Sunday, June 19, 2011

Anderson Marsh State Historic Park


Please excuse my absence. I have been distracted and consumed by researching and writing a book on my family history to commemorate the marriage of my cousin's eldest daughter. The wedding was yesterday and now I can get back to my blog and writing about some of California's cultural landscapes.

In May we took a week-long trip making a loop through northern California from Point Arena in Mendocino County to Chico, Oroville and over Yuba Pass to Downieville - one of California's Gold Rush towns. We visited several historic sites that I will be writing about in the next few weeks. The first is Anderson Ranch State Historic Park (SHP) - a vernacular landscape - not designed but one that tells the story of how the Anderson family lived. The site provides a view of what life was like in the late 19th century. Vernacular is defined as "a style of architecture (or landscape architecture) exemplifying the commonest techniques, decorative features, and materials of a particular historical period, region or group of people."

Anderson Marsh SHP is an excellent example of a ranch home in a stunningly beautiful setting. One approaches the cluster of buildings from the south. The west edge is defined by two barns separated by a corral. To the east is another barn, and the north side of the grouping is formed by the ranch house. A white picket fence defines front, side and backyard areas around the house, and rail fences enclose the barns and larger yard. Feed bins, hay bins and various animal stalls add to the complex. One other large barn is at the northwest corner outside the primary complex and therre are the remains of another irregularly-shaped corral. These structures and barns were built in the 1800s from hand hewn redwood and provided shelter for the family and animals in an open, windy, hot location.

The barns, ranch house and fences are laid out around a central open space and the grouping forms a cohesive compound. Throughout the building cluster, broad spreading mature oaks and willow shade the area. Distant views across the fields toward the marsh and beyond to surrounding hills are available from most places on the site, except to the east where a wooden wall has been added to screen Highway 53 from view.

The park is 1065 acres and includes freshwater marsh wetlands, native grasslands, California oak woodland and riparian woodland. Today's marsh is approximately eight percent of what was once a vast marsh that fed Clear Lake - the largest lake whooly within the borders of California.

The site was first occupied by the southeastern Pomo Native Amereicans - one of te largest groups of indigenous peoples in California. The Pomo are known as some of the best basket-makers in the country, and the marsh tule provided ample supplies of raw material for basket making. The state park includes archaeological sites from these Pomo people, some are among the oldest found in California, dating at over 10,000 years old.

Settlement first occured in this part of California in the mid 1850s. Two Grigsby brothers from Tennessee first occupied this site and built the central two-story portion of the ranch house and two barns. Grigsby raised livestock and crops.

In 1870 John Melchesadick "Mels" Grigsby sold the property to the Clear Lake Waterworks Company, in part as a result of a disagreement about how the land was being managed. In 1866 a portion of Grigsby's land was flooded when the water company dammed Cache Creek and overflow from Clear Lake flooded the Grigsby property. This conflict over water continued between Lake and Yolo Counties for over 100 years - one of many water related conflicts that have defined California. After Grigsby left, the water company planted this area in veneyards and orchards.

In 1885 Scottish immigrant, John Still Anderson purchased a portion of the property - 1300 acres and started a dairy. He also grew hay and grain for the cattle. Anderson expanded the ranch house for his wife and family of six children by adding the two-story west wing. The second and third generations of Andersons ran a successful cattle ranching operation and ramained on the property until the 1960s. The California State Parks system acquired the land in 1982 and dedicated it as a park in 1983.

Anderson Ranch is a low key state park but well worth a stop if you would appreciate a glimpse into a piece of California's ranching history. The barn is open and there is an interesting display of farm equipment.

1 comment:

  1. I thank it for not just the habitat it provided, but also for saving me from getting poked by sticker bushes. rabbit fence