Don Ygnacio Martinez was a Spanish officer stationed in San Diego and Santa Barbara from 1799 to 1819. After serving as Commandante of the Presidio from 1822 to 1831, with California under Mexican rule, Don Ygnacio retired from military service. In 1837 he became the third mayor of San Francisco. While acting as Commandante, he applied for a grant of land known as Rancho El Pinole. The grant contained over 17,700 acres, and was authorized in 1824. In 1848, after California became part of the United States, the grant was confirmed by the Surveyor General of the U. S. for California. Don Ygnacio died in 1848, whereupon the land was divided among his children. In 1849, Don Vicente Martinez built what is now known as the Martinez Adobe on his portion of the inheritance.
The Martinez Adobe is a two-story ranch house typical of mid-1840 California. The foundation is of rough stone, while the walls are adobe brick, ranging in thickness from 24 to 30 inches. The roof was covered with sawn wood shingles of either cedar or redwood. Each floor had two rooms, separated by an adobe wall.
Don Vicente Martinez sold the Adobe in 1853 to Edward Franklin, for whom Franklin Canyon was named. A Mr. Thomas Redfern bought the home in 1861. In 1873, Redfern shot and killed one Michael Duffy, apparently inside the Adobe, but was never found guilty.
Doctor John Strentzel, father-in-law of John Muir, purchased the Martinez Adobe in December 1874. Dr. Strentzel is often called the father of California Horticulture. A fruit rancher, Strentzel used the Adobe as a storehouse and residence for his employees, usually the overseers, since the Chinese laborers had buildings of their own. Strentzel may have lived in the Adobe for a short time, while awaiting completion of his mansion on a nearby hill in 1883.
During the 1800’s, the fruit ranch, under Muir’s direction, was operating very successfully and on a large scale. Some of the employees lived in a two-story building just west of the Adobe. The Chinese had their homes along the creek southwest of the mansion, and there were barns and ranch buildings in back of the Adobe.
In the latter portion of 1906, Muir’s daughter, Wanda and her new husband Tom, moved into the adobe and remained there until 1915.
Since Muir’s death in 1914, the Adobe has had many owners, including a tailor who used part of it as a shop. The downstairs west bedroom, the downstairs bath, toilet, lavatory, laundry room, concrete deck and wall were all added after Muir’s time. Concerned citizen, Louis Stein helped save the Adobe from destruction in 1955, and in 1966, it became the property of the National Park Service.
More than a century has passed since Don Vicente Martinez built his home on California soil. Five generations of Americans have owned the Adobe and witnessed great changes in the county, state, and in the nation itself. In viewing the Adobe today, we hope that you can take time to reflect on life in 19thcentury America, how our ancestors influenced our lives, and how we may affect the lives of future generations.