University of Nevada, Reno




Remembering the Valley

By MaryLee


MaryLeeOne of the highlights of our annual one-week vacation to the family home ranch was the picnic where everybody gathered to eat, play and swim in the beautiful grove/compound. This is where we camped for the week. My great-grandfather brought his young wife here to make their home in the mid-1800s.

At that time, hardly anyone lived in this beautiful Northern California area known as Mendocino County (locals called it Anderson Valley). The ranch was located between Boonville and Philo—now it is known worldwide as “wine country” for its excellent vineyards.

The valley and its fashionable bed and breakfasts and wine tours would surely shock great-grandfather. When he purchased this 1,900 acres, he visualized balanced farmlands with sprawling acres of crops, orchards and redwood trees—these not to be cut by human hands. He planted peach, apricot, pear, cherry and apple trees beside the ice cold waters of Indian Creek on one of its borders. Alfalfa fields carpeted another. I remember walking the path through the fields from our camp in the grove, past the original farmhouse (no longer in use) with its huge walnut tree shading the wall nearby. The deep, cool water had been the main source of drinking water all those years.

On a small knoll, beyond the main house up the road, stood the barn housing milk cows, chickens and other appropriate barn animals. It was here that I first learned where milk came from—and even more importantly, the rich cream for the ice cream we were all waiting for that hot summer day.
Sadly, after great-grandfather’s death at age 50 and great-grandmother’s passing in the 1930s, younger relatives inherited the land and their offspring inherited it after the war. The stately redwoods were cut to build tract homes and eventually “progress” took over. Even the walnut tree over the well has been sacrificed for progress.

Great-grandfather did leave his mark in the valley though. He served as one of the first presidents of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, and I’m sure he had plenty to say about its early affairs. True to his Scottish heritage, he was frugal but not stingy. A good judge of character, he would loan money with just a handshake. After his death, valley residents came forward to pay debts that he had never recorded.

Great-grandfather and his wife now rest in the family graveyard on the hill behind the old farmhouse. This sedate old plot will never be disturbed—as long ago it was deeded in perpetuity to the family estate.
Great-grandfather was small in stature, but he left a large imprint in the valley. And that small graveyard plot of land remains to remind us of him and the others who came West to create a beautiful valley long before its present residents arrived. And someday their footprints and memories will also move on. And we can only hope that their present-day actions will not completely erase those of the visionaries who came before them.


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