Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch has pioneer roots in Durham, England where George Penman II was born in 1826 and his brother Robert in 1830. The Penman brothers dreamed of adventure and opportunity in America, so in 1850 they sailed to New York, along with their wives Sarah and Mary Ann. (The history of the Penman clan has some ambiguities and it is possible that they sailed one or two years earlier and married their wives in America, not in England.)
After a rough sea journey, The Penman brothers settled in Virginia for a short time before joining a wagon train bound for Kentucky. The country and people met their liking and they stayed in Kentucky to work and replenish their provisions while Robert’s wife Mary Ann gave birth to their son, William, in 1851. Two years later they journeyed to St. Louis, Missouri where Mary Ann gave birth to John Thomas in 1853.
When little John was only two months old they “pulled stake” and continued on to California – a hard wagon journey of seven months – finally arriving in Mohawk Valley, Plumas County, California. Enchanted by the landscape and all it could offer, the two families settled. The brothers found jobs in the local mines, eventually establishing farms in Mohawk Valley.
George Penman II and his wife Sarah raised nine children, seven girls and two boys. Coincidentally, Robert and Mary Ann also produced nine surviving children; also seven girls and two boys! In 1865 George Penman II filed for a Homestead. A description of the parcel, of about 160 acres, can be found in the Recorder’s office in the County Courthouse in Quincy. Unfortunately, the legal description is so vague that the exact boundary of the homestead is uncertain. According to these records, George Penman’s ranch was south of the Feather River. However, our research shows that the ranch also included property north of the River. It is believed that George built a log cabin on what is now the site of the Feather River Inn.
Not to be left out, Robert Penman filed a Homestead claim in 1867 for property in Mohawk Valley where he had already built a house and started a farm. Robert’s tract appears to have been south of the River. At about this time, Robert’s family became close friends with another westward pioneer, George Woodward, a carpenter from Pennsylvania. George Woodward had married Mary Ann Penman’s sister, Martha Portman in 1857. Martha was previously married and had a daughter when she left England in 1856, but both her husband and daughter perished in their voyage around Cape Horn.
Arriving in San Francisco as a 20-year-old widow, Portman traveled to Sacramento and eventually Mohawk Valley, to reunite with her sister. The two families lived close together. In 1868 while Robert and George were raising their families; George Penman II bought a ranch two miles east of Spring Garden. This tract was originally known as the Misenheimer Station and contained a small log cabin. George moved his family to this property, which became known as the Penman Ranch and later the Gill Ranch and eventually the present day Greenhorn Ranch.
At Greenhorn Ranch, Penman raised vegetables and cattle for his family as well as mining for gold on nearby Jamison Creek. He also built a home and large barn from hand-hewed timber (unfortunately these original structures did not survive a tragic fire in the 1940’s). From here the record of the ranch is vague, but it appears that the property was sold one or more times, eventually ending up with the Gill family, who operated a goat farm until selling the ranch to the White Pine Lumber Company in 1920.
At about this time two frame houses and several cabins were built near Estray Creek. The Roberts and Cotter families lived in the two houses, while the cabins were for employees. A mill site was constructed in the lower meadow, but burned to the ground in 1925. The ranch was repeatedly sold many times in the intervening years. One of the owners, L. Avilla, built a milk barn, also in the lower meadow. Then in 1947, L. J Fallon and his wife Ruby purchased the ranch and began to modernize the property and buildings. Later in the 1960’s an owner came up with the idea of turning the Greenhorn into a guest ranch.
In the spring of 1971 Ralph Wilburn came to work at Greenhorn as a General Manager/Limited Partner. One of his first projects was finishing cabins 5-8 which had previous been framed & sided and in 1972 he built cabins 9-12 from the ground up and enlarged the Chuckhouse.
In 1974, Wilburn supervised building of the lodge and yet another expansion of the Chuckhouse. In 1981 the Rec. Hall burnt to the ground and Ralph and his team rebuilt it, doubling its size to include what became the full service saloon.
While living in the Greenhorn subdivision Ralph met Trish in 1979, when she moved from Quincy to Greenhorn. While Ralph was building spec homes in the area, he helped Trish place her single wide mobile home on her building pad. One year later in 1980, Trish became the Saloon Manager at Greenhorn and began dating Ralph and they quickly fell head over heels for each other. In 1981, Ralph bought his first backhoe and together he & Trish started their excavation business, Wilburn Construction, in Quincy. In 1985, Ralph and Trish were married at Greenhorn Ranch and began assisting the current owners, giving hay rides to cookouts and playing guitar together at the nightly bonfires.
In June of 2000, the ranch came up for auction. In love with sharing the authentic & magical feeling that guests experienced at Greenhorn, Ralph and Trish became the high bidders and escrow closed in July of that year. They started out leasing horses for the fall season and offering 3 day weekend packages while they were building their exceptional hospitality team. In 2001, operating from May through November, they opened the ranch fully to guests. Since then, Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch has become a nationally and internationally known vacation spot, well known for its hospitality, down-home cooking and relaxing ‘away from it all’ atmosphere. Enthralled with the feeling of knowing that guests become a part of the family when they vacation at Greenhorn as well as providing a safe, fun and unforgettable place for families to come and enjoy the charm of western vacationing, Trish and Ralph continue to run the ranch successfully.
We invite you to join us and see for yourself why everyone loves Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch!