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Jack Tone Ranch: Californias oldest horse ranch
The Main Barn at Jack Tone Ranch. - photo by Photo Contributed

Kathleen Tone Hammer, unlike most of us, does not have to relive the good old days.

She is living it every day, at the very same ranch that was established by her great-grandfather, the original Jack Tone, who came to California from New York with the Audubon party during the Gold Rush in 1849.

The ranch even has its original name still – the Jack Tone Ranch which is recognized as California’s oldest family-owned and continuously operated horse ranch. It is located on the very same road that the original rancher himself built and which bears his name. It is about midway on Jack Tone Road that runs the length of eastern San Joaquin County from Ripon to the Sacramento County line.

“My great-grandfather laid out the road. Before he came to California, he was a road-builder and a policeman in New York. He was very self-sufficient. He built the levee along the river here, above and below his ranch, so that the river quit flooding all along his ranch,” said Tone Hammer.

She knows the family history by heart.

“I grew up here. I’ve lived here all my life. I helped my mother with the horses since I was little. My father was a farmer; my mother had the horses since 1952 when she started breeding Arabian horses. My father was Jack Tone also. He was the third California Jack Tone. My mom was Marjory Francis Tone. Her maiden name was Woodworth, which was also a pioneer family before California was a state, just like Jack Tone,” Tone Hammer said during a telephone interview Friday.

“I’ve loved horses since I was very little,” said the lifelong rancher.

She recalled that when she and her four sisters were kids, their mother bought them each a pony.

“We had a choice between dancing lessons and horse lessons. We chose horse lessons,” Tone Hammer said with a laugh.

Her sisters later moved away when they got married, but three of them still have their own horses at the ranch. Today, “they are pretty much retired,” she said.

But Tone Hammer is still very much actively involved in running and maintaining the ranch that her great-grandfather started 164 years ago.

She and her family took over that task after her parents died. “I took care of my parents,” she said.

Her father died in 2007 at age 97. Her mother passed away at age 94 in 2010.

And just as she helped her parents with never-ending chores at the ranch – “it’s a pretty big operation” – the younger generations are now lending the much needed helping hand in the family business.

“My kids and my granddaughters are here every day. They help with the horses – just routine upkeep – feeding them their supplements, cleaning and training. It’s a beautiful ranch but there’s a lot of work involved. There’s always something that needs to be done. We also have a full-time worker,” Tone Hammer said.

She and husband Gerard have four children – two boys and two girls – and seven grandchildren.

The original Jack Tone Ranch is today a divided ranch with a river that runs through it.

One of her daughters, Kathleen (Peggy) Morissey, an engineer who works with PG&E where her husband, Steve, is also employed as a lineman supervisor, owns part of the ranch now.

“My daughter owns part of the ranch and my husband and I own the rest,” Tone Hammer said.

The Mokelumne River divides the two properties. Their daughter owns 13 acres on one side of the river while Tone Hammer and her husband own the nearly 40 acres on the other side of the water.

The side of the ranch that belongs to their daughter is the part of the property that has the original old house as well as the bunk houses, the old smoke house plus a lot of the buildings that were there in the 1800s when the first California Jack Tone in the family established the ranch.

Tone Hammer and her husband raise hay on about 16 acres of their property. Her husband, who held different jobs through the years and retired from the California Youth Authority, now does the farming, raising hay for the horses.

The Jack Tone Ranch is famous for its horses that are part of the family tradition.

The ranch is “the source for horses developed through Marjory F. Tone’s breeding program. Here you will find Arabian horses produced from Fadjur’s best sons and daughters, the individual descendants selected by Marge Tone to guarantee Fadjur’s influence through the ages,” according to the ranch’s official web site.

The caption of one of the pictures on the web site reads: “The Fabulous Fadjur with Kathleen Tone Hammer at Jack Tone Ranch. Shown in 1968 at age 16, after returning from his U.S. Reserve National Champion Stallion win.”

Descendants of the Fabulous Fadjur are available for sale, at stud, or for lease. The ranch also offers mares for lease, plus riding lessons and horse boarding.

For those who want a rustic and historic setting for their wedding, anniversary and other special events, the New Barn at the ranch is also available. You don’t have to wait for an invitation though to any of those celebrations to experience historic Jack Tone Ranch. Visitors are always welcome at the ranch.

Call the ranch at (209) 931-4972 for more information. However, this is more of a message phone line. You’ll get quicker answers by e-mail. Just log on to



209 staff reporter