As with so many stories of early California the written history of White Sulphur Springs Ranch (WSSR) begins with the gold rush of 1849. Asa Gould was one of these 49ers, along with two of his partners whose last names were Jamison and Friend. Gould claimed 400 acres along the middle fork of the Feather River, an area now known as Clio. A short distance south of Gould’s claim they noticed a rising cloud of steam and found a natural hot spring. The water reeked with the smell of Sulphur.
In 1852 the three of them established a ranch on the spot now known as White Sulphur Springs. They had made the trek West from their home near the Mohawk Valley in the Allegheny mountains of the East. This valley reminded them of home so they gave it the same name: Mohawk Valley.
Gould, Jamison and Friend sold the land to another pioneer, Mr. Fred King and in 1858 King built a hotel on the property which was adjacent to the road between Quincy and Truckee. It was the perfect place for a stagecoach stop and the hotel remained a stagecoach stop until 1907.
WSSR was sold to George McLear originally from Lancaster County, PA, in 1867. McLear expanded the hotel and continued to run the main house as a lodging for stagecoach travelers. The facilities included a bathhouse and circa 1928, a full-sized swimming pool was built which was fed by the warm springs. The pool was a major attraction and was an important community gathering place until demolished in 2017.
McLear died in 1890 and WSSR was passed on to his four children. The ranch remained in the McLear family until 1952 when George McLear’s last surviving child, Isabel, relinquished a majority of the land to a local couple, John and Mildred Wiley. Isabel retained ownership of the remaining 39 acres which included the ranch house, outbuildings and pool. When Isabel fell ill her good friend Mava Machomich cared for her. Isabel died in 1954 and quit-claimed the property to Mava. Mava owned the ranch until her death in 1974. She was childless and left the ranch to her sister’s son, Harry Lee McKenzie. Harry died in a light plane crash in 1983 and the ranch passed on to his wife Lea Miller McKenzie. She ran the ranch as a bed and breakfast until 1993 when she died and left the property to her children, Don Miller and Linda Miller Vanella. The ranch continued as a bed and breakfast until 2003 when it was sold to Stephen Luczo of Scotts Valley, CA. The property then fell into a period of neglect and disrepair.
When some of the old outbuildings were dismantled and the deterioration continued, members of the community became concerned and began a campaign to save the ranch. The Mohawk Valley Stewardship Council (MVSC) was formed in 2008 and in 2010, with the help of a grant from Cal Trans and a contribution from the owner, purchased the 39 acres of the ranch.
The MVSC is a non-profit corporation devoted to restore and operate the WSSR for the benefit of the community. Financial support comes from fundraisers, membership fees, direct contributions and government and private grantors. At this writing the house and grounds are being restored and the membership exceeds 300. The future looks bright for this historic property at the head of the Mohawk Valley.
John Lullo, Summer 2021
“History is an enlargement of the experience of being alive”
Help us build a Community Swimming Pool at White Sulphur Springs Ranch