Christianna & Albe
Neither of us would have guessed we’d be running a ranch but the universe has its own plan and knows best. Ranch life is demanding but incredibly rewarding.
As yogis and meditators, we strive to emit a balanced and loving energy. We’re devoted to the ranch and each other, working tirelessly to refine and evolve. Our heart and soul go into cultivating space for ease and joy.
Long Story Short
The ranch has been in the family since 1884 starting as a wheat and cattle ranch. In 1900, the ranch won the Grand Prix Gold Medal for the world’s finest wheat, which we now distill into tasty whiskey. In 2015, Dad was ready to retire and I was looking for a meditative space for yoga retreats. So I took the leap and met Albe two months later. How serendipitous!
Together, we’ve evolved the ranch from a grazing pasture to a place to gather to celebrate new beginnings.
Long Story Long
Our home was home to the Muwekma Ohlone people who were deeply connected to the land. They lived with a spiritual focus and Shamans journeyed to Mt Diablo (which was believed to be the creation of man) to pay reverence and pray. There are magical and metaphysical powers associated with this region and there were regular intertribal festivals. It was an abundant place to live and they shared their bountiful resources.
Next came the Spanish settlers with their missions and malaria, wiping out most of the indigenous people and their culture. Followed by Mexico’s secularization of the missions and a new wave of land grants attracting new settlers to California. This is how J West Martin acquired Rancho Santa Rita for $10,000 at an administrator's sale.
Martin was the ultimate startup man and while he was developing the ranch…
Back in Mississippi, Henry S. Foote was the last governor elected on the Union ticket. A firebrand abolitionist in the U.S. Senate, he opposed 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, 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.
But they had 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. In 1897 Richard 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 San Francisco's Olympic Club and Athenian-Nile Club, the premier gentlemen's social club – the town's movers and shakers - and Oakland's shadow power base. It was your standard star chamber, old-boy network where inkless winks and 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” who 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 who was helping Carneal farm. They married, had four sons and purchased a portion of Carneal's holdings now called Reinstein Ranch.
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 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.
The ranch house was built in 1893 and was called the home place. There was a kitchen fire in 1980 and my grandparents built a new house up the hill. We used explore the old abandoned house as kids looking for hidden treasure. Much of the history had been lost until my dad cleaned up the ranch and restored the house in 2003, when he discovered the gold medal that was won at the Paris World’s Fair, a treasure indeed!