Amelia Celio’s Cattle Ranch Adventures

For almost a century, from 1853 to 1950, the Celio family owned and operated one of the largest enterprises in the Sierra Mountains of California.  Their sawmills provided lumber for most of the homes built in the South Lake Tahoe area, and they were also responsible for the community’s milk, butter, cheese and meat, and owned Meyers Station.

In 1892, Amelia Jelmini joined prestigious pioneer family when she married Frank Celio.  Through her gentle nature and dedicated work, Amelia became known as “the rock of the family.”  Amelia, a tall, slender woman with blond hair, firm sensitive features and quiet brown eyes, married Frank Celio in 1892 in Placerville, California.

By the time Amelia married Frank, the Celios had established a pattern for the family that continued through the years.  They would pasture their cattle at Upper Ranch during the summer and by mid-October, they would be on the trail to Lower Ranch to move the cattle away from heavy snow.

Every member of the family participated in the annual cattle drive.  In the fall they would spend several days preparing for the trek over Echo Summit.  There was bread to bake, food to store, and clothing to be packed.  They took all their belongings with them…it was a big job.

Amelia made her first cattle drive a few months after her marriage.  In June they started getting ready for the trip to the Upper ranch, and it must have been a strenuous ordeal for the new bride.  She baked, cooked, and filled the “ticks” with hay.  A “tick” was a mattress that was split down the center for easy storage and served as a bed for the nights on the trail.  On the day of the drive, Amelia took her place in one of the horse drawn wagons, and they headed for Lake Valley.

The first trip was an exciting event for the young woman.   It took five days to reach the Upper Ranch.  By the end of the drive, everyone was exhausted and Amelia had completed the first of many cattle drives she was to make over the years.  On the return trip in October she was expecting her first child.  By then she had learned to kill a chicken, clean it and cook it along the side of the trail.  In 1902 her third child, Hazel, made the cattle drive at two months old, wrapped in a blanket in a basket on the seat of the buggy.

The home at Upper Ranch had no conveniences.  It was a barren place until Amelia arrived.  She brought a fresh new look to the old homestead, as well as a happy outlook on life.  She worked from before sunrise to sunset cooking, cleaning, and helping with the milk and butter.  The family raised beef and cattle and sold butter, cream and eggs commercially.  There were 80 cows that Amelia helped milk by hand.  She also prepared the meals for the family and ranch hands, and washed clothes in a wash house with water carried from a creek.  Amelia’s congenial personality and gentle ways made everyone love her. The house was filled with laughter whenever she was there.

Amelia never wore trousers or hats.  She preferred simple dresses with homemade petticoats, and, on special occasions, she would add a little fancy lace.  For work days and cattle drives she wore boots.    Saturday was the highlight of the week when Frank would take her dancing at Globan’s Dance Hall on the shore of Lake Tahoe.  That was the one night they shared alone, away from the routine of the ranch.

Taken from Women of the Sierra by Anne Seagraves

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7 thoughts on “Amelia Celio’s Cattle Ranch Adventures”

  1. Lovely peek into history. I wonder why she refused to wear pants? Obviously, she was too much of a lady, but it seems unreal from this vantage point that one would work alongside the men yet refuse to indulge in their manly comforts.

  2. Wow! Those women worked hard! I also wonder why she refused to weat pants. I would think it would make things easier a long cattle drive. I guess it’s a cultural thing that we modern women just can’t grasp.

  3. Gotta admire her. Woulnd’t want to BE her, and once those men tasted my cooking they’d know why, but cool. Strong women always have my admiration, and she sounds like she made the best of it when she didn’t necessarily need to.

  4. I don’t know how they managed to accomplish all the work they had to do every day. I know they even found time to sew and some wove fabric. Amazing women.
    Thanks for the fascinating post.

    Jeanmarie

  5. My friend and I did some painting outside the Celio Ranch last week and met her great grandson. He gave us some of the same history.
    How cool is that. It is a beautiful piece of heaven near S. Lake Tahoe off of Hwy 50.

  6. so cool to have heard the story from a family member – Tom ( the grandson) said that she wore a potatoe sak the first time over the summit when it started to rain and she wondered ” What did I get myself in to ?” apparently she adjusted and was happy living in paradise !!

  7. I was delighted to see the posts about you getting to meet Amelia’ s grandson. How interesting about her wearing a potato sack. I live just down the road from where you met him. You are right – it is just beautiful in Sierra Mountains. We love it here and I love the history, too. So many interesting people settled here and gave us so many great stories to hear.

    Thank you SO much for coming to the site and sharing your experience.

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