“Schlein – Hurley” are two historical El Dorado County family names carved into the sign on Garden Valley Road along with “Irish Creek Ranch”. Twenty-nine gravestones in the cemetery at Georgetown attest to the size of this large local family who lived and worked here. It was great-grandmother Rebella Schlein who continued the ranching tradition by buying up 350 acres three miles south of Georgetown many years ago. It was her home from the 1850’s.
The Georgetown Walking Town Tour is still available with a tourist map and handout to see historical sites and old original family homes. Robb’s Valley (still on the map above Georgetown), was named after Maxine’s Great Uncle Robb Jarrett. The Schlein Fire Watch Tower, though no longer manned, still remains in north of Georgetown off Wentworth Springs Road. There were many other aunts and uncles who were land owners and maintained homes in Georgetown. They ran a multitude of businesses, including a grocery store, Wentworth Resort, ranches, and cow-camps.
The original ranch house, built in 1870, was purchased by Grandfather Schlein. Great Grandmother Rebella Schlein lived on Georgetown Road between Kelsey and Georgetown (now Hwy.193). Grandmother Schlein also owned more than one section of property near Loon Lake and on Ice Road (between Rt.50 and North of Georgetown). To just say “the rest is history” is to put aside the probable book series that might describe this family’s movement through time. Grandmother Schlein and her daughter, Leah, were key in the raising of a fourth generation young lady named Maxine Hurley.
Maxine was not always a ranch hand at heart, though riding horses at two or three years of age is still a vivid memory. Locally she participated in horse shows, parades and trail rides, sometimes riding from Garden Valley to Placerville to compete. She attended local schools until Reno called her entrepreneurial spirit out to play. She saw little of her dad, Red (Daniel) Hurley. The Hurley boys were known throughout Grass Valley and Auburn as roustabout miners with attitude, cowboys turning the world upside down.
Maxine went on to obtain a pilot’s license; work in a number of industries,including a Sunglass store in Reno, eventually returning to Placerville in 1984 to build the Irish Creek Ranch and the home it is today. Feeding cows in the early morning and working the ranch by herself wasn’t enough. She went to work on Main Street, owning a dress shop, “Maxine’s”, and getting a real estate license in 1989. “I like my own money,” Maxine states with a shrug.
Jump ahead through marriages, divorces, missing parents, her mother’s death in 1994, and many moves of house and home as we follow Maxine to her current tenure of Irish Creek Ranch with her husband Wendell Smith, whom she met on a blind date in 1998.
Wendell is no stranger to the entrepreneurial spotlight. He is distinguished in USAF military service, and a graduate of Cornell’s Agriculture School and Michigan State University. He began a long history of community involvement throughout the U.S. as President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce, at the same time building a unique reputation in building and repositioning food industry firms for better production and profit. He has held key positions as a consultant, Chamber president, and CEO and founder of Super Petz in Ohio, for example.
His latest experience with Cielo Vineyards and Winery LLC, as Chief Operation Officer, resulted in a 66% increase in sales with lower operational costs. His most current business endeavor culminated in getting his license and joining Maxine in real estate.
Irish Creek Ranch is home to a heard of cattle, Maxine’s Arabian riding horse, and Arthur and Harley, two lovable Jack Russell terriers. Arthur has front seat rights in the tractor! Vegetables, grapes, and almond, apple, olive and peach trees grace the 55 acre property. The current drought has put a set of challenges upon Irish Creek as well as other ranchers who now must rely on buying bales of alfalfa at $10-15/bale. The cattle easily consume one bale per day and would normally be grass-fed. The only water source are two wells that supply the agricultural needs of the ranch.
Future plans for Irish Creek include buying additional adjoining property; expanding the cattle herd, potentially expanding into camping facilities. Perhaps the “1870 Original Home” might become a “Farm Stay Guest House”. Maxine continues to live the ranch life, despite challenges like water, time and not enough hours in a day, and says: “My secrets include my enthusiasm, energy, a positive attitude, and Wendell as a ranch hand!”