Celio family donates more than $2 million to Tahoe nonprofits

Laney Griffo
Miles Celio handed out checks from the family estate to six Lake Tahoe nonprofits. (Laney Griffo / Tahoe Daily Tribune)


SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The Town of Meyers has a lot to thank the Celio family for, but on Sunday, the family give their thanks back to the community through donations to nonprofits.

When the family’s estate holder, Shirley Taylor, died in 2020, she asked in her will that more than $2 million of the estate be split between six nonprofits.

On Sunday, Aug. 8, Taylor’s cousin, Miles Celio, invited representatives of the nonprofits to visit the Celio Ranch and gave them checks in a ceremony in the front yard of the ranch house.

Checks from the $2.3 million estate were given to Lake Tahoe Secret Witness, Humane-Society of Tahoe-Truckee, Soroptimist Club, El Dorado Historical Society, Lake Tahoe Historical Society and the Cancer League of South Lake Tahoe.

“I don’t know why she chose me to hand out the checks but I’m honored to do it,” Celio said.

Taylor moved onto the 103-acre ranch in 1985 and began fixing up the property which had fallen into disrepair. She lived there until 2004 and during that time, she fixed the ranch house and tended to the forest surrounding the property.

“She loved Lake Tahoe and she loved the family history and heritage that she tried to keep alive,” Celio said.

The Celio Family’s history in California dates back to the 1800s. In 1852, at the age of 19, Carlo Guiseppi Celio and his two brothers, Henry and John, left Switzerland for New York. A year later, Carlo and John, along with John’s wife and son, made the trek to California.

Carlo moved to Hangtown (now Placerville) and unsuccessfully tried his luck with gold mining.

In 1857, Carlo purchased 800 acres in Nashville (known today as the town of El Dorado) and several dairy cows, returning to his Swiss dairy ranching roots. During the summer, he captioned wagon trains to Upper Lake Valley (where Meyers can now be found) and he fell in love with the area.

He returned to Upper Lake Valley in 1863 and moved into an existing house on what is now Upper Truckee Road. He and his wife had eight children, including Taylor’s grandfather Franklin and Miles’ grandfather Benjamin Caesar.

Carlo’s son, Armenio, married into the Meyers’ family and down the line, the Celio family began running the town.

The Celio’s built a small empire in Meyers. In addition to the town, they had a lumber mill, a slaughterhouse and their widely successful dairy operation.

After the ceremony on Sunday, the Celios gave attendees a tour of the property, including the “Old House,” built in 1921 and the slaughterhouse.

During the tour of the slaughterhouse, Miles regaled attendees with stories of the family, including stories his grandfather told him about the cattle drives.

Miles Celio gave attendees a run-down of the slaughterhouse operation. (Laney Griffo / Tahoe Daily Tribune)

He gave a run-down on how the slaughterhouse operated from 1914-1944. Family lore says that even though the government seized all meat for World War II, the Celio’s continued to sell meat under the table to Harvey’s.

When Taylor died, she passed the property and the family’s history to her cousin Tom and his wife Chris.

During the tour of the “Old House,” Chris said the Celio family threw nothing away. She’s been cataloging all the family treasures and she shares Taylor’s passion for preserving their history.

There is currently no plan to make the property a historic landmark, but both the El Dorado Historical Society and the Lake Tahoe Historical Society have been working to preserve the family’s legacy. The donations they received from the estate will help them continue to do that.

HSTT said they will be using the donation to cement their spot in South Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe Secret Witness said their donation will go towards their school outreach program to help children anonymously and safely report crimes.

The Soroptimist Club of South Lake Tahoe is putting their donation towards “A Fighting Chance,” their cause created in memory of Jaycee Lee Dugard to prevent child abductions.

The Cancer League is using their donation to continue providing transportation to and from doctors appointments for cancer patients.

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