Diablo Woodworkers

History of the Walnut Creek Valley Oak

Walnut Creek Valley Oak TreeWhen 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 old.

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.


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