Christianna & Albe
Neither of us would have guessed we’d be running a ranch but the universe has a sense of humor 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 evolved the ranch from being a grazing pasture, to a place where people can gather to celebrate new beginnings.
Long Story Long
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.
Nearby Mogran Territory was 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.
Next came the period of the Mexican Ranchos when the ranch 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 22nd 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, 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” 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.
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.