In their youth, John Steinbeck and his sister,
Mary, played at the base of Castle Rock, the “fence of earth” giving
Corral de Tierra its Spanish name. The beautiful valley between
Monterey and Salinas, granted by Governor Guiterrez to Francisco
Figueroa in 1836, inspired Steinbeck’s short stories and
California-based novels. In the last half century, small
neighborhoods have been built in the valleys running off the
Monterey-Salinas Highway, and a sense of independent identity and
community has formed among the residents in the community of Corral
de Tierra, California 93908.
“. . . he saw—a long valley floored
with green pasturage on which a herd of deer browsed.
Perfect live oaks in the meadow of the lovely place, and the
hills hugged it jealously against the fog and wind.”
The Pastures of Heaven
The first person, other than the native
Indians, to wander into what is now Corral de Tierra Valley was
an unnamed Spanish Corporal in 1776. He had been sent in pursuit
of some Rumsen Indians who had escaped from the San Carlos
Mission. In his quest he came upon the valley. In John
Steinbeck’s book, The Pastures of Heaven, the Corporal is quoted
as exclaiming, "Holy Mother, here are the green Pastures of
Heaven to which our lord leadeth us." ….
…During the Mexican Rancho era the rancheros
periodically used a box canyon in the upper valley to hold some
of their livestock. No trace of the corral remains today except
that the present district carries on the name. The valley
remained a wilderness until April 10, 1836 when Nicolas
Gutierrez granted one league (4,434 acres) to Francisco Figueroa
for his daughter Guadalupe. The rancho was bordered on the south
by the Los Laurelos grant in 1844.
The U.S. Lands Commission finally granted the
Corral de Tierra to Henry D. McCobb on January 21, 1876. The
rancho lay, for the most part, outside the boundaries of the
valley that bears its name, except for Calera Canyon, at its
center. Closely entwined with the history of Corral de Tierra is
the Rancho El Toro (5,668 acres) within which the part of the
present-day Markham Ranch is situated. El Toro was granted to
Jose Ramon Estrada in 1835 and patented to Charles Wolters in
…There were two schools in the Valley.
Washington, at about mid-valley, was established in 1873, and by
1880 had 116 students. The other school was Lincoln School at
approximately the intersection of Underwood and Corral de Tierra
road built in 1887. It survived for years but was recently torn
As time passed and the original land owners
passed on or otherwise sold their land , a series of wealthy men
bought up the old homesteads. Among them were Andrew Molera,
David Jacks and Tom Work. In 1913, C.N. Thorup, a realtor,
reacting to the possibility of oil in the Corral de Tierra area,
leased 1,403 acres from the Titus and Bramers families to
explore that possibility. There is no record of any economically
feasible amount ever being found and the leases were allowed to
Thomas R. Whitcher homesteaded on what is now
the Markham Ranch in approximately 1873. Part of his original
wood frame dwelling is still standing and is preserved on
…Development was slow in Corral de Terra until
1959 when the founders of the Corral de Tierra Country Club
purchased 120 acres from W.B. Grainger and built the clubhouse
and golf course. Homer Hayward was the Club’s first president.
This spurred a rush to build homes in the area. That sale and a
sale by the Ferrini family of their property along the west side
of Highway 68 caused a rash of development in Toro Park, San
Benancio, and Corral de Tierra. These early developments soon
led to approval by Monterey County of the Coral de Tierra Oaks
subdivision on April 28, 1965.
Alan Pattee and the Robley family also owned
considerable acreage in Corral de Tierra and it was subdivided
into upscale estate lots. In the 1960s the Chamisal Country Club
was developed and the area has continued to grow.
There are now approximately 13,500 residents
in the Toro Park, San Benancio and Corral de Tierra districts.