On August 6, 1849, brothers John Dickson and George Dickson Stephens arrived in Sacramento, California with a party of mountaineers and trappers, having left Cooper County, Missouri in May. They worked as prospectors in different locations in the area, including Hangtown, earing around $8.00 a day. They spent the winter of 1849-1850 in a cabin near the American River. That July, the brothers returned to Sacramento to purchase cattle and mules. They drove the stock west of Sacramento to the Berryessa land grant, Cañada de Capay, on the banks of the Cache Creek (known then as the Jesus-Maria River).
On May 3, 1846, Pio Pico, the Governor of California, granted the nine square leagues of Cañada de Capay (approximately 40,000 acres) to Santiago, Nemesio and Francisco Berryessa. On July 21, 1847, the Berryessas sold just over 30,000 acres (7.5 leagues) to Jasper O’Farrell of San Francisco, and the remaining (approximately 6,660 acres) to the Stephens Brothers, John Slaughter Jury and John Q. Adams. Yolo County was established in 1850, and in 1856, John and George Stephens bought out their partners, and John traveled to Washington D.C., where the title was perfected by a United States patent.
John and George Stephens lived in hide tents on their newly purchased land, which was called the Stephens Oakdale Ranch. Around 1850, with the help of local Indians, they build a 19’ by 40’ adobe granary to store their crops. They built a substantial grain and stock business. They traveled east several times, each time returning with excellent stock, including cattle, horses, mules and sheep. In 1858, for $2,000, John D. Stephens purchased a Southdown buck, “Worlds Prize”, which had taken first prize at the World’s Fair in Paris.
In 1854, while George D. was traveling around the United States, John D. Stephens married Mary Alexander of Missouri, and returned to the Stephens Oakdale Ranch. With the bisection of the building, and adding of rooms, the adobe granary was made into a home for the family. Eventually, parlors, porches and a second story were added.
In 1859, George D. and John D. organized the Cottonwood or Capay Ditch Company, which eventually became the Clear Lake Water Company. In 1864, John D. went to Virginia City to invest in mining, returning in 1868 after making a considerable profit.
The main home on the Stephens Oakdale Ranch was remodeled a second time in 1865, and in 1868 John D. Stephens chartered and was elected the president of the Bank of Woodland, which was “the largest financial establishment of the Pacific Coast outside of San Francisco.” John then moved into Woodland.
Meanwhile, George D. Stephens married Laura Wilcoxson in 1872. She passed away in 1875 leaving 2 children (Kate and Jospehine). George married Nannie Lucas in 1877 and they went on to have 11 children (John, Louise, Sarah, Margaret, Elizabeth, George, Fulton, Frank, Ben, Jack and Paul).
George D. Stephens remained on the Stephens Oakdale Ranch until his death in 1901, at which time the estate was divided between his wife and 13 children. His oldest son, John L. Stephens, retained the Oakdale Ranch home, and passed on to his son, John Dudley “Dud” Stephens, former 3 term Supervisor of Yolo County. The home is currently owned by Dud Stephens’ son John D. Stephens Jr.