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The Flowers Ranch and Family

The man who was to have the longest connection with the lands in the Flowers Ranch area was Nathan Monroe Flower (a.k.a. Flowers), a native of New York and early resident of Stanislaus County who came to California in 1852 (1). By 1860, however, the census enumerator listed Flower, age 39, as residing somewhere near the Flowers Ranch area. His occupation was listed as “merchant” with $1,000 in personal estate, and he was residing with two miners: John Mosher, 50, from Massachusetts; and relative J. D. Flowers, 20, from New York. This was undoubtedly at Two-Mile Bar, where that same year he was assessed for a house and lot, occupied as a store and garden, on the Knights Ferry Road near the bridge.

In 1863, Flower married Mary Ann Spicer, the daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth Spicer, who had taken up a ranch east of the Flowers Ranch lands. In 1865, Flower purchased a 15-acre parcel of land on the right bank of the Stanislaus River at Two-Mile Bar from James Eldredge, one of the owners of the Rancho del Rio Estanislao, for $400 (2). By 1870, however, the Flower family was residing in Knights Ferry, where Nathan Flower listed his occupation as stock raiser. With Nathan and Mary were their children Edwin, age 6; John, 4; Elizabeth, 3; and Franklin, 1.

In 1877, Nathan Flower patented a 40-acre parcel of land on Littlejohns Creek, just north of the Grant, where he built a cabin. He had purchased the property that year from James L. Gooch, of Stanislaus County, for $340 (northwestern half of the northeastern quarter, southwestern quarter of the northeastern quarter, and lots 2 and 3 of Section 28, T1N, R12E) (3). His assessment that year noted a cabin and brush corral, but the Flower family continued to reside in Knights Ferry, using the cabin only sporadically. In 1880, Flower listed his occupation as “miner,” so perhaps he was residing in the cabin while mining on the creek. Lifelong Copperopolis resident Charlie Stone recalled that the cabin site was marked by a pile of rocks from a stone chimney and a slanting rock in the creek with the names of Flower’s children chiseled on it. Although Flower owned the property from 1877 on, it may have been occupied by earlier settlers without the benefit of recorded deeds.

The history of the Flower family and their land machinations is extremely complex. Nathan Flower and his brother, Roswell P. Flower, of Watertown, New York and governor of that state, were involved in numerous transactions regarding land purchases and sales in Calaveras County for many years (4). The Flower family papers, located in the library of the University of the Pacific, Stockton, contain copious amounts of papers related to various land exchanges (5), as do the official records of Calaveras County.

By 1887 Nathan Flower was assessed for all of the Baker lands in the Flowers Ranch (Section 16, T1N, R12E), as well as lands in Sections 20, 21, and 28. His assessment noted a house, two barns, a fence, an orchard, furniture, farming utensils, three wagons, three old horses, three colts, 50 calves, 70 stock cattle, and 6 tons of hay. When Nathan and his son John Clary registered to vote in 1888, they listed themselves as stock raisers (Great Register of Voters 1888). The use of the land had shifted from sheep to cattle grazing.

Nathan and Mary resided on their lands until they moved to the Gwin Mine near Paloma in the late 1890s (Deed Book 41:28). Over the next few years they resided in the Valley Springs area, and then they moved to Stockton, where Nathan died in 1919. The Flower family continued to be assessed for a house, a barn, and a fence on the Lewis/Gatzman/Davies/Baker land until the mid-1920s (noted as an old house in 1921); after that time, only a barn and a fence were listed on the assessment rolls.

Some of the parcels purchased by Nathan Flower evidently were patented by friends or employees, in order to sell them to him immediately upon them being proven. Others, however, were taken up by farming families that built dwellings, barns, and outbuildings and raised livestock. Most of the farmers who resided in the area in the 1880s and 1890s were assessed for the same types of property: a watch, furniture, firearms, a sewing machine, farming equipment, a harness, wagons, horses, colts, cows, hogs, poultry, and varying amounts of stock cattle. Only Patterson on Baker’s Flat and the Callahans in Sections 9 and 10 raised any amount of sheep. These “bedrock ranches” appeared to be subsistence farms, raising enough foodstuffs to supply family members, and enough grain and livestock to market for some small income.

Earlier information on the Flower Ranch lands can be found under this history of ranches they purchased: Callahan, Vickrey, Spicer, Lewis Gatzman, Davies, and Baker)  Here we continue their history in the 1890s. The first Calaveras County Fair was held on the Flowers Ranch in 1894, with the racetrack located in the eastern half of Section 9, on the former Callahan Ranch. Ed Moore of Copperopolis, the onetime assemblyman for the Mother Lode District, was president of the association that put on the first fair, where Nathan Flower built a half-mile track on a level stretch of his ranch and erected stalls and a judges’ stand. His idea was to assemble the best livestock of the countryside at these competitive meetings and thus improve breeding standards, but the first fair was almost exclusively a horse racing event, with local ranchers entering their quarter horses (6). Some accounts note the date as 1892, and others note it as 1898, but Nathan Flower was assessed for a racetrack as early as 1891, so it evidently was built by then.

In June 1897 and March 1898, N. M. and Mary Flower, et. ux., conveyed most of their lands in the Flowers Ranch area to his brother, Roswell P. Flower, in New York, and moved to the Valley Springs Area (7). After Roswell’s death in 1899, executors Anson and Edwin Flower, of Watertown, conveyed the Flowers Ranch to Edwin L. Flower’s children, Elsie Eudora, Flora Verna, and Roswell Nathan, with a life estate to Edwin (8).
In 1900, Edwin L. Flower, a native of California, was residing in a rented farm free of mortgage, presumably the ranch deeded to his children. With him were his wife, Amanda, married circa 1885, and children, Elsie, Flora, and Roswell Nathan, all at school. In February of 1903, Edwin L. Flower purchased the Box Ranch, at the northeastern corner of State Route 4 and Hodson Road, from B. J. Box. The Edwin Flower family then moved to the Box Ranch and resided in a dwelling built by Stephen Box in the 1890s. In 1910, the family, now joined by daughter Jane was still residing in the area, with Edwin listing his occupation as “own income.” Edwin and Amanda evidently moved away shortly thereafter, returning to Stockton to live full time, although Edwin was listed by the census enumerator as residing near Milton with his mother, Mary, in 1920.

Deeds to various parcels of the ranch were recorded shortly after Roswell P. Flower’s death, including the Box Ranch and other lands deeded to his widow, Sarah, and their daughter Emma Taylor, both of Watertown, and to his nephew Edwin L. Flower, residing in Calaveras County (9). When Roswell Nathan Flower registered for the draft in World War I, he noted his residence as Copperopolis and his occupation as stock raiser and noted that he was single and supported his sister. He evidently had moved to the family home on the Box Ranch, and in 1921 the family assessment noted a “new” house on the old Box Ranch. In 1930, Roswell Nathan Flower; his wife, Carolyn Christian; and their children, Patricia, Jonelle, and Roswell Jr., all were residing there on the Copperopolis and Stockton Road. When Roswell registered for the World War II draft, he was still residing in the family home. He died in 1951 and is buried in the Copperopolis Cemetery.

Edwin, however, was residing on South Stanislaus Street in Stockton and noted his occupation as “livestock buyer.” His daughter Elsie was listed as head of the household, with $5,000 in property, and working as a newspaper journalist. Also in the household were his daughter Jane; George Walker, a 62-year-old carpenter from New York; and his wife, Louise. Edwin died in 1933 and is buried in Knights Ferry.
Over the ensuing years, sections of the lands within the Flowers Ranch were passed between various members of the Flower family, including Edwin and his children Roswell Nathan and his wife Carolyn, Elsie Eudora, and Flora Flower Muldoon. According to a local resident and historian, Roswell (Rolly) Nathan Flower was involved in the cattle business and was well-known for buying high and selling low. In addition to grazing their own livestock, the family also leased grazing rights to others (10).

By 1945, the lands were assessed to Elsie Flower, residing in Stockton, and Roswell’s widow, Carolyn. After Elsie’s death shortly thereafter, the entire Flowers Ranch became the property of Patricia, Jonelle, and Nathan Flower, the children of Roswell and Carolyn. The house burned a few years ago, but Roswell Flower Jr. still resides in the Copperopolis area. In the early 1990s, the ranch, minus the Box parcel, was sold to the Huntington Beach Company, DBA H.B. Ranch Company, and since has been sold to Oak Canyon Ranch, LLP.


By Judith Marvin


  1. “Recollections of Calaveras Counties First Fair”,
 Flower, Elsie
, Volume X,Xl, San Andreas, CA, (1962)
  2. Calaveras County Deed Book N:14
  3. Calaveras County Deed book 1:379
  4. Encyclopaedia 1902
  5. Charles Stone, Interview of 1992
  6. “Recollections of Calaveras Counties First Fair”,
Flower, Elsie
, Volume X,Xl, San Andreas, CA, (1962)
  7. Calaveras County Deed Book 32:286, 34:272
  8. Calaveras County Deed Book 40:337
  9. Calaveras County Deed Book 46:283
  10. Charles Stone, Interview of 1992