Celio family has shaped region’s history
R-C Alpine Bureau
He was only 24, but the decisions he made left their mark on his descendants and on this region for generations. His love for his family, this landscape, the natural cycles of nature and of hard, honest work allowed him to create a legacy that is honored to this day. He brought his knowledge of dairy operations with him all the way from his homeland in Switzerland.
Carlo Guisseppi Celio immigrated to New York City, then traveled to San Francisco by way of the Panama land crossing. Rumors that gold had been discovered in Lake Valley brought him to Tahoe in 1857. Memories of the mountains and lakes of his native country, so similar to the Tahoe landscape, drew him to return and put down roots so deep they cannot be shaken loose.
Carlo started a dairy south of Placerville which became the winter ranch, then married and homesteaded property in Lake Valley that became the summer ranch. The summer ranc is now the remaining ranch property on South Upper Truckee Road. In the late 1800’s they started including beef cattle, and thus started the spring and fall cattle drives on old Highway 50.
The sound of Swiss cow bells rang across the fields of Hope Valley where the dairy was located until 1919, when it moved to the Meyers property. The dairy was renowned for its butter, which was shipped each fall as far as San Francisco. In 1903 the Celio family purchased the Meyers property and incorporated in 1905 as C.G. Celio and Sons. The family provided the growing south shore area with lumber from their two sawmills.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1938 tragedy struck and fire destroyed eight of the family’s buildings in Meyers. Exhibiting their dedication and work ethic yet another time, they rebuilt the hotel, coffee shop, store, and post office, along with some small rental cabins.
Once again, the strength of connection to both family and land was made apparent by Amelia Celio. Married to Carlo’s son Frank, she was the matriarch who passed on the family’s values first to her son and two daughters, and then on to granddaughter Shirley Taylor. The ranch has been a cornerstone in Shirley’s life since she was a child.
Shirley was unable to pronounce “grandmother” when she was very little, and instead called Amelia “Ding-Dong.” Her grandmother was pleased by this endearment. Amelia was a woman who offered unconditional love and supreme dedication. She was the one who was responsible for all the cooking, cleaning and washing for both the hired ranch help and for her family. She was an excellent cook, and it was no coincidence that people would choose to visit right around meal time. She was always welcoming.
Amelia never wore pants or hats, preferring simple dresses with homemade petticoats, adding work boots to her ensemble for the cattle drives. In 1923 Amelia’s husband Frank passed away, and Amelia helped to hold the family businesses together with the assistance of her two remaining children.
Shirley was born in Reno, Nevada, an only child. Her mother, Hazel, met her father, Joseph Anthony, when he worked at the Standard Station in Meyers. The family traveled those early years as her father continued to oversee different stations for Standard Oil. Joseph died when Shirley was just 4-years-old, and her mother took a job at McClellan Air Force Base north of Sacramento. Shirley lived both with her mother and at the ranch growing up.
It was not until 1950 that C.G. Celio and Sons Corporation was dissolved and all of the holdings were sold. An uncle by marriage purchased the 800 acres in Lake Valley at that time and passed the remaining 103 acres to Hazel Taylor by 1960.
Shirley got a job with Pacific Telephone Company in 1957 and drove to the ranch almost every summer weekend to help her mother. It was 1985 when Hazel passed away, and the ranch property was left to Shirley. Shirley retired from Pacific Telephone in 1987 and moved to the ranch full-time in April of 1988.
The first thing Shirley did after inheriting the ranch was build a garage. She was the only one of the family to live there year-round and made it her life’s work to preserve and protect this extraordinary property that has been the central part of her family history for the last 150 years.
Her favorite possessions were her two chainsaws and a tool belt she kept for working on the fencing. Shirley’s most-liked place was out in the woods with her dog “She,” who has now passed. In addition to her demanding schedule at the ranch, she also volunteered for the Lake Tahoe Historical Society, the Lake Tahoe Secret Witness Program and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s office.
Shirley was constantly patrolling and protecting the ranch property. Whether it was trimming the trees on snowshoes with a 15-foot pole-saw, dealing with grazing permits and TRPA regulations or maintaining firebreaks, it was her love and persistence that kept the family legacy alive.
Shirley enjoyed the solitude until she moved to Woodfords in 2004. In 2011 she gifted the ranch property to Tom and Chris Celio. Although she now lives in Nevada, she can look back at her life with satisfaction knowing she has honored her ancestors. Her dedication is expressed on a marker at the entrance to the ranch: “The Celio Ranch property is being preserved as a tribute to the Pioneering Celio Family by a great-granddaughter.”