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Prior to 1853: Records indicate few non-native residents north of Mt. St. Helena, although there were
American and European settlers in the lower Napa Valley and the central Valley as early as 1830. Quite a few immigrants from the first wagon trains in the early 1840s made their way to Napa and Sonoma. Only a few relatively brief incursions into what would become Lake County were recorded.
1844: The 8,242-acre Rancho Callayomi, now home to Middletown, was granted to Robert T. Ridley, an early settler in Yerba Buena, the village that would become San Francisco. Ridley traded the Callayomi to Jacob P. Leese, brother-in-law of General Mariano Vallejo, in 1847.
1845: Jacob Leese acquired title to the 21,200-acre Rancho Guenoc on October 18, 1845. It had been originally granted to George Roch on August 8, 1845. Leese established a huge cattle operation similar to that of his brother-in-law Salvador Vallejo at Kelseyville. Roch or another of his succession of managers built a log cabin where Stone House now stands.
1850: Capt. A. A. Ritchie purchased both the Callayomi and Guenoc ranchos from Leese, reportedly paying $14,000 for both.
1852: In accordance with the new U. S. Land Act, Ritchie and Paul S. Forbes filed claims in the U.S. courts for both ranchos.
1853: Robert Henry Sterling and Capt. R. Steele, as managers for Ritchie, started building the Stone House of locally quarried stone, probably from a deposit about three-quarters of a mile southwest of Stone House. Sterling had sent for his fiancée, Lydia Jane Wheaton, of Guilford, Conn. It is assumed the house was completed for her arrival. The couple married in Benicia May 19, 1854. She is said to be the first white woman to live in Coyote Valley.
1856: A. A. Ritchie was thrown from his wagon and killed instantly in July 1856. His executors took control of the ranchos; those included Capt. Robert Waterman, uncle of Robert Sterling and business partner of Ritchie, and John H. Hamilton, Ritchie’s brother-in-law. The Sterlings moved to Napa. Hamilton resided for a time in Stone House.
1857: The official surveyor’s map, created to validate the claims, shows a small native rancheria across the trail from "Sterling's House." It also shows "Manlove's place" near McCreery Lake and in the southeast corner an unidentified "house" believed to be that of A.H. Butts, who moved south to the canyon named for him.
1860: The general store of Herrick and Getz, probably in the Stone House, initiated the growth of the village of Guenoc, at the approximate location of today’s Hartmann Bridge over Putah Creek. There are unconfirmed reports that Stone House was briefly used as a saloon and dance hall. The 1860 federal census tallied 131 residents in the Kayote precinct around Guenoc.
1861: John Cobb, namesake of the town of Cobb, Cobb Mountain, Cobb Creek and Cobb Valley, was named manager of both the Guenoc and Callayomi ranchos, by the Ritchie estate. He lived in Stone House, presumably with his wife and the youngest four of his six children.
1863: The claim to Rancho Callayomi was approved in December 1863.
1865: The claim to Rancho Guenoc was approved in 1865. Hamilton again briefly took over Stone House. In 1867, Guenoc was recognized with its own post office and A. A. Ritchie Jr., the owner's only surviving son, was named first postmaster. Stone House served as both post office and polling place.
1871: Middletown was founded on 80 acres in the center of the Callayomi grant. Its post office replaced the Guenoc post office in 1880.
1872: John McGreer purchased Stone House and more than 900 surrounding acres. Five of the McGreer’s ten children were by then adults and had left home; their youngest son, Hugh, died at Stone House in 1875 at the age of 16.
1885: Charles Marsh Young, one of the founders of Middletown and owner of its Lake County House, traded that hotel to McGreer for Stone House. The property was known as “the Young place” well into the late 1940s.
1894: Young had Stone House deconstructed and rebuilt, at the same site using the same stone plus additional stone of the same type, to replace the original hand-hewn 12x12” oak log foundation. The dimensions of the house were undoubtedly expanded and a wooden second story added. At some later time, a wood-frame expansion was added in the rear to house a kitchen and crude bathroom with cold water piped from a nearby spring.
1942: The Frank Hartmann family, ranchers who owned a 720-acre property south of Hartmann Road, expanded their holdings with the purchase of the Young place. Stone House was leased to ranch hands.
1950: The California Centennial Commission determined Stone House to be the oldest existing building in Lake County. It was designated California State Historical Monument #450 and a marker was installed alongside Highway 29 about 300 yards from Stone House.
1955: Just after Christmas Day fire ravaged the upper story. The roof was replaced without the second floor.
1967: Hartmann obtained a permit, after years of effort, to dam the creek alongside Stone House to create an irrigation pond.
1968: Middletown teacher Mildred Pearson housed her collection of pioneer and Native American artifacts in Stone House as a museum.
1968: Hartmann traded his holdings to U.S. Land Inc., a division of Boise-Cascade Home & Land Corp. for a 350,000-acre cattle ranch in Idaho. The proposed development of Hidden Valley Lake was announced and construction of the dam began, demanding the rerouting of Spruce Grove Road as portions were inundated. The land company also purchased properties separating but adjoining the Hartmann parcels. By Oct. 1969, Hidden Valley Lake was heralded as “well under way.”
1988: Stone House had been used as a sales office, as offices for the cooperative water company, as the security office, as a makeshift recreation center for teens and eventually simply for storage. It had not been maintained and was seriously deteriorated. Concerned residents rallied to its restoration.
1971: Boise-Cascade transferred various parts of its Hidden Valley Lake properties, including Stone House, to the homeowners association. In 1974, the remaining properties and amenities were transferred to HVLA.
1990: The Stone House Historical Society was formed as a nonprofit entity. Donations, fundraisers and volunteer labor have restored walls, replaced the floor, the roof, cleared bats and termites, and funded miscellaneous upkeep. In recent years, the HVLA administration has contributed to its maintenance.
The house has been furnished throughout with donated period items reminiscent of decades past, although few are as antique as Stone House itself. It has been occupied in the past decade only by our resident ghost, Camphor.
Stone House is included in
listings of historic buildings
of interest on several sites: