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DE CHAMBEAU RANCH CALIFORNIA
A French Canadian Paradise

Unoccupied Historic Ranch
Mono County
Circa 1871

The Ranch was originally founded by a Nicholas Dondero from Italy who squatted here sometime near 1871. Dondero built a simple small frame house of 6 rooms and a single horse barn and planted 20 acres of Alfalfa. Dondero received "free title" on the ranch land on May 16th 1893 after filing for a land paten. In 1906 Louis Winslow De Chambeau purchased the ranch for $2,000.00 and from this day on the ranch would be known and the De Chambeau Ranch.

The original house was soon enlarged to 14 rooms, the barn was tripled in size and a black smith shop was constructed. When completed, the new De Chambeau Ranch consisted of 14 separate buildings in all. The rest of the Dechambeau family consisting of 7 children, moved on to the ranch in 1907 after leaving Bodie. Louis De Chambeau, originally from Lonqueil, Quebec Province Canada moved to Bodie in 1880 following his father who arrived in Bodie in 1878. Louis De Chambeau worked as a miner in Bodie before going to work as a hired hand on the William Ranch just south of Lee Vining. It was here that he met and married his first wife, Elizabeth Helen Moore. The couple moved to the town of Lundy and had two children Herbert and Sadie. By 1892 Louis was divorced but maintained custody of his two children. Soon after De Chambeau married his housekeeper Mary Currie, the oldest daughter of Charles and Anna Currie who were the original founders of the "Goat Ranch". The couple increased their family size by 6 additional children.

The De Chambeau Ranch prospered in to the 3rd largest ranch on the Mono Basin, raising livestock, Hogs, chickens, cattle and sheep. The ranch was also a large producer of produce which was sold at market in Bodie, Aurora, Lundy and Lee Vining. Like other ranches on the Mono Basin, the De Chambeau Ranch at one time served as a stage stop for travelers and freight wagons entering the basin from the south headed for Bodie. Louis De Chambeau died on August 2nd 1933 at the age of 71 years, and by the 1940's the last descendants of the De Chambeau family had moved away. The oldest son, Arthur continued to manage the ranch from Bridgeport, which he leased to sheep men until the Forest Service purchased the ranch some years later. Today the ranch stands empty during the winter months, but after the snow melts each year, an older gentleman resembling a California Gold Rush 49er emerges from Lee Vining Above. Armed with suspenders, mosquito repellant, and flannel shirts, Norm Dechambeau rein habits the land that once belonged to his family.

If you wish to learn more about this beautiful ranch or any other ranch on the Mono Basin, be sure to visit the Mono Basin Historic Society located in Lee Vining. Maybe if you are lucky, you will run in to Norm who volunteers his time here. If he invites you to the ranch… Bring your mosquito repellent!

 

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The De Chambeau Ranch in its later years as a sheep ranch. Photo Courtesy of Mono Basin Historic Society

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De Chambeau Ranch at sun set in its present form

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Main house at De Chambeau Ranch

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De Chambeau Ranch Wagon Shed

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De Chambeau Ranch main house

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