updated 11/12/2010 8:32:55 AM ET 2010-11-12T13:32:55

A Northern California land preservation group has purchased a 272-acre ranch thought to be the first North American site settled by Japanese colonists.

The American River Conservancy says it bought the former Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony in El Dorado County last week for $3.3 million. It hopes to turn it into a public park and museum.

The group says the ranch is known as the only place outside Japan settled by samurai. Established in July 1869, it was used for silk worm farming and for growing rice, tea, stone fruits and bamboo.

The land includes the grave of the first Japanese woman buried on U.S. soil and was the birthplace of the first Japanese immigrant to become a U.S. citizen.

The U.S. Park Service recently designated the ranch as a site of national significance.

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