was established.  On August 23, 1856, C.A. Bosquet and R. B. Hathaway deeded property noted as “land near Jesus Maria, running along Jesus Maria to Whiskey Slide Road about one mile to a post marked D.F., east to a post marked E, about 100 rods (1650 feet), bounded south by Plumb’s fence, about 100 rods by Boston Flat Road (present Jesus Maria Road) to beginning” (Deed Book B:409).  That same year the assessor noted Dauphine’s improvements valued at $1000.

In 1857, Dauphine deeded half of the land to Francois Fouroche for $350.  The following year Dauphine & Co. were assessed for a 100-acre ranch, as well as a house on the north side of Main Street in Jesus Maria, located west of Craig’s Blacksmith.  Dauphine was assessed for the ranch in 1860, but in 1861 Fourache was assessed for a 640-acre ranch with a dwelling house and barn valued at $300.  The discrepancy in acreages has not been determined. 

In March of 1862, Fouroche deeded “Dauphine’s Ranch” to Jacques (James) Gregoire for $100, noting that it was located “near to and east of Jesus Maria, north by the road to Whiskey Slide, east by Plumb, and south by the road to Boston Flat” (Deed Book G:290).  Gregoire, a native of France, was born in 1824, naturalized in California in 1867, and was listed as farmer in the census.  By 1864 the 160-acre ranch was noted as “Gregoire’s Ranch” or “Old Dauphine Ranch.”  The assessment for 1869 noted the ranch with improvements on the north side of Jesus Maria Creek, as well as a small garden on the south side of the creek, a wagon, 4 cows, 2 horses, and 5 hogs; a typical family homestead of the era. 

Gregoire married Elise Lancelle (Lancell), the widow of Balthasar Lancelle, on April 29, 1867, and raised her three Lancell children:  Louis (1852-1885), Paulo (Paul) (1857-1935), and Sophia (1859-1899), all born in California. 

In June 1871, Gregoire advertised “Ranch For Sale-Cheap” at Jesus Maria, noting an enclosure for pasture of 400 acres, fenced with rails; a ranch of 40 acres, securely fenced with pickets and containing 6,000 grape vines, all in full bearing; a shed, 40 x 20 feet, three stables; each 40 feet in length, built in 1870, erected at a cost of $600; the entire property offered for $500 (Calaveras Prospect, June23, 1871).  The reason Gregoire wished to sell his vineyard property and ranch is unknown, as in 1880 he and Elise and daughter Sophia were residing in Mokelumne Hill where he was working as a miner; not a step up.  James died in 1893 and Elise in 1896; both were buried in the Mokelumne Hill Catholic Cemetery. 

Gregoire Ranch.  The Gregoires evidently split their property into two entities, as in September 1873, James and Elise deeded the 160-acre ranch to Jesus Maria butchers Eugene Jacob and John Deforse for $200, as well as a ditch conveying water from Jesus Maria Creek to a garden on the south bank of the creek (Calaveras County Deed Book).  The following year Jacob was assessed for the Gregoire ranch with a house, barn, and fence. 

Eugene Jacob, a native of Havana, Cuba, was born in 1826, naturalized in Amador County in 1875, and arrived in Jesus Maria by 1857 when he was assessed for 16 acres.  The following year he was assessed for a butcher shop on the north side of Main Street.  By 1860 his brothers Henry and Jacob were residing with him, all working as butchers. 

In 1870, the butchers Jacob and Belgian John Deforse were residing together in town, and in 1880 Eugene with two employees, Victor Deligrey a French engineer, and Cantonese Ah Woo, housekeeping.  Jacob  died in July of that year from “dropsy” and was buried in the Jesus Maria Cemetery.  At times Jacob was noted as a native of France, and as a mulatto, but his tombstone and the 1870 census note Havana as his birthplace. 

May contain: building, housing, nature, outdoors, and house
The Gnecco winery buiding, burned in the Butte Fire in 2015 revealing Molle's 1854 adobe store inside.

Over the years from 1860 to 1880, Jacob bought and sold several parcels of land, including selling an interest in his butcher shop and 160-acre ranch to David Hauser in 1861 for $1500, deeded by Hauser to D.A. Gorham in 1862 for $600.  Gorham died in 1866 and his probate noted the butcher shop and corral of Eugene Jacob (Deed Book Q:217, 220).  In 1863 Jacob purchased Giobatta Falco’s store (Deed Book I:624), and an adjoining lot on Main Street.  By 1864-5 he was also assessed for the “Brandy Slide Ranch” on Esperanza Creek, the “Italian Ranch” at Steep Gulch, and two houses in Jesus Maria on the south side of Main Street.  He purchased the Gregoire Ranch and ditch in 1873 as well.  Butchering was evidently a lucrative business.

In September 1879, in poor health, Eugene deeded half of his properties to Paul Lancell, also a butcher.  The month before his death in July 1880, Eugene deeded the other half of his properties to Jules Auguste Jacob of France, who, in turn, deeded them to Paul Lancell for $100 in October 1881.  Included were properties on the north and south sides of Main Street, as well as 160-acres of land (Deed Book 2:524). 

Paul Lancell, the step-son of James Gregoire, was married to Rosa Cavanna (daughter of Stefano and Mary) in February 1880 (see Gayon Store and Ratto & Co. Store for more information on the Cavanna family).  The Lancells moved into the Gregoire Ranch with a house, barn, and fence, and Paul continued to operate the butcher shop on the north side of Main Street on a 20-acre parcel.  In 1888 Paul patented 80 acres of land in the east part of Jesus Maria (NE4 of SW4 and SE4 of NW4 of Sec. 15,T5N.R12E), including the Gregoire Ranch, and began selling off his properties. 

In 1887 and 1888, Lancell deeded two parcels of land east of town, including the Gregoire Ranch, to his brother-in-law Bartolo Cavanna (Deed Book 14:339, 16:411).  Cavanna was assessed for the 60-acre parcel with a house and shop in 1894; by 1907 only an old barn and fence were noted.  An informant recalled that only the Cavanna barn was extant by the late 1930s (Hughes 2016). 

The following year, in 1889, Lancell deeded the Eugene Jacob properties in town to John Gnecco for $120 (Deed Book17:454).  Paul and Rosa and their family moved to Happy Valley near Mokelumne Hill where he farmed for a few years, but by 1910 had moved to Stockton where he was working as a teamster.  Rosa died in 1937 and Paul in 1939 in Stockton and both were buried in the Mokelumne Hill Catholic Cemetery (  Only the stone building foundations and stone terraces remained when the Butte Fire reached Jesus Maria. 

Gregoire Vineyard.  The Gregoire Vineyard, however, was evidently sold to Francisco Gnecco, as in 1873-4 he was assessed for a lot of land consisting of” grape vines and fences purchased from J. Gregoire, situated on Boston Flat, back of Gregoire’s house at Jesus Maria” (no deed was located).  The 1874-5 assessment noted no improvements on the property.  In 1875-6, Gnecco’s assessment noted the 160-acre Gregoire Vineyard and 1000 gallons of wine.

May contain: nature, outdoors, housing, building, path, and countryside
The Gnecco winery was the last standing standing building in Jesus Maria.

Francisco Gnecco deeded all of his land in Jesus Maria to his son John in 1875 and returned to Italy.  John was assessed for the Gregoire Vineyard from thereon, with the name changed to Gnecco Vineyard by 1885 when it was noted as including eight acres.  It was noted as 10 acres in 1894, 18 acres in 1907, and three acres in 1918 and 1927 (Calaveras County Assessor’s Rolls) (see Molle & Co. Adobe Store for more information on the Gnecco Winery). 


 By Judith Marvin

Article Source:  Rabellino, Kyle, Julia Costello, and Judith Marvin, 2016.  Recordation of Historic Properties Destroyed in the 2015 Butte Fire, Calaveras County, California.  Prepared for CALFIRE by Anthropological Study Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA.



Hughes, Ray 2016.   Interview of 15 December 2016 at Jesus Maria and 18 March 2016 by phone, by Judith Marvin.  Notes on file, Foothill Resources, Ltd., Murphys, California. Fourth Generation of Jesus Maria family.