25 April 2010

Carbon Canyon and Rancho Santa Ana del Chino

Most of the San Bernardino County/City of Chino Hills side of Carbon Canyon falls within the historic Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, a place that has had significant historical events associated with it. 

The western boundary of the rancho follows the San Bernardino/Los Angeles counties border from the north in Tonner Canyon and then heads east through an area north of Sleepy Hollow and through the approved Canyon Hills subdivision where the 1960s concrete Ski Villa ski slope is located.  The boundary then crosses the intersection of Carbon Canyon Road and Canyon Hills Road, skirts Red Apple Lane on the south side of the state highway and, at the top of Canon Lane, heads northeast through the 1920s Mountain View Estates (a.k.a. Mountain View Park) subdivision there and recrosses Carbon Canyon Road just behind (to the east of) the Chino Valley Fire District station.  Extending slightly into the fairways of Western Hills Country Club, the line then turns southeast and goes again across SR 142 at Ginseng Lane and moves through the upper echelons of the Carriage Hills subdivision, via such streets as Promontory and Pinnacle roads before leaving the Canyon for the exclusive reaches of the Vellano subdivision and points south and eastward.

The Santa Ana del Chino rancho had been one of many ranchos used by the Mission San Gabriel for farming and cattle raising from its current location east to San Bernardino until the mission was secularized (essentially shut down) in the 1830s.  Evidently, even after secularization freed mission lands throughout the Mexican department of Alta California for private ownership, mayordomo (overseer) Juan Crispín Pérez of the Mission San Gabriel and later grantee of the Paso de Bartolo rancho encompassing today's Whittier asserted that La Puente (in today's eastern San Gabriel Valley) and Chino were being used for growing wheat and pasturing animals.

In any case, Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado issued a land grant in 1841 to Antonio Maria Lugo for the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, amounting to some 22,000 acres.  Lugo, scion of a well-known family that had a large townhouse in Los Angeles and owned the Rancho San Antonio, southeast of that pueblo in present Bell Gardens and surrounding areas, was born in 1775 and became one of the more prominent figures in the Los Angeles district.  In 1816, for example, he served as alcalde (roughly, mayor) of Los Angeles and was known for his great wealth generated from cattle.  Indeed, it was said that he had a silver saddle valued at some $15,000.

Lugo constructed an adobe that stood on the grounds of today's Boys' Republic school adjoining the 71 Freeway in Chino Hills, selecting a slightly raised elevation above Chino Creek, now a flood control channel.  Not long after he obtained the rancho, one of Lugo's daughters married Isaac (Julian) Williams, a native of Kentucky, who made his way to California in the 1830s.  By the mid-1840s, Lugo turned over the entire Rancho Santa Ana del Chino to his daughter and son-in-law and returned to residing at his San Antonio rancho, where he died at age 85 in 1860.

Williams, meantime, stocked thousands of cattle on the Santa Ana del Chino and conducted some farming, while his house became an important waystation for travelers heading into Los Angeles from the south and east.  Indeed, the old Colorado Road heading west from the Colorado River at present-day Yuma, Arizona, went through San Diego and roughly followed the route of the modern Interstate 15 through Escondido, Temecula, Lake Elsinore and Corona before moving westward paralleling the 91 Freeway before crossing the Santa Ana River and heading north along our 71 Expressway and Freeway.  On the west side of the road, later called the Butterfield Stage Road, after the 1858 opening of the Butterfield stagecoach mail delivery route soon supplanted by the 1861 Pony Express route along the same pathway, weary travelers stopped at Williams' adobe house.  They then continued their travels north into present-day Pomona, followed the road as it curved westward around Elephant Hill and then linked up with what is now Valley Boulevard, heading into the San Gabriel Valley and towards Los Angeles.

Just a few years after Williams assumed ownership of the Chino Rancho, war broke out between the United States and Mexico.  After a rapid conquest of Los Angeles by American forces, the Spanish-speaking Californians revolted and reestablished control over the pueblo and its surrounding area.  As another American invasion force prepared to march from San Diego, the Californians marshaled their resistance effort and local American and European residents took refuge at Williams' Chino adobe.  Among these were Benjamin D. Wilson (for whom Mount Wilson is named and who was an early mayor, state senator, and prominent rancher and businessman), John Rowland (co-owner of the Rancho La Puente to the northwest and namesake of Rowland Heights), and Michael White (whose adobe still stands at San Marino High School). 

A Californian force surrounded the structure and decided to force their adversaries out by setting fire to the roof.  After some gunfire that left one Californian dead and some of those in the adobe wounded, the Americans and Europeans surrendered.  They were later taken to Paredon Blanco in what is now Boyle Heights and held for a long period before being freed by the intercession of local ranchers William Workman (of Rancho La Puente) and Ygnacio Palomares (Rancho San Jose in today's Pomona).  Isaac Williams' brother-in-law, José del Carmen Lugo, Wilson and White all gave interviews in the 1870s with assistants of historian Hubert Howe Bancroft and told their versions of what happened in the Battle of Chino.  Today, there is a State Historic Landmark plaque commemorating the Williams adobe and battle at a fire department training station on Eucalyptus Avenue, just north of Pipeline Avenue and adjacent to Boys' Republic, where the structure was located.

Isaac Williams died in 1856 and the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino went to heirs, remaining in their hands until 1881 when a mining magnate from Tombstone, Arizona Territory arrived flush with cash and looking for land.  His name was Richard Gird and the next post will continue the story with him and the Chino Land and Water Company.

As for the map shown here, it comes from an 1877 map of Southern California.  The boundary of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino follows south along the San Bernardino/Los Angeles counties line from a corner in today's Phillips Ranch neighborhood in Pomona, turns west and then south-west and then south again, coming to a point where the county line veers southeastward.  The rancho boundary then turns east, stops and goes briefly north, and then turns eastward again.  These are the jogs explained at the top of this post as the boundary goes through and near Sleepy Hollow, the future Canyon Hills tract, Mountain View Estates, Western Hills Country Club, and Carriage Hills before going out of Carbon Canyon and eastward.


Randy said...


WOW! Just found your blog. Contact me... I grew up in Sleepy Hollow (late 40's 'til early 70's), attended Olinda Elem. School (was in last graduating class before it was torn down... have some artifacts and lots of info you might be able to use.

Sandra Lytch said...

I enjoyed reading this blog. My grand Uncle Charles Evans Horn lived on Holly Drive in Carbon Canyon for 51 years. He was a well known real estate broker in the 30's and 40's and was nick-named "Trader Horn." I have not been able to procure much information on him from his time in Carbon Canyon. He was also a forest ranger in the 1920's before getting more involved in real estate. I would love to receive more info regarding real estate agents/brokers during the 40's in this area if anyone has any leads I can follow. Thanks.