The age of the Celio Ranch may be best illustrated in the wood grain of the buildings. For more than a century, the panels of the outbuildings, slaughterhouse and corral have endured Tahoe’s frigid winters and dry, baking summers. The wood now glows golden.
“My wife won’t let me put a single coat of finish on here,” Tom Celio said Thursday as he peered at the west-facing wall of the slaughterhouse.
The Celio Ranch off South Upper Truckee in Meyers turns 150 years old this year. The ranch is likely the largest relic of Lake Tahoe’s agricultural history. Though they don’t raise beef cattle or churn butter, Tom Celio, great-great-grandson of founder Carlo Guiseppi Celio, and his wife, Chris, still live on the property.
“It’s a dream come true, really,” Tom Celio said. “We’ve always hoped to keep the history alive.”
Under a lease, Carlo Celio, a Swiss immigrant, founded the Celio Ranch in 1863 as a summer home for his dairy and beef cattle. Lake Valley, as the Meyers area was then known, produced a significant amount of agricultural goods. The California Product of Agriculture Census reported that more than 100,000 pounds of butter were produced in the township, according to the Lake Tahoe Historical Society.
“They made cheese. They made butter,” said Diane Johnson, who runs the Lake Tahoe Historical Society. “And their butter was very, very famous.”
Today, vestiges of the agricultural era decorate the property. A triangular spread used to let the moisture run out of the cream sits preserved in one of the buildings. There’s the slaughterhouse, where the Celios butchered beef for many of the area stores, and the ranch house the family built in the early 1900s.
“The fact that the descendants lived and still live on the ranch after 150 years is incredibly unique,” Johnson said.
In the early 1900s, while many of the area ranchers and dairymen were selling their land to the timber companies, Carlo Celio held on to his 800 acres. In 1903, the Celio family expanded their holdings, buying the entire town of Meyers, an additional 1,400 acres. The town was renamed “Celio Station,” but it didn’t stick.
Over the next few decades, the family continued to drive their cattle back and forth over Echo Summit between their winter property near Placerville and their summer property in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Carlo Celio died in 1918, 13 years after the business he started was incorporated as C.G. Celio & Sons. The next four decades would not be easy on the family.
As both World Wars set in many family members passed away. By 1950, all of the Celio holdings were sold off with many of the parcels going to developers. With the area being rechristened “Christmas Valley,” George Hanlon Jr., a Celio in-law, managed to retain 103 acres — the parcel that stands today. The Celio family bought the parcel back 10 years later.
Shirley Taylor, Carlo Celio’s great granddaughter, is credited with preserving the ranch and rehabilitating many of the historic buildings. She has received awards for her management of the forest around the land and had the property zones designated a historic place through Timberland Preservation Zoning.
“She is a one-woman dynamo,” Johnson said. “Anybody who knows Shirley, knows she is the one to credit for keeping this history.”
In 2011, Taylor passed the ranch on to her cousin Tom Celio. Now retired, he zips around the ranch on his four-wheeler, fixing things and making sure the property is sound for his grandchildren.
“Out intention is to keep it just like it is,” he said.