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Ramirez Castle
José Manuel Ramirez

José Manuel was born in Santiago Chile on August 13, 1804 to parents that were regarded as one of the wealthiest people of the time. In January of 1825, he traveled to Europe in search of wisdom he could not get in the schools due to a lack of resources in Chile.

José Manuel lived in London for six months then settled in Paris. He studies music and painting and decided to devote himself to painting.

He was a disciple and friend of the painter Raymond Monvoisin and received strong influences of French and English romanticism of the era, especially from the School of Barbizon and Fontainebleau directed by Theodore Rousseau.


Ninfas con Fauno 1834

Private Collection



Courtesy of Pinacoteca Universidad de Concepcion

Paisaje Exotico

Courtesy Casa Museo Eduardo Frei MonTalva

He returned to Chile by the year 1836 and settled mainly in Valparaiso

El Molino

Courtesy Museo de Bellas Artes

His best known works are of European landscapes, with a thin line which is clearly reflected in his most important painting “El Molino”. José Manuel also painted marine themes.

In 1837 he married Pastora Cortés y Alcazar, the daughter of the Marquis of Cañada Hermosa. He painted very little and spent much time working the lands of his wife in Purutun, Chile.

On January 4, 1849, José Manuel Ramirez and John Sampson signed a contract in Valparaiso creating a company to exploit gold and other metals from the mine’s at Alta California. On January 9, 1849 José Manuel and John Sampson, accompanied by approximately 30 Chilean laborers began travel to California on board the frigate Julia. They arrived in San Francisco around March 22, 1849.

USS Cumberland

A ship of the same era as the Julia

In September 1849, José Manuel, John Sampson, and Theodore Sicard acquired ¾ interest in the property known as Nye’s Ranch from Charles Covillaud. They formed a company known as C. Covillaud & Company. In December they decided to establish a city and named it after Charles Covillaud’s wife Mary Murphy, a survivor of the Donner party. In January 1850, the City of Marysville was formed.

José Manuel returned to Chile to buy materials to build a house. He also brought seeds and plants back to Marysville from Chile. He began construction on his house in 1851 and completed it in 1854. The house was designed by a Chilean architect in the Gothic style. It was built with adobe, bricks, cement, and wood with three floors and a basement. The house was built as houses are in Chile to withstand earthquakes. The brick walls are 30 inches thick. The floors on the second floor consist of two layers of brick on a foundation of sand that was placed on the top of heavy beams of wood brought from Chile. The house still exists today and is considered one of the most interesting houses in Marysville.

Ramirez Castle - Date Unknown
This photograph courtesy of the Yuba County Library California Room.  Please contact the Library for restrictions on use.

José Manuel Ramirez was known as a capitalist and was considered a Frenchman by many because he spoke fluent French. He was an entrepreneur, wine maker, rancher, and artist. He was a man of many talents. There were many other ventures that José Manuel Ramirez was involved in.

The Ramirez Castle still exists today in Marysville. It is owned by Fredrick Gibbons and Mandy Olmstead. Below are recent interior and exterior pictures of the house.

The text of this article was provided to the Yuba County Museum of History by Andy Jeremi. Andy was raised in Chile and is currently working on a biography of Mr. Ramirez. We are grateful to him for providing this information. This information is Copyright by Mr. Andy Jeremi and was used with permission.