by Boon Hughey
Towering 3,520 feet over Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park, Mount Manuel takes its name from one of the very first settlers to put down roots in Big Sur. The lofty peak is named after Manuel Innocenti, a Chumash indian born at Mission San Buenaventura (Ventura mission) in 1820 and subsequently baptized Manuel Maria de los Inocentes. Translated from the Spanish, de los Inocentes becomes "of the Innocent Ones," in referrence to the native Californians of which Manuel was one.
Manuel stayed at the Ventura mission long enough to meet and marry his wife, Francisca, and begin a family. In about 1868 he took work on a cattle drive that was headed up state to Watsonville, bringing wife and children with him. Shortly thereafter the family moved down the coast to Big Sur. Using 50 borrowed dollars Manuel bought out the only other settler living in Big Sur at the time, George Davis, and moved his family into a cabin near the bend in the Big Sur River in what is now Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park. He went to work for Captain Cooper on the Rancho El Sur, eventually rising to the position of head vaquero.
With time and age Manuel eventually lost his mind and was sent off to the insane asylum in Napa by neighbor Frank Post, where he died shortly thereafter. His widow, Francisca, then sold the homestead to the Post's for $5 and a life estate and lived out the rest of her days in a tiny cabin on the Post Ranch. Upon Dying she was buried alongside 4 or her children on a small flat at the foot of the mountain that still bears her husband's name. Isabella Meadows, the last informant of the long-gone Esselen Indian culture, pointed out that the showy blossom-stalks of the yucca plant were so thick on the side of Mount Manuel above the gravesites that "one needs to put no flowers on their graves."
Clark, Donald Thomas 1991. Monterey County Place Names. Kestrel Press
Norman, Jeff (date unknown) Big Sur History. Down the Coast
Woolfenden, John R. 1981. Big Sur: A Battle for the Wilderness 1869-1985. Boxwood Press