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Spicer Ranch

Located near Copperopolis, in 1867 the Spicer family settled on land that provided the nucleus for the later expansion by Mary Ann Spicer and Nathan Flower into what would be known as the Flowers 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). 

In the spring of 1865, Spicer’s son Daniel purchased the James Tyson Ranch (Calaveras County Deed Book Q:144). Tyson and his wife Caroline and their family had resided on the property from at least 1860, when they were taxed for “improvements” on Captain Healy’s land claim on Littlejohns Creek on the Angels-Knights Ferry Road. Four years later, Daniel’s assessment record noted that he had a 160-acre ranch near Two Mile Bar on the Ramsey Flat-Knights Ferry Road.

Two years after this purchase, Daniel deeded the ranch to his mother Elizabeth “for love and affection” (Calaveras County deed Book Q:144). Elizabeth died in 1872, and in May of the following year, Thomas killed his son Joseph with an ax, gunshot, and knife. He was declared insane, jailed in San Andreas, and died in October of 1873 (Calaveras Chronicle May 10, 1873; Knights Ferry Cemetery Records).

By 1876 sons Daniel and Thomas Spicer were assessed for land, a house, fence, and three outlying cabins and fences in Sections 23 and 26, T1N. R12E. Daniel died in 1900 and his interest was assumed by his younger brother James, who purchased additional lands from Thomas (Calaveras County Deed Book 57:343).

None of the Spicer brothers ever married, but their sisters Mary Ann, Elizabeth, and Ellen married local ranchers who resided on nearby properties. In early years, the male members of the Spicer family were listed as miners and ranchers in the Great Registers of Voters and on the census rolls, and were probably working the nearby gulches with water from their Mountain Brow Ditch. By 1900, however, the two remaining brothers, Thomas and James, were listed simply as stockraisers. The brothers were assessed for several head of stock cattle and apparently ran them on the home place and in the mountains at their summer range, now the location of Spicer Dam and Reservoir.

In 1911 the Spicer lands were sold by Thomas Spicer to John Emart (Calaveas County Deed Book 57:349). Thomas died in 1937, and James in 1940, and both were buried in the family plot in Knights Ferry Cemetery.

In 1863 Mary Ann Spicer married Nathan Flower, who resided on a piece of property located near the Grant. Later, the Flowers family purchased land north of the Spicer Ranch, on a ranch which eventually totaled 1000 acres.


By Judith Mavin