Leonard William Gollnick

Leonard William Gollnick was a first generation American born to German emigrants. He was born in Madison, Lac Qui Parle County, Minnesota, on November 4, 1895, the eighth child of August Herrman and Emilie Wagner Gollnick. When Leonard was about seven years old, his family moved to Anatone, Washington. They went by wagon from Minnesota to Washington herding about two dozen shorthorn Durham cows. The 1910 US Census shows the family living in Anatone, Asotin County, where they built a home and large barn. When Leonard was about 10 years old, the family moved to Willows, Glenn County, California, and raised turkeys and hogs. When Leonard was 16 they moved to nearby Orland, California. In 1914 they moved to Elk Creek near the hills west of Willows where Leonard’s father homesteaded 160 acres.

Leonard and his brother Alvin worked at a dairy owned by Dr. Gatliff. When Dr. Gatliff moved, he leased the 40 acre ranch to Leonard and Alvin. They milked about 35-40 cows. They had a separator that spun the milk and all the cream came to the top. Twice a week, they took the cream to town. There was a dairy company in Willows where they dropped it off and got paid. Alvin got tired of milking cows so he moved to Willows and became a carpenter. Leonard continued working the dairy and eventually ended up purchasing it. He also hauled rice in Glenn County.

In 1917, the United States declared war on Germany and officially entered World War I. Every male living in the U. S. between the ages of 18 and 45 was required to register for the draft. Leonard’s registration card shows that he asked for exemption because he was a joint supporter of his parents.

Leonard Gollnick met Myrtle Edna DeSpain at a dance hall in Orland. Myrtle was a school teacher at River View Grammar School. Leonard was six feet tall and Myrtle was 5’1”. They were married on June 25, 1919, in Chico, California. The 1920 US Census shows them living in Elk Creek, Glenn County, California, next door to Alvin. A son, Wilfred James Gollnick, was born March 10, 1921, in Willows, and then a year and a half later a daughter, Wilda Evelyn Gollnick, was born September 19, 1922. It was nine years before another child, a son, was born (still living).

The government built a dam on the Stoney Ford River, and when it was completed in 1928, the family had to move. The Gatliff Ranch is now at the bottom of Stoney Ford Lake. When the dam filled up with water, the government didn’t want the hillsides of all the little ranches, so Leonard bought those left-over hillsides at about $5 an acre. All together he probably bought 3,000 acres for about $15,000. There were about 10 ranches that were portioned off: Reed Canyon Ranch, Fruita Ranch, White Ranch, Knight Ranch, etc. The portion of land that had been owned by the Fruit and Nut Growers, the Fruita Ranch, had 80 acres of almonds. During the summertime, after he harvested his grain, Leonard and his boys knocked almonds off the trees into canvasses, piled them up in a big pile, put them in gunnysack bags, took them to a huller and sold them to Chico Nut Company.

The Emerald School where Myrtle taught was on Stoney Creek and when the Stoney Ford Dam was built, the school closed, and Myrtle taught at Grapevine, a town between Stoney Ford and Elk Creek. She taught one class of grades one through four at $50 a month salary. The family moved to the White Ranch on the Stoney Ford Highway between Stoney Ford and Elk Creek. Myrtle wanted Wilfred to go to high school in Willows, so they bought a home in Willows and moved into town. Twin brothers, Roy Mark Gollnick and (living), were born in June 1937 near the midnight hour which meant that the first baby boy was born on one day and the second boy was born on the next day. After the twins were born, Myrtle continued teaching for a while, but then quit because there was too much to do at home.

After Wilfred graduated from high school, he went to college in Davis. World War II broke out and Wilfred joined the war effort and became a paratrooper. On June 25, 1944 (which was on Leonard and Myrtle’s 25th Anniversary), Wilfred was wounded. He came home from the war and later married his nurse, Dorothy Taylor. They moved to Orland where they lived for 10 years before Wilfred died (March 19, 1954) from the injuries he received during the war.

Leonard and Myrtle Gollnick Family

Leonard’s trigger finger was cut off in a corn chopper, so he couldn’t be drafted, but he did have to register for the draft. He sold cattle and sheep during the war, and did well. The family moved back to Elk Creek and lived on the Fruita Ranch. There was no electricity. All they had for lights was a lantern and they pumped water with an outside hand pump. They lived there for about a year and then moved to the White Ranch which was on the highway three miles from town.

Leonard was always chasing profits. He purchased 250-300 head of yearling cattle from the Paiute Indian Reservation near Pyramid Lake in Nevada and raised them to sell. He did that for several years. One year, he heard that hog prices were going up, so he bought about 25 brood sows. Each sow gave birth to about 10 pigs, so they were in big-time pig business right away. They had over 200 pigs almost instantly! Because they grew their own grain – wheat, barley, and oats – the only thing they bought was cottonseed meal to mix with it for more protein. At times he had three or four hundred shults (a pig between being a piggy and a full-grown hog). He brought them in after they got to be about six months old and about 200 pounds, and he’d fill his truck full and take them to the auction. He was making money then, so he bought a new car and a new truck. Then he got tired of pigs, so he went into the sheep business.

Leonard did contract work in the summer – he harvested and baled hay for other people. His boys helped in the fields and they worked hard all summer long. Every year they went hunting and often had people from out of town join them, including Dr. Otis Allen Sharpe from the Bay Area, and relatives such as Elmer Steward from the Los Angeles area. They hunted pheasants in Guy Smith’s corn fields, and they hunted deer every year beginning on September 1 on the Gollnick ranch.

Myrtle Gollnick died January 2, 1954, of “asphyxiation by submersion in a cattle watering trough, caused as a result of suicidal act.” Her obituary said she had suffered a stroke a few weeks prior. (Wilfred died two months later.)

Leonard William Gollnick

Leonard decided to go back into the dairy business. He sold the big ranch and moved to Orland. He bought 200 acres for fattening cattle and he built a dairy. Later he turned the dairy over to his twin sons. He remarried to Arlene Taylor, who was a sister to his son Wilfred’s wife.

He died January 13, 1963, in Orland, California. He was very community-minded. His obituary said he was “a member of both the Glenn County Pomona Grange and the Elk Creek Grange and a past member of the Orland Grange. He had also served as president of the Orland Farm Bureau, was a member of the county ASC committe, an honorary member of the Orland Rotary Club and at the time of his death was president of the board of the Orland Unit Water Users Association.”