Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Euphemia A. Hill - Rancher of Calaveras County, California


Euphemia Ann Hill and her husband, Hugh Lawson White "Lawson" Hill established, in 1855, a prosperous ranch in Camanche, Calaveras County, California, not far from Stockton.  The town closest to the ranch was originally called Limerick before the Hill family moved there.  By 1849, it was renamed Camanche.

She and Lawson arrived in California with their young son, Jesse, from Arkansas where Jesse had been born.  Euphemia and Lawson were natives of Warren County, Tennessee.  Also moving west with them was Euphemia's brother, Pleasant H. Hill.

Euphemia was a daughter of Cornelia Smart and Jesse Pleasant Hill.  Lawson was a son of Elenor Hyman Morgan and Ervin Hill.  Euphemia and Lawson were first cousins once removed.

The children of Euphemia and Lawson were:  Jesse Jerome Hill, born in 1850 in Lawrence County, Arkansas; John H. Hill, born in 1855 in Calaveras County, California; and Francis Irving Hill, known as "Irving", born in 1857 in Calaveras County, California.

Lawson Hill was murdered in 1861.  He is interred in Pioneer Cemetery, San Andreas, Calaveras County.

After the death of Lawson, age 35 years old, Euphemia took over the care and running of their enormous estate, Hill Ranch.  She was about 30 years old with small children under age 12.


Hill Ranch was not far from the Shenandoah Valley, home to the oldest Zinfandel vineyards in the country.  It existed from 1855 until 1931, was over 1,000 acres in size, and the Mokelumne River ran through the expansive Hill Ranch.

Euphemia, who ran the ranch, became known as "Auntie Hill".  Buhach, an insect powder made from a plant, was manufactured on Hill Ranch.  She entered into a contracted partnership with G. N. Milco to cultivate the Chrysanthemum Turreanum plant to be sold as "Milco's Universal Insect Exterminator".  After the termination of the partnership, Euphemia ran the business for many years.  Her surviving child, Irving Hill, remained with her on the ranch into old age.

Her older sons died in young adulthood:  Jesse died in 1874 at age 25; John died the following year in 1875 at age 19.  Euphemia died in 1910 at age 81, and son Irving died in 1932, circa age 75.  Jesse and John were originally buried in Dorsey-Holman-Ostermann Cemetery, Camanche, Calaveras County, California,  but were removed and re-interred in Lodi Memorial Cemetery, Lodi, San Joaquin County, California, in February 1962.  Euphemia and Irving were originally buried in Hill Cemetery, Comanche, but were later re-interred in Lodi Cemetery.


Today, the Hill Ranch property lies at the bottom of Lake Camanche.  The ranch's history is noted in a California state historical marker located in Camanche South Shore Park, at Camanche Reservoir.


The Barkley family of television's The Big Valley (1965 - 1969) was reportedly based on the Hill family of Hill Ranch.  The fictional Barkley Ranch, vast in size, was supposed to be much larger than the real life Hill Ranch.



7 comments:

Denise said...

I found this to be very informative. Information on the Hill ranch is hard to come by. Can you tell me the source of your information?

Also, you mention that the show The Big Valley was based on this ranch, can you tell more about this? I have heard that but no one can seem to verify that other than to point to Wikipedia (not exactly a reliable source).

Tonja said...

Thank you for your article. I own a very small Antique/Vintage store in Calaveras Co. I came across this little tin. I spent most of the day with antique dealer's who were unable to help me find info. about this item. After reading your article, it brought this piece of history to my front door. I'm going to research more of the Chrysanthemum Turreanum plant. Am looking for help finding out how much the 1978 tin is worth. Your article provides part of the tins origin. Now the intricate d├ęcor makes sense. Originally I thought it was a part of a lantern or a perfume/powder tin. It has beautiful painted yellow and black flowers around the middle of the can. Small push- pump on the top. The bottom has a twist lid, with the logo of an iron man holding the universe "A California Production" "Buhach" it's awesome to find such a treasure. Under ancestory.com there was a little statement about the G.N. Milcos family out of Stockton. But nothing about one of our great pioneer woman. My guess is she's the creator of the "Insect Terminator" repellant. (Stated on the tin.) Using the flower's in her garden to keep pesky bugs off her food garden. I incorporate my gardens with my store. It has a lot old rustic iron, farm equip. to give it the old mercantile feel. I enjoy the fact that Euphemia was a women pioneer in our local business economy. The tin clearly has the year 1878 as part of its logo, "A Giant of its line" "Buhash" G.N. Miclos. Shame they didn't incorporate her name anywhere on the tin. Please let me know if you have any information about this tin. I may check and see if Calaveras Co. has a historical community that would be interested in it. I was told that Comanche was in San Quentin County.

Relevant to Calaveras, my husbands parents are buried in the same cemetery that Lawson is. I don't know much about this blogger emailing stuff, but would enjoy your input. Your articles are very articulate and informative. Thanks, Tonja

Unknown said...

As for the Hill ranch being the model for Big Valley.. it was not. the story and real history may sound alot alike, But I have asked Charles Brill, he sent me a copy of the shows Bible and there is no mentioned of this ranch.. in all the years the show was on and all the interviews with those who were on it no one ever asked if this connection was true, wouldn't one interviewer have asked if it was based on this ranch?

This connection did not become known until a person was trying to sell Big Valley not authorized by the studio dvds, many years after the show had been on, When asked where he got his information he would not tell. if it was true why not tell where he found the story?


Bill Bird said...

Are you kidding me? You've got a family that follows the exact story of television's Barkley family in the Big Valley, and you say that's just a conincidence? Really? Just because the series Bible doesn't show the connection doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Written records from this period are few and far between, but it doesn't mean that the Hill Family story wasn't passed down by word of mouth. Given that ALL of the Westerns from the fifties and sixties were shot, on location, in California's old Gold Rush territory (which Calaveras County was a part of), my guess is the creator of the Big Valley probably heard about the story about the Hill family. How could you not make that connection? How could you possibly believe it was all just a coincidence? Not buying one word of your "bible" story. Now, if you want a really cool story, I'll tell you one about the casting of the series with my next comment.

Bill Bird said...

You won't find this casting story in the Big Valley bible, but it was related to me by my Drama 101 instructor at CSU-Fresno. He was working in the casting division for the Big Valley, and the creators of the show were still looking for the young male lead to play the role of Heath Barkley. Barbara Stanwyck had already been signed to play the role of Victoria Barkley, and she was mentoring a young actor at the time who was looking to get his first big shot in show business. The story, as it was related to me, was the creators of the show weren't really wild about this actor. The role of Heath Barkley was a "sex" role. In other words, they wanted a male character who looked GREAT with his shirt off. One of the producers apparently ran into someone like this who was working at a gas station in the Hollywood area, which is exactly what a lot of young actors did back in the day. According to my professor, the producer said "this guy has the longest schlong you'll ever see." So, they brought this guy in for a screen test, told him to wear tight fitting jeans and take his shirt off. He did this, and that is how Lee Majors nailed the role of Heath Barkley. Now, as for the young actor that Barbara Stanwyck was mentoring, don't feel too badly for him. He didn't get the role, but Robert Redford went on to have a pretty good career in show business. Now, isn't that a GREAT story? I loved Drama 101. I'm very happy the CSU system in California required students to take General Elective classes in all categories of study. Those classes were a lot of fun, and I learned a great deal.

Unknown said...

How is the TV show following "the exact story"? Hill family - patriarch killed because he accused a neighbor of having an affair with his wife and helping her file for divorce; Barkley- Patriarch killed by the railroads. Wife never had an affair nor wanted a divorce. The similarity is ranch family run by a widow. That's like saying Tim Allen's home improvement sitcom is the EXACT STORY as Ozzie and Harriet.

Bill Bird said...

OK, OK, OK. So it’s not EXACTLY the same. I will give you that. Perhaps the “murdered by the railroads” plot line sounded better? I can’t tell you. But, to have a popular TV show about a powerful widow running a large ranch with children she raised on her own, when you have a real lady who did just that AND near the same location, how can it not be related? Are you saying it was just coincidence? DUMB LUCK? I am not going there.