Long-Time Rancher Looks Back
By Marianne McKnight, 1999
At the drop of a hat, Alice Magonigle can recite Penn Valley history – first person. After all, she has lived through 86 years of it. Sitting in the living room of her 100-year-old home, originally built by homesteaders the memories flow as sweet and free as gurgling creek. We’ve always had cattle,” Alice said. In addition to the 160 acres she still owns, Alice and her husband Henry at one time owned over 300 acres near where Williams Ranch School now stands They owned an additional 1700 acres in the vicinity. “It took a lot of land for 200 head of cattle,” she said. In the summer they would drive the cattle to leased pastureland above North Bloomfield, originally through Nevada City or Bridgeport. When people drove cattle to the mountains, Alice said, they would often stay overnight at the Anthony House, which was near the Lake Wildwood tennis courts now are. There were corrals and a couple of big barns there, she remembered. Another stopping place was Bridgeport, Alice said. “The men would stay in the barn, and Mrs. Kneebone would feed them at 4L00 in the morning.” They wanted to get an early start heading up the steep Bridgeport grade before it got too hot and before there was too much traffic, she said.
Ed Caldwell owned the Anthony House before Boise Cascade bought it out. Alice said. He had peacocks and big white geese, which he would rent out for such things pulling weeds from spinach beds, Alice said. He raised turkeys and some cows. Mostly, however, he raised horses. “He had 300 brook mares and one Palomino stud,” Alice said. He sold the Palomino colts. This was during the Roy Rogers era; she said “Everybody wanted a Palomino.”
Alice was born five or six miles from Smartville, where she grew up on the 600 acres that her grandparents homesteaded. “My great-grandfather was a wagon master,” she said. Although the Gold Rush was in full swing, he was more interested in ranching. On his third and final trip from Kentucky he brought his family with him to settle. Alice’s husband Henry, who has now passed away, also grew up in Smartville in a house that still stands as a landmark-the storied white house off of Highway 20 at the Beale turnoff. During their first eight years of marriage, Henry and Alice leased a ranch at the edge of Camp Beale near Smartville, where they had cows and some sheet for a time. They then moved to the land off of Pleasant Valley Road, and their three children attended Pleasant Valley School when it was a one-room schoolhouse. Of all the changes that occurred in Penn Valley through the years, Alice said the biggest change was Lake Wildwood. At one time, that area was part of one big ranch – the Van Tagger Ranch, said Alice. The Zenters later bought 80 acres and had a chicken ranch for a few years before selling the land to Boise Cascade, the company that developed Lake Wildwood. Realizing that the Anthony House would be underwater when the manmade lake was formed, there were plans to move the old house. It was too frail, however. The company’s proposal then to burn the historic two-story building met with stiff opposition. Alice said Eventually, Boi8se Cascade offered to donate land for what was to become Western Gateway Park in exchange for burning the Anthony House she said. Their offer was accepted.
Another change was the route Pleasant Valley Road followed. Before Lake Wildwood was built, the road meandered alongside the Creek, on what is now the other side of the lake, said Alice. There was a one-way bridge across Deer Creek. Much was changed over the years, but one thing remains the same for Alice Magonigle. She still enjoys the peace and serenity of the rolling oak-studded foothills of Penn Valley. She also enjoys the visits of her children, six grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren, who love to visit great-grandma. “It really makes me happy,” said Alice. Though she recently gave up riding horses – which she sorely misses – Alice keeps busy these days with “gardening and cows and digging thistles and spraying blackberries.” She still has 10 head of cattle and takes in pasture cattle. Despite her years Alice is fit as a fiddlestick and manages amazingly well, with a little hired help. Her method of getting around her property is both innovative and effective “My kids and neighbors tease me,” she said. “They say, ‘An old rancher with a golf car!’ “They all admit, however”, Alice said, “It’s a good idea.”