Parker Whitney builds English-style estate

Rocks,Rails and Ranches
By: Gary Day, Special to the Placer Herald
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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a three-part series on the history of Rocklin’s 12 granite bridges. Much of western Rocklin covers the southern 12,000 acres of the 20,000 acre Spring Valley Ranch in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In his Joel Parker Whitney biography, “Fortune Built by Gun,” historian Richard Miller writes there were 25 miles of roads on the ranch. “Twelve granite bridges crossed the creeks on the main road from Rocklin to the main headquarters, from there through the vineyard, and around the back end of the ranch,” wrote Miller. Who built these bridges? In the early 1870s, Joel Parker Whitney, known then as Parker, gained control of the ranch from his father, George, who had started in 1857 with a 320-acre purchase west of downtown Rocklin. George, Parker, and two of Parker’s five brothers, had prospered at the ranch by producing high quality wool from a special crossbreed of Saxony and Australian Marino sheep. They added thousands of acres during the late 1850s and 1860s by pre-emption and by purchasing property from homesteaders and the railroad. Parker had become independently wealthy during the 1860s, mainly from his investments in Colorado mines. Parker traveled widely, including frequent trips to Europe. He attended the 1867 Paris Universal World’s Fair and Exhibition as an ambassador for the Colorado territory, promoting investments in the state’s mines. In the late 1870s, Parker developed a close relationship with Lucy Chadwick in England. Their son, J Parker Whitney, was born in London in 1878. A second son, Vincent Whitney, arrived while the couple was in New York in 1880. By the early 1880s, Parker, now in his mid-40s, had been through two childless marriages and was ready to settle down. Although he continued to travel, Parker established a permanent residence at his Spring Valley Ranch near Rocklin. He and Lucy were married in Sacramento in 1881 and embarked on a six-year project to convert 40 acres in the middle of the ranch into a baronial estate for the family. Next Time: Parker builds 12 bridges on the estate. If you are interested in learning more about or want to help preserve Rocklin’s history, consider joining the Rocklin Area Historical Society, call 24-2355.