California history is rich with the stories of men and women arriving in busy ports on the coast or crossing the mountains on overland travels from the east by train or Conestoga wagon during the 19th Century. California became part of the territory of the United States in 1848, and on September 9, 1850, was admitted to the union as a state. San Luis Obispo County was designated as one of the original 27 counties in February 1850 in preparation for statehood. The California gold rush brought over 300,000 people to the state from all over the world. Many began to migrate south to find a pleasant place to settle and establish a farm or a craft. The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed any American over 21 to put in a claim for up to 160 free acres of surveyed federal land, provided the applicant never took up arms against the US government. The purpose of the Act was to encourage settlement in the Western United States. By the end of the Civil War, at least 15,000 homestead claims had been applied for and established, with many more in the post-war years. Claimants were required to build a dwelling and cultivate the land with agriculture or animal herds. Even earlier, Congress passed a law in 1820 with provisions for the sale of public lands.
Jacob B. Granstaff was one of the earliest settlers in the area to build a home, plant vegetable gardens, apple orchards, and establish a vegetable stand. Located 12 miles west of Templeton and just seven miles from the Pacific Ocean, the area sits at a 1500 feet elevation and receives significantly more rainfall than other areas of San Luis Obispo County.
Jacob’s Homestead Certificate of Registration, 4792, was signed by President Ulysses S. Grant on December 15, 1875. The document states that Jacob B. Grandstaff of San Luis Obispo County, California has deposited in the General Land Office of the United States a Certificate of the Register of the Land Office at San Francisco whereby it appears that full payment has been made by said Jacob B. Grandstaff according to the provisions of the Act of Congress of the 24th of April 1820, entitled “An Act making further provision for the sale of the Public Lands” for the Lot numbered three of Section thirty-two, the Lots numbered four and five and the North West quarter of the North East quarter of Section thirty-one in the township twenty-seven south of Rounge eleven East-Mount Diablo Meridian in the District of Lands subject to sale at San Francisco containing one hundred and twelve acres and seventy eight hundredth of an acre.
The property was located on the eastern slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains, covered in trees, rolling hills and deep canyons. A trail nearby was frequently used by travelers to move cargo from the Paso Robles and San Miguel areas down to the coastal trails and ports between Cayucos and Cambria.
Jacob’s farm was located in the Ascension District, named and recognized as a county school district. Jacob Grandstaff was well-known for his produce and his Mission grapes. Jacob B. Grandstaff is historically important because he is the first person we can document, to plant a vineyard with Mission grapevines in the Ascension District. There is no record that Jacob made wine to sell commercially. It was common practice for families to grow enough grapes to make their own supply of wine. Jacob did have a business; he grew fruit to sell to travelers passing by at his stand, according to correspondence from Sidney York, whose grandfather Andrew York purchased the property from Jacob. Jacob sold apples and may have sold the grapes as fruit for others to buy and enjoy. Jacob was very active in the community, focusing on education. He served at the Superintendent of the Ascension School from 1879 to 1880 and as a Trustee in 1883.
The area was renamed York Mountain, in later years, after Jacob B. Grandstaff sold his property to a farmer named Andrew York in 1882. Jacob felt there were too many newcomers settling in the area, so he decided to move on, to farm in Texas. Although Jacob established this important landmark, it was Andrew York, grower and wine maker, who planted vineyards with additional varietals and built a winery that produced wines continually until the winery’s sale in 1970 to the famous enologist and winemaker Max Goldman. The name York Mountain celebrates three generations of the York family; the family owned winery and vineyards was in business for 85 years. This is the longest run to date of any family-owned winery in San Luis Obispo County.