A History Of Silver Saddle Ranch & Club


horse at silver saddle ranchThe history of the ranch is a colorful one and dates back many years.  In fact, back in the 1700’s the Spanish controlled much of what is now called California and used the ranch, then known as Rancho de Plata, as a retreat for the more affluent owners of nearby silver mines.

 It was during the Spanish period when Blackbeard the pirate is rumored to have visited the ranch in search of a drier climate having grown tired of the humidity of the Caribbean. Having fallen in love with the area he apparently negotiated with the Spanish colonel in charge of the area to acquire a piece of land here in exchange for a spittoon full of gold doubloons, thus becoming the first land owner at what would become Silver Saddle Ranch. Rumor has it he was quite free with the gold and rum and the parties he threw were the talk of the region. The stories go on to tell about one particularly wild party during which a rum soaked Blackbeard apparently buried a chest of gold at a secret spring close to where the ranch site is today. When he awoke he was unable to locate where he had buried it and the treasure remains there to this day.  

The colonel, on the other hand, being somewhat angered by the disgusting way Blackbeard had presented payment in a well used, and unemptied, spittoon, plotted to place a bleaching substance in Blackbeard’s wash basin one day. Thereafter, the famous pirate was referred to as Old Whitey and soon departed, never to be seen on the ranch again.

During the 1800’s the ranch fell onto hard times for a period before being bought by the famous outlaw, Butch Cassidy. Although it was often rumored that Butch had died in Mexico, this was not the case and actually the result of a cleverly engineered publicity campaign by a prominent San Francisco PR firm at the time, hired by Butch to create for him some peace away from the paparazzi. Truth is, Butch had visited the ranch on his way back from Mexico and after a brief time spent in San Francisco had bought the ranch and returned there to spend the rest of his days. He shared the ranch with friends who were passing through and the current teepee area is reported to be the result of an encampment established there by a roaming band of Indians known as the Gros Vente, or Big Bellies, who arrived near the turn of the century and at Butch’s invitation stayed on. Apparently Butch was fond of their inability to play cards but found less pleasure in their ability to eat his food, hence their name.

It was in the mid to late 20th century when the ranch found new popularity as the home of more than a dozen movies whose producers found the landscape and ranch setting to be ideal for their productions. Interestingly, during the late 50’s there was a yard boy working at the ranch who went by the initials JW. The story has it that one hot day there was a producer working on the set of South Pacific at the time who took notice of young JW and offered him a bit part in the movie. The rest is history, as they say, as the lad known as JW went on to become, you guessed it, John Wayne.

For the last quarter century the ranch has been reincarnated as a retreat for the families from the LA basin, providing a fun filled resort with amenities galore  and now, as progress creeps ever outward, the ranch finds itself again the center of growing attention as an excellent investment opportunity. Under the watchful eye of Tom Maney, great grandson of Butch, the resort and the land it sits upon is destined to continue generating a variety of opportunities for its owners as well as the occasional western staple, the tall tale.