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Yes, Virginia, there was a real Jack Tone

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Yes, Virginia, there was a real Jack Tone

Jack Tone Road is the longest north-south road in San Joaquin County.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED December 31, 2011 2:10 a.m.

Jack Tone Road at roughly 40 miles is the longest north-south road in San Joaquin County.

It starts just a few hundred yards from the Stanislaus River in Ripon and stretches all the way to the gently rolling terrain of South Sacramento County.

Along the way it passes by the almond orchards of Ripon, dairies east of Manteca, the massive Union Pacific Railroad intermodal facility, the burg of Collegeville where a general store is a popular breakfast gathering spot for farmers and up through Lockeford while passing endless agricultural endeavors along the way.

Along the mid-stretch of the virtually straight ribbon of asphalt and a bit east of Morada is the reason why Jack Tone Road came into being back in 1850.

It is the horse ranch that strides the meandering Calaveras River. It stands as the legacy of Jack H. Tone who started the north-south route as a dusty, relatively short one-lane road. The ranch is still part of the Tone family today. It is - by some estimates - the birthplace of sustainable agriculture in San Joaquin County.

Jack Tone - actually John Henly Tone - was born in New York City in 1826 as the son of Irish immigrants.

Tone worked as a New York City police officer for 18 months until he came down with a bad case of gold fever. He departed New York City on Feb. 8, 1849 and headed to California  as part of the Audubon Party.

He had limited success mining and ended up hauling mining supplies before abandoning the Mother Lode for the wide open spaces of eastern San Joaquin County made famous by the mythical Barkley family in the “Big Valley” TV series that aired from 1965 to 1969.

But instead of choosing cattle as the Barkleys did, Tone is credited by many with planting the first orchard and the first vineyard in San Joaquin County.

The 1,100-acre farm at one point included crops of sugar beets that were shipped to Spreckels Sugar in Manteca for processing, corn, barley, wheat, beans, and alfalfa.

The horse barn that Tone built in1860 - complete with wooden pegs and square nails - still stands.

Today the family operation stands as the oldest continuous working ranch in California. The family built a world-wide reputation with its raising of Arabian show horses built largely around the horse Fadjur whose elegance and style took national championship venues by storm in the 1980s.

Some 162 years ago a traveler on Jack Tone Road could not miss seeing the ranch.

Today the Tone ranch is lost in a maze of small country properties and other working farms.

It still stands, though, as a reminder that lasting prosperity is modest and that it doesn’t come from get rich schemes whether it is gold seeking in the Mother Lode, stock speculation or flipping houses.



— Dennis Wyatt

managing editor

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