In 1845, with partners Ernest Rufus and Charles Theodor Meyer, William Benitz leased Fort Ross from John A. Sutter (bought from the Russians when they left in 1841) and later that same year from Manuel Torres when the Mexican authorities rejected Sutter’s claim and granted Rancho de Muniz to Torres. Benitz and Meyer bought Rancho de Muniz from Torres in 1851 with a $5,000 promissory note; in 1855 Benitz bought out Meyer ($22,500); in 1857 he paid the note to Torres. In 1859 Benitz paid $6,000 to Sutter, Muldrew, et al for clear title to Fort Ross, which was not included in the original Rancho de Muniz grant. The entire property was surveyed in 1859 and patented in 1860 as the Muniz Rancho at 17,760 acres (7,187 ha.).
In late July, 1845, while William was absent from Fort Ross, a group of rancheros from Sonoma and Marin counties raided the fort and the neighboring Indian village in search of Indian slave labor. Per the rancheros own callous testimony in court, they were brutal.
In 1867, William sold Fort Ross and the Muniz Rancho to lumbermen and moved to Oakland. Today the heart of it is included in the Fort Ross State Historical Park.
© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)