Farm and Family History

This land began its human history as managed open grassy oak woodland farmed for grass seed and acorns as well as game by the Wappo Indians, the first known immigrants to the Napa Valley. We still find traces of their presence here in arrowheads and worked stones.

It is our one of our goals to continually research the California native plants indiginous to the valley and re-introduce them as the grassy middles between the vine rows, and as hedgerows along our creek and the borders with our neighbors. In this way may we pay some small tribute to the Wappo people and their intuitive land management that preserved the Napa Valley ecosystems for thousands of years before our people arrived.

Trubody Ranch was established in the 1860s when the property was purchased by John Trubody with his Gold Rush profits. It was his good luck to meet John Sutter to help construct a water powered sawmill. Soon after the mill was completed, gold was found in the tailrace of the mill, and Trubody worked an island of land on the American River nearby. The family persevered over a sluice box for two seasons, living in tents then wisely invested in property in San Francisco, Some of his profits bought Trubody Ranch.

Originally a grassy open woodland of valley oaks, William Trubody planted the land with grain and blackberries. Our family, the Pages returned the land to pasture.

Cattle pasture 1960s

This land was first planted to grapes in 1970, specifically Chenin Blanc and Grey Riesling.  Replanted to meet the changing taste in 1997, Cabernet, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir are now grown here with great success.

Our family arrived in Napa in the 1880s and 1890s, and my Great grandmother Minnie worked for the Trubody family as their cook, while her husband worked their own orchards on the next lane.

Ragatz family in orchard

Everyone was an immigrant from somewhere. Our family was no different; Switzerland in our case, with a  stop in between to Wisconsin, where there was an established German Swiss community where one could acquire fluency in English in a familiar social milieu.

Minnie’s daughter Lillie and her husband befriended the Trubody’s daughter Clara. Eighty years later Clara willed Trubody Ranch to Lillie in the 1960s.  So here we are now – the third and fourth generations of the Victorian era ranch’s cook –  managing the farm!

On my father’s side of the family, Great Grandpa Zenas traveled on horseback from Vancouver about 1895 with $300 in his saddlebags, looking for better farmland. He stopped traveling when he found the near perfect climate and soil of Napa Valley.

Our family struggled through prohibition and the Depression like most of the other farmers in this wine region and selected alternatives to get through it: prunes and  livestock.

Leonard and hand on horseback

Wine grapes finally came back into strong demand in the 1960s.  We began the switch back to vineyards in 1969.

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One thought on “Farm and Family History

  1. To Jeff Page,
    I was born and raised in Prairie du Sac, WI. I assume we are distant relatives…….descendants of Bartholomew who came to America in 1842. Can I have your Email address for further discussion?
    Thanks,
    Neal Ragatz
    Madison, WI

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