By Christina Richter, President of the Roseville Historical Society
The Pleasant Grove District
In 1861 young Walter Fiddyment could stand on the highest point of his family’s land and see the snowcapped Sierra Nevada to the east, the coast mountains to the west, and endless acres of his ranch all around him. On his land grew miles of long groups of oak, sycamore and cottonwood trees. Between these massive tree groves were rolling green valleys with cattle roaming and feeding upon the lush grasses growing there. A deep, crystal-clear creek ran through the property, and from this waterway fingers of seasonal streams and brooks branched out to provide water for the cattle and grain crops. The closest neighbor was over 200 acres away.
In those days, it all seemed idyllic. For five years the ranch had been their home, and his mother and stepfather were doing well together. The family business of raising cattle and growing grain crops was increasingly profitable. With hundreds of miners in the surrounding area, and towns forming throughout the county, cattle and grain were commanding high prices. Walter now had four siblings, sister Martha, twin brothers James and John, and the youngest, four-year-old Frank. He would soon have a new sibling as his mother was pregnant once again. The family was growing, and their livelihood from the land was proving to be a success.
Even though he was just shy of 11-years-old, Walter was quickly learning the ranch operations. He didn’t remember Illinois or much about the details of the move west with his mother; all he ever knew was California. His mother taught him a basic academic education, but his stepfather taught him to be a rancher. Day after day, Walter and George Hill worked side by side to tend to the hard work of living off the land.
The young boy was thriving. He was lean and strong with piercing blue eyes and thick dark hair. He was quite tall for his age, and he easily handled his chores on the ranch. Walter was growing up in an era like no other, as a pioneer on the western frontier in the middle of Gold Rush country.