A hid­den gem — McFar­land Ranch

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Opinion - DURLYNN ANEMA www.galth­is­tory.org

Ahid­den gem lies west of Galt — McFar­land Ranch. Leased by the Galt Area His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety for 99 years, this “Liv­ing His­tory Ranch” has much to of­fer to adults and chil­dren.

My ranch tour was led by So­ci­ety mem­bers, Ja­nis Barsetti, pres­i­dent, and Ida De­nier, vice pres­i­dent. I was to­tally blown away by what I saw both be­cause I had only vaguely heard of the ranch and be­cause of the ex­cel­lent restora­tion of the house and grounds. McFar­land Ranch can stand with some of the fa­mous res­i­dences I’ve vis­ited over the years.

The 3,000-acre prop­erty was left to Sacra­mento County as a trust. The county then leased 34 acres to the Galt Area His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety. All of the im­prove­ments on this acreage have been paid for by the So­ci­ety through grants, do­na­tions and fund rais­ers. The restora­tion projects on the grounds started in 1997, with the house restora­tion be­gin­ning in 1999.

John McFar­land ar­rived in the Sacra­mento Val­ley in 1857 when be bought 600 acres in the Galt area. He named Galt af­ter a town in Canada where he had lived when young. He be­gan build­ing his house on the ranch in 1872, cre­at­ing a two-story frame house with porch. Other build­ings on the prop­erty, most of which are orig­i­nal, in­clude a tank house, a car­riage house, black­smith shop, a barn and cor­rals, a chicken coop and three sheds. He built the bunkhouse for the lo­cal area Mi­wok Indians who worked his fields.

The grounds con­tain sev­eral grass ar­eas now used for So­ci­ety fundrais­ers and other events in­clud­ing a car show in Septem­ber, wed­dings, and fam­ily gath­er­ings. The grass im­me­di­ately in front of the house is sur­rounded by a white picket fence. The So­ci­ety plans on erect­ing a barn as an events cen­ter and to dis­play 1800’s era ar­ti­facts and farm im­ple­ments. The house is sur­rounded by lovely flo­ral gar­dens.

Walk­ing up the porch of the house, then en­ter­ing the foyer im­me­di­ately takes you back to the 1800s. Ev­ery room is fur­nished au­then­ti­cally in proper pe­riod pieces. You can al­most pic­ture the fam­ily liv­ing here from the par­lors and din­ing room to the kitchen and up­stairs to the bed­rooms. Each cabi­net holds antique dishes, glass­ware and cu­rios. The din­ing room ta­ble is set, ready to en­ter­tain guests. There’s a But­ler’s Pantry be­tween kitchen and din­ing room for di­rect ser­vice.

Upon en­ter­ing the kitchen, the wood burn­ing stove and ice box im­me­di­ately catch your eye. Uten­sils are in place along with con­tain­ers for food stuffs. Off the kitchen is the laun­dry area with wash­board, tubs and a hand-op­er­ated wringer.

Up­stairs are four bed­rooms plus a sewing room. A young gir’ls bed­room has dolls in­clud­ing Sto­ry­book ones. A man’s bed­room has his clothes laid out as does the woman’s bed­room. And an­other bed­room seems ready for guests.

Be­cause of the house’s age it needs con­stant main­te­nance. The out­side win­dow frames are elab­o­rate and care­fully re­stored. The car­riage house is in the process of restora­tion to be used by brides be­fore their wed­dings as well as re­strooms.

Ida De­nier is in charge of wed­dings and other rental gath­er­ings. She and John Du­rand also cre­ated the “Where His­tory Comes Alive His­tory Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gram.” This liv­ing his­tory mu­seum for youth at McFar­land Ranch is de­signed for kinder­garten through high school stu­dents with a large va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties. They serve be­tween 3,000 and 5,000 stu­dents a year.

When I saw ex­am­ples of the ac­tiv­i­ties I was ready to learn. Stu­dents learn about rope mak­ing, start­ing with stings of twine. They find out wash­ing clothes re­quired a wash board, tubs, a hand worked wringer and racks for dry­ing. Can­dles are made along with learn­ing tin snip­ping and punch­ing. The list of ac­tiv­i­ties is huge: gar­den­ing, but­ter mak­ing, build­ing bird houses, ice cream mak­ing, feed­ing the chick­ens with corn they grind, quill writ­ing, mak­ing corn husk dolls. All th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties take the stu­dents back to the 1800s.

Many stu­dents and teach­ers come dressed for the time pe­riod. The stu­dents get op­por­tu­ni­ties to do sev­eral ac­tiv­i­ties through­out the day. A large din­ner bell rings to let stu­dents know it is time to change to an­other ac­tiv­ity.

Di­rec­tions to the ranch: Take Twin Cities Road west from High­way 99 or east from In­ter­state 5. Turn south on Chris­tensen Road, then right on Orr Road which takes you to the grounds and house.

On July 29 the His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety’s an­nual “Sip and Snack at the Mac” takes place at the ranch start­ing at 6 p.m. The pub­lic will be able to tour the house and grounds along with a food, wine and beer tast­ing and mu­sic and danc­ing. Tick­ets are $25 in ad­vance, $35 at the door. Con­tact or call 209-745-1477.

Email at durlyn­nca@ gmail.com

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