Wednesday Nov 09 2011
Wool found in Whitney Ranch's origins
By: Gary Day, Special to the Placer Herald
Rocks, Rails and Ranches
Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series on Whitney Ranch. Western Rocklin covered the southern 12,000 acres of the 20,000-acre Spring Valley Ranch during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Boston businessman George Whitney started the ranch in 1857 as an experiment to improve the quality of California wool. In 1854, George had travelled to San Francisco to visit the four oldest of his six sons. The four had come to California individually at various times during the Gold Rush and profited nicely as merchants, mainly by importing scarce goods from the East Coast and selling them at high prices to the hopeful argonauts. George saw a commercial opportunity when his sons called his attention to the poor quality of California wool and the premiums that Californians were willing to pay for high quality wool imported from Australia. George ventured into the wool business by consulting with William Wells Hollister, who ran Saxony sheep on 150,000 acres near his namesake town in San Benito County. On Hollister’s advice, George decided to import Spanish Merino sheep from Australia and crossbreed them with some of Hollister’s Saxonies, a combination the two men guessed would yield finer, heavier fleece. George’s sons decided to join the enterprise, and in 1855 or early 1856 the oldest son, George Whitney Jr., headed for Australia to buy the Merinos. Meanwhile, the youngest son, Joel Parker Whitney, then known as Parker, told his father about the beauty and good agricultural potential of an area in South Placer County that he had passed in 1852 on his way to his short stint searching for gold near Auburn. The area was near a town, which the railroad would name Rocklin in 1864 and Parker thought it looked like a perfect place for raising sheep. Gary Day is a member of the Rocklin Historical Society.