Penobscot Ranch Historical Review
Compiled and Published with permission by Linnea Marenco, July 2008

 Indians:

image of Penobscot RanchThousands of years ago, before there was a Gold Rush, or a state named California, or a Penobscot Ranch, the aboriginal Indians lived on this land. Indian grinding sites can still be found on the property. The local Nisenan/Maidu Indians lived on the property. After the Mexican-American War ended in 1847, Mexico sold California to the United States.

Gold was discovered in Coloma in 1848. In 1850 California was admitted to the Union. Therefore, even before California was admitted into the United States, the Gold Rush had begun just a few miles away with the discovery of gold in Coloma. The Gold Rush would transform this area forever. Penobscot Ranch was a distinct part and fabric of the Gold Rush and played an important part in the birth of California.

The White Man, the Gold Rush, and Penobscot Public House:

image of Historic Landmark 521Penobscot Ranch has been a landmark in the Northern California Sierra Nevada Foothills since the earliest days of the California Gold Rush. John Greenwood, the son of the famous mountain man, trapper and covered wagon guide, Caleb Greenwood, arrived in the area around 1849 just after the discovery of gold in nearby Coloma in 1848. The town of Greenwood derived its name from Mr. Greenwood.

At the same time, Mormon Hiram Gates came West with Greenwood in 1849. To serve the growing population of gold miners, Hiram started a livery stable and way station which would become known as the Penobscot public house.

One of the most informative books written about the era of the Gold Rush is entitled 'History of El Dorado County California – Historical Souvenir of El Dorado County, California with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men & Pioneers'. The book was first published in 1883 and authored by Paolo Sioli. Unlike later publications that relied on second-hand information, Sioli’s work was published only thirty-five years after the first documented discovery of gold. The Penobscot House is mentioned several times in this historical book.

Lewis B. Meyers subsequently acquired the livery and way station from the estate of the Gate’s family in 1851. Mr. Meyers is described in Sioli’s book as “one of the first men to reach California in 1849”. He was a trapper to the Rocky Mountains and an interpreter among the Sioux Indians. Meyers bought the Penobscot House, which he kept until 1854, when it passed into the hands of Page and Lovejoy.” **

Mr. L. H. Lovejoy, as written in Mr. Sioli’s book (Page 251), “was born in 1820 and was but 13 years old when he was thrown upon his own resources and worked at whatever his hands could find to do until 1853. He came to California and spent his first year near Redwood city in lumbering. In 1854 he moved to El Dorado county, and acquired and improved the Penobscot property in 1855. He kept it one year, leased it one year, and then sold it, and moved to Murderer’s Bar in 1857.” Mr. Lovejoy operated a stagecoach line, using Penobscot as a stagecoach stop.

According to the local newspaper, the Mountain Democrat, which was established in 1851, “Cool’s (then called Cave Valley) most prominent pioneer was Loriston (Loren) Lovejoy, who was born in Maine in 1820 and came to California in 1853. Lovejoy was an extremely active entrepreneur in gold country. He first engaged in the lumber business in Redwood City on the San Francisco peninsula. He came to El Dorado County in 1854, acquiring the Penobscot hotel and ranch in Cave Valley, previously owned by Lewis Meyers since 1851. Lovejoy sold out in 1857 and moved to Murderers Bar to mine for gold.” The name Penobscot was penned to the entire area during ownership of Mr. Lovejoy because the land reminded him of Penobscot Maine from where he migrated.

In 1859 Benjamin F. Pollard deeded property to Joseph D. Lord described as ...

“That certain ranch public house, barnes stable and property situate about two miles south west of Greenwood valley and known as the Penobescot House and property and containing within enclosure about one thousand acres of land and owned and occupied by me for about two years last past.” (Recorded in Book “E” of Deeds at page 356 and sold for $3,000). Mr. Pollard at the same time also sold “the steam saw mill situated about one and half miles South of the said Penobescot House.”

The large Penobscot house served as a placed where travelers paused to rest before continuing their journeys. As more families moved into this friendly neighborhood, a school district was formed. Many of our leading citizens can remember trudging three or more miles to receive their early education in the one-room Penobscot schoolhouse which was built in 1889.

The Original Homestead Still Exists Today:

In 1890 the United States issued Homestead Certificate No 2685 to William Morgan in order “to secure Homesteads to Actual Settlers on the Public Domain” for one hundred and sixty acres described as the “West half of Northwest quarter and West half of Southwest quarter of Section Fourteen in Township Twelve North of Range Nine East, M.D.B. & M”.

On May 19, 1919 Elizabeth Morgan, widow of William Morgan, and their children deeded * the “West half of Northwest quarter and West half of Southwest quarter of Section Fourteen in Township Twelve North of Range Nine East, M.D.B. & M. together with all and singular the tenements, etc, to Mr. Charles R. Sharp. For the tax year 1919 Mr. Sharp paid $47.92 for the House, Barn, & Fencing for W ½ W ½ of Section 14 – 12 – 9.” This was for State and County taxes **

On May 26, 1919, Charles R. Sharp deeded the same to The Penobscot Farm, a Corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of California – State Corporate No. 88114. ***

In June of 1919, the property of West half of Northwest quarter and West half of Southwest quarter of Section Fourteen in Township Twelve North of Range Nine East, M.D.B. & M. appraised at $6,500 ****

The President of The Penobscot Farm was Mr. Jacob Paul Rettenmayer and the Treasurer was Mr. E. A. Weymouth. Mr. Rettenmayer was a Principal and President of the Acme Brewing Company in San Francisco. According to his biography, ‘anticipating the passage of national prohibition, Mr. Rettenmayer struck out in an entirely new direction’.

An article in the Placerville Mountain Democrat of August 28, 1920 reported that ...

“J.P. Rettenmayer will be visiting Penobscot Farm after taking over the interest of the retiring owner. Mr. J. P. Rettenmayer, Mr. Geo. H. Eberhard and their associates who are identified with Mr. Chas. B. Sharp in the Penobscot Farm, are actively identified with some of California’s most successful business enterprises. They expect within the next five or six years to develop one of the finest herds of Ayrshires in the State of California. They have purchased the Ganow ranch from Mr. F. D. Wilson, which will make their total holding over 1200 acres. They also plan to set out several thousand more pear trees.”

The Penobscot Farm:

Mr. Eberhard lived on the Penobscot Farm for many years. The Penobscot Farm was a grand place in those days, with large machinery and many hired hands. Many improvements were made to the outbuildings and barns, making the Penobscot Farm a true showplace. Mr. Eberhard’s nephew, Mr. Lafaille still lives across the ranch on Highway 193 and recalls the family Penobscot Farm consisting of 1,800 acres. According to Joyce Gates (the prior owner for 25 years), Mr. Eberhard acquired multiple homesteads until he had 3,000 acres.

image of Penobscot RanchThe existing barn was built by 1923. This original pole barn still functions as a working barn and is made out of the original hand debarked trees. The metal on the barn is stamped “Made for Eberhard dated 1923”. A blacksmith shop and grease pit were added in 1933 according to Lillian Lafaille in conversation with Jack Gates, 1987. Jack Gate’s notes of December 27, 1987, as per Lillian LaFaille ...

“Penobscot was sort of a Dude Ranch place with the bunkhouse for guests. The house was rather small during the depression when labor and materials were very reasonable. The Eberhard's remodeled the house. They added two bedrooms upstairs and the living room across the North side of the main house. The property was used as a pleasure ranch with a bunkhouse and swimming pool.”

In 1962 E. A. (Addington) Long, a lobbyist in Sacramento, and his wife Amogene Long were granted a deed to a portion of the Penobscot Farm. They established Ag Preserve 193 in 1968 with their 6 parcels totaling 1,003 acres.

In 1975 the Longs, sold 330 of those acres to Jack and Joyce Gates. El Dorado County recorded the Ag Preserve, established in 1962, as non-renewed on September 26, 1986 and it rolled out of the Williamson Act in 1997.

In 1975 Jack and Joyce Gates purchased the Penobscot Farm and raised their family there for more than 25 years. They began with a cow-calf operation, which led to a multi-level farm incorporating school field trips, ranch tours, horseback riding tours, workshops and seminars, and a summer camp. The Gates made further enhancements to the homes.

Penobscot Ranch Camp and Tours:

image of a Horse in CoolJack and Joyce Gates, and their family, provided summer camps, school tours, and field trips for children and adults under the name of Penobscot Ranch Camp and Tours. According to Bill Snodgrass, Agricultural Commissioner for El Dorado County, in his memorandum dated October 31, 2002 to the El Dorado County Agricultural Commission, the “Gates state that in the past 25 years of operation, over 200,000 children of all ages have come through the ranch. The Summer Camp served approximately 450 children per year.”

In an article from the Georgetown Gazette dated December 8, 1987, reads:

“Penobscot Ranch – Living History for Everyone. Sitting in the gracious dining room at Penobscot Ranch gives one a feeling of having stepped back into a less hurried past.” Even today, one still feels that same sense of stepping back in time –way back to the days of the Indians when you see the grinding rocks, to the Gold Rush when you see the old buildings, and to the major farm established by George Eberhard and still standing today.

Present Day:

image of Penobscot Ranch House todayIn 2003 Linnea Marenco acquired the property from Jack and Joyce Gates. Penobscot Ranch is presently a working cattle ranch and private residence. The property holds a business license with the County for a trail riding business as well as an outfitters business. There are three houses and almost 60 irrigated acres. The campground, added during the Gate’s tenure, still exists with a cookhouse, cabins, and boys/girls showers and restrooms. The 330 acre property consists of two legal parcels. There are three large ponds on the property.

Since the days of the Gold Rush, when land was owned by the white man, the ranch has always been privately owned. Yet, while the property has always been privately owned, it has also always been shared with others to enjoy. It is a truly unique place with a marvelous history. It is irreplaceable.

Penobscot should be remembered, as Joyce Gates said in a Sacramento Bee article published December 15, 2002 ...

“The Maidu were here, but it wasn't their land. The settlers came, but it wasn't their land. We were here, but it’s not ours.We were the stewards. We are only passing through. It is our duty to take good care of the land.”

___________________________

References:
Georgetown Gazette
Mountain Democrat
Sacramento Bee
History of El Dorado County 1883', by Paolo Sioli
‘A Country Woman Remembers’ by Lillian Lafaille, 1991, Page 6.
Photos provided by Linnea Marenco and the El Dorado County Photo Library
* Recorded in Book “90” of Deeds at page 449 in El Dorado County
** Vol. 4, Page 45 Tax Rolls of the County of El Dorado
*** Recorded in Book 89 of Deeds at page 107
****Appraisal filed as Certificate of Inheritance Tax Appraisers for the County of El Dorado No. 1389