Coyote Ranch....formerly Rancho Del Rufugio De La Laguna Seca
& The Original Home of the Fisher Family
Pictures circa 1880's-early 1900's
This Mexican land grant was originally granted on July 22, 1834, by Governor Jose Figueroa to Juan Alvirez, former alcalde of San Jose (1812-1815). It stretched about a mile north of Coyote to Morgan Hill, averaging four miles in width. Coyote Creek flowed through this grant, entering it from the hilly region near the southeast corner and flowing westward past Coyote Station. The Southern Pacific Railroad ran from north to south through the grant near the middle. Miller and Lux, holders of vast tracts of land, later purchased the southern part of this rancho.
Captain Fisher, on one of his sailing trips to Upper California, purchased this four-league-square rancho of 19,973 acres at a Monterey auction for $6,000 in 1845 and later brought his family to the rancho. He used the land to raise livestock and grow grain.
Captain John C. Fremont, in his memoirs, says, "By the middle of February, 1846 we were all re-united in the Valley of San Jose, about 13 miles south of the village of that name on the main road leading to Monterey which was about 60 miles distant... The Place which I had selected for rest and re-fitting was a vacant rancho called the Laguna, belonging to Mr. Fisher. I remained here until February, in the most delightful spring season of a most delightful climate. The time was occupied in purchasing horses, obtaining supplies, and thoroughly re-fitting the party." This occurred prior to the arrival of Captain Fisher's family from Lower California in April, 1846.
Although records are scarce, it is known that Captain Fisher lived in an adobe with his family on the site where the present house, built by his youngest child, Fiacro, now stands. In 1850, at the time of Captain Fisher's death, the rancho was left to this widow, Liberata, and their six (6) children.
Several of William and Liberata's children were born at the old Alvirez adobe, as was George Bull, son of Dr. George Bull and Liberata. The living room was a dirt floor, but the bedroom had redwood floors. The garden consisted of roses, verbenas, and carnations. The dried petals of the Castillian roses, mixed with dried elder blossoms, were used on the ranch for fevers and also as a laxative. To the "prairie schooners" that often made their way as far as Gilroy, the ranch people frequently sold fruit and watermelons.
Not much work was done on the ranch. Labor consisted largely of riding over the great fields and watching the horses, sheep and goats. Traders from merchant ships sometimes came and bought cattle. These traders gave them most of their money. The neighbors helped each other at harvest time, and after work, they danced to violins and guitars.
Saturday evenings they rode into San Jose to attend church at St. Joseph's. They had relatives in town, and they visited them. Saturday evening they went to confession, and Sunday they attended mass and took communion. Sunday evening they rode home to the rancho.
In April 1862, the Burnett Post Office was established inside the 12 Mile House, which was a store, hotel and blacksmith shop. This building was destroyed by fire in 1963; but long before that, the post office was moved and a new, small structure was built by Fiacro C. Fisher, Postmaster, in 1907, next door to the 12 Mile House. There, the Coyote Post Office operated without a break until 1974, even though in 1935 Washington, D.C. had forgotten where it was and had to be told. In 1974, the building built by Fiacro was moved to the San Jose HistoricalMuseum in San Jose.
Near the close of the 19th century, Fiacro built the present day Victoria home south of Metcalf Road. Family historians relate that Gertrude (Hanks) Fisher suffered greatly from asthma, and Fiacro decided to leave the lowlands west of the railroad and build his new home east of the El Camino Hiway to Gilroy and Monterey. This two-story frame house has a porch that goes halfway around the house on the ground floor. It is of the early American classic style, influenced to some extent by the high Victorian Italianate style. The entrance hall is the highlight of the building's interior, with a curving stairway and a parlor which has quarter/sawn oak paneling. The fireplace has solid ornamental oak, glazed ceramic tile, and cast iron decorative elements. Besides the parlor downstairs, there is a large dining room with a corner fireplace, a sitting room and a large kitchen. Upstairs, there are five large bedrooms and below the first floor a full basement. This house has subsequently been named a State Historical Landmark.
Fiacro improved the value of the old rancho through various interests such as stock raising, general ranching and fruit growing. He had a fine dairy with a creamery located on the rancho. He also devoted forty acres to the cultivation of French prunes, one of the earliest prune ranches in the valley. He also planted the first vineyard in the southern Santa Clara Valleysometime before 1881.
Fiacro was active in community affairs in Coyote. In 1892, the people of Coyote formed an association to build a community hall, and Fiacro deeded the land for the building to the Association. The building was completed in 1892 and taken over by the Coyote grange in 1949. It is still used by them today.
Following the death of Gertrude (Hanks) Fisher, widow of Fiacro, in 1914, the estate was divided up into equal shares and the remaining acres of Laguna Seca were sold. Of the original 19,973 acres, 4.3 acres remain, and along with the home and other buildings, is used for raising livestock, training horses and staging hayrides, dances and barbecues. As recently as the 1990's, the Fisher family has held reunions on these grounds. Verl and Margaret Lybbert live in the home and run the business and have refurbished the home with turn-of -the-century feeling with the contemporary look of a working ranch.
Behind the main ranch buildings, 3/4-of-a-mile up the hill to the east, is an old stone building. The origins of the building seem to lie within the grain farming era of the rancho's economic life, having been built as a gristmill, possibly prior to 1850. The milling function of the building was relatively brief, twenty years at most, and has since been used for various other purposes, primarily as a milk cooling room for the dairy and as a residence for the rancho workers. Governor Micheltorena and his 150-man army and artillery made use of the rancho as a military camp in 1844 in his march against the 200-man rebel army of Jose Castro and Charles Weber, a fracas that occurred as a result of the declaration of war between the United States and Mexico over the annexation of Texas. After three days of negotiating, the two forces signed the treaty of Campo de Santa Teresa, or Rancho Alvirez, or Laguna Seca, on December 1, 1844, and the General returned to Monterey. Because of the military operations of General Micheltorena, and later of Captain Fremont, on the rancho, this building is mistakenly called the "Fort". Although times were perilous and native populations often hostile, it seems very unlikely that the building was originally constructed as a fort. There is no mention in the historic records of a fort ever being located on the Fisher rancho."