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William Benitz
Rancho de Muniz & Fort Ross

Name: Within the Benitz family (and California State Parks), the whole property is known familiarly as Fort Ross.  During the time William rented then owned Fort Ross and Rancho de Muniz it was known locally as “the Benitz rancho” - we avoid this last term as it could apply to other properties.

Raid 1845

In late July, 1845, while William was absent from Fort Ross, a group of rancheros from Sonoma and Marin counties raided the fort and Metini, the neighboring Kashaya village, in search of Indian slave labor.  Per the rancheros own callous testimony in court, they were brutal.


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 Sutterís claim to the land 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.).

The Kashaya’s Metini

Kashaya Band of Pomo Indians
of Stewarts Point Rancheria

The Kashaya Band of Pomo Indians were the first inhabitants of the coastal Sonoma County area around Fort Ross (known to them as METINI).

For about 9,000 years the Kashaya lived in lands that extended from the Gualala River in the North to Duncanís Point south of the Russian River (i.e. all of German Rancho, all of Rancho Muniz, & northern 3 miles of Rancho Bodega).  Kashaya territory extended thirty miles inland from the Pacific coast over coastal mountain ranges down the Warm Springs Creek to the confluence of Dry Creek.

An estimated 1,500 people inhabited this area pre-contact, and migrated seasonally throughout this territory to take full advantage of the resources for their subsistence.  By 1870, only 3 villages remained and by 1914, the United States Federal Government began the process of taking land into Trust, establishing the Stewarts Point Rancheria.




In 1867, William sold Rancho de Muniz and Fort Ross to lumbermen and moved to Oakland.  Today the heart of it is included in the Fort Ross State Historical Park.

© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)