Joel Parker Whitney's Pyramid Tomb

Whitney Oaks

A Story of Joel Parker Whitney

Whitney Oaks History

The story of Whitney Oaks is one of individually owned parcels of land being brought together by a man, Joel Parker Whitney, who quickly recognized the natural beauty of this area and its potential. Driven by his vision, he went on to create a thriving, profitable ranch able to adapt to changing economic conditions. Today Whitney Oaks, along with its beautiful trails, wetlands, and wildlife, continues to be enjoyed by the residents here.

Joel Parker Whitney came to the area in 1852 when he was 17 years old and fell in love with the beauty of the foothills. Originally planning on becoming a gold miner, he and his brothers decided instead to sell gold mining equipment. A natural risk-taker, he became wildly successful in business and began to buy land, his prime motivation being the rugged beauty of this area. In the mid 1850's, his father, brothers, and himself began buying up land from various sources, including individual farmers. According to Placer County records, at least 140 land purchases were made by the Whitney family, acquiring titles to all the land comprising the ranch.

Because the landscape was so rocky, it was not suitable for farming, but the family did very well raising sheep for wool and mutton. They also planted orchards and produced record-breaking Navel oranges. The ranch thrived, and the Whitneys enjoyed hosting a number of wealthy, influential visitors. In its heyday, the ranch employed approximately 200 ranch hands! The ranching operation continued to adapt to changing times and conditions, yielding various types of agricultural products. Joel Whitney died in 1913, and his wife in 1926. At around that time, operating the ranch at a profit had become increasingly difficult, and several different owners followed. Today, much of the land that made up Whitney Ranch forms a large portion of the city of Rocklin. Other sections are in Lincoln.

Helen Beryl Whitney

Mr. Whitney was a driven, endlessly resourceful character who had a pronounced impact on the history of California. You can read more about him in Joel Parker Whitney - The Richest Man in Placer County - by Ken Morrow. Ken Morrow is a former longtime resident of Whitney Oaks as well as a former member of the Rocklin Historical Society.

Image: Helen Beryl Whitney promoting the Placer Citrus Colony. She graced the cover of Sunset Magazine in 1906 along with an armful of prize-winning oranges. Photo provided by Rocklin Historical Society

Joel Parker Whitney’s life holds many fascinating tales that almost defy belief. Aside from the fact that he became "The Richest Man In Placer County", he was at the forefront of the development of sheep ranching, the recognition of the importance of agriculture to northern California, the development of the Sacramento delta area and the promotion of silver mining in Colorado among other things.

The story of how "The Rocky Mountain West in 1867" (Rocky Mountain) came to be written is intimately related to the adventures that surround the life of Joel Parker Whitney." excerpt from Commentary to "The Rocky Mountain West in 1867" by Louis Laurent Simonin.

These publications were generously provided by the Rocklin Historical Society 

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