archived photos

Memory Monday, Week 36

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Joel Whitney’s pyramid tomb

Pond fishing near Rocklin, Summer 1989

The site of the Spring Valley Ranch in Rocklin was one of our favorite local spots to fish for bluegill — a picturesque, undeveloped area dotted with old oaks and numerous small ponds. Nowadays if you go looking for our fishing grounds all you’ll find is the Whitney Ranch development — a lot of streets, sidewalks, houses, and the Whitney Oaks Golf Club.

Joel Parker Whitney returned home with his father, George Whitney, in 1856 to purchase the first section of 320 acres of land located at the edge of Rocklin and to found the famous Spring Valley Ranch, also known as the Whitney Ranch. Four generations of Whitneys maintained their home at Rocklin from the start of the ranch. Joel Parker Whitney became not only a pioneer in the wool industry, but in fruit culture (forming the Placer Co. Citrus Colony), in irrigation, in reclamation of agricultural lands and in the development of mineral resources in the Rocky Mountains. The Rocklin home he built was a mansion called “The Oaks”, and the entire ranch was known as the magnificent landed estate of the Honorable J. Parker Whitney. It became the social center of famous Californians — Rocklin Chamber of Commerce

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The old buildings were pretty cool, but our real reason for being there was the ponds and the fish! Usually The Big Guy kept all the fish he caught, to take home and eat. And even though I happily ate whatever he caught, I preferred to practice catch-and-release… even before it was a thing.

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At the time we had no idea why the mysterious pyramid was there; it had no explanatory signs and it was sitting literally in the middle of nowhere. Much later I learned that it’s a sort of mausoleum holding the ashes of Joel Parker Whitney, former owner of the the property we were visiting. It was a little creepy, yet irresistible.

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