December Spotlight – Post Ranch Inn

Post Ranch Inn began with a handshake in 1984, but the history of the ranch goes back to 1848, when 18 year old William Brainard Post stepped off a ship in Monterey.

W.B. Post (there were so many Bill Posts, that the original Bill Post is always referred to as W.B.)

A spirited explorer and entrepreneur, W.B. Post spent his early years on the California coast where he hunted grizzly bear and deer. Later he became a businessman, starting the first grain warehouse in Moss Landing and the first butcher shop in Castroville. In 1850 William Brainard Post married Anselma Onesimo, of Costanoan descent, with whom he had five children.

This is probably the only photograph ever taken of Anselma Onesimo, a tintype found in a family bible.

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 a neighbor, Elizabeth Gilkey. Joe 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 took hunters and fishermen on pack trips into the wilderness around Big Sur.

Joe Post, youngest son of WB and Anselma, Billy Post’s Grandfather. Though he was the youngest child, he seems to have been a natural leader

Joe and Lizzie Post

Lizzy and son, Bill, Billy Post’s dad.

Their son Bill continued the family tradition of leading trips and working as a cowboy and rancher. While employed as the mail carrier from Monterey to Big Sur, Bill gave a ride to Irene Fredricks, 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.

Billy’s parents, Irene and Bill Post in front of the Rancho Sierra Mar Café, which is now the maintenance building for Ventana Inn. It was in honor of this first family restaurant that the Post Ranch Inn’s Sierra Mar Restaurant was named.

Born in 1920, Bill Post lived in Big Sur most of his life, and there were many chores on the self-sufficient homestead. After serving in the Marine Corps in World War II, Bill came home to run the ranch. He was raising two daughters on his own when he met and married Luci, the love of his life.

Joe branding a steer, Bill’s dad on the horse.

Bill leading a trail ride

Billy and Mary Post at a cowboy dress party at the old barn, which was where the parking lot to Ventana Restaurant is now.

Over the years, it grew difficult to hold on to 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 Daniel’s, 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 ways than one. It was Luci’s idea to honor the early history of Big Sur by using the ranch’s cattle brand as the Inn’s logo, and she put together the library. Bill named each guest room in honor of the Post family and Big Sur pioneers.

Bill and Luci Post at the entrance road to the ranch after it first opened as an inn.

Bill’s sister, the late Mary Post Fleenor, ran the Rancho Sierra Mar Café until it closed in 1972. On its opening night in 1992, the Sierra Mar Restaurant was dedicated to Mary’s memory.

Bill Post, a loyal steward of this land for almost 90 years, was an exceptional and irreplaceable host for thousands of inn guests for seventeen years. We have the privilege of enjoying this soulful and historical property because of his generosity and foresight to make it available to guests. Bill’s gentle and genial hospitality remains an inspiration to all of us at Post Ranch Inn.

Article written by Soaring Starkey, Post Ranch Inn Historian. Historical photographs from the collection of Joseph William Post III.