Looking west towards Dersch and Deschutes Roads from a high bluff east of Cow Creek lies a historic ranch.
It is a tract of land owned by descendants of a pioneer family who emigrated here from the east coast during the time of the California gold rush. This large plot of soil is known locally as the Hawes Ranch.
When William and Rebecca Hawes first settled into this part of the fertile Cow Creek valley back in 1863, a nearby military outpost know as Fort Reading had just been decommissioned. Fort Crook had now taken over responsibility of protecting the region.
William Hawes had come from New York, his birthplace. He left New York in 1858 traveling around the ‘Horn’ on the sailing vessel Clipper and arriving in San Francisco on March of 1859. He left the Bay Area shortly thereafter to arrive eventually in Shasta County.
He found work in the Cottonwood area at a lumber camp before heading to Oregon Gulch and Horsetown to prospect for gold. He worked in a mine, saving approximately $900 — a princely sum in those days.
He also worked for Elias Anderson at the American Ranch Hotel. And for about a year, Hawes rented the hotel and managed it. He used savings from gold he had mined to purchase the property along Cow Creek.
Hawes started with 120 acres adjacent to the west bank of Cow Creek. The recently abandoned Fort Reading was located on the north end of his property.
William had just married Rebecca Foster the year prior on April 26. She had taught at the Sacramento River School, not very far west of the ranch property. The site where the old school house once stood is located off Beatie Road, just north of Dersch.
To the south end of the Hawes property was Soldier’s Ferry, also called Emigrant Ferry. This was near the mouth of Cow Creek and provided a crossing over the Sacramento River for military personnel from Fort Reading as well as emigrants coming into California.
A wagon road ran along the east bank of Cow Creek to this location via Hawes’ property from where the Noble Emigrant Trail came down from the east to meet near Fort Reading.
A large two-story home was constructed by Hawes on the property shortly after he purchased the land. The ranch house was eventually completed between 1873-1876. Although it has seen several remodelings since then, the dwelling still stands today, some150 years later. Large black walnut trees now obscure the front of the house from Dersch Road.
After Fort Reading was abandoned by the government and placed back into public domain, Hawes secured materials that survived when the remainder of the outpost was consumed by fire. He salvaged parts of a large barn from the fort, taking the sections nearer to his house. Soldiers had constructed the barn using wooden pegs, square cut nails and mortise and tenon joints. Lumber was rough-cut, whip-sawn native yellow pine found locally in the mountains.
Two prominent figures in the Civil War first served in a military capacity at Fort Reading. Lieutenants John Hood and Phil Sheridan went on to become famous generals in the Civil War. Hood served as a general in the Confederate Army and Sheridan went on to serve as a general in the Union Army.
Today, part of the original Fort Reading barn is still located on the ranch property. It is used to store hay and feed livestock. The beams inside the barn show little age after more than 150 years of use. Wood pegs, square nails and mortise and tenon joints still provide the means to keep the barn together.
Inspired at the time from where the barn materials came from, the Hawes family decided to name their farm Fort Reading Ranch in 1881.
They ‘dry farmed’, planting wheat, oats and barley. They also raised livestock, harvested hay and planted many varieties of fruit trees, along with grapes. Throughout the ensuing decades, the Hawes family gradually expanded Fort Reading Ranch by acquiring more land.
Around the period of moving the old military barn down to the homestead, the Terry Lumber Company began laying rails between Anderson and Bella Vista to service their lumber operation at the end of the flume in Bella Vista. The rails went through the west side of William Hawes’ property. Later Thatcher Lumber would haul lumber down from Shingletown ridge on wagons and reload the milled boards onto flat cars on a rail siding near Hawes Ranch. The Hawes provided feed for the Thatcher’s stock as well as food for their crews.
During the marriage of William and Rebecca, they had six children. Just shortly after their youngest child was born, Rebecca became ill and passed away. William married again, this time to a Henrietta Young (Jung) who had recently immigrated from Germany. They had one child and named him Jacob. Henrietta passed away in 1909.
William Hawes served twenty-five years on the local school board. He also served as a trustee in 1910 on the newly created high school board for Anderson High School. Hawes was also a member of the Grange and also the Independent Order of Oddfellows Millville Lodge no. 240. “Mr. Hawes was really involved in Sacramento,” according to Hawes descendant Lou Ann Sandoval. She went on to add, “ He (William Hawes) donated to the big Grant statue that’s down there at the Capitol in Sacramento”.
William Hawes later moved down to Oakland to retire and once again, remarry. In May of 1922 William passed away. His son Jacob or Jake as he was called, continued the family tradition of farming on the homestead near Cow Creek. Jake married Lillian Grimmer on February 13, 1901. They lived in the house his father William had constructed on the ranch. They raised five children.
Jake Hawes was into his second term as a Shasta County supervisor when he passed away in November of 1936. His wife Lillian had just passed away six months before him on March 30th.
Jake’s son Melvin then ran the ranch, along with two brothers Ray and Roy living on other sections of the property. Melvin had married Ruth Dodson of Anderson in November of 1931. The Dodson family had a large farm with a large red barn. The barn and ranch house still stand along Balls Ferry Road in Anderson near Dodson Lane.
During Mel and Ruth’s marriage, they had three children. The Hawes family over the years provided room and board to students attending Shasta College as well as to school teachers such as the Phillips girls who taught at the nearby Sacramento River School.
Mel served on the Western Shasta County Soil Conservation District. Mel and Ruth were both involved in 4-H and FFA. They also belonged to the Shasta County Farm Bureau. And Mel is credited with bringing irrigation onto the property by pumping water out of Cow Creek and delivering it through a system of pipes. Mel passed away in September of 1984.
Ruth continued to live at the old Hawes ranch house for several years after Mel’s passing until she passed away in February of 1999. Today, the house stands vacant and is perhaps in need of a few minor repairs here and there.
Reminiscing, Mel and Ruth’s daughter Lou Ann can recall her family harvesting a lot of barley for all the hogs they raised back in the day. “I can remember 13-14 hogs hanging on a log, a pole that had been elevated. When we did sausage it was a major production”. Sandoval continued by saying, ”They had big wooden bowls and whoever was going to mix it, well my uncle Roy and well the twins got involved a lot. They’d roll up their sleeves and they would wash and wash and wash and then it was hand mixed”. She added, “Then we had to stuff it in the intestines, they cleaned the intestines; casings they called them”. “Then we smoked it; we kept ourselves fed,” she concluded.
Sandoval noted that her mother would heat meals on a wood cookstove for the crews during the harvest. The home used carbide for lighting and it was many years before electricity was ran out to the ranch property.
Along with farming at the ranch, Lou Ann’s father also managed the Bear Creek-Millville ‘farmer’ or rancher telephone line which ran along Dersch Road and Ash Creek servicing the various ranches located along the route. This consisted of split cedar wood poles in which glass insulators on wood brackets were affixed. Then wires were attached to the insulators. A pair of wires ran the distance.
Mrs. Sandoval noted that the line extended up Dersch Road, tying in the Bartons- Du boses, Pfiitzners (Thatcher’s winter place), Taylors (Dersch Ranch) terminating up at the east end of the line at the Lower Armstrong Ranch on Wild Cat Road. Original telephones were wood magneto crank.
There was also a switch which could isolate the Lower Armstrong Ranch off the circuit during the summer months when the Armstrong family was living up in Viola at Deer Flat. Line terminated at the west end in the vicinity of the Hawes Ranch which also had a phone on the circuit. From there, it then connected with Bell Telephone’s circuit. There was also a connection on the west end across from the ranch with the Bibbens place. Eventually Pacific Bell bought out most of the rural ‘party line’. A lone pole still stands on the Hawes property providing a modern connection to a family member.
Along with grain, sheep and cattle, the ranch has also raised good people with a genuine interest in their community. Glenn Hawes followed in the steps of his grand father and has served on the Shasta County Board of Supervisors. Glenn’s late brother Will, served as District Attorney for Shasta County as well as U.S. District Attorney in Oklahoma according to Mrs. Sandoval.
Several members of the Hawes extended family have devoted their lives to education, many becoming teachers.
Glenn Hawes’ mother was a school superintendent for the Paradise Elementary School District. Glenn’s folks eventually moved back to Anderson and lived on the south end of the property.
Fast forward to today: The Hawes Ranch is known for its Corn Maze and large pumpkin patch. Feed and various farm supplies are sold at the ranch. There is also a narrow gauge train which skirts around the property. Glenn’s son Greg runs the operation with various family members employed to assist.
Hay was just recently cut and the pumpkin patch planted. “We are planting the corn maze this week,” Mr. Hawes noted. Greg then added “And there are tomatoes, watermelon, corn, cantaloupe and peaches for sale, down by the walnut orchard”.
Next year marks the 150th anniversary of the Hawes Ranch. Mrs. Sandoval noted that the ‘boys’ may have to give up a season of hunting in order to attend the tentatively planned family reunion set for next fall.
To learn more about the Hawes family and other south county pioneer families please visit the Anderson Historical Society located at 2330 Ferry St. in Anderson. We wish to thank Harry Hawes for granting permission to come on to the property to photograph both the Fort Reading barn and Hawes ranch house. Additional source material for this article courtesy the Anderson Historical Society library.