The Ghost of the Eerie Spaniard
By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
In 1883, a local historian of San Luis Obispo wrote of a place that many considered was haunted by a proud Spaniard who had made a dying request that "his body should be carried to the top of the rock and be buried among the jutting crags and scant vegetation" within sight of the home he had built called "El Morro".
Morro Rock rises 580 feet above the surface and is about a half mile off shore. It covers over 50 acres. A quiet bay lies between the rock and the mainland once known as Estero Bay by the Spaniards who settled in the area.
In 1831, Don Vicente Canet built his home not far off. He spent $40,000 for labor and material. It was plastered with crushed gypsum and the flooring was brought around the Horn on sailing vessels. One wing contained a chapel with a raised altar. He held fiestas, bull fights and horse races.
It was said that he raced his beautiful stallion down to the bay and rowed across to his beloved rock, and spent hours climbing its sides and gazing out over the vast ocean.
Fifty years after Don Canet built his home, Myron Angel, a newspaperman and San Luis Obispo historian, wrote the ghost story The Eerie Spaniard of Morro Castle or The Legend of Morro Rock based on the phantom of Vicente Canet. In his 1883, History of San Luis Obispo County, Angel wrote of a place that many county residents of the early 1880s thought to be haunted:
A Spaniard so loved the great Rock and beautiful bay that he built a splendid home, for the times, calling it Morro Castle. It was built about 1830, was over two hundred feet long, two stories high, with walls three feet thick, iron -barred doors and windows, a court and corridors.
Don Vicente Canet, was already 35 years old when he sailed aboard the Spanish naval vessel Asia, from Valenciana, Spain close to the French Pyrenees. He arrived in Monterey Presidio in 1825, and promptly jumped ship once it docked. Mexican California was in desperate need of literate military personnel, and Canet rose through the ranks.
He married, Rosa Maria Josefa Butrón y Dominguez in 1828. She was the daughter of Manuel José Butrón and María Ignacia Rita Higuera of Rancho La Natividad. Fortunately for him his bride was wealthy and politically connected. They had at least six children, three of which reached adulthood.
Canet was appointed administrator of the mission at San Luis Obispo. He also bought land during these years and raised mission cattle.
In 1840, he was removed as administrator but Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado, a relative of his wife granted him a 4,400-acre piece of land known as Rancho San Bernardo. It lay five miles east of Morro Bay.
With the cession of California to the United States following the Mexican-American War, the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided that the land grants would be honored. As required by the Land Act of 1851, a claim for Rancho San Bernardo was filed with the Public Land Commission in 1852, and the grant was patented to Vicente Canet in 1865.
In the mid-1800s there were no newspapers in San Luis Obispo, so federal notices were posted on the front of the Canet Adobe.
Vicente Canet died in 1858, and his body was interred in the Canet family cemetery on the southeastern side of Highway 1. In 1880, Vicente's son Jose set aside an acre surrounding his father's grave to be used as the family cemetery. It is still in use by the Canet family and one of the last burials was in 2022.
In 1874, the Canet Family sold the western portion of the Rancho San Bernardo extending from San Bernardo Creek to Morro Creek to Francisco Estevan Quintana (1809-1880).
Myron Angel visited the Canet Adobe in the 1880s, which by then was ruined. It was built on a gently sloping knoll beside the San Lusita with the mountains rising behind it.
He wrote, "The 'Castle still stands about two and a half miles south of Morro on a little rise close to the road, iron bars and all. A Swiss family occupies it and a cow yard is close at hand. Alas for romance in a "cow country"!
Wherever (Canet’s) body may have been laid, his spirit seems not to have found rest; for it is said that strange noises are heard around the house he built, and slow, stealthy steps measure the length of the garret and seem to descend to the ground outside. The present owner assured us that he seldom entered this place, and that he had done nothing to have it cleared of the debris he found there. Moth-eaten remnants of gay, rich Spanish costumes were lying in curious heaps on the floor, but I could well fancy how these garments resumed their former glitter when at midnight they clothed again the supple form of the proud Spaniard, and how his fiery steed found his way out of the hills to carry his master in one mad gallop down to the Morro Rock.
Canet’s widow married Postmaster John Simmler and moved into an adobe on Dana which would eventually be owned by the city. She died in 1890.
Why would Canet want to be buried on Morro Rock? Folklore from the 1840s and 1850s suggests he felt that Gov. Alvarado should have granted him both the Rancho San Bernardo, and the 8,045-acre Rancho Moro y Cayucos which included Morro Rock.
Did Canet’s greed for land pursue him past death, or did he yearn to be buried where he found moments of tranquility in life?
Source - The Tribune
Leave a Reply.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer