Starting in the late 1700's, however, Spanish soldiers and missionaries caused the Esselens to leave their villages and move into the missions. Within a few years they were so thoroughly mixed in with other mission Indians and so decimated by European diseases that they no longer existed as a separate people. Today very little is known of their way of life
Except for a handful of mission escapees, the rugged Santa Lucia mountain range remained uninhabited until the mid-1800s. The Spaniards called the area "El Pais Grande del Sur" or "the big country of the south." This finally was shortened to Big Sur.
One of the first American pioneers in Big Sur was George Davis. He grew fruit and raised bees for about eight years before selling his land to Manuel Innocenti. Manual and his wife Francesca worked as a vaquero on Juan Cooper's Rancho el Sur. They lived in the Homestead Cabin which is now part of the park.
The Pfeiffers were the first European immigrants to settle permanently in Big Sur. Michael Pfeiffer and his wife Barbara built a house near the mouth of Sycamore Canyon in 1869. There son, John, homesteaded a 160 acre parcel on the north bank of the Big Sur River and in 1884 moved to the site of the Homestead Cabin. When Big Sur became more popular and the need for accommodations became apparent, John and his wife, Florence, opened Pfeiffer's Ranch Resort on the site of today's Big Sur Lodge.
In 1933 the State of California purchased 680 acres of land from John Pfeiffer and named the new park in his honor. Many of the fine, old, rustic-style buildings in today's 810 acre park were constructed during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps. For more information contact Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Big Sur, CA 93920: 408-667-2315