The San Ramon Chapel


"It was a dry year of 1875. Grandfather Frederick Wickenden had 5,000 sheep and there was no grass. To save them he started driving them north. In the Salinas Valley they found grass and they had their lambs. Grandfather continued on to Redwood City where he sold the 5,000 sheep for a dollar apiece. With the money, he purchased redwood boards at the mills and shipped them to Port Harford. He had purchased enough to add eight rooms to the Wickenden Adobe and build a chapel." (Winston Wickenden, great grandson of Benjamin Foxen, shares a "Foxen Family version" of how it all came about.)

1872:The property where the San Ramon Chapel and cemetery is located is purchased from the US Government by Frederick and Ramona (Foxen) Wickenden, and donated for the church site.

1875:Frederick Wickenden sells 5,000 sheep to purchase redwood boards to add on to his house and build a chapel. The chapel is constructed by Fred Foxen, his brother Thomas and Chris Clausen, a carpenter from Los Alamos.

1876:The coffin containing the remains of Benjamin Foxen is moved to the chapel cemetery.

1879:The chapel is placed under the patronage of Saint Raymond Nonnatus ( San Ramon ), patron of agriculture and farming, by Bishop Francis Mora. The chapel is dedicated as the San Ramon Chapel. Services are held once a month.

1908:The San Ramon chapel is turned over to the newly established Saint Mary's Parish in Santa Maria. Father Terns discontinues regular services. From 1908 until 1933 the San Ramon chapel is used only for an occasional funeral or baptism.

1936: After being reroofed and painted the chapel is rededicated by a group of Santa Barbara citizens led by R.E. Easton.

1950: A Plaque is erected by the Daughters of the Golden West ( Santa Maria Parlor # 276 ). They designated the chapel the Benjamin Foxen Memorial Chapel.

1958: A Project is initiated by Winston Wickenden to restore the chapel. The original wood post footings are replaced with a concrete block foundation.

1959: The Benjamin Foxen Memorial Chapel committee reports that the restoration work has been completed.

1966: The Benjamin Foxen Memorial Chapel becomes the first historical landmark in Santa Barbara County.

1972: A Group of local citizens, concerned with deterioration and vandalism, formed the San Ramon Preservation committee. Lighting is installed.

1974: A chain link fence is erected around the chapel and cemetary to deter vandals.

1975: On Sunday August 31, the San Ramon Chapel ( renamed ) is dedicated as California State Historical Landmark #877. The Santa Maria Cemetery Association which holds the title to the property paints the outside of the chapel before the dedication. Mass is celebrated by Father Bertin Foxen, the great grandson of Benjamin Foxen. In December a steel gate closing the road to the chapel is installed and dedicated the John W Woolsey Memorial Gate.

1976: In March the San Ramon Chapel Preservation Committee is incorporated as a non-profit organization with Winston Wickenden as president. On November 14, at 10:30 a.m. Father Anthony Runtz resumes weekly mass at the San Ramon Chapel.

1978:The Chapel is reroofed. Replacement frames and new glass for the top arches of all six windows are installed.

1979:The first BBQ combined with the Rancho Sisquoc Winery Tour is held at the Sisquoc Grange. Proceeds from the BBQ go to the preservation committee.

1983:The preservation committee agrees to restore the chapel at a cost of $12,154. The chapel is raised and a new concrete foundation is installed. The original church benches are replaced and the old benches sold. The Santa Maria Cemetery Association approaches the San Ramon Preservation Committee about leasing the chapel and cemetery grounds for a period of 99 years for $1.00. The San Ramon Preservation Committee turns down the offer.

1984:The Chapel is painted inside and out, the road graded and windows are replaced. Wrought iron bars are purchased and installed on all windows and doors. Light fixtures are donated by Myron and Lorraine Bettencourt. The deed to the property is transfered to the San Ramon Preservation Committee from the Santa Maria Cemetery District.

1985:An electric heater is installed in the chapel. Charles Maurer, an eagle scout, maps the cemetery. The map is framed and hung at the back of the chapel.

1986:Blacktop is installed on the entrance road to the chapel. Stations of the cross are donated by Drew Crosby.

1987:The chapel is painted by David McNeil. A letter is drafted and sent to Father Garcia at Saint Louis de Montfort Church offering ownership of the chapel and cemetery.

1988:The Catholic Cemetery Archdiocese of Los Angeles indicates that they will not be responsible for the chapel and cemetery. Linda Ontiveros agrees to write a book titled " San Ramon Pioneers And Their California Heritage. Proceeds to go to the preservation committee. A water well is drilled at the chapel site.

1990:The Santa Barbara Foundation awards a grant of $5,000 to go toward the publication of The San Ramon Chapel Pioneers and Their California Heritage.

1994:The San Ramon Beautification Project is OK'd by the preservation committee. Parts of the fence are replaced with a decorative steel fence. White crosses are placed at all unmarked grave sites. Broken grave markers are repaired and the cemetary is thoroughly cleaned. A permanent bathroom facility is installed. A birthday party is held at the chapel celebrating Erlinda Ontiveros's 100th birthday.

1996:The parking lot of the chapel is paved. A Memorial Rose Garden is planted.

1999: The chapel is reroofed. Three prior layers of shingles are removed (including the original wood shinles), the roof is sheeted and a new roof installed. The top four feet of the two towers are replaced. Two new crosses are installed. The chapel is repainted by David Mcniel.