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Orangevale, California
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The Orangevale Story

One hundred and 50 years ago, gently rolling hills were covered with oak trees and with trails made only by plentiful deer and small animals.

Then came the Spanish, the Mexicans and the gold seekers from the east, from Europe and from China. Spanish land grants were sold and divided, and then cattlemen and farmers began traveling across the United States on the new transcontinental railroad.

Orangevale, (first called Orange-Vale) was known for the many groves of oranges existing in the large agricultural area know as the San Juanita Grant of the Mexican government in a map of 1884. The first map filed for the area was dated at the Sacramento recorder s office on May 24, 1888. In 1895, another map was recorded showing a street network with the name Orange Vale Colony.

In 1887 promoters from Sacramento purchased 3200 acres of the early land grant and began subdividing it into 10 acre plots, looking for buyers in the eastern and midwestern states. Twenty children attended the first school, which was then located at Central and Filbert. Outside Orange Vale proper at that time was the Roberts School, built on the Robert s property in 1883 on Greenback at Kenneth, in an area later annexed to the Colony 1888.

One of the first edifices built in Orange Vale was the Hotel Villa constructed over- looking the American River. It was later moved to Greenback Lane where it still stand, a yellow house with four gables.

Orangevale s main thoroughfare, Greenback Lane, is the source of many stories. Some say a narrow dirt road was first built by some of the first settlers, others say it was built by a group of Chinese and that the workers were paid off in greenbacks, because greenbacks were less valuable than gold; thus the name Greenback Lane.

Orange Vale gradually became known as Orangevale, though still often referred to as the Vale . Increasingly the colonist arrived and the Colony was outstandingly successful whereas many other colonies in the state failed during these years. Availability of water made the difference. Ready made ditches in the eastern section, dug for placer mining on the Mississippi Bar were a natural for the needed irrigation for the orange groves, vineyard and other fruits such as peaches and plums.

At the Midwinter Fair in San Francisco, 1894, Orangevale won first premiums, and for the best general display of budded oranges. Orangevale for years had the peculiarity of having no specialty. Here were prunes as fine as those in Santa Clara, apricots equaling Santa Ana, lemons on a par with Santa Barbara, and oranges as good as Riverside. It was apparent that all the fruits grown in California could be grown in Orangevale, and all of first class quality.

But catastrophe struck. In 1930 the Big Frost hit the orange groves, and they were wiped out. Other agriculture continued and Orangevale progressed as a quiet rural town, growing steadily.

Because of the natural beauty of the area, its situation near lakes and mountain, its recreational opportunities and its modern schools, plus the growth of industry in the county, even more people are pouring into Orangevale. There is a constant increase in the number of schools, streets have been widened and blacktopped, organizations of people of all ages are flourishing and new church edifices have appeared.

This sudden urbanization has in a reverse way made many residents interested in the earl day of the desirable area. It was than a hundred years ago that John Caldwell tested the navigability of the American River in his 10 hp steam driven boat (1884). Old time desperados Tom Bell and Joaquin Murrieta sought shelter in the Stone Corral during periods of plundering and robbing on the Folsom- Auburn Road.


Orangevale is located in Sacramento County, 23 mile east of the State Capital. Also nearby are Aero-jet-General, Douglas Aircraft, Mather and McClellan Air Force Bases, making Orangevale a natural place to live in a casual county atmosphere and still be within easy commuting distance.


There is an abundance and wide variety of recreational activities in and near Orangevale. Several of the year-round activities are quite outstanding: boating, fishing, picnicking, horseback riding. Located near the American River, Folsom and Natoma Lake, it is only a five-minute drive to two major highways that lead to the Sierras and Lake Tahoe. Orangevale s nearby lakes attract thousand of boating enthusiast who trail the outboards behind the family car to the blue dam- made lakes for fishing, skiing and picnicking along the shores. Many limits of fish are caught at the water edge along the river.

Flying enthusiast from around the state land at near by Phoenix Field to enjoy the area s vast recreation opportunities.

Horse lovers have flocked to Orangevale. Fifteen years ago there were less that fifty horses in the area; today there are more than 3000. Singly and in well trained, beautifully dressed groups, they participate in parades at the drop of the hat. One Adult and One Youth group maintain up to date, full size arenas for house shows in Orangevale, complete with snack shacks and night-lights for all year activity. In addition, there are hundreds of miles of historic hiking, riding and biking trails in the vicinity.

A parade with thousands of participants and spectators make Greenback Lane a center of excitement each year. Conceived as an annual Pow Wow day several years ago by Orangevale merchants, it s appeal to the love of western living now attracts many outside participants, adding to the glamour of pretty girl, glittering precision horse groups, floats representing the old west and present day youth organizations. And much more representing the golden hud of Northern California recreation. - A. Shook

The Hotel Villa was moved from Greenback Lane to Oak Ave. east of Casa Roble High School about 10 or 12 years ago. It is registered now as a historical site. Also, Phoenix Field, the old airport, has been closed for at least 15 years and built over with homes. I have lived in Orangevale since 1988 so I am a newcomer but very much interested in local history. - P. Parsons

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