With the recent purchase of the Guenoc Ranch property, by Lotusland Investments, it signals the end of an era. Historically, other than the previous owners such as Ink, Langtry, Gebhard, McCreery, Hennessey, Detert, Foley, Magoon and Manson, most associated with the land holdings were of modest means. They toiled and worked the land to survive. Now the land is to be used as a spectacular resort for those who are most privileged.


Following is the most interesting story of a place in Lake County, California we lovingly call Guenoc Ranch and what a history she has. I had the privilege of having access to every nook and cranny of the property for many years beginning in 1956. But no more. It is now hard for me to recognize once familiar landmarks as the new owners leave behind their mark.







The Brand




This book is a compilation of my personal research, historical knowledge and some of my own experiences at Guenoc Ranch.





This book is dedicated to all those souls who made

“The Days Of the Flying Muleshoe”

the best of times







Copyright © 2020 Bill Wink


Bill Wink

P.O. Box 814

Middletown, CA 95461


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, modified, rewritten, stored in a retrieval system, or transferred in any form, by any means, including mechanical, electric, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the express prior written permission of the publisher.



First printing, 2018

First printing Second edition, 2020

Library of Congress Control Number: 00000000000



THE INDIVIDUALIST – Lifting the fog of confusion

TREASON – The companion book


CINNABAR – The story of the murders at Camper’s Retreat

ENGLISH – The story of the English family from Middletown, CA

FIRE – Middletown’s history of Fire



The Men On The Cover


(?), Johnny Ryan, Earl Huston, Ernie Souchek & Bob Schuylar























































































Township: (The Principal Unit Of The Rectangular Survey System) Is a major subdivision of public lands under the rectangular survey system and measures approximately six miles on a side thus incorporating 36 square miles. A square miles contains 640 acres.


Townships are then numbered from the base line north and south and from the meridian line east and west.


The Mount Diablo meridian, established in 1851, is a principal meridian extending north and south from its initial point atop Mount Diablo in California. Established under the U.S. Public Land Survey System, it is used to describe lands in most of northern California and all of Nevada. The base line bisects the “initial point” and runs east and west.


Township 10N would be the tenth township north of the baseline. Range 005W would be the fifth township west of the meridian.


The legal description of a tract of land under the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) includes the name of the state, name of the county, township number, range number, section number, and portion of a section. Sections are customarily surveyed into smaller squares by repeated halving and quartering. A quarter section is 160 acres and a "quarter-quarter section" is 40 acres. In 1832 the smallest area of land that could be acquired was reduced to the 40-acre quarter-quarter section, and this size parcel became entrenched in American mythology. After the Civil War, Freedmen (freed slaves) were reckoned to be self-sufficient with "40 acres and a mule." In the 20th century real estate developers preferred working with 40-acre parcels. The phrases "front 40" and "back 40," referring to farm fields, indicate the front and back quarter-quarter sections of land.


One of the reasons for creating sections of 640 acres was the ease of dividing into halves and quarters while still maintaining a whole number of acres. A section can be halved seven times in this way, down to a 5-acre parcel, or half of a quarter-quarter-quarter section. This system was of great practical value on the American frontier, where surveyors often had a shaky grasp of mathematics and were required to work quickly.


A land patent is known in law as "letters patent", and usually issues to the original grantee and to their heirs and assigns forever. The patent stands as supreme title to the land because it attests that all evidence of title existent before its issue date was reviewed by the sovereign authority under which it was sealed and was so sealed as irrefutable; thus, at law the land patent itself so becomes the title to the land defined within its four corners.


The Homestead Act of 1862, allowed settlement of public lands and required only residence and improvement and cultivation of the land. Any person, who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government (including freed slaves after the fourteenth amendment) who was a citizen or person intending to become a citizen, 21 years of age or older, and the head of a household could make application. This included women.  With five years residence and improvements/cultivation, only a $15.00 fee was required to get 160 acres. The process had to be complete within seven years.


Only the land that was outside the 1845 Guenoc Land Grant boundaries and that was owned by the Federal Government was available to our homesteaders.






In the 1850s,  after the discovery of gold out west, many foreigners landed on the east coast of the United States and some worked their way west anyway they could.


In 1862 the legislature passed the federal “Homestead Act of 1862” and President Abraham Lincoln signed it. That new law allowed anyone, meeting just a few requirements, to earn ownership of 160 acres of federal land. Add to that,  Horace Greeley’s phrase “Go west young man” and west they went, many to California. 


It was an interesting time in California, as mixed in with the new states responsibilities to its citizens, were the carry-overs from the land having once belonged to Mexico and something called “land-grants”. These land-grants generally included thousands of acres.


Those who had come to Alta California before the Mexican-American war and the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848 looked at the interlopers as nothing more than squatters trying to claim what they considered theirs. And the new government agreed, making it more confusing.


And on top of that there were the foreigners who had a completely different understanding of how everything should work. They came from the far corners of the Earth to this wonderful new land of milk and honey, freedom and free land.


If you were an alien, the federal government stated that you only needed to have the intention of becoming a citizen in order to qualify for a homestead. Although most became citizens, it was not a requirement. However, to vote, citizenship was a requirement and expressing your opinion regarding your future was plenty of reason enough to become a citizen.







The Mayacamas Mountains make up part of the inner Northern California Coastal Mountain Range and the name is of Native American origin. The range runs west of Clear Lake, Lake county and east of Ukiah, Mendocino county running for 52 miles from a northwesterly direction to a southeasterly direction. The highest peak, Cobb Mountain, reaches 4,724 feet in elevation. Another famous peak in the range is Mount Saint Helena reaching an elevation of 4,342 feet with its shoulders in Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties. The range was uplifted as a result of the 2.4-million-year-old Clear Lake Volcanic Field.



Located in a valley in this area were three different Native American Indian villages that were situated around a lake the natives called Wennok. The  valley, appropriately named Wennok Valley, was situated on a flat at the base of Cone Peak (Loo-peek-po-we) near the southeast corner of Wennok Lake. The Cone Peak  is commonly referred to today as Rattlesnake Peak.


This cone shaped peak was formed during the active volcanic period of the Clear Lake Volcanic Field that last erupted about 11,000 years ago.


Wennok Lake, undoubtedly that which is now called McCreary Lake, (misspelled)  harbored abundant wildlife – coots, ducks and geese, particularly in the winter, and numerous fish including suckers, catfish, minnows and bass.


The names of the villages were; "Ka-bool po-goot", (Lak-411) "Haw'-hawl-po-goot" (Lak-231) and "Sahl-sahl-po-goot" (Lak-230). The Native Americans who lived around this particular lake were appropriately referred to as Wennoks and were members of a larger band, the Lake Miwoks. They called their home "Oleyome".


These native people called themselves and their homeland "Tuleyome," which means "Deep Home Place". Therefore, aboriginal occupation was by the Tuleyome Miwok, a dialectic and regional subdivision of the Lake Miwok.


Northeast and west of the Miwok were various Pomo groups and to the south were Wappo. 


The Tuleyome people lived in semi-subterranean houses, held ceremonial dances in larger structures, were expert basket makers, hunted waterfowl, fished,

and gathered acorns.


The natives had lived there for centuries but since the year 1542 several others had left their footprints on the land and claimed the land for themselves. One of those claimants was the country of Spain.


The name "Guenoc" (Gwen-nok) is a variation of the Miwok word "Wen-nok" which according to Merriam was "applied to a small lake and valley four miles southeast of the town of Guenoc and six miles east of Middletown”.  (From: Barrett, Merriam, Mauldin & Wikipedia)


After Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1822, the land they claimed north of their homeland was an area called Alta California. That claim was later defined in 1824. The claim included all of the territory of the modern U. S. states of California, Nevada and Utah, and parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.


From 1821 until 1848, the Mexican government would grant ownership to large parcels of land to favored individuals. These land grants were called Ranchos.


Rancho de Guenoc was granted May 8, 1845, by Mexican Governor Pio Pico to George Rock, and the grant was confirmed December 18, 1852. It comprised six square leagues, or 21,220.03 acres and included Wennok lake.


Rancho de Guenoc’s farthest western boundary was near modern day Harbin Hot Springs with its eastern border stopping in what would become Bohn Valley with its most north eastern point being what we today call Jim Davis Peak. In the south it bordered the northern border of Long Valley (Butts Canyon Road) to beyond Coyote Valley in the north.


Running through the heart of the Coyote Valley is a large stream that is called Putah Creek. The name “Putah” is of Native American origin meaning “grassy creek”. However, the name has always stirred controversy because the derogatory Spanish word for a female sex worker is “puta”. But according to Erwin Gudde (1889–1969), the resemblance is "purely accidental".


Putah Creek is, however, depicted on a French map from 1844 as “Young’s River”. This map was created by a French naturalist, Eugène Duflot de Mofras and was published in Paris. It was called Young’s River because Ewing Young, a famous trapper, trapped up the river from the Sacramento Valley on his way to the Pacific coast. That was in March of 1833. (Kenneth L. Holmes (1967). Ewing Young: Master Trapper. Portland, Oregon: Binsford and Mort, Publishers. p. 87)








Jacob Primer Leese was born August 19th, 1809 in Saint Clairsville, Belmont County, Ohio.


At about the age of 20 he started with a party for Texas and then to New Mexico, and after remaining there for some time he came on horseback to California. He arrived in California on the 24th of December, 1833, ending his four year journey in Los Angeles.


But some 17 months later he was on the move again and in May of 1835 he left Los Angeles on the Mexican, square rigged, two-masted sailing ship called the Arachucha, and after a voyage of six days the vessel anchored in the sheltered cove of Yerba Buena, now San Francisco.


Leese entered into a mercantile partnership with Monterey businessmen Nathan Spear and William Sturgis Hinckley, and in Yerba Buena, there, opened a store. The partners ran a profitable business, trading merchandise for rancho products.


Being well-received by the officers of the Mexican Government, Leese was given a choice of land anywhere 550 feet (200 varas) from the beach line. He selected a site which now forms the southwest corner of Dupont and Clay Streets, and on this site he built the first frame building erected on this peninsula. Until this time everyone had lived in and done business out of tents. It was a clinker-built storehouse, 60x20, and it was finished on the morning of the 4th of July, 1836.


Documents show that this same year, 1836, a man from lower Canada appeared in Sonoma testifying against a horse thief. This man’s name was George Rock also known as George Roche.


Naturalized, Jacob Leese, on the 1st of April, 1837, asked a sister of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo to become his wife. On the 7th of the same month they were married, and on the 15th of April of the following year he became the father of a daughter, Rosalie, who was the first child born in Yerba Buena.


In 1838 Leese’s business partnership with Spear and Hinckley ended.


In 1841, Leese sold his business interests to Hudson's Bay Company, and moved to his Sonoma ranch, still retaining extensive land holdings in Yerba Buena. Leese served as alcalde (a mayor having judicial powers) in Sonoma (1844-1845).


Leese and his wife were also major land holders in Monterey County; among their claims was Rancho Sausal, deeded to Rosalia by her brother Mariano G. Vallejo.


In 1843 Leese traded his two-league Rancho Canada de Guadalupe la Visitacion y Rodeo Viejo grant near San Francisco, for Robert Ridley's three-league Rancho Callayomi grant, located in what would later become Napa County and in 1861 Lake County.


It has been implied that George Rock, while in Sonoma, was an employee of Jacob P. Leese and it was during this time, on August 8, 1845, Rock was granted the 21,220.03 acre Rancho Guenoc by  the last Mexican Governor of California, Pio Pico. Rock’s new land holdings now bordered Leese’s Rancho Callayomi grant. 


Leese was taken prisoners, along with his brother-in-law, for a short while in the 1846 Bear Flag Revolt.


1847: “First book of deeds and alcalda records, Sonoma County, California 13 January 1847 - From Jacob P Lease to George Rock, witness Richard Fowler. This is the deed where George Rock, for $300 grants Rancho Guenoc to Jacob P Lease.” (Bancroft)


In 1848 George Rock is running Leese’s cattle operation as “agent for Leese” on the two land grants with headquarters located in Coyote Valley.


In 1850 George Rock is counted during the census taken in Sonoma and on September 9, 1850, California became the State of California with twenty-seven counties. Those counties were: Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Los Angeles, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba.


February 1, 1892 Jacob Primer Leese died in San Francisco.


The San Francisco Morning Call wrote:

Death of One of the Oldest Pioneers of California.”


The Morning Call continued: “Jacob Primer Leese died in this city yesterday afternoon at the age of 82 years. Of late years Mr. Leese was comparatively unknown, but at one time he was one of the most prominent men in California. For many years before she became a part of the Union Mr. Leese was known

in every part of the Territory and was familiarly known to the then residents as Don Luis.


Rev. John Gray, rector of the Church of the Advent said of Leese: “He was in all things a strong man, towering above his fellows mentally, morally and physically. As a reward for his courage, a modern city of 300,000 people marks the spot where, fifty-six years ago, he bravely planted a humble home for his family. He died as he lived, strong in the faith and fearless of the result. He met his end with calm resolution of a man who knows that he has been just in all his deeds."







Name: Archibald Alexander Ritchie

Birth Date: 28 Jan 1806

Birth Place: New Castle County, Delaware, United States of America

Death Date: 9 Jul 1856

Death Place: Napa County, California, United States of America

Spouse: Martha Ritchie


In 1838, Capt. Ritchie left the sea to become the resident agent at Canton, China, for the Philadelphia import house of Platt and Son. His wife and children joined him in Macao, near Canton. The Ritchies lived in China until 1847, when they returned to Philadelphia.


Paul Sieman Forbes arrived in Canton, China in 1843 as U.S. consul and was admitted as a partner into Russell & Company in 1844.


There is no information that definitely identifies the Paul S. Forbes that was A. A. Ritchie’s partner, however, due to then existing circumstances, it has been speculated that Paul S Forbes was really Paul Sieman Forbes of New York as both Ritchie and Forbes were living in Canton, China at the same time and both were involved in the same trade.



Tuesday, Jan. 27 1852 Messrs. Halleck, Peachy & Billings presented the claim of Archibald A. Ritchie and Paul S. Forbes, to the rancho de Guenoc, in the old Sonoma jurisdiction, containing six leagues under a grant made by Gov. Pio Pico in 1845.



On Friday Commissioner Wilson delivered the  opinion of the Board in case No. 4, A. A. Ritchie and Paul S. Forbes, claimants of three leagues of laud in Napa county, called "Callayomi. The ' grant was made in June, 1844, by Gov. Micheltorrena to Robert Ridley, and was approved by the Departmental Assembly on the 26th of September 1845


The testimony in the time established the fact that Ridley was in possession of the rancho, had a house on it and a stock of cattle and horses, in 1845. He , continued to occupy until December, 1st, 1849. when he exchanged with and transferred the rancho Callayomi  to Jacob P. Lease, who, in September, 1850, conveyed the same to the claimants who took the possession, and still are in possession thereof. No new questions arose in this case. The claim was sustained. Halleck, Peachy it Billings attorneys for claimants.


In 1852, on the north side of Coyote Valley, within the bounds of the Rancho Guenoc land grant, J. Broome Smith built a log house.


Then representatives of Ritchie and Forbes, R. H. Sterling and Captain Steele, built a stone house near the same spot. Sterling had a family with him, and his wife was the first woman in the valley.  W. H. Manlove, T. Hall, Henry Bond, — Barnes, W. G. Cannon, L. B. Tremper, B. F. Miles and James S. Miles were old settlers listed in Coyote Valley. (History of Napa and Lake Counties, California 1881)



Capt. A. A. Ritchie, of Ritchie, Osgood & Co., when going down from Benicia to Napa this morning, fell from his buggy, and was found on the road dead, supposed to be caused by a fit of apoplexy.



Lamentable Accident — Death of Captain Ritchie. — A brief notice was received yesterday, July 9th, by the Pacific Express Company, from their agent at Napa, announcing that, in the morning, Capt. A. A. Ritchie, the head of the importing house of Ritchie, Osgood & Co., of San Francisco, while driving in a buggy, about three miles from Napa, on the Sonoma road was thrown out and instantly killed. No further particulars are given. Capt. Ritchie was one of the oldest and most influential citizens of San Francisco, and has always been remarkable for his liberality. He was also the proprietor of the " Suisun Ranch," a large body of land in Solano county.



LOCOLLYOMI AND GUENOC RANCHOS, Napa county, lying in Coyote Valley, about forty miles from Napa City. These two Ranchos contain seven square leagues, more or less. They have been confirmed and surveyed ; the surveys approved by the U. S. Surveyor General for the State of California, and are now in a condition to be patented. For grazing purposes or stock raising this property is not excelled. There is upon it a good stone house, a large corral, a fine spring of water near the house, with an abundance of timber and running water. Also, One square league, lying within the boundaries of Guenoc Rancho, suitable for grazing or cultivation, being bountifully supplied with water and well timbered. TERMS — One-third cash; balance on a credit of nine months, with interest not less than one per cent, per month. No sale binding until it has been confirmed by the Probate Judge for the county of San Francisco, in accordance with the requirements of the above mentioned Act of the Legislature. Communications may be addressed to the undersigned, care of Messrs. Thornton, Williams and Thornton, San Francisco; or R. H. Waterman, Suisun City, Solano county, California. K. H. WATERMAN, Adm'r. M. H. RITCHIE. Adm'x. or to JAMES N. HAMILTON, San Francisco. September 14, 1857.



Plat of the Guenoc Rancho, finally' confirmed to A. A. Ritchie and P.S. Forbes, situated in township. 10 north of range 5, and township 11 north of ranges 6 and 7, west of the Mount Diablo meridian containing 21,220 acres.



The People of the State of California, vs. The Estate of A. A. Ritchie, deceased, and P. S. Forbes, and all persona who are under obligation to pay the Taxes herein, as set forth. Action brought in the District Court of the; 7th Judicial District of the State of California, in and for the County of Napa, and the complaint filed in said County of Napa in the Office of the Clerk of said District Court.


THE PEÖPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA send Greetings to R. H. Waterman Administrator, and M. H. Ritchie, Administratrix of the Estate of A. A. Ritchie, deceased, and P. S. Forbes, and ail persona who are under obligation to pay the taxes herein let forth, Defendants,, to-Wit: ALL that; tract of land known u the Callayomi, or Loconoma, grant, being situated in Clear Lake Township, County of Napa, at the same existed before Lake County was organized, and now a part of Lake County, and described as a grant of land made by the Mexican Government by M. Micheltoreno, Governor of California, to Robert Ridley, by Patent dated at Monterey; June 17th, 1844, and approved and confirmed by the Departmental Assembly Sept. 26th, 1845. and which grant has been duly confirmed to Def’ts, by the United States Government, containing 8241 74/100 acres more or less, of the assessed value of $4,120. Also, ALL that other tract of land in said Town ship and County, as the same existed before Lake County was organized, and now a part of Lake County and known as the Guenoc Grant and described as a grant of land made by the Mexican Government, by Pio Pico, Governor of California, by patent to George Rock, dated at Los Angeles, August 8th, 1845, and confirmed by the Departmental Assembly, Sept. 26tb, 1845, and which grant bus been duly and finally confirmed by the United States Government; And for a more full, correct and correct description of the several tracts above described, reference is hereby made to a Deed from Jacob Leese and wife to A. A. Ritchie and P. S. Forbes recorded in Liber ‘ A’ of Deeds, pages 297 and 298, in the Recorder's Office of said County, said last mentioned tract containing 21,220 acres of land, more or less, and being of the assessed value of $11,110 including the improvement thereon. The same being assessed to Ritchie and Forbes. You are hereby required to appear in an action brought against you by the above named Plaintiff, in the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of California, in and for the County of Napa, and to answer the amended complaint filed therein within ten days (exclusive of the day of service,) after the service on you of this summons, if served within this County; or out of this County, but within this Judicial District, within twenty days; or if served out of said District, then within forty days, or Judgment by default will be taken against you according to the prayer of said Complaint. This action is brought to obtain Judgment against you for the sum of $768 being-the amount of Taxes, cost and percentage for delinquent taxes due for the year 1858 upon certain Real Estate, situated as described in Plaintiff s complaint and herein, with 25 percent, additional thereto, as District Attorney’s percentage and for cost of suit, and for a Decree of Sale of said premises, And you are hereby notified that if you fail to appear and answer the said Complaint as above required the said Plaintiff will take Judgment against you for said sum with Dist. Atty's fees as afore said and cost of suit, and will apply to the Court for a decree of sale of said premises : Given under My Hand and the Seal of the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of California, in and for the County of Napa, at my office in Napa City, this 19th day of March, in the year of Our Lord ; One thousand eight hundred and sixty three. ROBT. CROUCH



Land Claims. — the United States District Court lately a decree was made approving the official survey of the rancho Guenoc, in Sonoma county. Archibald A. Ritchie is the claimant of this rancho, which was granted May 8, 1845, by Pio Pico to George Rock, and the grant was confirmed December 18, 1852. It comprises six square leagues, or 21,220.03 acres.


Richie and Forbes finally receive their patent for the rights to the land in 1865. But all was not as was planned.


A. A. Ritchie was dead, Forbes was done and so he sells his share to Richie’s son-in-law Gen. M.D.L. Simpson, in 1867. The following year, Simpson deeded half the lands to Ritchie's wife, Martha and children. The heirs began selling portions of the properties by the late 1860s.


This obviously was the end of the Guenoc and Callayomi land grants as the land totaling over 30,000 acres was divided into various size acreages and sold. But the name Guenoc would live on as the village that sprung up in Coyote Valley, on the south side of Putah Creek, was named Guenoc. Occasionally it was referred to as Tail-Holt because when Putah Creek was running high, to cross it, one would swim their horse and hold onto the horse’s tail to get across.


September 28th, 1870 O. Armstrong and John H. Berry purchased 47.4 acres from the heirs of the Estate of A. A. Ritchie for the sum of $237.50 in American gold coin. Which land had a beginning mark as a post and mound of rocks in the middle of the St. Helena Creek within the Callayomi rancho. This was the beginning of Middletown.



FOR SALE 12,000 ACRES OR LESS PART, OF GRAIN, GRAPE AND GRAZING LAND, IN LAKE COUNTY, CAL., 18 miles from railroad at Calistoga and connecting with it by fine wagon road. Within nine hours travel of San Francisco — 85 miles by carriage, railroad and steamboat. Title, U. S. Patent. Possession by present owners continuous and unquestioned for last twenty years. Extensive Government range adjoins. Portion of property occupied by farmers on annual leases. Regular mails to San Francisco. Post office at Guenoc— a village upon the property held by short leases. The railroad from Suisun to Clear Lake will run through or near this property. Timber in abundance. Profuse supplies of water throughout the year from running streams and living springs; certainty of copious rainfall; and proximity to market, make this ranch specially valuable for stock or agricultural uses. Putah creek runs midway through length of property. Drouth there is unknown. Landscape diversified and full of beauties. Climate unsurpassed tor healthfulness. Payments on very easy terms. Apply in person, or by letter, to M. D. L. SIMPSON, 703 Market street (Room 11), San Francisco, for map and descriptive circular.



M. D. L. Simpson et-als., to A. H. Cheney—1,500 acres, part of Guenoc rancho. Consideration, $11,106. J. M. Hamilton to Zette Getz—6 acres of land, part of Guenoc rancho. Consideration, $450.



Worthy Master J. M. Hamilton was born in Philadelphia, December, 1820. His parents died when he was quite young, and most of his early years were spent at school. After finishing a collegiate course, preparatory to applying himself to the study of medicine, he visited a brother-in-law in Delaware who was farming near New Castle, where he became so much pleased with the life of a farmer that he determined to adopt that as his own profession. In order to obtain a practical knowledge of farm labor, he took part in all the work done on the farm, made a full hand at it, going into the field and returning with the other laborers when their daily tasks were done. He lived with this gentleman—Mr. D. W. Gemmill— until his marriage, in 1841, when he began farming on his own account. In June, 1846, Mr. Hamilton left Delaware for the purpose of visiting Texas, and spent the time until December in traveling through the western part of that State, from Galveston as far west as the Rio Grande, and on  Christmas day returned to New York by sea from Galveston. After his return to Delaware he decided upon adopting the practice of law as a profession, and for a time was a student with the Hon. J. M. Clayton. In 1850 he was appointed Assistant U. S. Marshal for Delaware, and was engaged in taking the census for that year in New Castle county. Daring the succeeding winter Mr. Hamilton accepted a proposition of another brother-in-law, the late Captain A. A. Ritchie, to come to California and engage in farming on the Suisun rancho, in Solano county, then just purchased by Mr. Ritchie. In April 1851 he left Philadelphia with his wife and two children for California, and after a pleasant voyage of 135 days in the ship Tartar, he arrived in San Francisco by the way of Cape Horn. Immediately on his arrival he learned that the settlers had taken possession of most of the tract of land in Suisun, and not wishing to be drawn into any controversy with them, he purchased a farm in Napa valley, a short distance from Napa city, settled there and engaged in farming until the fall of 1860, when he became interested in quicksilver mining in Pope valley. He then moved into Napa city, where his family resided until the spring of 1863 when they moved to Pope valley. In the fall of 1865 he moved with his family over to the Guenoc ranch, in Lake county, where he has lived until the present time, engaged in farming and general stock raising. For the last three years he has had entire charge and management of the Callayomi and three fifths of the Guenoc ranchos, and has subdivided and sold most of this land in small tracts to suit purchasers.


Several purchasers bought land that would eventually be sold to make up present day Guenoc Ranch.


The name “Guenoc Ranch” has been bestowed on several different property holdings over the  years. However, to my knowledge, the name has always been bestowed on property which  had at one time been part of the original Rancho de Guenoc land grant.


A. A. Ritchie Jr.’s holdings in Coyote Valley were called Guenoc Ranch. Lillie Langtry’s ranch was called Guenoc Ranch as was Freddie Gebhard’s ranch. When J. M. Hamilton moved to Coyote Valley it was reported he was residing at Guenoc Ranch.


The majority of present day Guenoc Ranch was not part of the original land grant. The farthest easterly point of the land grant was about ¼ mile west and south of Three Peaks south of Bohn Valley. A straight line goes north and west from there to Jim Davis Peak and then farther west to Coyote Valley. The majority of the property of today’s Guenoc Ranch was homesteaded and then sold to people like the Inks and the Hennesseys and eventually to the McCreerys and the Deterts.


From the 1845 land grant days, to the 1862 homestead act to the land barons of the late 1800s and early 1900s many people have fallen in love with the land we call Guenoc.






In the fall of 1847 some frontiersmen known as Shirland Charles Stone and the brothers Andy and Ben Kelsey purchased from Salvador Vallejo all of his stock he was running at Clear Lake. They also secured the right to use the land which he claimed as a pasture.


The Indians had worked for the Spaniards and Mexicans and were inclined to work for the white men, Kelsey and Stone, expecting the same treatment they had received from the previous patrons. Instead, Kelsey and Stone treated the native Indians as slaves, paying them with trinkets and very little food. At one point they even secured Chief Augustine’s wife, took her for their own and refused to allow her any type of relationship with her legal husband.


Andy Kelsey died as the result of an arrow piercing his body. Stone had his head caved in by a rock. Both men were buried in the sand of a caved in creek bank.


In 1850 the U. S. Army dispatched a regiment from Benicia to travel to Clear Lake to take revenge on the group of natives who had murdered the two white men Kelsey and Stone.


The Army first traveled from Benicia to the Napa Valley. Then they went over Howell Mountain and down into Pope Valley. They travelled through the valley to where the modern day Aetna Springs area is, then west over the mountains. Next dropping down into the Wennok Valley. Moving on, the Army passed to the east of Wennok Lake, over some small hills, passed through Kayote Valley and into Coyote Valley. From there, on to Clear Lake. This required the Army to build several miles of road where none existed.


“Road”, meaning it would accommodate a wheeled utility vehicle such as a wagon. The Army built the road as they needed to bring wagons carrying boats and cannon into what was then the Napa county Clear Lake Township. This was the first road ever built coming into this area. In fact the Army brought the first ever wheels into this territory. The road is known as the “Old Soldier Road” or the “Emigrant Road” as those coming into the area used this road. This road intersects Butts Canyon Road about seven miles East of present day Middletown


While Ritchie and Forbes were waiting for their patents to their land others settled on their land. One such settlor was Alexander Houston Butts.


The settlement of Kayote was located in the Kayote Valley along this road. The Kayote Post Office was established in 1859. When the post office was established in 1859, it was in Napa County. The post office was discontinued in 1862.  The only postmaster was John Kean appointed July 15, 1859. Kayote Post Office was the earliest in the area.


Historically the first store in Coyote Valley was a general merchandise store opened by Herrick and Getz around 1860


The actual village was located in the Coyote Valley South of Putah Creek.


In 1861 Lake county was formed from parts of Mendocino, Napa and Yolo counties.


The Guenoc Post Office wasn’t established until 1867, five years after the closing of the Kayote Post Office. The Guenoc Post Office was discontinued in 1880 when the village of Guenoc moved to Middletown.


The post office in Middletown began in April 1871 under the name of Middleton, and the name was changed to Middletown in July 1875.

(California’s Lake County Places and Postal History, By: Erving R. Feltman © 1993 by The Depot)


The names and numbers of settlers who took up residence on the old Guenoc land grant are more than we will address, however, two famous ones were Lillie Langtry, the British stage actress and her lover, Freddie Gebhard.


In 1871 the town of Middletown was formed on the site of the stage stop known as Middle Station. This area was formally part of Rancho Callayomi.






So far this has been about the Guenoc land grant but much of the land within the current boundaries of Guenoc Ranch were not part of the historical land grant. Thousands of these acres were settled by homesteaders.


The Homestead Act of 1862, allowed settlement of public lands and required only residence and improvement and cultivation of the land. Any person, who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government (including freed slaves after the fourteenth amendment) who was a citizen or person intending to become a citizen, 21 years of age or older, and the head of a household could make application. This included women.  With five years residence and improvements/cultivation, only a $15.00 fee was required to get 160 acres. The process had to be complete within seven years.


Only the land that was outside the 1845 Guenoc Land Grant boundaries and that was owned by the Federal Government was available to homesteaders.


Following is a list of those I found who successfully homesteaded and patented available land within present day Guenoc property boundaries. Some homesteader’s names appear more than once as they successfully homesteaded/purchased in more than one Township or Range.


T:010N - R005W

Sommers, Barthold

Brandt, John P

Brandt, Margaret D

Herman, Henry

McCain, Alfred B.

Schroder, J H Christian

Rasmussen, Charles P

Duchay, Joseph L

Shepherd, Walker B                       

Bailey, William M

Barnett, Samuel P

Brookins, Alanson H

Brookins, Edwin B

Day, Quintos V P                          

Harkrader, Joseph

Harkrader, William C

McGinnis, William T

Neil, Thomas L

Shaw, Harold J

Shaw, Isaac V & Kate A

Turner, Fannie

Barnett, Cedric A

Pool, John J

Kramer, Valentin


T:010N - R006W

Knauer, Maria & Elias

Asbill, Archibald R

Asbill, Vere L

Brandt, John P


Brandt, Margaret D 

Pocock, Robert

Kramer, Valentin

Paulishich, Stephen

Rees, George C H

West, William

Villa, Pietro & Rosa


T:011N - R005W

Barnes, Isacc E

Brookins, Robert M

Watson, Elizabeth & James

Banister, James

Herman, August

Herman, Henry

Herman, Otto

Lalanne, Honorine

Church, Lorenzo

Thompson, William H.

Knauer, Elias

Pockman, John M.

Snow, John D

Storman, George


T:011N - R006W

Davis, James

Herman, August

Lalanne, Emile

Lalanne, Honorine

Thompson, William H.

Pocock, Robert





The area we today call the Ink Ranch is made up of several homesteads. The family who homesteaded the site that was called the Ink House was first settled by a family named Thompson. William H. Thompson homesteaded and received the patent to 160 acres on August 1st, 1872 that included the area where their home was, a barn and the round corrals. Their property was described as being seven miles east of the village of Guenoc. It is reasonable to assume that the house that was known as the Ink house was really built by W. H. Thompson as he lived there several years. With a patent date of 1872 and a five year residency requirement the family must have moved onto the land around 1867.


In 1866 there was a William H. Thompson registered to vote in the Coyote Valley precinct. This person stated  he was a farmer originally from Kentucky and in 1866 he was 38 years old.


Another homesteader nearby, Lorenzo B. Church, received his patent for land near the Big Basin on the same date as Thompson.


In November of 1870 W. H. Thompson’s wife gave birth to a son at the Clifton Ranch that was some distance east of their home.


SACRAMENTO DAILY UNION reported on 12/22/1874

A Lost Boy— Excitement at Guenoc — ' thrilling occurrence transpired at Guenoc, Lake county, on Friday, the 11th instant, the particulars of which we are favored with by L. B. Church, of that place. A little son of W. Thompson, living near Guenoc, six years old, left his home at 10 o'clock in the morning  and wandered off into the brushy mountain. No little excitement was caused when his absence was discovered, and the neighbors were notified and turned out to a man.


About 9 o'clock in the evening information was had from a duck hunter that he had seen the boy about 3 o'clock, some three miles from home. The man bad inquired of him if he was lost, but he said: "No, no. papa's there," pointing ahead, and , riding a -stick horse. He evidently thought his father was near, and thus deceived the hunter, who thereupon left him. It appears that he had upon leaving home, followed a dim road about two miles, and then turned off a mile to the right, striking a thick brush fence, which he could not well climb, turned and followed along  it a mile and a half further, through a narrow gap in the hills. And now came his rescue through one of those circumstances which may well lead people to believe in providential interposition. Ordinarily no one would have been along there to have discovered him for days, or perhaps weeks, but, by chance there passed along after sunset, a man who had been repairing the fence, and found him hid, for he bad apparently gone wild, and concealed himself from his preserver. This was about dark. The man took him to his house, and at 10 o'clock the searching party were apprised of his whereabouts and took him home. A most providential recovery, which will doubtless lead his parents to keep a close watch of that boy in the future.— Napa Register, December 19th.


W. H. Thompson received a patent for another 160 acres he had been working at the east end of Amel Lake on July 30th, 1878, apparently just in time to sell it to Theron Ink.



Mr. W. H. Thompson has sold his place near Middletown, Lake county, to Supervisor Ink of this county, for $10,000. Mr. Thompson will soon leave with his family for Oregon, intending to settle there.


In the 1880 census of those living in Coast Fork, Lane county, Oregon we find a Kentucky farmer, 52, named William H. Thompson. He has four children all who were born in California. Their names were; Burtram Thompson, 11; George G. Thompson, 10: Eunice D. Thompson, 7 and Troy F. Thompson, 5. His wife’s name was Anna Lucy.



In 1852 Moses James Church loaded up his family, hitched a team of oxen to his wagon and crossed the great plains, the Sierra Mountains and settled near Stockton in California. But after a year he removed to Napa County, near present day Middletown, not far from the head-waters of Putah Creek. This area would become part of Lake county in 1861. There he embarked in the stock business. He continued there as a stockman for eight years, and then he took up his residence in Napa City, built a large blacksmith shop and conducted that for a couple of years. He sold out and located in Fresno County at Centerville, and there he engaged in sheep-raising for another two or three years; and in 1870 he started the canals that made Fresno County famous.


A son of his, Lorenzo Bonaparte Church, who was born as a twin September 13, 1846, in Lake county, Indiana crossed the plains with his family as an eight year old. He was reared at the family place near present day Middletown and from a boy learned the blacksmith trade.


In Lower Lake, California on October 3, 1868, Lorenzo married Mary Josephine Springston. Josephine Springston was the daughter of William and Nancy Springston and their family was one of the earliest families to settle in the Loconoma Valley.


Lorenzo and Mary moved to Fresno county and remained there for about nine months. During that time baby girl Carrie was born December 11th, 1869. The family then returned to Lake county where they were counted as residents in the 1870 census. They homesteaded and preempted east of Middletown, on Putah Creek. They engaged in raising sheep and Lorenzo bought more land, until he had over 800 acres. During this time four more children were born. 1871,  Carina; 1873, Lola; 1874, Leona and 1876, Lorenzo Jr. who died at 6 months. The family continued on there until the spring of 1878, when they sold out to Theron H Ink and re-located in Fresno County.



L. B. Church recently sold his place in the vicinity of Knoxville, to Mr. T. H. Ink.



L. B. Church, long a resident of Middletown, Lake Co., has moved to Fresno.


JOHN PHILLIP & MARGARET D. BRANDT (Lower Bohn - First land patent)


Thirty years ago:

The Union hotel on Second street, which had been conducted by Nat. Boice and Frank Suydam then passed into the hands of its owner, J. P. Dwyer, who had formerly conduced it. A few years later Suydam and John P. Brandt became the lessees. Brandt soon after abandoned city life and took up a sheep ranch in Napa county, where he lived for several years. Suydam died some years ago in this city.


John Brandt is counted in the 1860 census as being a resident of Clear Lake, Napa county his Post Office address was Kayote and his occupation was rancher.


In the 1870 census his residence was Lower Lake and he listed his occupation as shepherd.


On January 5th, 1872 John P. Brandt received his land patent for 170.98 acres in the area we presently call Bohn Valley. This patent was the first patent recorded for the area we are interested in. His mother, Margaret D. Brandt received her patent February 20th, 1872 for 160 acres on the east side of Bohn Valley. Both received one other land patent in the same vicinity.


In 1880 he is counted in Coyote valley and list his occupation as sheep raiser. He is now raising sheep on 660 acres in the Bohn Valley area.


John died on January 12th, 1881. This left his mother, Margaret, who lived in Napa, to deal with the sheep and the land now in Lake county. Margaret was then 82 years old. Margaret leased the ranch to Lucien L. Bowen and in 1883 sold the Ranch to J. B. Richardson and W. N. Bowen of Suisun, Solano county.



Lake county news

Lakeport Bee-Democrat

We learned only a day or two since that the Brandt ranch, in the southern part of the county, owned by Margaret D. Brandt, of Napa, and at present occupied by L. L. Bowen as a stock ranch, has just been purchased by J. B. Richardson and W. N. Bowen, of Suisun. Mr. Richardson is well known as Internal Revenue Collector, and Mr. Bowen is a brother of the craft and editor of the Solano Republican.


The Register further reported on September 28th, 1883, regarding Richardson and Bowen: “They have what is esteemed by Lake county men, one of the best ranges and best bands of sheep in the whole county.”


Lucien Llewellyn "Lou" Bowen was William Nelson Bowen’s younger brother. William was married to Jerome Bonaparte Richardson’s daughter, Bell. The “Bowen” name was associated with the area from 1881 to 1893. And L. L. Bowen did appear to live on the property, however, I could find no record of anyone named “Bohn” associated with the property, only speculation.


A man named Art Bohn did live in Middletown for a short time. His birth year was 1895 and his parents were immigrants from Germany. In 1910 he was living with his parents in Napa. He was counted as living in Middletown in the 1930 census and was married. It was reported that in 1928 his residence in Middletown burned to the ground along with other buildings occupying the same block. He was living in Napa again by 1935 and died there in 1948. The Napa Register reported: “Died following a street fight. The report stated that death was due to a marked degeneration of the liver.”


The property changed hands several more times, eventually, it was acquired by A. B. McCreery.


L. L. Bowen went on to be a very successful real estate developer in the Los Angeles area of California.


JAMES DAVIS  (Jim Davis Peak 38.7662 x -122.4898)

In Suzanne D. Case’s book “Join Me In Paradise” subtitled: The History of Guenoc Valley © 1982, published by Guenoc Winery, on page 55 she addresses “Jim Davis Peak” She writes; Mr. Davis had a wife and three children. His wife’s name was Nancy and the children were named Jeff, Jim and Dixie. That he murdered a man named Thomas Crumpdick over a gambling issue. And that he went to prison for many years. When finally paroled he went to work for the Smythes on the Detert Ranch and that he ended his life by committing suicide.


The following is what I found.


The Jim Davis who homesteaded 130+ acres that included “Jim Davis Peak” first showed up in the 1880 census in the Knoxville district in the town of Monticello, Napa, county, California. There are no records that I could find that identifies a wife or children belonging to Mr. Davis, although he does imply he was married and newspaper reports speak of his brother-in-law. Further, a George Davis of Monticello is identified as his, Jim Davis’s, cousin in an article printed in the Napa Register February 11th, 1887.


George’s father’s name was Jeff and his mother’s name was Nancy and he had a brother named Richard Dixie who went by Dixie Davis. Also Jeff, Nancy and Dixie all moved to Middletown. Jeff and Nancy are both buried in the Middletown Cemetery.


Jim Davis did indeed murder a man named William Krumdick but it was not over a gambling issue.



Thursday night last, in Middletown, Lake county, Wm. Krumdick, who runs a freight wagon between Calistoga and Lakeport, was shot in his left side, just below the shoulder, by “Jim" Davis, of Middletown. Davis had called Krumdick a vile name an hour or two before without cause, and received a good drubbing for it. After the trouble, Krumdick and another man were walking along the street, when the former received a shot as stated. The bullet has been probed for, but cannot be found. It probably lodged near the spine. Krumdick is entirely paralyzed below the body, and will very likely die. Davis ran away immediately after the shooting, and has not been found.



George Davis, (a cousin to Jim Davis who shot Wm. Krumdick in Lake county) was brought to this city on Tuesday from Monticello to serve a hundred days sentence for battery. Justice Moss was the committing magistrate.



Sheriff L. H. Boggs of Lake Co. who passed through Napa on the train a few days ago in route for Butte county succeeded in capturing there Jim Davis who recently shot William Krumdick at Middletown. Davis is booked for assault to murder and has been taken back to the Lakeport jail. At last accounts Krumdick’s condition was such that his death may occur at any time. Davis is a hard case. He formerly lived in Berryessa Valley and up there was considered a “bad man.”



Krumdick Dead.

William Krumdick, who was shot in Middletown, Lake county, on the 9th of last December by Jim Davis, died on last Monday at his home in Middletown. The remains were brought to Lakeport, Tuesday, and interred in the cemetery at that location. Davis, the murderer, is behind prison bars at Lakeport.



At the preliminary examination of Jim Davis for the killing of William Krumdick of Middletown, held recently at Lakeport, Davis was held to answer to the charge of murder without bail. Messrs. Spencer and Henning have been retained to defend the prisoner.


NAPA WEEKLY 4/28/1887

Hon. Dennis Spencer returned last Sunday from Lakeport where he had been for a week engaged as counsel in the defense of Jas. Davis for the killing of Wm. Krumdick. Davis was convicted of murder in the second degree.



The jury in the case of the People vs. Jim Davis, which was on trial all of last week at Lakeport, brought in a verdict of murder in the second degree. Davis is a brother-in-law of William Williams.



Jim Davis, recently convicted of murder in the second degree for the killing of William Krumdick in Lake county, has been sentenced to San Quentin for seventeen years. Davis is a brother-in-law of William Williams, recently sent to San Quentin for life for the murder of Sidney Clark.



Jim Davis, who killed Wm. Krumdick, at Middletown, is said to act furiously in his home behind the bars at San Quentin. He is just now enjoying the meagre comforts of a “pitch-dark” cell. W. T. Farmer who killed Wm. Christie, in Lake county, was the other day sentenced to serve twenty-two years in prison. Of course an appeal has been taken on some technicality, and a new trial will be diligently labored for.


NAPA REGISTER 12/30/1887

Reports from San Quentin are to the effect that Jim Davis, who is serving a 17-year sentence for the murder of Wm. Krumdick, has been very unruly of late and is giving the prison authorities much trouble. He was placed in the tanks recently and the water turned on him. He would not pump and came near drowning, and he had to be taken out to save his life.



It does not at first thought seem probable that a man like Jim Davis, the murderer of Wm. Krumdick, would have a sympathizer—not even among his relatives—who would go around seeking signers to a petition for his pardon. This has been done however in Lake county the past week or two. But Jim is not going to secure his liberty very soon. He well merits all the punishment he will get under his sentence.


There is some evidence that Jim turned over, or sold, his homestead to his cousin Dixie Davis. In Ms. Case’s book, aforementioned, when addressing Jim Davis, she writes: “Dixie Davis sold the property to Ike V and Kate Shaw in 1893” and that they had lived in the Davis cabin with their son Harry for a time.


Jim Davis’s cabin was located at the base of Last Chance Peak on the east side near the north side of Bucksnort creek.


In 1911, it was reported that the Shaws sold their homesteads to McCreery but the Jim Davis property was not listed in that sale.


Jim Davis registered to vote in Middletown during August of 1898. His name appears under his cousin Dixie Davis. Although Jim was sentenced to 17 years it was not uncommon to get paroled after serving over half the sentence.


In the 1900 census of Butte county a James Davis is counted and he had the same history as the James Davis who owned Jim Davis Peak. Plus Butte county was where Davis ran to when trying to avoid the law in 1887.


Since McCreery bought all the nearby property from Watson and Lalanne he probably bought Jim Davis Peak as well. That would have been around 1910.


ALFRED B. MCCAIN (Upper McCain Canyon)

Alfred B. McCain was born in Illinois in 1866. He had three sisters. All of them older. In 1880 at the age of 14 he and his family were living in Breckenridge, Texas. By January 5th, 1919, thirty nine years later at the age of 53, he filed to homestead land in Lake county, California.


He was registered to vote in Middletown but his mailing address was the Aetna Springs Post Office. He was counted  in the 1920 census as being a resident of Middletown. He filed again for more land March 10th, 1920. He laid claim to the land May 10th, 1926. His homestead was at the beginning of McCain Canyon near Upper Bohn Lake. His homestead was bought by W. F. Detert and became part of Guenoc Ranch.


By 1930 he was living in Yountville, Napa county. He never married.


VALENTIN KRAMER (Lower McCain Canyon)

Also known as Valentine, immigrated to the US from Germany in 1882. He became a naturalized citizen on August 6th, 1888 and registered to vote in Middletown that same day.


He had a brother, George, who had settled in the Middletown area too. George was married and had a family while Valentin did not. George died in a mental hospital December 12th, 1908.


Valentin’s homestead, just over 160 acres, included the lower part of McCain Canyon nearly all the way to Butts Canyon road. After his death the land was valued at about $100.


Valentin was a goat farmer. According to Ms. Case’s book he raised between 400 & 500 head of Angora goats which he sheared twice a year.


He received his patent December 5th, 1907 and passed just about 10 years later on August 29th, 1917. On October 12th, 1917 John Kramer, nephew, was appointed legal Administrator of Valentin’s estate. The personal property was valued at $427. According to Case, Kramer sold the land to William F. Detert February 10th, 1921.


Valentin died intestate and there was no mention of any goats in the probate papers. There were 12 chickens, 6 turkeys,  3 horses and 4 head of cattle but no goats listed out of 4-500.


There were wild goats on Goat Mountain (Hill) into the early 1960s, could they have been the remnants of Valentin’s heard?




Two Lalannes homesteaded lands that would eventually become part of Guenoc Ranch. They homesteaded the area we present day refer to as Amel Lake. The two Lalannes were mother and son. Records indicated they patented just short of 480 acres. The patents are dated 1889, 1892 and 1895.


In Ms. Case’s book she writes that Emile’s brother was killed by a falling rock while digging a well and the father choked to death on a peach pit. I couldn’t verify this information but following is what I did find.


On August 8th, 1853, a Frenchman named Etienne Lalanne arrived on the shores of New York aboard the ship “Old England”.


On September 13th, 1854 the ship “St Louis” docked at the port of New York. On board arriving from France were passengers Ellen, Emile and Gabriel Lalanne. Who we eventually get to know as Honorine, mother, and sons; Emile and Jean Baptista Gabriel Lalanne.


24 years later, in California, during June of 1878, E. Lalanne sells to J B G Lalanne 175.7 acres in Berryessa for $2,000.


On October 7th, 1880 a man named Étienne Lalanne is a witness for Jean Baptista Gabriel's naturalization in Napa Superior Court.


On Nov 11, 1889 J B G Lalanne received his patent for 160 acres located in T011N - R005W Secs 20&29 about ½ mile southeast of his mother's patent and outside the boundary of Guenoc Ranch.


In the 1900 census Honorine Lalanne is listed as a resident of Middletown, CA. It states her birth date as November 1824, that she immigrated to the US in 1854, that she was a widow, that she was the mother of 2 children and that only 1 was living and that she lives with her son, Emile who is 57.


In 1892 the Napa Register advertised it was holding letters addressed to Jean Lalanne. I could not find further information on J B G or Étienne Lalanne.


In 1910 the Lalannes sold their holdings to A. B. McCreery.


Emile stood between 5' 4 ½” to 5' 6" he was described as having a pock marked face. He passed in 1928 and was never married.


ROBERT POCOCK  (Amel lake)

Was born in England April 14th, 1827. He became a citizen of the U.S. on October 21st, 1857 in the state of Kentucky. He registered to vote in the Coyote precinct in Lake county almost ten years later on September 9th, 1867. On June 10th, 1892 he received his patent for 160 acres near Amel lake.


Napa Register Weekly 9/6/1895

Robert Pocock to Harriet June Ink, 160 acres of land west of Napa, $50.


Robert was living in Middletown when he died September 16th, 1899. His remains are buried in the Middletown cemetery.



Isaac “Ike” V. and Catherine “Katie” A. Shaw received their patent to their land on June 6th, 1910. Their homestead was east of Upper Bohn lake. Their son, Harry (Harold), received his patent for an additional 160 acres on the same date for a combined 320 acres in Sections 8&9 of T010N – R005W.


Unfortunately Isaac would not live to see the patent as he died March 6th, 1909.



Inquest Held.

Coroner C. C. Treadway returned Wednesday afternoon from upper Pope valley, where he was called Tuesday morning to hold an inquest over the remains of Isaac Shaw, who died suddenly on Monday night. The deceased had been ailing for several days, and the jury returned a verdict of death from natural causes. “Ike” Shaw is well remembered as an early day teamster in Berryessa valley, and lived In Napa county for a long time up to a few years ago, when he removed to Middletown, from whence he returned to Pope valley several years ago. Deceased was a native of Ohio, aged 71 years.



H. J. Shaw to A. B. McCreery, 160 acres in sections 8 and 9, township 10 north, range 5 west. Katie A. Shaw to A. B. McCreery, 160 acres in section 8, township 10 north, range 5 west.


Isaac’s final resting place is the Middletown Cemetery. Katie and Harry moved to Oakland, California.



Elias started his life by being born during the year 1814 in Chester county, Pennsylvania. By age 38 he was living in Kentucky, where he met and married Mary Melcina White on October 24th, 1852. He was then a farmer by trade. The next year, still in Kentucky, they have a son, Frank. But just two years later another son, Harvey, is born in Ohio. The Knauers continue westward and are in California by 1865 settled in Yolo county.


By 1870 the family members are Elias, Maria, Frank, Harvey and William.


On August 1st, 1872 the Knauers receive the patent for 160 acres in T011N – R005W Section 30 near Upper Bohn lake. On July 20th, 1877 they receive the patent for an additional 160 acres in T010N – R006W Section 22, Spring Mountain. Unfortunately Elias didn’t live to see it as he died late January 1877.


According to Ms. Case, Melcina sold the Spring Mountain property later in 1877 to Thomas R. Musick and through a series of sales the property eventually became part of Guenoc Ranch.


Melcina was counted in the 1900 census as being a resident of Woodland, Yolo county, being a widow, of being the mother of 5 children of whom 3 were still living and of owning her own home. Mary Melcina passed in 1915.


GEORGE C. H. & SARAH REES (Spring Pasture)

George Chester Henry Rees was born in 1818 in Ohio. He married Sarah Black on May 23, 1850, in Polk, Iowa. They had six children in 22 years.


In the 1880 census George and family were counted as residents of St. Helena, Napa county, California. But before long George was registered to vote in the Coyote precinct in Lake county by September 1884.


The family took up homesteading 156 acres in T010N - R006W Sections 14 & 15, roughly 100 acres in Section 14 & 56 acres in15. The homestead was just inside the south property boundary of today’s Guenoc and just outside the land grant boundary on the same property. The patent date for this property was November 3rd, 1891.


George died at his home on the property December 14th, 1892. George had fought in the war with Mexico so Sarah received a pension from the government for the rest of her life. Sarah lived on for 26 more years, passing over on February 19th, 1918.



Steven Paulisich was born in Austria-Slovenia September 29th, 1861. He immigrated to the U.S. during April 1884. He was not yet 23. Steven registered to vote in the Coyote precinct on July 25th, 1896, so at some prior time he became a citizen. He married Mary Pluth, the daughter of his neighbor to his south-east, Martin Pluth. He received his patent June 30th, 1892, which implies he filed in early 1887. Mary and Steven had two sons, Stephen and Joseph who were born about 1895 & 1896.


Steven and Mary’s neighbors were Anton and  Mary Ansel, George and Sarah Rees, Elias and Maria Knauer, Louis Pfund, John and Clatarina Scalla, Joseph Pluth and Martin Pluth most from Austria and most involved in wine making.


Steven Paulisich died March 18th, 1906 and he was buried in the Middletown Cemetery. Steven died intestate.


In his probate papers his real property was as described consisting of 160 acres with improvements, valued at $800.


His personal property consisted of; six head of cattle, one mare, three hundred gallons of wine, one spring wagon, one set of harness, cooperage for wine-making and farming implements valued at $254.


Mary sold the property to George Mastick in January 1912.


 (Foot note: I researched many homesteaders by searching first; Township, Range and Section. Steven Paulisich was not a registered homesteader. However, Stephen Paulishich was and his homestead was within the bounds. I was able to determine that these two identities were one and the same as in Steven Paulisich’s probate records his real property was exactly the same 160 acres of Stephen Paulishich’s described by the BLM.)



The land we know as Black Oak Villa was first claimed by William J. West. Included in his claim was about 80 acres of present day Guenoc property. West received his patent March 7th, 1922.


William, born in 1859, married Margaret T. Gordon in 1885. They had one son and four daughters, the son being the youngest. They were all living in Los Angeles.



To William and Margaret West, 325 South Thomas street, a son.


Margaret and William got in trouble with the law, especially Margaret.



LOS ANGELES. June 21.— Charged with grand larceny, Mrs. Margaret West of 325 Thomas street was arrested to-night and will be obliged to explain the mortgaging of the same property to several persons. The assets of Mrs. West consist principally of a horse and cow, and with these as a start she is said to have accumulated several thousand dollars. She has proved herself to be a chattel mortgage Napoleon, and it is charged that with no other security than the two domestic animals she has obtained enough money to pay for her home and to live comfortably besides.


Mrs. West's alleged plan was simple. She answered all advertisements of money to loan on personal property and made engagements at different times with the advertisers. When a man who had money to loan appeared, she showed him her horse and cow and offered them as security. She usually got the loan and under various names, it is said, she pledged that horse and cow until she could find no more money lenders to conquer.


How much she got is not known, but the records show that she used at least eleven names and that she obtained not less than $100 on each. One of her victims, to-day discovered her plan and caused her arrest.


The 1910 census counts the family living in San Francisco.



WARRANT ISSUED FOR WOMAN — Police Judge Shortail yesterday issued a warrant for the arrest of Margaret West on a case of obtaining money under false pretenses. C. A. Wilcomb, Grand hotel, swore to the warrant. The amount involved is $250.


In 1917, their son Fred, was living and working in Vallejo, Solano county. His parents had probably located in Lake county around this same time as William, Margaret and Fred are counted as living in Middletown during the 1920 census.






Mr. and Mrs. Arch Asbill entertained a score of friends at a ravioli dinner at Villa’s Resort Saturday evening in honor of Mr. Asbill's birthday anniversary. The party afterwards attended the dance at Dreamland on Clear lake.


Sometime between the end of 1921 and July 1928 Pietro and Rosa Villa acquired the West’s holdings. In the beginning the resort was called Villa’s Resort but very soon became Black Oak Villa.



Mrs. Peter Villa and daughter of Albany have arrived here to make her home with her husband at Black Oak Villa.


The Villas soon were homesteading and acquiring more land. They received a patent for another 480 acres, of which approximately 280 of those acres are today part of Guenoc.



Lake Co. Resort Owner a Suicide

Peter Villa, resort owner, shot and killed himself at his resort, Villa’s Resort, in Butts Canyon in the Middletown district, early Saturday afternoon. He used a shotgun. Villa had been worried over financial troubles and then his health failed, and it is thought this was the cause of the suicide. Mr. Villa was a native of Italy, aged 63. He came to Lake County about ten years ago and started the Butts Canyon resort which has been popular among vacationists and sportsmen. A widow, two sons and a daughter survive him.


Rosa received the patent for the 480 acres on May 26th, 1938.


Rufino De Freitas Fernandes continued the operation of Black Oak Villa into the 1950s and like many other local resorts, eventually, it too closed.


HERMAN (Ink and Hennessey ranches)

Three of Herman and Berta Herman’s sons received patents on land that would eventually become part of the present day Guenoc property. They were Henry, Otto and August Herman.


In the early 1900s the family had settled at the junction of Bucksnort and Putah creeks which would later become the Hennessey Ranch. Four of the five sons would homestead land acquiring a sizable number of acres, approximately 1,750. Of that, nearly half would become part of Guenoc, or approximately 820 acres.


The earliest patent date was 1912 which was received by the oldest son, George. The last was in 1928.


Unfortunately, George was killed in an accident on their neighbor, T. H. Ink’s property.



George Herman was killed on the Ink ranch in Pope valley Sunday while riding horseback. He was mounted on a partly broken colt, which became unmanageable and ran among some large trees. He struck a low limb and was crushed against his saddle, sustaining injuries that caused his death within two hours after the accident. The funeral took place in Middletown Tuesday and was attended by many Pope valley people. Deceased was well known throughout Napa county, especially in Pope valley where he had spent much of his time during the last two years.



Was born July 13th, 1883 in Appomattox, Virginia. He completed the 7th grade but was counted as a farm laborer in 1900. When he registered for the draft in 1917 he was living in Stockton, California and showed his occupation as “fireman”.  At some point he relocated to Napa county living near Monticello and filed for a patent on 440 acres in the Upper Bohn area, receiving the patent on February 7th, 1928. A few months later he sold his land to Edwin Hennessey.



W. B. Shepherd to E. R. Hennessey lands in Secs. 5 and 8, Tp. 10 N., R. 5 W - 440 acres.



Cedric Arthur Barnett was born March 7th, 1896 the son of Samuel P. and Carolyn Lucretia Barnett in Pope Valley, California. The Barnett families were prominent land holders and farmers in the area. Cedric’s grandfather, Jesse, was a pioneer to the valley.



‘Uncle” Jesse Barnett, an old and respected pioneer resident of Napa county, died at his home in Pope Valley, Wednesday evening after a short illness. Death resulted from a stroke of paralysis which seized him last Sunday. Mr. Barnett was born in Jackson county Kentucky February 25, 1826, where he lived until 1831. In that year his parents moved to Missouri and settled in what was then Jackson county, now Van Buren county, where they remained until 1836. In that year they removed to Scioto county, Ohio, where he resided until he started for California, which occurred in 1854. He crossed the plains and on his arrival in this State he immediately proceeded to Pope Valley, and in the Fall of 1855 Mr. Barnett settled on his ranch of twelve hundred acres, and engaged in general farming and stock raising. He was married September 28, 1848, to Miss Clark, who was born In Lawrence county, Ohio, January 16. 1828, and by this union they had seven children: Ellis J., Mary E., James P., William A., Jesse W., Samuel P. and Margaret L.


Cedric’s father, Samuel P. also homesteaded 240 acres of land within the bounds of present day Guenoc Ranch. His land was located in T010N R005W Sections 2 & 3.


Cedric’s homestead included 320 acres of Guenoc land and it too was in T010N 005W but in Sections 9 & 10 on the properties southern boundary above Snell Valley. On older maps it shows a road going through his homestead.



The petition of A. R. Asbill for an order of abandonment of a portion of the Calistoga-Knoxville road leading out of Snell valley was taken up. The proofs of posting notice of the time and place of hearing were filed. A protest to the abandonment of the road signed by 277 citizens and taxpayers was received and filed. Short addresses in support of the petition for abandonment were made by A. R. Asbill, Cedric Barnett, Henry Schaeffer and the owners of the Snell valley ranch. The board reserved their decision on the petition until Tuesday, April 8th at 10 o'clock a. m.


On September 5th, 1936 the Napa Daily Register reported that Cedric A. Barnett had been appointed guardian of the $40,000 Pope valley estate of his 75 year old uncle, Uriah Barnett. Uriah, though living, was found  incompetent and unable to manage his affairs.


Cedric died a young man on January 30th, 1937 just two days after his father, Samuel who passed on the 28th.


Cedric’s son wrote in his father’s biography that earlier that month Cedric and Samuel had spent a lot of time at his uncle Uriah’s place fixing fence and that the weather was unusually severe with cold and snow. Both men, over exposed, contracted pneumonia and succumbed to its effects.


Whether Cedric and Samuel still retained ownership of their homesteads at the time of their death, I was unable to determine. However, both were living in Napa in the same house when they passed.


FANNIE TURNER (Eastern Boundary)


Fannie Turner to Mrs. Emeline Neil, 160 acres in Sec. 12 and 13, T. 10, N. R. 5 W. $l.




William C. Harkrader has sold to T. H. Ink 160 acres of land near Knoxville. The consideration was $400.



Joseph Harkrader to T. H. Ink, 320 acres of land situated in the northern end of Pope Valley.




After W. F. Detert had secured the lands from others accumulating in excess of 20,000 acres he, and later his nephew, went about filing for lands that had not been homesteaded previously.


The first patented by W. F. was for 183.04 acres on November 4th, 1926. Richard Detert, W. F.’s nephew and the sole inheritor of the Ranch continued, receiving patents on a total of 512.47 acres. The last patent was dated April 28th, 1950.






The goats of Goat Mountain were still around into the early 1960s. Where they originated is anyone’s best guess. Maybe they were from a homesteader or left over from a previous owner of Guenoc Ranch.


Based on Suzanne Case’s book, “Join Me In Paradise”, I wrote in “HOMESTEADERS OF THE LANDS OF GUENOC RANCH”, regarding Valentin Kramer: “Valentin was a goat farmer. According to Ms. Case’s book he raised between 400 & 500 head of Angora goats which he sheared twice a year.”


Further, I wrote: “He received his patent December 5th, 1907 and passed just about 10 years later on August 29th, 1917. On October 12th, 1917 John Kramer, nephew, was appointed legal Administrator of Valentin’s estate. The personal property was valued at $427.


According to Case, Kramer sold the land to William F. Detert February 10th, 1921.


Valentin died intestate and there was no mention of any goats in the probate papers. There were 12 chickens, 6 turkeys, 3 horses and 4 head of cattle but no goats listed out of 4-500.”


At the above point in “Homesteaders”, I questioned if the goats of Goat Mountain were originally part of Valentin’s herd. But here, now, today, I question if Valentin was truly a goat farmer? It seems to me, that anyone would surmise, had Valentin really owned 400-500 head of goats, some of those  goats should have been around and mentioned in the probate papers after his death, and they were not.


There is another possibility.


Prior to World War One, the Austrian Empire included several other ethnic groups beside Austrians. There were Czechs, Slovenians, Hungarians, Serbs, Croats, Germans and more. Most just identified themselves as Austrian when they came to the US. 


The mountains, from Oat Hill Road to Aetna Springs in Pope Valley, were filled with these so called Austrians, who were working growing grapes, making wine, doing other farming, raising livestock and hiring out to others.


Steven Paulisich, Austrian wine maker, homesteaded 160 acres of land that would become part of present day Guenoc Ranch. His homestead was in the area we called the “Spring Pasture”, as it was, during my time, the area where the spring was located that provided potable water for Guenoc Ranch.


In the hills around his homestead were more Austrians and others. Here are the names of some of his neighbors; Elias Knauer, Louis Pfund, George Rees, John Scalla, Anton Ansel, Joseph Pluth, Joseph Paulisich and  Martin Pluth. Further down the canyon lived Valentin Kramer and just above Aetna Springs lived Joseph Yudnich. Farther back toward Oat Hill was Josef Kramarich. Mostly everyone here knew each other, spoke the language and identified culturally. Some were related through blood or marriage and it was not uncommon for neighbors to drop by for a visit, a glass of wine, a meal or even to spend the night. The time frame for this life would have been during the very late eighteen hundreds and on into the early nineteen hundreds. Most folks traveled on foot and the average walking speed for humans is 3 to 4 miles per hour.


Steve Paulisich was married to Mary Pluth, Martin Pluth’s daughter. Steve and Mary had two sons together, Stephen and Joseph. Steve Sr. passed March 18th, 1906 leaving Mary with the two young boys and their property. Mary soon married her brother-in-law, Joseph Paulisich. Combined, they now owned one half of a section of land, or 320 acres.



NAPA (Napa Co.). April 5,—The grand jury in session today, is expected to return an indictment charging Joseph Kamarich, a farm hand on the ranch, of Joseph Yudnich, in Pope Valley, with the murder, March 8th last, of Martin Pluth found near his house with skull and arms fractured. The authorities announced today that experts have determined that stains found on clothes worn by Kamarich and pruning shears used by him were from human blood. Kamarich was arrested three days ago and held in the county jail here as a suspect.


Joseph Yudnich lived about six miles South of Martin Pluth or about a two hour walk between places. So after taking the evening meal at the Yudnich home, Saturday March 8th, when Martin started his walk home it would be about two hours before he reached the comfort of his own place. Mrs. Yudnich insisted Martin take a lantern to help him find his way in the dark.


Other men had had supper at the Yudnich home that evening as well; Josef Kramarich being one of those men.




Jury obtained to Try Joseph Kramarich, Accused. of Killing Martin Pluth

(Special Dispatch to The Call) NAPA, May 21.— After a prolonged examination of talesmen a jury was obtained here this afternoon to try Joseph Kramarich, charged with murder.


In  the opening statement to the jury the prosecution announced it would endeavor to prove that Kramarich killed Martin Pluth, a wealthy resident of Pope Valley, from revenge: that Kramarich kept a large herd of Angora goats near Pluth's place and had quarreled with Pluth, blaming him for the death of several of his goats. Mrs. Mary Paulisich, daughter of Pluth, testified this afternoon.


So now we know that Joseph Kramarich had a large herd of Angora goats roaming the hills in the vicinity of Goat Mountain. It was reported that as many as seventy of his goats were unaccounted for, so a herd of several hundred was possible.


These two men did not like each other and had previously scuffled after drinking wine. Joseph Yudnich had, on one occasion, had to separate them. Apparently Kramarich claimed to have found a goat skin near Pluth’s place and accused him of killing his goats. Pluth told him a wolf was killing his goats and Kramarich said yes, a two legged wolf.


Several people knew that Kramarich wished harm to come to Pluth telling some that someone should take a club to Pluth’s head.


After supper Saturday the 8th, Kramarich was spending the night at the Yudnich home. Upon saying goodnight to Pluth and Mrs. Yudnich, Pluth told Kramarich that he hoped the devil would get him before morning.


St. HELENA STAR 3/14/1913

Sunday morning, Martin Pluth, a well-known miner, prospector and rancher of Upper Pope Valley, whose ranch is six miles North of Aetna springs, was found terribly beaten and in an unconscious condition along the roadway between his farm and that of his nearest neighbor, Joseph Yudnich. Pluth had been the victim of a murderous assault, the details of which are still shrouded in mystery.


Martin Pluth, besides suffering from a fractured skull and being in an unconscious condition, both bones of the right forearm and one in the left were broken, as well as one in the right shoulder. Without regaining consciousness, the man passed away quietly a few minutes before 9 o'clock Tuesday night.


At first, no one was talking. So, the Sheriff arrested William Wells who worked for Yudnich and lived near James Creek. Wells had been at the supper with Pluth and a neighbor had implicated him as the assailant. This action loosened the tongues of those who knew better.



MURDER IN 2nd DEGREE Was the Verdict Brought in by Jury in the Kramarich Case.

(From Friday's Daily)

Upon further re-direct examination by the District Attorney, Yudnich admitted that there had been ill feeling between Kramarich and Pluth in regard to certain matters, and that on one occasion they had come to blows and that Yudnich was forced to separate them. Yudnich said that Kramarich was knocked down by Pluth.


On being cross-examined by Attorney Rutherford, Yudnich qualified his testimony by saying that Pluth and Kramarich were both under the influence of liquor, and that Kramarich was pushed down by Pluth, instead of being knocked down.


However, Yudnich’s testimony at this time would seem to indicate that there was bad blood between the two men.


Mrs. Agnes Yudnich, wife of the preceding witness, told of how Pluth came to the Yudnich home and took supper there. After supper her husband and others who were in the habit of sleeping in the house went to bed in their respective apartments, except herself, Martin Pluth and the defendant Kramarich. She was ironing in the kitchen, when Pluth came in from the porch and entered into conversation with her. While they' were talking, Kramarich came in and said he was going to bed. No comment was made by herself or Pluth, and Kramarich went out. In a few minutes he returned and bade them good-night. This time Pluth remarked that he hoped the devil would get Kramarich before morning. Kramarich made no reply and went to his room.


Shortly afterward Pluth told Mrs. Yudnich he was going home. As it was late and dark, she offered him a bed in the Yudnich home. Rut he persisted in going, so she furnished him with a lantern, and accompanying him to the door, watched him to the turn of the road leading to his home. Soon afterward she retired and went to sleep. Later, she was awakened by the sound of someone walking in the house in the direction of Kramarich’s bedroom. She, however, did not ascertain who It was.


The next morning Kramarich was at the breakfast table as usual.


Witness went on to tell of receiving the news of Pluth’s discovery in the road in the condition already described. Both she and her husband said that the ground In the vicinity showed signs of a desperate struggle.


Mrs. Yudnich was shown the underdrawers in the possession of the Sheriff and recognized them as the same ones she and Mrs. Paulisich had found in a box on the porch of the Yudnich house, and which were afterwards removed by Armstrong and later by the Sheriff. She also recognized a pair of pruning shears that were hanging in the porch of her home, a few days before the murder.


The court was then adjourned till 9 o’clock this morning.


(From Saturday's Dally.)

The testimony of Mrs. Joe Yudnich for the prosecution was continued in the Kramarich trial on Friday morning. She told of how she and Mrs. Paulisich noticed blood stains upon the clothing which Kramarich had left in a box on the porch of her residence, to be washed by her, as he had been in the habit of doing.


Mrs. Yudnich was rigorously cross examined by Attorney Rutherford, but her testimony was practically unchanged.


Dr. F. C. Newton of St. Helena was the next witness. He attended Pluth on the day after the assault in Pope valley, and also shortly before Pluth's death in St. Helena. He found that the latter's shoulder blade and both arms were broken; that there were many cuts and bruises on the body, and that one of his eyes was swelled shut. The skull was fractured in such a way to cause pressure upon the brain, causing unconsciousness. The chest was covered with bruises. The Doctor then took Pluth's skull, which was here put in evidence, and used it to enlighten his testimony to the Jury. Dr. Newton also identified several photographs produced in evidence.


Dr. Newton was briefly cross examined by Attorney Rutherford.


Wm. Wells was first called in the afternoon and accounted for his whereabouts on the evening of March 8th by stating that he left the Yudnich place at 6 o’clock and arrived at his home near Aetna Springs at 7 o’clock, where he slept all night with his brother.


J. M. Armstrong, who was staying at the Yudnlch place, corroborated the testimony of Joseph Yudnich. He said that when he went to see Pluth in the road on Sunday morning, the latter seemed conscious at times, but answered questions indefinitely. It seemed to him that Pluth knew who assaulted him, but would not tell, for reasons unknown.


Prof. Frank F. Green, Dean of the College of Pharmacy of the University of California, was the next witness. He testified to examining clothes sent to him by the Napa Sheriff’s office, and finding that the stains upon them were caused by blood. He was not called upon to show whether the blood was human or animal, as that was not the purpose of the Sheriff’s office in calling upon him.


John Pluth, who was next called, testified that on Sunday morning. March 9th. he rode over from Valentine’s place, which is a short distance away, to Yudnich’s. When he got to Yudnich’s wine cellar, not far from the house, he met Kramarich, who said that Pluth was down in the road, badly hurt; that he (Kramarich) was going up to the Yudnich house to get a sack to put under Pluth’s head. When Pluth asked Kramarich what was the matter with Pluth, the latter laughed and shrugged his shoulders. Pluth also saw Kramarich, about 6 o’clock on Saturday evening, going from Valentine’s to Yudnlch’s, and carrying a pair of pruning shears.


Mrs. Flora Valentine was the next witness. She testified that Kramarich had been employed by her in February last to prune a vineyard. He left his pruning shears there, and on Saturday, March 8th, between 5 and 6 o’clock in the evening, came and took them away with him.


Joe Yudnich was recalled by the prosecution, and testified to seeing a pair of pruning shears hanging in his porch, shortly after Pluth died.


Under Sheriff P. H. Maloney next took the stand and testified to going to the Burgwalt place, in Pope Valley and putting Kramarich under arrest, on the 25th of March. Kramarich changed his clothes before leaving, Mr. Maloney said, and hung up the yellow coat which he took off, on a nail. Mr. Maloney told him he had better take it along, but Kramarich said no, he didn’t want it. Mr. Maloney then said, "Well, if you don’t take it, I will.” As Maloney shook it out, preparatory to carrying it on his arm, Kramarich, he said, asked him, “What you look for, blood?”


On the afternoon of the same day, Maloney found the pruning shears on the porch of the Yudnich house and took them to Napa. On the next day in the Sheriff’s office, he showed the shears to Kramarich, who admitted that they were his property. He also showed Kramarich a bundle of clothes and asked him to pick out those that were his, and he selected those afterward produced for identification. Kramarich was several times afterward confronted with the clothes and asked what caused blood stains to be on them. Each time he told a different story, saying first that it was from a rabbit he had killed, then a squirrel and then a goat. Mr. Maloney said he had the testimony of various persons in Pope valley that Kramarich’s stories on this line were fabrications. When Kramarich was asked by Maloney if he got up the night of the 8th of March, after he went to bed in Yudnich’s, he said he did, to get water, but denied leaving the house that night.


A. Burgwalt, who had been a partner with Kramarich in raising goats, and at whose place the latter was arrested, said that Kramarich came to his place on the 20th of March. When shown the yellow blood-stained coat which had been before introduced in evidence, he identified it as the one Kramarich wore when he came to Burgwalt’s place, also some overalls that Kramarich had left there.


On being cross-examined by Attorney Rutherford, Burgwalt said that he did not think Kramarich asked Maloney, at the time of the former's arrest, if he (Maloney) was looking for blood on Kramarich's coat, but that Maloney asked Kramarich how blood came to be on the coat.


Under Sheriff Maloney was cross examined at length by Attorney Rutherford, but his testimony remained about the same as in direct examination.


Steve Paulisich, grandson of the deceased, was questioned by Attorney Rutherford, but nothing was brought out to conflict with his original testimony for the prosecution.


The court then adjourned till 9 o’clock this morning.


(From Sunday’s Daily )

The most damaging testimony that has as yet been developed against Josef Kramarich, was brought out in his trial in the Superior Court on Saturday morning, it was shown by the testimony of two witnesses in particular that Kramarich’s feelings toward Pluth were of a most sinister and murderous character.


One of these witnesses was Martin Scalla, who told that while he was in the employ of Kramarich, in January and February of 1912, and later in July of the same year, Kramarich said to him that Pluth was a bad man and ought to be put out of the way; that Pluth was killing his (Kramarich’s) goats. Kramarich also said that certain men had killed cattle in the vicinity and had to get out of the country; that Pluth ought to get out, too. One day, Kramarich said to Scalla, “Someone ought to beat him up with a club some dark night,” referring to Pluth.


Upon being cross-examined by Attorney Rutherford. Scalla admitted that on one occasion he had shaken Kramarich up some in an encounter between them, but that they were good friends again the next day.


T. A. Smythe showed still further by his testimony that Kramarich hated Pluth and wished him harm. He said that in frequent talks with Kramarich, the latter said he believed Pluth had burned his (Kramarich's) cabin. Kramarich further stated that he was satisfied Pluth had killed some of his goats, because he had found goat hides around Pluth’s cabin. On another occasion Kramarich told Smythe that ”Someone ought to meet Pluth on the road with a big stick and beat him on the head.”


T. W. Muilch acted as an efficient interpreter Saturday forenoon.


The court was adjourned at noon, until 9 o’clock on Monday morning next.


(From Tuesday’s Dally.)

The trial of J. Kramarich was resumed in the Superior Court on Monday morning at 9 o’clock.


George Simonich was the first witness put on by the prosecution. He told of a conversation he had with Kramarich, in which the latter said that he had found a goat's hide near Pluth’s cabin, and that it was easy for Pluth to eat meat as long as he (Kramarich) had goats in the hills. The witness said that Kramarich told him that Pluth said to Kramarich that a wolf was getting the latter's goats, and that Kramarich answered, “Yes, a wolf with two legs." Kramarich added: “Let him eat all the goat meat he wants —he won’t eat it long."


Valentin Kramer, Mrs. Maggie Kruger and Mrs. Mary Paulisich testified to statements made to them by Kramarich, in which the latter accused Pluth of killing his goats.


Jack O'Brien, who was a fellow prisoner with Kramarich, testified that on April 15th, in his cell, Kramarich told him that on the night of Saturday, March 8th, while sleeping in the Yudnich house, he got up in the night, between 9 and 10 o'clock, to get a drink of water; that in trying to get back to his room he lost his way and wandered up the road; that he came upon Pluth in the road, beaten up, covered with blood, but as he did not wish to wake anybody up, it being so late, he did not arouse the family. Witness said that Kramarich told him that he (Kramarich) could not be convicted, because no one had seen him assault Pluth.


Attorney Rutherford subjected the witness to a severe cross-examination, but without materially altering his testimony.


O’Brien’s testimony was corroborated by C. M. Sharpe, another prisoner, who heard the conversation .


Officer Otterson, who happened to be in the jail overseeing some work being done by J. C. Jacobsen, a machinist, and overheard some of the same talk, also testified. His testimony was confirmed by that of Mr. Jacobsen.


The prosecution then rested.


The defense called Under Sheriff Maloney, Officer Otterson and Sheriff Kelton, who testified in reference to what they knew of the alleged conversation between Kramarich and O’Brien.


Kramarich then took the stand in his own behalf. He said that after retiring to his room in the Yudnich house on the night of March 8th, he never left it, except to get a drink of water sometime in the night, and that he then returned to bed, where he remained till the next morning.


In referring to the testimony given by witnesses for the prosecution, that he had used language to them indicating a revengeful state of mind toward Pluth, he said that he had always been friendly with Pluth; that when he saw the latter lying in the road where the assault occurred, it “hurt his heart." He explained his saying that Pluth would not eat goat meat very long by a determination he had expressed to sell the goats to parties at a distance from that section of the country, so there would be no more goats for Pluth to kill. He did not in any way admit that he had bad feelings toward Pluth, or that he had ever said anything that indicated a desire to injure him.


Kramarich told his story quite fluently, considering the broken English he used.


On being cross-examined by District Attorney Coombs, Kramarich did not deviate from his statements, though he attempted to evade some questions by a statement that he did not understand them.


The defense then rested.


The District Attorney then began his attack for the people by giving to the Jury for inspection several photographs. Pluth’s skull, and the clothes and pruning shears introduced in evidence by the prosecution.


The court adjourned at 3 o’clock.


Mr. Coombs will resume his argument this morning at 9 o’clock.


(From Wednesday's Dally.)

District Attorney Coombs made his opening statement to the jury In the Kramarich murder trial in the Superior Court on Tuesday morning.


Attorney Wallace Rutherford then commenced his argument for the defense, continuing it from shortly before noon to nearly 5 o’clock in the afternoon.


The District Attorney next made his closing argument for the people, after which Judge Gesford delivered his charge to the jury, and the case went to them about 5:45.


At midnight the jury brought in a verdict of murder in the second degree.


Judge Gesford set Monday, June 2nd, as the time for pronouncing sentence.


During testimony, Kramarich stated he intended to sell his herd of goats, but neither he nor anyone else was reported as testifying that he had, in fact, done so.




NAPA, June 2.—Joseph Kramarich was sentenced today to life imprisonment in San Quentin for murder in the second degree. He was found guilty of killing Martin Pluth.


Josef Kramarich died in prison October 10th, 1923. It’s not inconceivable that the goats of goat mountain were the remnants of Kramarich’s herd.







In 1888 Lillie Langtry purchased 8,000 acres that had once been part of the Rancho Guenoc land grant. Her lover Freddie Gebhard’s property was contiguous to hers.


So much has been made of the tale of Lillie Langtry, relative to her owning this property, I will share what I know.


According to the St Helena Star, Mrs. Langtry arrived in St. Helena on Sunday May 27, 1888, soon after her purchase of her property and stayed there for lunch before departing for her ranch.


The article in the St. Helena Star states the Langtry Party was to return in about a week. 


Mrs. Langtry states a fortnight (fourteen nights) was all she could spare. 


However, once again, the St Helena Star states Mrs. Langtry passed through St. Helena on her way to San Francisco on June 4th, 1888. 


In 1925, Lillie Langtry’s book, “The Day’s I Knew”, was published by the George H. Doran Company. In her book she describes her trip to her ranch and describes being involved in the rounding up, corralling and inspecting of all the livestock and branding the young unmarked ones. She writes of her vineyard, a sulfur spring she wished to develop and a quicksilver mine she felt they had discovered. 


May 27th and June 4th were travel days so she spent 7 days and 8 nights at her Langtry Ranch and sometime in there she sent a telegram to the man who had secured her property for her, General William H. L.  Barnes.


Mrs. Langtry writes in her book after describing her visit to her ranch, and I quote from page 208: “It is positively tragic to think that, through a combination of circumstances, I never saw the ranch again.  Unavoidably, the two following summers my work took me to London...” 


She goes on to say she then made plans to return with a family party that had gone on ahead, however, before she could join them the railway accident occurred that destroyed her horses on route to the ranch and on page 209 she writes: “This so disheartened me, and of such ill-omen did it seem, that I renounced the visit I had been looking forward to so keenly for three years, and we all sailed for England instead.  I continued to own the property for a good many years, and at last was glad to sell it for about half the price I gave for it.


Lillie Langtry visited her ranch one time right after she purchased it in May of 1888.


She soon lost interest in her ranch.


The following article, dated just three years after her purchase, will make that clear.


INDEPENDENT CALISTOGIAN                                

June 17, 1891                     

"The Ranches of Lillie and Freddy."

"Up in Lake county there are two ranches," says a newspaper correspondent. "One belongs to Mrs. Langtry. On it everything is in a state of collapse.  The fences are hardly able to stand alone. The stock barns are patched with old boards; heaps of straw and refuse everywhere.  Wagons, plows, hay presses and mowers are scattered about exposed to the sun and the rain, and piles of old lumber, rusty iron and broken machinery complete the picture.  The fence around the hay stack, tied with bale rope, has vainly tried to maintain an upright position, but has lost heart and now leans against the hay for support. Langtry's small private cottage, painted in the old-fashioned style, white with green blinds, is elegantly furnished, and an immense oak stands guard at the entrance.  Around the cottage the fence is white-washed and in good condition, but the driveway to the main road is full of gullies, making it almost impossible to drive out. Mrs. Langtry has never stayed there since the purchase, three years ago, though she was expected September last.  She owns 8,000 acres in stock ranch, vineyard, poultry and dairy ranch, having paid $60,000 for them.  An old German, 'Yacob' and his frau, have charge of the dairy and poultry, being hired by the month, supplying the other ranchers with milk, butter, and eggs. The eighteen cows are very ordinary stock, and the 600 inferior chickens are leghorns, brahmas, cochins and what 'Yacob' calls 'barnyard fowls,' all running together.  


The adjoining ranch belongs to Fred Gebhard. It contains 3,300 acres, which cost him $40,000. For years his ambition has been to raise blooded horses. What Senator Stanford is accomplishing with trotters Gebhard is attempting with runners, and for this purpose he bought the ranch, inducing Langtry to secure that adjoining.  What a contrast. Langtry's ranch, dilapidated fences and buildings, innocent of paint or whitewash.   Gebhard's, the buildings in thorough repair and painted, wagons and tools under shelter; in fact neatness and perfect order is met everywhere."


In 1906 Lillie Langtry sold her holdings to George Henry Mastick and Ferdinand Butterfield, Butterfield later surrendered his share to Mastick. Mastick owned the ranch for 13 years. They hired Augustus “Gus” Lhiullier as superintendent for many of those years.


His wife, Joanna Elizabeth Read and he, were residents of Middletown. Joanna was the daughter of Joseph Lilburn Read, who with P. B. Graham, founded The Middletown Independent newspaper in 1886.







In 1896 a man named Andrew B. McCreery started buying up land, part of what had once been included in the Rancho Guenoc land grant. He bought out Bowen, Emile & Honorine Lalanne, Ike Shaw, Jim Watson, Theron Ink, and Freddie Gebhard’s 3,000 acres.


Included in his purchase from Gebhard was the lake named Wennok which bears McCreery’s name today.


In 1912 William Ferdinand Detert sold his Argonaut Mine in Jackson, CA and went into cattle ranching. He began buying up land in south Lake county. He bought out Mastick, McCreery, Brookins, Herman and Hennessey and when he was finished he had acquired total acreage nearly equal to the original land grant and he named his holdings Guenoc Rancho. This was around 1920.


This man also purchased land in Amador and El Dorado counties, that he called the Detert Ranch and he bought the Mayflower Gold Mine in Placer as well.


At Guenoc he built, at the time, the largest earthen dam with a rock core in existence, effectively damming up Bucksnort Creek. The reservoir, which encompassed 120 acres and held 1300 acre feet of water, was to provide irrigation water for several hundred acres of pasture.


The irrigation was flood irrigation and it was all gravity flow. The piping for this was all concrete pipe that was purchased from the Cement Works in St. Helena, California. This was around 1925. The reservoir is named after Mr. Detert.


W.F. Detert at Guenoc


Guenoc Rancho experienced many improvements while under the ownership and guidance of the Detert family. They not only built Detert Reservoir they improved Wennok lake as well. The creek bed of Bucksnort was dredged and levied on both sides as well as the lake was levied on the south side and a spillway put in place. This effectively increased the size of the lake dramatically.


During the Detert Families stewardship Guenoc Rancho was self-sustaining, growing huge vegetable


gardens, orchards of fruit trees, producing milk, butter and cheese from their dairy cows and raising farm animals for food as well as having access to large numbers of wild game, such as; rabbits, deer, raccoon, several different kinds of fish, amphibians, game birds and water fowl.


William F. Detert died in 1929 but his estate continued to own and operate Guenoc Rancho until 1952 when they sold it to Woodland Farms and invested in vineyards in Oakville, Napa Valley, California which they still own today.


Mr. E. T. Foley was president of Foley Bros. Inc., a heavy construction firm founded by his father and uncles. The company moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles after receiving the contract to build the San Gabriel Dam #1 in the 1930's. The company projects also included building the anchoring for the George Washington Bridge across the Hudson River (NY), and building large docks and a highway in Iran, which became a key supply route to Russia during the second World War.


Edward Timothy Foley and his wife Jean owned controlling interest in the 19,000 acre Woodland Farms. They also owned Foley Farm in Santa Barbara where they had a purebred Hereford cattle operation . E. T. and Jean leased Guenoc Rancho from Woodland Farms to develop a commercial cattle operation.







Earl was born Earl Sylvester Huston on November 7, 1911 in Peru, Nebraska.  Earl was one of seven children born to Alonzo and Lena Huston.  Over the next four years, Earl would gain two more sisters and shortly thereafter, in 1917, his family would read of the United States entry into World War I.  Earl was now six years old.


America was still stretching its wings and many Americans were trying to carve out a future for themselves in this land of the free and Earl did his part for the family of eleven. Mostly that consisted of looking after his younger sisters and learning how to work from his four older brothers.


The family was now living in and around Antelope County, Nebraska,  specifically, Neligh and life was not easy.  By the ninth grade, Earl gave up on school and a formal education as the family’s needs beckoned him to find a means of earning money.  Earl engaged in whatever it took to make a living just like everyone else, from sawing ice in the Elkhorn River in the winter, to building roads with his father running teams of horses and spotting loads, to shucking corn with his brothers at a penny a bushel, always striving to reach that allusive 100 bushels a day that would produce a silver dollar.


Living on a farm during this time, during the teens and twenties of the twentieth century, would certainly introduce a person to the necessity of how to best raise animals for food and profit.  After spending his early years farming Earl soon realized cattle ranching would be his choice of a profession and hired on as a cow hand.


Some of the greatest cattle ranching in the Midwest then was in Cherry county,   Nebraska, the “Sand Hills”, and most specifically, Valentine.  So we should not be surprised to find a budding cowboy named Earl Huston rising at 4 am, breaking the ice in the watering trough, and heading out to feed the cattle in this country and that is exactly what he did.


One of Earl’s neighbors in Valentine was the Adamson’s.  And in the twenties and thirties you knew your neighbors because you counted on your neighbors for all sorts of things.  But in the beginning one thing Earl didn’t know was that the Adamson’s, from Ireland, had a sister who was on her way to America to meet a cowboy, and she did. 


My aunt, Dora Huston, told me how excited she was when she spotted her first cowboy on horseback as he was riding across the high plains of Nebraska, while she was on a train headed for her brother’s place in Valentine.  Imagine… Ellis Island, the Traveler’s Aid Society, the Statue of Liberty and a cowboy too!  What joys await those who dare to act on a dream.  Anyway, there are lots of stories, however, that must be for another time.


The nineteen thirties were very rough indeed and they led right into World War II.  These times made everyone very resourceful and as they use to say: “The only thing not eaten off a hog was his squeal.”  Being resourceful allowed a person to be sustainable.  Earl could break a horse, help a cow have a calf, dig a well, build a hay sweep, rebuild an engine, shoot the eye out of a grouse, shuck corn, build a road, build a pond, erect a windmill, butcher a hog, milk cows, spot a tornado, build a barn, tell the time by looking at the sun and tell you if an old cow was going to be trouble just by looking at her tail.  Earl was used to working outside in subzero weather or over 100 degrees.  He could stitch up a wound on a horse or himself always commenting, “It’s a long way from your heart”. He knew how to rope and tie down an old cow by himself so she could be doctored, and he would give you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it more than him.  Before leaving the high plains for greener pastures and too, having done all the things I mentioned, another old west activity from these times were the cattle drives. By the time Earl watched Nebraska disappear in his rearview mirror he had also been on several cattle drives to the stock yards. These drives would take a couple weeks to accomplish, eating hard tack and riding nights watching the heard.  He said when you came to a fence you took it down, passed the herd through, then put the fence back up.  Everyone understood. Many times the local rancher would feed the drovers. In fact Earl and Dora had done the same thing sharing what little they had with their fellow cowhands who were passing by.


Earl married Dora during March of 1934 and they lived around Valentine until they moved to California in 1945.


Earl’s oldest sister, Ruth, was born in January 1902 making her almost 10 years Earl’s senior. Ruth married Charlie Bennett and their oldest child was a daughter named Dorthey Alice who married Jim Tinsely. Jim and Dorthey settled not too far from Valentine and visited and stayed with Earl and Dora occasionally.


Valentine had a moving picture theater that the foursome would occasionally go to for entertainment.


One particular evening the four decided to go see a movie. They entered the theater and found seats but soon noticed those nearby them were moving away from where they were seated. Hmm, oh well. Then it hit them. The skunks! Those darn skunks! The skunks had been doing a lot of fighting under the house of late and their clothes must have reeked of skunk odor. Being accustomed to the smell they never gave it a thought. They left chuckling to themselves.


In 1945, Earl accepted a job in California at the St. Francis Ranch in Willits.  Earl made a horse trailer, hooked it to his car, loaded his horse Trigger, and headed west. 


The first Grand National Cattle Exposition after WWII was held in San Francisco in 1946.  Who was there?  You would be right if you guessed Earl Huston.  Winter storm blowing down the tents and all, he was there.


Earl’s reputation as a knowledgeable herdsman and rancher was soon acknowledged throughout the industry and greeting old friends in California seemed to happen more often.


Earl and Dora left the St. Francis Ranch in 1948 and went to the Golden State Hereford Ranch in Oakdale.  There he worked for the Kestersons and in 1950, Earl and Dora moved to Sunny Brook Farms in Lincoln, California, all the time caring for purebred Herefords.


In 1955 an associate Earl had known from ranching in Nebraska came seeking Earl for a new position.  That associate was Ray Thalman, a professor of animal husbandry from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and currently under the employ of E. T. Foley.  Ray was running Foley’s purebred operation in Santa Barbara but they, the Foleys, were seeking someone to run a commercial operation in Lake County.  That operation was the recently purchased Guenoc Rancho.


Earl found Guenoc Rancho somewhat wanting upon his first visit and was reluctant to abandon modern day life to once again embark on the more primitive side, and Dora was in agreement.  However, before they knew it, they were moving into the old ramshackle farm house that was the primary residence at the ranch. It was July 15, 1955.


Early morning, July 16, 1955, Earl pulled on his boots and began an adventure that would span over three decades.


Earl and Dora were left to deal with a 21,600 acre ranch.  Woodland Farm’s headquarters was of course near Woodland and Foley and Thalman were in Santa Barbara and Pasadena. The learning curve was very steep but Earl and Dora would meet the challenge.


For two years Earl set about making the improvements needed to change Guenoc into a ranch that could support a large cattle operation. 


He was to soon realize the challenge of feeding the cattle in their winter pasture.  Road improvements were a necessity.  Concrete pads needed pouring around the feed barns so the cattle weren’t standing in mud up to their bellies.  Pastures needed to be broken into different sizes to accommodate the heard size.  Fences needed replacing.  The corrals needed improving for sorting, branding, doctoring and shipping out the cattle to market and a scale needed to be purchased and installed in the corral area to weigh out the shipments.  The irrigation system that was in place needed many improvements and several pastures needed to have the slopes re-done and the dikes re-pulled so the fields would irrigate properly.  Stock ponds needed repairs and springs needed to be  developed. McCreery Lake needed the spillway re-enforced.  A new shop needed to be built to take proper care of the equipment needed to farm and maintain the ranch plus new equipment needed purchasing.


Over the next few years the ranch was made ready to accommodate a larger commercial herd and to welcome Foley Farms and it did.


On October 15, 1963 Magoon Estates Ltd. traded 34 acres of land in Honolulu near the University of Hawaii for Guenoc Rancho. Foley leased the ranch back for five years.


Over the next five years Foley dispersed his heard of purebred Herefords and Magoon hired Earl Huston to run their new ranch and their commercial cattle operation.


At one point before Earl retired the cattle herd reached nearly 3,000 head.


Edward Timothy Foley died October 8, 1968 just as the lease expired.


Earl retired after 32 years at Guenoc in 1987, but only retired from a paid job, he went on and raised his own cattle for several more years enlisting my help during winter feeding.







I moved with my two sisters, Barbara and LeAnn and my parents to Middletown November 9, 1956 after beginning my life in a small farming town in the Sand Hills of Nebraska, I turned eleven the day before we arrived. But we didn’t just move to Middletown, we moved to Guenoc Ranch where our family would live with my mother’s brother and his wife, Earl and Dora Huston, in the old Lillie Langtry house. Earl was the manager of Guenoc Ranch.


Moving to California, however, was not just a simple one, two, three and there we were. No, not at all.


After two failed business attempts and bleak prospects for a successful career doing something different, my parents decided our future lay in California. How do you make that happen? First, we had a family meeting where we all agreed to put any money we had in one pot. Because I had had a newspaper route since I was eight I had saved nearly one hundred dollars which went into the pot. Next my father traded for a newer car, a 1954 Chevrolet 4 door, then he built a trailer to haul our belongings in, that we towed behind the car. Next we had an auction where we sold everything we weren’t taking with us including my bicycle and my toys. However, after throwing a small fit, I did manage to save one box of my toys. The Grapes of Wrath had nothing over us. Fortunately, my father was used to driving in winter snowy weather. After four days travel we met up with Dora and Earl near Woodland, CA where my Aunt took all the women in her car and Uncle Earl drove our car with dad and me to Guenoc.


My father went to work for Guenoc and I went exploring. I soon learned, my playground, was ginormous and my toys would be different than any before.


I learned to drive the ranch jeep before I turned twelve. My aunt used to say when she would see the jeep go by with only a cowboy hat behind the steering wheel, she knew it was me driving.


I shot my first deer at twelve and learned how to drive everything on the ranch including two different caterpillars and an old Army half-track before I was 15.


I used to go camping at Lower Bohn Lake by myself when I was an early teenager. (For those who might be familiar with Lower Bohn, there were no bulrushes around the lake back then) I had made myself a raft so I could go out on the lake to fish, the lake was crystal clear and you could see the fish swimming about. I cooked my own bacon and eggs for breakfast over an open fire. Life was good.


I met the Ranch owner, Mr. Foley early on, probably 1957 or there about, he had forgot his belt so he was using a necktie as a belt to hold up his trousers. He bought me an ice cream cone in Middletown and taught me a lesson I still remember.


Every spring, until into the early sixties, a haying crew from Susanville, CA would arrive and live in the bunkhouse and eat at the cookhouse. These men would bale all the hay, then load it on trucks, haul it to and stack it in, the different hay barns. These crews were the originators of all the pranks associated with the bunkhouse and Buck Bell, the irrigator, was occasionally their target. One day after the noon meal hour everyone was loitering around outside the bunkhouse. They were trying not to be too obvious as they waited for Buck to come out and proceed to start his old Jeep. The crew had wired a whistling smoke bomb to Buck’s Jeep. It worked perfectly. It truly was comical as Buck exited his Jeep in confounded confusion on a dead run only to see the crew in hysterics. Buck, angry but fine, and the crew then went back to work.


I also had the privilege of meeting and spending a lot of time with a different Buck. Ernest A. “Buck” Erickson (29 APR 1892 - 29 JAN 1981). This Buck was the first forest fire Patrolman assigned to Middletown in the 1920s.  In those days there was no paid help, no state cars, no fire trucks, and Buck's equipment was his Ford Coupe and some hand tools. When a fire broke his firefighting crew was made of local volunteers he  rounded up to help him. My wife Sylvia’s grandfather, Dale Strickler, told me stories about being a volunteer with Buck and fighting fire. Buck was shot in the heel during WWI and always walked with a limp.


I gained a lot of fire knowledge because of Buck as every year Buck would pick the areas on the Ranch to burn and Buck always burned in the summer when burning would be at its best and fortunately for me, I wasn’t in school!


On one occasion when we were burning, we noticed smoke rising out of the bed of Buck’s pickup truck. Upon investigation we found that a clear glass gallon jug filled with drinking water had focused the sun’s rays onto a tiny spot on a burlap-sack and had set it on fire.


Buck taught me a lot about deer hunting and I did a lot of hunting with him and his relative, Roy Raymond Sr. and Roy’s sons Roy Jr. and Walter. (Raymond Vineyard & Cellar) Roy Sr. was married to Janie Beringer sister of Otto Beringer of Beringer Bros. Winey.


After Foley Farms arrived and five years after my arriving at Guenoc Ranch, near my 16th birthday, my uncle, asked me if I could take a few days off from school, seems Foley Farms needed help with the show cattle at the Grand National Livestock Exposition and Rodeo at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Of course anything besides school was great. My pay for the next few days was room, board, expenses and transportation. Earl and I bunked in the same motel room.


We had to board the cattle, unload all the supplies, make arrangements for the wash rack and in general get the cattle settled. Next came getting all the cattle

ready for show. I don’t remember how many head we had but I know we won first place showing the ‘Best Ten Head’. All the cattle had to be washed, combed and have their tail hair ratted. Bob Schuylar was in charge of all of this and I was one of his helpers.


Show day was very busy with cattle going out to be shown and others coming back. Soon I was being asked to show cattle. Never having done it before, my Uncle told me to just square the animal up, keep its head up and watch the judge, which I did. I actually wound up showing the Reserve Grand Champion Heifer for some other outfit as well as showing for Foley Farms.


The finals of the rodeo competitions were on Sunday evening and they use to be televised. They always had headliners during the opening ceremony like Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and the Sons of the Pioneers and Dale Robertson, star of the TV show ‘Tales of Wells Fargo’. One year the drill team of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police performed.


It wasn’t work all the time I was there, there was free time also to check out the vendors and rub elbows with the rodeo cowboys and maybe meet a cowboy star.


That was my first and last experience showing cattle and what an experience it was, me, a sixteen year old sophomore, showing cattle at one of the biggest and most prestigious livestock expositions in the nation thanks to my Uncle, Guenoc Ranch and Foley Farms.


That next summer, I helped build the dam for Foley One, I drove a 10 wheeled water truck. Quite an experience working with all those heavy equipment operators. Lots of practical jokes that I bore the brunt of, like looking up just in time to receive a lunch bag full of water smack me in the face. Occasionally, I got even with my side sprayer.


We almost had a catastrophe one time though. The side sprayer on the truck was pressurized by a pump run by a gasoline engine. I would occasionally have to siphon gas from my truck into a can to pour it into the small engine. One time I was doing just that and here came a fire cracker tossed at me that went right into my can of gas. The gasoline caught fire and it was sitting right under my truck’s gas tank. I kicked the can of burning gas away from my tank and in doing so sent burning gasoline towards the culprits. There were some equipment operator’s shade umbrellas with holes burnt in them, holes in some shirt sleeves and singed hair but no injuries. However, that was the end of the fire crackers.


I worked in the hay fields every season, until I didn’t, doing everything from mowing to raking to baling to hauling. This baling and hauling was from the second seasonal cutting of alfalfa.


I developed hay fever in the eighth-grade so when working in the hay fields I found that tying a wet bandana around my head covering my nose and mouth helped a lot.


Mowing hay with a side-bar sickle mower is not for the faint of heart because there are always some members of the animal kingdom that end up being casualties. Haying season is springtime and giving birth for many animals is also in the spring and that tall grass is a perfect place to hide new babies. Being a cowhand is more than riding a horse and working cattle and some folks just don’t have the mind set for doing the job. You can’t be soft and be a cowhand. There’s no crying in cowboying.


When I was finally big enough to wrestle calves during branding, I loved it, it was like playing football without pads. First born spring calves can get up to 400 pounds by branding time.


During branding it is best if the roper can get both of the calves hind legs in their loop.  One year while branding at the Ink Ranch,  a roper had only one leg in the loop, which is okay as long as the roper doesn’t stop dragging before the wrestlers can secure the calf. The roper stopped and the calf took off as it could run in a circle at the end of the rope. The rope caught my uncle Earl by the heel and flipped him up and he landed on his head causing temporary amnesia (which now I know he had a concussion). After this he suffered from headaches and a stiff neck. Many years later an old cow got him down in the corral and was working him over with her head when his neck and back popped. No more headaches or stiff neck. True story.


After castrating a bull calf, the removed testicles, known as rocky-mountain-oysters, were collected in a bucket with water in it. During break for lunch, or whenever, some of the old cowhands would grab a couple oysters from the bucket, clean them, sharpen a willow branch and cook themselves an hors d'oeuvre. Back then we used an open wood fire to heat the branding irons so roasting a couple oysters was easy enough to do.


Normally a day or two after branding, rocky-mountain-oysters would be the main course for dinner and I can say they were quite good. (Far better than rattlesnake.)


Branding was always a big event and no matter where we were branding, here would come my aunt in her big car at lunch time. The trunk would be loaded with fried chicken, salads, chips, sandwiches, cake and lots of iced tea.


During branding, anyone who wanted a job could have one from keeping tally to the actual branding. Every calf would be dehorned, have its ears marked, get vaccinated and branded and if a bull, would be castrated too. On occasion we would brand 400 head or more in one day. You had ropers, wrestlers, lookers and everything in between.


At Guenoc I learned that your pain was entertainment for others, that a cattle ranch is no place for a soft heart, that bleeding wound you have is not a problem because “it’s a long ways from your heart” and “there’s no sense being hungry till you get where the food is”.


For example, regarding the pain part, when I was maybe still eleven or twelve my uncle, another cowhand and I were in a corral with one cow who needed to be doctored, everyone had a rope. I roped the cow who immediately jerked me off my feet and started dragging me around the corral. In between their knee-slapping laughter they would shout, “don’t let go, hang-on, hang-on, don’t let go” as I bounced over the dirt clods  finally to be saved by hysterical adults. But it was fun and I was earning my right to be called a cowhand. That other cowhand’s name was Linnie Howard from Calistoga. Great guy.


Guenoc Ranch, during this time, was a magical place for a young boy to grow-up and to become a man. And a  cowhand too.


I feel extremely privileged to have spent over 40 years of my life in a relationship with such a remarkable place and remarkable people experiencing a life that Guenoc will see no more.


I loved Guenoc Ranch and everything about her, and I  dearly miss those times.







This is what I found in 1956. The main part of the ranch consisted of the two story farm house, a cook house, a bunk house, another small residence where another cowhand and family lived, a storage house they called the walnut shed, a work shop, a horse barn, a hay barn, corrals and an equipment storage barn.  Plus there was a small skinning/scrapping building with a scalding vat. 


Around the main house was a garage, a smoke house and an outdoor storage building for processed foods.  The water came from a spring, some distance away above the Spring Pasture, that filled a concrete cistern atop a little hill in the center of all this area.  This is the area and house that Lillie Langtry owned and visited in 1888.


About a mile east of the main ranch headquarters was another residence they called the Lodge.  This was the place where the Foleys and their guests stayed when visiting the ranch.  There was a nicer two story house that had a great room with fireplaces at each end, a screened porch that was on two sides of the house, maid’s quarters and several bedrooms.  The grounds included a fenced swimming pool, another small house that the chauffeur stayed in that was the original Gebhard house, a garage and a covered, hand dug, lined well with a bucket pulley overhead. Nearby was also a large barn they called the Detert Barn but that was obviously much older than the main house. This would have been the previous holdings of Gebhard and McCreery.


There were some new hay barns scattered around the property.  One on the old Hennessy property appropriately called the Hennessy Barn, another below Detert Dam called the South Barn, one at the old Ink Ranch called the Ink Barn and one across Putah Creek called the Putah Creek Barn.


The Ink Barn was next to the old round corrals which were just a short distance from the old Ink house that was still standing. Next to the old house was a dug out hillside spring that was used for drinking water and a cool room and between the old round corrals and the house was a horse barn.


The Guenoc Hunting Club had a camp site on Putah Creek consisting of a few simple structures and not far from there were the remnants of an old round corral probably built by Lorenzo Bonaparte & Mary Josephine Church who homesteaded this land from 1870 to 1878.


There was also a line shack at the rim area of the Big Basin located between Big Basin and Upper Bohn Lake.


There were various stock ponds plus Detert Reservoir, McCreery Lake, Lower Bohn Lake and Upper Bohn Lake.  Detert Reservoir was used for irrigation of pasture as was McCreery Lake as was the canal that flowed between Detert and McCreery which was really Bucksnort Creek.  The irrigation system in place was quite extensive and approximately 500 acres were under irrigation.


You could travel by jeep from the main part of the ranch to Putah Creek in the dry months but by winter you would travel by horseback to the back of the ranch.


There was electricity around the main ranch and the lodge and private phone lines that were run across McCreery Lake and hooked into the Bell System near the Bowcher Property.


An annual activity, before Foley Farms, was a cattle drive from the ranch headquarters to the Neal Range where the cattle were taken to graze.  The Tom Neal Range was across Putah Creek in Napa County toward Pope Valley.  In fact the range was owned by the same Tom Neal who at that time owned the Pope Valley Store.  This took an entire day of riding on horseback from daylight to dusk to accomplish.  This drive soon vanished as pastures close by were developed but what an experience it was.  You spent the first half of the day getting there, stopped and ate your warm sandwich, then spent the rest of the day returning home.  


Wildlife on Guenoc Ranch lands was plentiful. The only local mammal I never saw there was a bear. Department of Fish and Game did a survey of the deer population on the Ranch in the 1950s and estimated there were over 2,000 deer living on Ranch lands. If you were a hunter or fisherman during the times of the “flying muleshoe” and could participate in your sport on Guenoc Ranch, you were in paradise. There was so much game poachers were a real problem. By establishing 3 different hunting clubs this added much needed support in deterring poaching. 

This fine buck was killed in the alfalfa field at night by a poacher using a spotlight. The poacher was caught trying to retrieve his kill but not until after he had already killed 3 bucks.


By 1958 when it was determined Foley Farm would be moving to Guenoc, huge improvements were planned.  Guenoc would no longer be just a beef cattle operation but would be the home of Foley Farms, a premier polled Hereford breeding and selling operation as well.  This meant new access roads, barns, pens of painted white board fencing and housing.  The need for more permanent irrigated pasture and more water to irrigate with was also a necessity as valuable stock did not get turned into winter pasture to forage on summer grasses.  But as the “new” arrived, so too did some of the “old” disappear forever.


Up until this point, Guenoc Ranch had been a pure, hard core, beef cattle operation that was about an earthy life style, consisting of mud, cow manure, barbed wire, branding, castrating, rattlesnakes, broken knuckles and work from daylight to dark.  It was a place where you learned about life and death and how to sweat.  If you could move you were expected to work and holidays were for city folks.  If an old cow got the best of you it was funny to everybody else who witnessed your pain.  You learned horses were a tool and were used for workin’ and other animals were fer- eatin’.  The approach to civilization was: “If those damn deer belong to the State, then get’em outa’ my alfalfa before I shoot’em.” 


The bunkhouse was no place for girls and Jack the cook never went to church but always had an Eskimo Pie for me when I visited.  Buck Bell, the irrigator, was a grizzled little guy who never met a bottle he didn’t like, never went to town in the summer and hated the mosquitoes.  However, things, they were a changin’.  Just lovin’ being outdoors with life wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  No, … part of Guenoc was going to move from guts to genteelism.







Modern Day Guenoc Ranch


This map is of Guenoc Ranch when it was owned by Magoon Estates Ltd. Its western boundary started at the intersection of Butts Canyon Road and Oat Hill Mine Road. Beginning at that point the Ranch property went eastward for nearly ten miles to reach its eastern boundary.


The northern boundary butted up to the Comstock and Luchetti ranches and the LORAN station, these are all on Grange Road.


The Ranch bordered both sides of Butts Canyon road from Oat Hill Mine Road until you reached Black Oak Villa and then went well into Napa County.


Sadly, tragedy struck on June 18, 1970, when Eaton Harry Magoon Sr. was killed in an automobile accident on the Silverado Trail near Napa.


But the commercial cattle operation at Guenoc Ranch continued on as the loss of the patriarch was mourned and the corporation adjusted to the new reality.


At some point after Mr. Magoon’s death, it was said, that Mrs. Genevieve Magoon asked; “Can’t we do something with Guenoc, more romantic than raise cattle?”


Plans for a development on a grand scale to center around Deter Reservoir were developed as well as other ideas for gaining the most from their investment.


These plans included vineyards and a winery which Orville Magoon, Eaton Magoon’s younger son, was in charge of until Magoon lost control to Easton Manson’s Malulani Investments.


Today, once again, the once great land holding that bore the name Guenoc has been split up.


It has been reported:

North Bay Business Journal

November 27, 2012

Foley acquires Langtry, Guenoc brands


HEALDSBURG -- Foley Family Wines Inc. (no relation to E. T. Foley) has added to its growing portfolio for the third time this month, completing the acquisition of the Langtry Estate & Vineyards and Guenoc brands and related assets on the sprawling property straddling Lake and Napa counties.


The Healdsburg-based wine company today said it purchased a two-thirds stake in the brands from Hawaii-based Malulani Investments, which acquired the property in 1963 and lobbied for the creation of an American Viticulture Area for the 23,000-acre Guenoc Valley property. Production for both brands is 150,000 cases a year.


The deal included 500 acres of the Guenoc Valley property with 150 acres of vines, the winery and several guest houses. Notable among the lodging is Langtry House, built in 1874 and named after actress Lillie Langtry, who owned the property from 1888 to 1906. Malulani remains majority owner of the balance of the Langtry Farms.


Other terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Summer 2016 Malulani Investments sells some or all of Langtry Farms (the rest of the property, previously known as Guenoc Ranch, so it seems) to Lotusland Investment Holdings Inc. of San Francisco who plans to develop the land.


Their development was described as follows: “The project currently is expected to be a high-end, low-density development consisting of boutique-style hotels, space, sporting facilitates, town centers, cultural facilities and residential components.


In Mr. E. T. Foley’s book, The Story Of Foley Farms, he ends the book with a quote and I quote him: “At Guenoc we welcome visitors interested in seeing our historic old rancho and our cattle. To them we extend the greeting of the “Californios” in the stately tongue of the Rancho’s earliest days –Dichosos los ojos que le ven!  Delighted are the eyes that behold you!”


Unfortunately, Mr. Foley’s wonderful welcome to the Rancho, written in the early 1960s, today, no longer applies.


Gone are the jingle of a pair of spurs, the smell of horse sweat soaked, saddle blankets and the sweet smell of new grass hay.  Gone are the practical jokes that originated in the bunkhouse and the ringing of the cookhouse bell. 


Gone too is the character of those who could live the life, walk the talk, work seven days a week without complaining and do it all for little pay and all the while love every minute of it.


Gone are the original stewards of these lands, the Wennoks.  Gone too are those who followed; Jacob Primer Leese, Frederick Gebhard, Andrew Buchannan McCreery, William Ferdinand Deter, Edward Timothy Foley and Eaton Harry Magoon. Gone are those men who realized owning Rancho Guenoc was a privilege that was not offered everyone, and was not a possession to be acted upon without respecting those who had walked these lands before them.


However, there remains some hope, providing that is, that they stick to their word.


Lotusland Investments, the new owners of Guenoc, have publicly stated on their website, regarding their plans for the property: “Because Lotusland becomes the stewards of the spectacular settings in which it invests, it seeks to develop in the most responsible way possible. In developing its projects, Lotusland considers two crucial factors: the environment and the local community.”


As Earl would say: “So far, so good.”







My uncle loved to tease so you always had to be prepared to be challenged in some way. One day when I was maybe 14 we were in the jeep checking cattle or irrigation or something out by Indianhead Peak and we noticed this big rattlesnake slithering onto a burl on the side of an oak tree. We approached it on foot and I had a BB gun. The snake was sunning itself and I shot it in the head, not once, but 4 times until one BB penetrated its head. So here comes the challenge; “Do you want to eat it?” he ask. I have to say  yes or become a victim of his fun. So we take the snake, minus its head, back to the house to clean it for dinner. As we are skinning this snake, Earl is holding the end that used to have a head and you know how snakes are, they wiggle for a long time after they are dead. Anyway that snake gets away from Earl and whips back and hits him in the wrist and he turned white as a ghost. Ha-ha, I enjoyed a funny. So we give the cleaned snake to my aunt to prepare who puts it in a kettle of salt water to soak as she does most wild game. She said she was in the living room resting watching a soap opera and the lid on the kettle crashed to the floor. On investigating she found the snake hanging half out of the kettle. Guess that salt made those nerve endings act-up a little. That night for dinner as I ate that snake all I could see was that big thing coiled on that burl. After a few bites I had eaten all the snake I would need for a lifetime. But that was life living around Earl Huston, never boring, always challenging, a real learning experience and full of rewards.












Foley One

Foley Two


Lower Bohn


Upper Bohn



Devil’s Head




Indian Head

Jim Davis

Last Chance





Big Basin

Buckhorn Flat

Bucksnort Canyon

Butcher Knife

Chimney Flat

Devil’s Grave

Devil’s Hole

Figtree Flat

Four Point Flat

Hennessy Barn

Hennessy Ranch

Hunting Creek

Ink Barn

Ink Ranch

Langtry House


Long Green

McCain Canyon


Neal Range

Noyes Ranch

Peach Tree

Pump One

Pump Two

Putah Creek

Putah Creek Barn

Red Hill

Round Corral

Round Valley


Silage Pit

South Barn

Spring Pasture

Table Top

The Airstrip

The Boneyard

The Canal

Two Troughs

Watermelon Hole

White-rock Crossing








Christmas Morning 1956 Langtry House



Cattle Drive To The Neal Range


Me Providing Entertainment



Earl - Branding - Ink Ranch Round Corrals

Me Wrestling Calves – Earl Roping – Branding Ink Ranch


Branding Ink Ranch Round Corral


Picture of the old “Ink” house taken in 1960. This is more likely than not the house the William H. Thompson family lived in nearly 100 years prior to the taking of this picture. Therefore, the round corrals were probably built by Thompson as well. Theron Ink never lived on the property. During the Detert years, the Piper family lived in this house.


The top photo was taken in 1957 from Easter Peak. No houses, no barn, no pens, just pasture. The second photo was from the same vantage point taken in the 1970s, shows dams Foley 1 and Foley 2, two new houses, show barn and pens as well as

pasture land being prepped for vineyard.


Foley Farms At Guenoc


Main Ranch Headquarters

Homestead of the Lalannes








Many folks around the area were employed, at one time or another, for employers who owned or operated parcels within the old Rancho Guenoc land grant. And if interested I encourage you to find a copy of Suzanne Case’s book “Join me in Paradise” as she documents much of that information.


Sylvia Irwin Wink, my wife, is related to the family of Joseph Lilburn Read whose daughter’s husband worked for George H. Mastick who purchased Lillie Langtry’s holdings. There are probably many more stories just like this one.


In my younger years I worked a lot of the time for my Aunt Dora at the ranch, while growing up and she was much tougher to work for than Uncle Earl.


Dora Huston passed in 1998 and Earl Huston passed in 2006. Earl was the last of the nine Huston children to pass as my mother, the youngest, passed in 2005.


I met Eaton Magoon Sr. once before he was killed. This happened one time after my vehicle had let me down on the ranch near Buckhorn Flat and he picked me up and gave me a ride to the ranch HQ.


There were other tragedies linked to Guenoc as well. More than one person drowned in Deter Lake, a man fell off a cliff in Bucksnort Canyon and died, another man was impaled on the bridge railing that crossed Bucksnort Creek, just below the present day winery and that is just in my lifetime.


Bob Schuyler, born February 7, 1903, who had polio as a child, was raised around the Vaqueros in Lompoc, California. He moved to Guenoc Ranch with Foley Farms around 1958. Bob was a very interesting man that I was privileged to be around and learn from. He called me Billy until the day he died. He was truly part of the “flying-muleshoe”. He is shown on the front cover far right, Stetson hat. He, personally, represents another story about things to do with George Gordon Moore, the “Great Gatsby” and the movie producer Dale Van Every.


A few years after Earl’s retirement Guenoc Ranch went out of the cattle business.



The “flying-muleshoe” was the name of the brand owned by Foley then Magoon for the commercial cattle operation and you can see it in the front cover photo.


But the “flying-muleshoe” was not, ‘just-a-brand’, it was more. The “flying-muleshoe” was a particular life style and culture that existed at Guenoc Ranch from 1955 into the 1970s. And that culture and life style had been brought there by an honest-to-goodness cowboy and his emigrant Irish wife from the high plains of Cherry county, Nebraska.











Earl & Dora Huston

Sylvia Wink

Sandra (Detert) Cover

Saint Helena Star

Independent Calistogian

Lake County News

Middletown Times Star

Napa County Library

The Days I Knew – Lillie Langtry

The Story of Foley Farm – E. T. Foley

E.I.R. Guenoc Ranch

The history of Napa and Lake counties 1881

California’s Lake County Places and Postal History

By: Erving R. Feltman

Federal Bureau of Land Management

California Digital Newspaper



World Wide Web



Middletown Times Star






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