Rocks, Rails and Ranches: Early newspaper article lauded Spring Valley Ranch

By: Gary Day, special to the Placer Herald
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Western Rocklin covers the southern 12,000 acres of the Spring Valley Ranch of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Boston businessman George Whitney started the ranch in 1856 as a sheep-raising experiment and by 1873 he and three of his six sons had expanded the ranch to 22,000 acres. George moved into retirement that year and Joel Parker Whitney, the youngest of the six, assumed control. This was the condition of the ranch as reported by the Placer Weekly Argus newspaper on Aug. 1, 1874.

“A few days ago we visited the country home of Mr. J.P. Whitney near Rocklin, Placer County, and some notes of the place may not be without interest. The ranch or farm has upon it forty-seven miles of fence and fifty miles of good road. Much of the latter will compare favorably with the best toll-roads in the country. There are fifteen houses on the place occupied by farmers, herdsmen and helpers, besides barns and sheds without number. Four thousand acres of grain were planted this year; about five hundred tons of hay has been baled ready for the market and the same quantity of baled straw.

“The Central Pacific Railroad runs through the ranch for about five miles. There is one field of wheat ten miles around, enclosed with a substantial fence. Running water abounds and, in addition, some of the most peculiar mineral springs in the country. They are called the Salt Springs, from which one of the valleys originally took its name of Salt Spring Valley. The waters of these springs have a peculiar flavor but unlike most mineral waters, they are not unpleasant and are said to contain many health-giving properties.

“Mr. Whitney has about twelve thousand sheep on the place that shear upward of seventy-five thousand pounds of superior wool that readily sold in the Boston market this year for forty cents a pound, which is from five to ten cents more than has been paid for any other wool in the state, this owing in a great measure to its good quality, the wool being entirely free from the burr and other injurious substances so common in this country. Four thousand muttons are sold from the farm annually, as well as thoroughbreds, for which Mr. Whitney gets prices ranging from $20 to $50 for ewes and from $100 to $500 for bucks.

“The ranch contains 22,000 acres, or about 36 square miles, besides the lower place for three thousand acres situated on the Sacramento River where cattle can luxuriate upon green feed for the entire year. This lower farm is reserved especially for a change of pastures as the sheep thrive fully as well upon the naturally cured grasses of the foothill farm.”

The last Whitney family member died in 1926. The ranch was sold off in pieces in the mid 20th century.