We know you will enjoy our HISTORY… HORSES… and WESTERN HOSPITALITY! Ranch headquarters are located in the beautiful little valley of Walker’s Basin… deep in the heart of the Tehachapi Mountains. We’ve been a working cattle ranch for over a century, and have operated our guest ranch since 1965. Rankin Ranch is one of the oldest and largest family owned ranches in California. Six generations of Rankins have lived and worked on our 31,000 acre cattle ranch. We truly enjoy the opportunity to share our lifestyle with our guests. We hope you enjoy the following history of our ranch and local area.
Meet the Rankins
The Rankin family is happy to welcome you for a great ranch vacation. Bill and Glenda, the 4th generation, are pleased to have their children and grandchildren working along side them to continue the family tradition started in 1863. Being a family run business, it is not uncommon to meet most of the Rankins during your stay. From Glenda’s welcoming spirit and love of sharing the family history to Bill’s vast knowledge of the farming and cattle industry to the grandkids’ welcoming smiles, the entire Rankin family is delighted to meet every guest and loves to share their way of life with you.
Rankin Cattle Ranch History
At the end of California’s southern Sierras in northeastern Kern County lies the little mountain valley of Walker Basin. Today 4th, 5th and 6th generation Rankins continue to operate their historic 31,000 acre cattle and guest ranch in this peaceful valley.
The Quarter Circle U Rankin Ranch was founded by Walker Rankin in 1863. Walker was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 10, 1832. His boyhood and youth were spent on his father’s farm, and he attended public school until he was fourteen. The lure of the West would soon change his life forever. In 1854, at the age of twenty-two, Walker left home and headed to California making his journey by way of Panama and sailing into San Francisco. He was fairly successful in the gold fields of northern California, and eventually settled in Walker Basin where he became a cattle rancher.
Walker Rankin married Lavinia Estelle Lightner in 1868. Her family had traveled to California by covered wagon from Missouri in 1849, and her father, Abiah Lightner, was successful at gold mining in nearby Keysville before settling in Walker’s Basin in 1858. Walker and Lavinia Rankin had six sons and one daughter – Charles, Warren, Lee, Edward “Ned” , Jesse, Walker Jr., and Alice. Walker is credited with importing the first purebred Hereford cattle to this area. In the 1870s Rankin Ranch became a stage stop for the overland mail route. Travelers stopped at the ranch on their way to Havilah (the Kern County Seat at that time), Keysville, and Kernville. The old barn where the teamster’s horses were tended to still stands today and is used for hay storage. Walker was a very successful businessman and lived a full life passing away at age 86. After his death, Lavinia continued to run the cattle ranch. Their son, Lee, and his wife, Julia, and their two sons, Leroy and Billy, moved to the Basin ranch from Onyx to help out. Eleven years later, Lee and Julia were both killed in an automobile accident on December 24, 1929. Their entire family was devastated, especially their young sons. A friend wrote of Julia, “Words cannot contain our love. There was, there is, no gentler, stronger womanly woman.” Leroy and Billy lived with their grandmother, Lavinia, and completed high school in Bakersfield at Kern County Union High School (now Bakersfield High) before going on to college. After a couple of years away from the ranch, they returned home and formed a partnership – Rankin Brother Cattle Company. In 1936, Leroy married Helen Cross whose ancestors were also California pioneers arriving as early as 1846. Leroy and Helen raised their three children Julia, Patty and Bill on the family ranch in Walker’s Basin. Leroy was very involved in the Kern County Cattlemen’s Association (his father, Lee, had been a charter member of both the California and Kern County organizations), and Leroy served as president of the California Cattlemen’s Association in 1947 when the organization celebrated its 100th anniversary in Bakersfield. Helen was a charter member of the Kern County Cowbelles, and served as president in 1950, and was honored to be named Kern County Cowbelle of the Year in 1988. Helen would have been very proud of her daughter-in-law, Glenda, and granddaughters, Rebecca Been and Amanda Barrett, when they received this same honor some 20 years later, and were recognized as the 2008, 2011, and 2013 Kern County CattleWomen of the Year.
In 1948, the family matriarch, Lavinia Rankin, celebrated her 100th birthday with family and friends. She was a remarkable woman. She had arrived in California before it became a state in 1850. She watched the changes that took place during this one hundred year period – from the days of covered wagons and California’s “gold rush” to the invention of the automobile and the airplane. She actually owned one of the first automobiles in Kern County. Lavinia’s memoirs were recorded when she was 90 years old, and these stories have been printed in several Kern County history publications.
Rankin Guest Ranch History
In 1954, after the sudden death of third generation, Leroy Rankin, at age of forty-two, his wife Helen had a big decision to make. Should she keep the ranch, or sell it. Of course, the latter was the easier option and what friends advised her to do, but she decided to continue her husband’s lifetime work. She would have to learn the cattle business. Until that time, she had taken care of their children and managed the house, as women of the 50s did. She had ridden with Leroy and helped at brandings, but knew little about the day-to-day operation of the cattle ranch. By 1965, Helen was doing quite well in the cattle business, but she realized in order to have a better cash flow she needed to diversify to fully utilize her asset – “the land”. After much thought, she decided to add a guest ranch to her cattle operation. She and Leroy had always entertained large groups of friends, and this would increase the ranch income allowing future generations of Rankins the opportunity to continue to ranch. Helen was a forerunner in the field of Agri-Tourism. She was featured in the Sacramento Bee as a leader in the field of diversifying an agriculture entity.
Helen was delighted when the next generation decided to continue the family ranching tradition. Her son, Bill, returned from college after graduating with a degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of California at Davis in 1969. In 1971 Bill married Glenda Hill who had worked at the guest ranch during the summers for four years. Although Glenda didn’t grow up on a ranch, she realized the hard work associated with both the cattle and guest ranch. Bill and Glenda raised their four children Jason, Rebecca, Sarah and Amanda to respect the land, and their family’s heritage. Bill and Glenda’s children all graduated from college and now live on the ranch, and are all involved in the agriculture industry.
Jason Rankin and his wife, Taira, and Sarah Rankin Wilder and her husband, Clint, and Amanda Rankin Barrett and her husband, Brian, manage the cattle, farming, and hay businesses, and the guest ranch operation. Amanda’s husband, Brian, also works for the Kern County Fire Department. Rebecca (Rankin) Been teaches third grade and makes a point of incorporating agriculture into her curriculum. She is also the Beef Education and Curriculum Co-Chair for the American National CattleWomen. She and her husband, Allen, who is an agronomist, publish a local monthly newspaper – the Fence Post – which focuses on the history of Kern County. Amanda Rankin served as the National Beef Ambassador during 2007 and is currently the president of the Kern County CattleWomen’s Association. Following in his father’s footsteps, Bill Rankin served as president of the Kern County Cattlemen’s Association (2010-2012) and is the 2014 Kern County Cattleman of the Year. The entire Rankin family promotes the cattle industry at the local and state level.
Helen Rankin lived to see both her ranch and her family doing well, and it pleased her that the Rankin ranching tradition of more than a century would continue. She was 89 years old when she passed away in 2003. Today, Bill and Glenda Rankin and their children, and their grandchildren (sixth generation Walker, Cody and Wyatt Rankin, Zachary Been, and Emma Mae and Josephine Wilder) all live on the ranch, and run both the cattle and guest ranch businesses, and they continue to diversify.
The Rankins will tell you…It is truly a privilege to inherit the stewardship of the land, but along with this opportunity comes a great responsibility, and a lot of hard work. Six generations have gratefully accepted this challenge since 1863.
Local Area History
The beautiful little valley, Walker’s Basin, was named for Joseph Reddford Walker who was a pathfinder and scout for General Fremont. Walker came through this area in 1834 when he came down the San Joaquin Valley from Monterey and led his party out of the valley and over the pass which was also named for him…Walker Pass. The first settlers came to Walker’s Basin long before roads came. The trail leading up Walker’s Basin Creek through the Basin and over the mountain pass was the route of the Union Soldiers during the Civil War as they journeyed between Fort Tejon and Fort Independence (near Bishop in northern California).
One of the early day Pony Express routes came through Walker’s Basin. David Smith carried the mail horseback between Visalia and Fort Tejon, also from Caliente to Kernville passing through the Basin. After 1865 a road was established north to Havilah, then the Kern County Seat. In 1867, Wells Fargo Company began service through Kern County, with a stage stop in the Basin. The teamster’s barn, used by the drivers for a change of horses, still stands at Rankin Ranch, and is still in use…now as a hay barn and for equipment storage.
A NEWSPAPER QUOTE FROM 1876…From the Bakersfield Gazette, January 8, 1876…Walker’s Basin – This beautiful valley is about nine miles from Havilah on the stage road from Kernville to Caliente. The Basin is both beautiful and rich…a land of hay, deer and cool nights…it remains a cattle paradise…it is about eight or nine miles long, and is covered by…large ranches…The passing stages offer it intelligence of what is passing in the great outer world, without stirring its own quiet life…while here I enjoyed the hospitality of Messers, Walser, Lightner and Rankin. (all cousins)
Over a century has passed since the readers of the Bakersfield Gazette learned of the peaceful little mountain valley of Walker’s Basin. Not much has changed since 1876. It is still a quiet mountain community with large cattle ranches covering the valley floor. The Rankins now have new neighbors on the northern end of the Basin who enjoy living in the country. Our city friends who vacation with us at Rankin Ranch love the serenity and simplicity and our western lifestyle. Even though you’ll no longer see stage coaches, our remote country roads welcome visitors to enjoy “mother nature” at its best. Our guests tell us that the Basin still has the feel of the “old west“and they enjoy the wide open spaces – a cattle paradise – as far as the eye can see. And, of course, the Rankin family tradition of hospitality is alive and well and a “tradition“enjoyed by all – young and old.