In 1866, Hiram M. Smith purchased land at the end of Cortsen Road and built a house and granary barn there. Soon after, Patrick Rodgers, who had come from Ireland as a boy and later participated in the gold rush, moved from Sonora to the township of present-day Pleasant Hill with his wife Mary Ann and three children. With encouraging prospects for farming and only nine other families in the vicinity, the Rodgers bought the house, barn, and 149 acres of land for $2,500 in 1868. They farmed the hearty, hard-kernelled red wheat, a crop known as “king of the valley,” and most likely shipped it out of Port Costa. Once soil depletion and the benefits of crop rotation in the region were understood, however, other crops such as pear, almond, and walnut trees as well as grapes were eventually grown. In 1907, the land went to the Rodgers’ four children and passed through many hands and underwent several reductions in size before Dr. and Mrs. Kaho Daily bought the ranch in 1942 and maintained an actively producing almond orchard until 1978.
Currently, the remaining two acres of land and the ranch house are owned and maintained by the PHRPD. The ranch has undergone extensive renovation over the years, thanks to the formation of Friends of Rogers Ranch (FORR). Other than equipping the house with modern electrical and plumbing conveniences, FORR is dedicated to keeping the ranch as historically authentic as possible; Rodgers Ranch was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. The biggest project of all will be to re-build the original wheat house (barn), which was the first of its kind west of the Mississippi River. It is currently disassembled and conserved in storage but, once enough funds are raised, it will be properly reconstructed.
In the meantime, the ranch serves as a living history museum and provides a site for various programs, meetings, and school field trips. The ranch’s popular summer “Round Up” camps give children a taste of farm life in the 1800s. Kids are pioneers for the day and participate in activities that include: churning ice cream and butter, pumping water by hand, laundering with washboards and wringers, writing with quill pens, making paper from scratch, learning about spinning and looms, digging like archeologists, and playing assorted old-fashioned games.
Rodgers Ranch will also be the future site of the Pleasant Hill Historical Society and is currently home to the local herb society. Additionally, John Mattheson and Marian Woodard, who ran the master garden program at Shadelands, will be offering instructional gardening techniques at the ranch, in cooperation with the PHRPD.
Denise says “Rodgers Ranch is Pleasant Hill's connection to it's past. It offers a beautiful, serene setting for imagining how life was in simpler times.” To learn more about the ranch or attend an open house, visit www.rodgersranch.org. If you’d like to help Rodgers Ranch or the P.H. Historical Society with archiving, restoration, or programs, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Denise at 387-0158. Look for an upcoming article on the ranch’s kitchen restoration, currently underway!