CPOA sent this out today as an email. I am saddened at the passing of Bill Post, a descendent of one of the original homesteaders in Big Sur. The announcement of his passing includes some of the Post Family history, which is always fascinating to read, particularly for those in love with Big Sur, but not particularly knowledgeable about the history.
I took this last year of the original Post Ranch homestead. To create something a little different of this much-photographed historical building, I used the “Orton Effect” on this photograph.
Bill Post passed away last night. Born in Big Sur to a homesteader family, Bill’s passing marks the end of an era for the Big Sur Coast.
Native American, a wise and kind and gentle soul, the Gentleman of Big Sur will be missed and remembered by all who knew him.
The following is excerpted with credit to the Post Ranch Inn regarding the history of the Post Family:
Post Ranch Inn began with a handshake in 1984, but the history of the area goes back much further. Carbon dating indicates the Costanoan Indians inhabited the region for more than 3,600 years. Most of the Indians eventually succumbed to disease introduced by soldiers and missionaries, and Big Sur remained relatively devoid of inhabitants until the 1860s, when the first western pioneers arrived on the scene.
William Brainard Post, an 18-year-old Connecticut Yankee, stepped off a ship in Monterey in 1848. A spirited explorer and entrepreneur, W.B. Post spent his early years on the California coast hunting grizzly bear and deer. He later traded in his buckskin and became a businessman, starting the first grain warehouse in Moss Landing and the first butcher shop in Castroville.
In 1850, W. B. married Anselma Onesimo, of Costanoan descent, with whom he had five children. When he took out a claim on 160 acres of land in Big Sur, he became one of the region’s first homesteaders. With the help of his sons, he built a cabin. The red New England-style house, a registered historical landmark, still stands on Highway 1 across from the entrance to Post Ranch Inn. The Post family raised cattle and hogs and exported apples from a thriving orchard.
W.B. and Anselma’s youngest son, Joe, married Elizabeth Gilkey, a neighbor of Cherokee descent, and eventually bought up claims from both of their families, accumulating nearly 1,500 acres, including the area of Post Ranch Inn. Together the adventurous couple ran the ranch and acquired the wilderness around Big Sur. Their son Bill continued the family tradition of leading trips and working as a cowboy and rancher.
While carrying mail from Monterey to Big Sur, Bill met Irene Fredericks, a city girl whose romance with Bill turned her summer visit to Big Sur into a lifelong stay. The couple opened Rancho Sierra Mar, a small resort and café near the Post family home, which they ran with their two children, Billy and Mary.
Bill Post has been in Big Sur most of his life, and there were many chores on the self-sufficient homestead. After serving in the Marine Corps in WW II, Bill came home to run the ranch. He was raising two daughters on his own when he met and married Luci.
Over the years, it grew difficult to hold onto the old style of ranching. In the early 1980s, a close friend and neighbor approached Bill and Luci with the idea of turning the land into an inn that would preserve the integrity and history of the Post family’s property. After shaking hands on the deal, they sealed the Post partnership with a shot of Jack Daniels, which has since become the Inn’s unofficial drink. When an agreement was signed years later, the partnership bought Bill a tractor, which he used to do nearly all the excavation and grading to build the Inn.
The Inn has been a Post family project in more than one way. It was Bill’s idea to honor the early history of Big Sur by using the ranch cattle brands as the logo and naming each guest room after Post family and friends. Luci put together the library. The late Mary Post Fleenor ran the Rancho Sierra Mar café until it closed in 1972. On its opening night, the new Sierra Mar restaurant was dedicated to Mary.
A couple of days a week you can find Bill at breakfast at Sierra Mar. You are invited to join him and view his photographs of the old family homestead and cattle ranch. What better way to learn about a place than with someone who has been exploring it for more than 80 years?
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Serving the Big Sur Coast for over 45 years.