by Melissa Blosser, Assistant Editor
The McClelland ranch history is the story of a man simply trying to make a living by running cows and horses. Although much has changed in 150 years, that ranch is still run by local Tom McClelland, a man who has weathered the changes faced over time and has kept the family ranch alive.
“Now days the price of everything is up, it cost so much more,” said Tom McClelland. “Just to even buy an automobile, but I guess most of us, we don’t do it for the money. My grandson, he’s the main reason why I do this.”
Currently Tom McClelland, along with his wife Judy, runs cattle in Eagle Lake, Paynes Creek near Red Bluff, and in various other locations in Lassen County.
The McClelland family’s roots in Lassen County can be traced all the way back to the 1860′s.
According to George McDow’s book Jim Byers, the Pioneer Sheriff:
“William M. McClelland, his wife Sarah, and their two daughters Ella and Ida, arrived in California in 1863. William had come to Colusa to operate a flour mill in which J. Hunter Byers [Jim’s brother] had an interest. By 1866 Jim’s many and varied interests occupied so much of his time that he persuaded William McClelland to move his family to the Baxter Creek ranch to supervise it’s operation.”
During 1872 J.D. Byers sister Martha, who was married to the Reverend Isaiah McClelland followed Byers’ advice and moved west. Isaiah and Martha McClelland settled at Milford where their son Charles P. McClelland was living.
Reverend McClelland, according to Geoge McDow’s book, served Methodist parishioners as pastor in towns throughout the Honey Lake valley.
In the summer of 1873 Hiram E. McClelland, then 25 years old, moved from Illinois to join Isaiah and Martha in Milford.
The ranch came into the family 1872 when J.D. Byers acquired several pieces of property from different men, making up the different pieces of the ranch.
Mr. Byers was very active in the early days of Lassen County. He was a deputy sheriff, later sheriff, as well as an assemblyman for Plumas and Lassen counties in 1874. He owned property on Baxter Creek, a general store and Gristmill in Janesville.
Byers purchased the Eagle Lake Property in 1890 for $1,000 in gold coins and he used the Eagle Lake camp as a horse camp, running as many as 1,000 head of horses. It was also used as a cattle camp and holding pasture.
During the dry part of the year the wagon teams coming from Amadee to Susanville would pass through the ranch. There are two buildings on the ranch. One had a store front where Mr. Buyers ran a store. He would bring items such as men’s work clothes, dry goods, dry goods and staple groceries. The other building on the property was used as a cook house and bunk house for many years.
Mr. Byers was Jim McClelland’s great uncle and when he passed in 1902 and left the properties to Sarah Ann McClelland and her three children, Ella Forkner, Ida Andrews and Jim McClelland. In 1918 Jim and his wife , Esther bought out the other heirs.
In 1950 Jim McClelland passed, leaving the ranch to his son, Pierce and in 1973 took his son (current owner and operator of the ranch) Tom McClelland in as partner.
“I really enjoyed the Fall round-up when I was working with my dad,” said Tom. “Anytime I could get on a horse it was a good time, and I had two teams of horses I could use every day, that was great fun.”
Currently Tom and Judy, travel from their home in Janesville, to Eagle Lake, to Paynes Creek, depending on the time of year to run cattle. Tom McClelland’s grandson Pierce McClelland permanently resides at the ranch in Paynes Creek helping to keep things running.
“Fortunately my grandson is at the place in Paynes creek, looking after things,” said Tom. “We just hope that Pierce will be able to enjoy the lifestyle that we have had and make a decent living at it,” said Tom.
Pierce McClelland hopes to carry out the tradition carrying on the family name and running the ranch.
“It should be my job to keep this going,” said Pierce.
These days farming and ranching is getting more difficult, farmers and ranchers will tell you, they aren’t getting rich off choosing to save the family farm.
Most people who continue to stay in agriculture do it to preserve their family heritage, or because they have come to love a rural way of life.
This column will serve to feature local people who continue to preserve their family heritage by suiting up every day to bring food to your table.
If you are interested in preserving your heritage by telling your story, please contact Melissa Blosser at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530.249.7828. Your story can also serve you and your family as memorabilia, for future generations continuing a rural way of life in Lassen County.