Scott Swendiman's Sacramento River House
By Christy Milan
First Ferry Crossing
Story by Christy Milan
UP ON A HILL on the north side of the Sacramento River Bridge in Anderson sits a turn-of-the-century red barn. It overlooks Clover Creek as it winds past on its way to meet the river. The black locusts that twist and turn their way up to the sky tower above the bridge. During spring, thick vines with lush green leaves spiral up the rugged trunks, creating an enchanting canopy and a calm serenity. Later in summer, white flowers emerge and cascade down. A private driveway leads you past the red barn to the home. A house nestled among tall valley oaks seems to observe the beautiful landscape. While most will enjoy the beauty as they drive by, many are unaware of the hidden history that surrounds this area.
The Sacramento River House and its property was the site of the first ferry crossing the Sacramento River. It is part of the trail known as the Immigrant Trail. The Emigrant Ferry or Immigrant Ferry began in 1852, became the Wells Ferry in 1853 and continued to operate until the Anderson Free Bridge was built in 1886. Wagon trains, livestock, carriages and travelers would gather in the pasture before heading on in hopes of discovering their fortunes. The first settlers planted black locusts to use for ax handles and shovels more than 150 years ago. Today, the locusts that line the northwest side of the bridge are a reminder of days when only a ferry could be used to cross the Sacramento River.
In the 1890s, Vint and Laura Stevenson rented the property with their children, Merle and Mable. Later their third child, Thaddeus, was born in the existing house. Various people have owned the home over the years, and the current owner, real estate broker Scott Swendiman, fell in love with the property in 1996 and purchased it three years later.
Vint Stevenson’s cousin, Christine Stevenson Jones and her husband, Chris, own a neighboring river property that was part of the original ranch. Both the Swendiman and Stevenson families are rooted in the area and are lifelong friends.
After Swendiman’s daughter was married at the Sacramento River House, others began to inquire about the property. The result became an outdoor event space. Swendiman credits his three daughters and many friends and family members for their help. Daughter Kelly Flowers adds, “The Sacramento River House served as the perfect backdrop for our wedding. Growing up in the Redding area, I wanted something that incorporated the natural beauty of our town, as well as something that was unique. We were married under the arbor, which was beautiful, and our guests enjoyed the riverfront views and comfortable atmosphere. The whole place feels so welcoming and the property’s rich history was just the cherry on top.”
Over the years, the property has been turned into an inviting space where guests can plan a true experience. Some improvements include clearing, irrigating and fencing the property. The historical home has also been renovated. The pastoral grounds are studded with majestic valley oaks and provide acres to explore and discover. One such discovery was the cable rigging for the ferry and the anchor used to hold the ferry if the rigging failed. A private boat dock and driving range allows guests to relax and play. An outdoor fire pit provides a cozy, intimate atmosphere.
The property has been used for family retreats, weddings, birthdays, events and reunions. “Owning this property has been a wonderful opportunity for our family,” Swendiman says. “We meet interesting people who visit Redding for every reason imaginable. I take pride in knowing that this beautiful location will live in the memories and photos of every experience that takes place at this cherished Sacramento River House.” •
The Sacramento River House