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History of Kirkland Ranch


The Kirkland ranch was purchased by Howard and Kay Kirkland in 1962.


After living on Howard’s Uncles property (Howard’s Uncle was Walt Steiner) in the Shenandoah Valley for 1 year in 1955, Howard and Kay moved back to Long Beach, California where they met and were both from. They started the Kirkland Water Truck company in 1958. They were longing for the opportunity to purchase land in Shenandoah Valley with the dream of living there again someday.


In 1962 they got a call from their dear friends Mike and Dena D’Agostini about a 120 acre ranch for sale just a short distance from where Howard’s Uncle lived. They made the trip up and knew right away it was the perfect place. They bought the land which had 2 small simple homes (1 and 2 bedrooms) and no garages. Shortly after the purchase they started making trips up from Long Beach on weekends to get things in order. It took several years and a lot of money and hard work to get the homes in order. They had a family live on the property as caretakers. This family watched over the land that now was home to many horses and cattle.

The family, Howard and Kay and daughters Lisa, Dena and son Karl made numerous trips to the ranch over the years as this was their vacation getaway. The time spent on the ranch was not always fun riding horses or Honda dirt bikes.


The family worked hard together as they transformed the ranch into the dream property they all wanted. In 1972 Howard and Kay made the decision to retire from their water truck and heavy hauling trucking business and move to the ranch.  Dena and Karl were still in school and both got to graduate from Amador County High School. Lisa was already a high school graduate and decided to stay in Southern California to attend college.

In 1978 Howard and Kay finally got to build their dream home on the property just up from the original home. They both loved the life on the ranch and welcomed family and friends always.

Howard and Kay were known throughout the valley and Amador County as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. They were happy to dress up and visited many schools, community clubs and the local hospital. Over the years the ranch was a popular place for Christmas lights displays and was featured on channel 10 with Dave Bender’s “12 Dave’s of Christmas” twice!

The ranch hosted an annual event for the Central Chapter of The American Truck Historical Society for 28 years.

The ranch was known for fun gatherings including a practice place for the singing group formed by Howard and Kay known as “Howard Kirkland and the Shenandoah Songsters.”

After Kay passed away in 1996, Howard continued the annual Christmas Lights and the Truck Show until he became unable to keep up with the festivities.


 In 2018 Greg Briski and Jim Giuffra became Dena Kirkland's partners in the ranch. A 6 month renovation was completed with many more improvements on the drawing board. Their vision was to continue Howard and Kay's dream of a place where people can come and create their own memories. We hope you enjoy your time on the ranch and come back for many more visits..

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