History of the Walnut Creek Valley Oak
|When the oak tree was born in 1717, only native Indians known as Bolbones
inhabited the Ygnacio Valley. It wasn't until March 1772 that the first
white men laid eyes on the valley: Capt. Pedro Fages led a Spanish
expedition here during that month. Spain claimed California as its territory
until its war with Mexico in 1821, after which California became part of
Mexico. In 1833, the Mexican government gave 17,734 acres in the valley to
Dona Juana Sanchez de Pacheco in a land grant called "Rancho Arroyo de las
Nueces y Bolbones" (or "Ranch of the Stream of the Walnuts and the
Bolbones"). Then the oak would have been 115 years old.
The area was deeded to Dona Juana's daughter, Encarnacion Pacheco. In 1856,
Hiram Penniman came to the valley from Illinois and "squatted" on 370 acres
that today is the Shadelands Business Park. He and his brother-in-law,
George Potwin, started the Shadelands Fruit Farm and eventually purchased
the acreage from Encarnacion Pacheco. Then the oak would have been 139 years
Hiram Penniman carried on the farming in the valley after Potwin died in
1884. Although he had moved his family to Oakland, Hiram decided to relocate
to the Shadelands Ranch in 1902, when he built a two-story home that today
is the Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum. Then the oak tree would have been
185 years old.
In the 1960s, the trust that was set up after the final Penniman died in
1943 began selling the former Shadelands Fruit Ranch acreage to businesses
that wanted to build in the new Shadelands Business Park. The Contra Costa
Board of Realtors building was built next to the oak tree in 1967. Then the
oak would have been 250 years old.
The tree stood majestically next to the building after it was transformed
into the Shadelands Arts Center in February 2001. Diseased, it was taken
down on October 30, 2001. The oak was 284 years old.