Recent archeological evidence indicates earliest human habitation of the Rocklin area at about 7,000 years ago. About 3000 year ago, perhaps as late as 1500 years ago, the Nisenan, sometimes called Southern Maidu, occupied the area. Although Euro-Americans severely disrupted their culture in the 19th century, descendents of these people still reside in South Placer County.
Although Euro-Americans were probably fishing and harvesting game in the Rocklin area in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, major Euro-American settlement started in the early 1850’s as fortune hunters sluiced for gold in Secret Ravine, that area of oaks and dredger tailings that we see today southeast of interstate 80 between Roseville and Loomis.
The area’s industrial development started in the mid to late 1850’s as the Argonauts abandoned their sluice boxes to quarry granite for public buildings in Sacramento and San Francisco. Boom times for Rocklin started in the mid-1860’s as Rocklin quarries supplied stone for construction of the transcontinental railroad between 1864 and 1869 and the railroad located a roundhouse in Rocklin in 1866 to service the extra engines needed for the trans-sierra run.
Rocklin’s granite industry survived lean times in the late 19th century but began to flourish in the late 1880’s and 1890’s as the quarries employed pneumatic technology and Finnish Immigrants came to control quarry ownership and dominate Rocklin’s social life. Labor strife and competition from cement-based concrete permanently decimated the industry in the early 20th century although one quarry continued to operate until 2004.
Rocklin’s round house operations moved to Roseville in 1908 displacing 300 workers. This event coupled with a declining granite industry attenuated Rocklin’s growth until high tech industries began to locate here and Highway 80 brought Rocklin within easy commute distance of Sacramento in the early 1960’s.
Most of today’s Rocklin occupies the southern 12,000 acres of the former Spring Valley Ranch. George Whitney founded this ranch in 1855 and transferred ownership to his son Joel Parker Whitney, called Parker then, in 1873. Buoyed by easy access to rail shipping, and employing cheap Chinese labor formerly employed in railroad construction, Parker built the ranch to 27,000 acres by the time of his death in 1913.
The articles in this series detail interesting aspects of Rocklin’s development. The information is from a variety of sources, most of which are mentioned within the text. In preparing these articles I talked to dozens of Rocklin’s old-timers. If I list their names here someone whom I’ve missed will feel slighted. Suffice it to say that I relied heavily on members of the Ruhkala family and Rocklin History Museum Project Manager Gene Johnson. Please contact me at
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