We are a family regenerating the land. We are makers, growers, builders and lovers of the great outdoors and the sense of spaciousness it provides.
We are advocates of play and the ranch is our playground. We grow wheat, make whiskey, create in the woodworking shop, play in the music studio, practice yoga, meditate, grow vegetables make nourishing meals in the same kitchen our great grandmother once used, take care of horses and collaborate with all types of creative people and communities. And we love to share our playground.
Thom – 4th generation, born and raised on the ranch, As a kid, he would climb the stack of hay bales to get service on his tiny radio, dreaming of another world. Once 18, he fled the ranch and entered the world of radio. After two decades of city life, heartbreak rerouted his path back to the ranch. Settling in once again, he realized the ranch had not changed but he had. With a new sense of appreciation, he restored the once dilapidated ranch house and began boarding horses so the land could generate some money. It was backbreaking work but he is now able to revel in the fruits of his efforts. His two passions are whiskey and music and you are likely to find him in the distillery or his music studio.
Christianna – 5th generation, as a kid she remembers the ranch as a wild place, a historic playground of old, rusted unknown things. Once 18, she found herself on a similar path directed away from country life into the city and abroad. It was also heartbreak that set the stage for the transition back to her roots. In a search for spaces to host yoga retreats, she realized how blessed she was to have her own canvas to facilitate self-exploration and elevate consciousness. Once settled in, she began hosting events and retreats and strives to improve experiences for ranch guests. She is a lover of people, food, yoga and meditation. You are likely to find her in the kitchen, in the garden or on the mat.
Zack – Younger brother moved out to the ranch to help his dad with the horses. He studied plant and soil science and after realizing that wheat grown on the ranch had won a Gran Prix gold medal at the Paris World’s Fair in 1900, he decided to revive the tradition. With a heart of gold, Zack is the guy if you’re in need of a hand, a shoulder or an ear. You are likely to find him in the distillery or on the tractor out in the field.
Ancestors – The past was a time of traditional farmers where the men had weathered skin; strong arms and few words worked long days rain or shine.
Albe – An adventurer at heart, he chose California for an experiment while finishing his PhD in physics and shortly before he was supposed to return to Germany, his path crossed Christianna’s (okay, let’s be real… they met on Tinder). He was enchanted with her and the wild nature of the ranch. Neither were looking for a relationship but the match was undeniable and they were engaged within a year. The couple meditate together daily, keeping them inspired and helping them patiently tend to the (at times daunting) 80 acres and each other. As a scientist and natural problem solver, he finds the ranch a goldmine for optimization. He discovered a passion in restoring and working with wood; creating intricate and useful pieces including shelves, tables, a tiny house and outdoor shower. You are most likely to find him in the woodworking shop, his very own lab at the ranch.
Libby – She met Christianna at a meditation retreat and was encouraged to visit to the ranch before returning home. Organization happened to be her strong suit and the ranch was in dire need of just that. Libby is from Alabama and plays her vital role virtually. Green juice in hand, she is on the front lines of communication and structure so the family can keep a bird’s eye view. If she’s not camping or traveling, she’s dreaming about it.
There are magical and metaphysical powers associated with the Morgan Territory area just beyond our backyard which was home to the Volvon tribe from an estimated 12,000 years ago until 250 years ago. The mountain was a spiritual focus and shamans went there to pray. The prosperous tribe hosted regular festivals and shared their bountiful resources. Over 2000 bedrock mortar sites have been discovered and you can go for a hike and see them yourself. This culture of great antiquity existed up until just about 250 years ago.
Then came the period of the Mexican Ranchos when this piece was a part of Rancho Santa Rita. Immediately after California became the 31st state, J West Martin acquired Rancho Santa Rita for $10,000 at an administrator's sale owning both the ranch and the cattle that came with the land title. Martin was the ultimate “start-up” man; a venture capitalist, cattle baron, the 22 mayor of Oakland, one of the original U.C.
Regents, a banking startup entrepreneur, and cofounder of Oakland Gas, Light and Heat Company.
The next portion of the ranch’s history is a labyrinth of coincidence and providence including mystery, duels, intrigue, political connections, Bay-Area high society, wealth and murder. Even though it reads like fiction, all is verifiable.
Henry S. Foote was the last governor elected in Mississippi on the Union ticket; a dangerous vocation prior to the civil war. He was a firebrand abolitionist in the U.S. Senate, opposing the African slave-trade and the mistreatment of captured Union prisoners. He was noted as having pulled a pistol out in a scuffle on the Senate floor and fighting at least four duels (presumably he won them). Seeing his attempts to reason with Confederate legislators fall on deaf ears, he abandoned all connection with the Confederacy due to rising anti-Union fervor in Mississippi.
Thomas Carneal Sr. was the son-in-law and political cohort to Governor Foote. One sunny day in 1853 he was at a stopover on a Mississippi river cruise when a local judge invited him to have a drink. Carneal replied that “he would not take drink with a man who abused his Negroes.” A fight ensued as Thomas brandished a bowie knife and killed the judge, “in self-defense”. This act however, did not save his life as later that day the son of the deceased judge confronted Carneal with a double barrel shotgun.
Jane Foote was the wife of Thomas Carneal Sr and bore his son, Thomas Carneal Jr one month after his tragic death.
Henry S. Foote was instrumental in passing the compromise of 1850, that guaranteed the newly admitted State of California would be a free state, prohibiting slavery. After his term as governor expired in 1854, Henry, Jane and Carneal Jr headed west to California.
Upon establishment of the J West Martin ranch, a unique sequence of events began to unfold. Through a circuitous route, Martin married Jane Foote and acquired a new stepson in Thomas D Carneal Jr. The Martins welcomed two new sons into the family, Shelby and Richard Winter Martin.
Shelby and Richard seemed to have little interest in the ranch (or any real work at all) and became part of San Francisco/Oakland's society of social mirth and frolic. The “gay life”, as the SF Chronicle would write in the late 1890's of Richard's preference (meaning carefree), caught up with him in 1897 when he died of an overdose of alcohol and Laudanum, a powerful over-the-counter opiate bought from the local apothecary.
On the other hand, Carneal Jr was hard working and driven. Much like his stepfather, he had extensive business dealings throughout the San Francisco/Oakland business communities for several decades. He was a member of the San Francisco's Olympic Club and Athenian-Nile Club. For nearly a century the Athenian-Nile Club was Oakland's premier gentlemen's social club – the town's movers and shakers! This effectively made it Oakland's shadow power base. It was your standard star chamber, old-boy network where inkless wink, backroom handshake deals went down.
Carneal became an internationally renowned agriculturalist. His techniques for refining the selection of wheat seed with a grain “blower” or cleaner, (still parked in one of our tractor sheds,) proved effective. This experiment brought him the Grand Prix gold medal at the Paris World's fair in 1900. We still have the medal today.
Being married to his work, Carneal was a lifelong bachelor and “gentleman rancher” and he needed household help. This is where my family enters the story. Christine Rasmussen, my great grandmother, served as Carneal's cook and housekeeper. It was here that she met my great grandfather Henry. They were eventually married, had four sons and purchased a portion of Carneal's holdings now called Reinstein Ranch.
When Carneal passed away in 1930, the Oakland Tribune wrote that Carneal left “one of the strangest wills ever filed in Alameda County” according to the Oakland Tribune; it was 24 words long hand written on Olympic Club stationary in 1924.
The County had intended to name the street that intersects Highand Rd. “Reinstein Road.” But to be sure of spelling they visited my great grandmother who insisted, in no uncertain terms that it should be named after “Mr. Carneal!” My dad often teased her about it, making sure she knew how many dates that probably cost him. The old Highland School just across from the ranch was built by Carneal to support the local families who lived nearby. My great grandfather walked down the driveway to this school every day of his elementary education to the sound of the 1100 lb brass bell now in the ranch yard.