Thursday May 13 2010
Learn about Joel Parker Whitney May 21
By: Gary Day, Special to The Placer Herald
Western Rocklin is astride the southern 12,000 acres of Joel Parker Whitney’s Spring Valley ranch of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gold fever brought the 17-year-old Joel Parker Whitney on a 142-day trip from the East Coast around Cape Horn to San Francisco in 1852. He noticed the beauty and agricultural potential of South Placer County on his way to an unsuccessful search for gold in the Auburn area and by the mid 1850s had convinced his father, George Whitney, and three brothers to run sheep on open rangeland near here. In 1857 George Whitney gave the sheep operation permanence when he established the ranch with the purchase of 320 acres now covered by the Stanford Ranch area of Rocklin. Meanwhile throughout the late 1850s and 1860s, while George Whitney added several thousand acres to the ranch, Joel Parker Whitney travelled widely and was a risk taker; he was a real estate investor, a Civil War officer, and an ambassador to France for the Colorado Territory. His hunting prowess and his investments in Colorado gold and silver mines made him wealthy before age 40. He assumed control of the ranch when his father George retired in the early 1870s and used his wealth to diversify into a wide variety of agricultural activities. In the early 1880’s Joel Parker Whitney married Lucy Chadwick and reserved ranchland for a baronial estate for his young family. He built a 20-room mansion called The Oaks three miles from Downtown Rocklin and added decomposed granite roads and twelve granite bridges. He built tennis courts and a private golf course near the Oaks on property now covered by Rocklin’s Mansion Oaks neighborhood. By the time of his death in 1913 he had expanded the ranch to 20,000 acres and left a fortune for his heirs. Meet Joel Parker Whitney when he returns to Rocklin, from his pyramid mausoleum near the Whitney Oaks Golf Course, to tell his story at the Sunset Whitney Country Club on May 21. The event is a Rocklin Historical Society Legacy Dinner theater play by local playwright and director Dani Loebs. For tickets call Gay Morgan at 624-2355.