02 June 2010

Carbon Canyon and Rancho Santa Ana del Chino: Antonio Maria Lugo

After the secularization of the California missions, the huge swaths of valuable land controlled by the missionaries (ostensibly in the name of the aboriginal people they sought to Christianize and "civilize") became available for private settlement.  As early as 1834, according to some sources, the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino came to the attention of Antonio Maria Lugo, along with José Antonio Carillo.  The two sought a grant, but it was seven years before any action was taken.  By then, Carrillo withdrew and Lugo was finally granted the rancho in 1841.  Now, for a little background on Lugo, though first it should be pointed out that, despite the Chino high school's reference in name to "Don Lugo," it really should be "Don Antonio," as the honorific title of don, denoting someone of high social status, was only used in conjunction with a first name, not a surname.  Nonetheless . . .

In 1773, in the northern department of Sinaloa in New Spain (Mexico), Francisco Salvador Lugo enlisted in the Spanish army under the command of Fernando Rivera, newly appointed governor of Alta California who was ordered by Viceroy Bucareli to take an expedition into the territory and go as far as Monterey.  This was only three years after the return of the first Spanish land exploration of Alta California, led by Gaspar de Portolá.  A condition of the expedition was that those who agreed to go as colonists to the far-flung possession could live in established pueblos after their military service, thus providing an opportunity for advancement in status not found to many of the lower classes in New Spain.

Leaving the town of Loreto in Baja California in late March, the expedition reached Monterey in late May at which time Rivera assumed his duties as governor, the third in Alta California under Spanish rule.  Notably, some of the soldiers from the Rivera expedition who were part of a later group commanded by José Ortega complained about the poor food supplies and one of these was Francisco Lugo, adjudged to be "predisposed toward sedition" (hunger and want tend to do that to people, for some strange reason).

In March 1774, Lugo was left at the Mission San Antonio de Padua to serve as a guard.  This mission is one of the more remote in California, meaning that the land around it is about as close as you can come to what the region looked like 236 years ago.  Situated north of San Luis Obispo and ensconced within Fort Hunter Liggett, twenty-five miles west of U. S. 101, San Antonio is one of those rare places that time (and modern life) has seemingly largely passed by.

Lugo traveled in the Rivera/Ortega expedition with his wife, Juana Vianazul, and their children Rosa María, Tomasa Ignacia, Salvador and José Antonio.  While heading north of San Diego, Juana gave birth to another son, José Ignacio, one of the first European children born in Alta California, perhaps the first.  About the time the Lugos were posted at Mission San Antonio, Juana was again pregnant.  On 13 July 1775, the sixth Lugo child and fourth son, Antonio María, was born there.

By 1780, the Lugos had moved south to Mission San Luis Obispo and there were two more children born, including a son and daughter.  Francisco Lugo remained in the army until he was well into his sixties and was followed in the service by all his sons (excepting the eldest, Salvador, who was killed when he fell off a horse as a young boy), including Antonio Maria who was assigned to the presidio (fort) at Santa Barbara about 1793.  He has been described as being over six feet tall, a veritable giant of the time, though lean and sinewy.  His striking stature continued to make an impression on his fellow citizens all his life.   Though uneducated in terms of formal schooling and unable to read or write, Antonio María clearly was an intelligent, ambitious and accomplished member of Californio society.

In early 1796, Antonio Maria married María Dolores Ruiz of Santa Barbara and was given an adobe house close to the presidio there as a residence for himself and family.  He remained in the army at Santa Barbara until 1810, when he left the service and requested a grant of land south of the pueblo of Los Angeles (population in the several hundreds) in present-day Lynwood, which was agreed to by Governor José Joaquín Arrillaga.  Lugo, his wife and four children, José María, Felipe, María Vicenta, and María Antonia, then moved into an adobe house that Antonio María built at Los Angeles, while he stocked his ranch with cattle to make a living selling the raw hides and tallow (fat, used for soap and candles.)  In 1813, a son, José del Carmen, was born at Los Angeles.

Lugo soon acquired enough of a reputation and good standing in the pueblo that, in 1816, Governor Pablo Vicente Sola appointed him alcalde (mayor) of Los Angeles, a position which he held three years.  Later, in 1833-34, Don Antonio was juez del campo, or Judge of the Plains, who oversaw the important annual spring roundup of cattle.  Three years later, he moved from his adobe facing the Plaza to a new structure to the south, at where 2nd and San Pedro streets are today.  At that new home, in 1822, the year of Mexican independence from Spain, another son was born in the Lugo family, Vicente.  Three years later, another son, José Antonio III, was born.

In 1823, the first Mexican-era governor of Alta California, Luis Antonio Argüello, granted Lugo's request for additional acreage to his holdings in an area northwest, including today's cities of Bell and Bell Gardens.  Evidently, it was at this time, the early stages of Mexican independence, that these two conjoined properties were formally called Rancho San Antonio, which was a Lugo possession for many decades.  Two years later, in 1825, the first of a series of occasional major floods affected the Rancho San Antonio, which was located between the Los Angeles River and the old course of the San Gabriel River, now the Rio Hondo.  There would be many others, but this was the first major one under the Lugos' tenure at the rancho and the damage included vineyards, corn fields, a corral, a house and servants' quarters, and untold numbers of cattle and horses.

Another request for additional land on the Rancho San Antonio, embracing much of modern Montebello, was made by Lugo and granted by Governor Echeandía in 1827.  While his growing holdings and wealth from the cattle trade enhanced Lugo's standing in the community, he faced tragedy in 1829 when his wife, died at age forty-six at their Los Angeles home.

The 1830s was a time of considerable political turmoil in Mexico and its department of Alta California, but Don Antonio seemed to remain removed from most of this.  In 1838, while serving on the ayuntamiento (town council) of Los Angeles, he received from Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado, a nephew through a sister, another addition to the Rancho San Antonio in the area of today's city of Maywood, the final acquisition to the rancho which totaled some 19,500 acres.  While Don Antonio remained at his pueblo home, some of his sons and daughters resided on the San Antonio rancho.

There were, evidently, two reasons, then, why Don Antonio sought to expand his landholdings beyond Rancho San Antonio.  First, he had increasing numbers of cattle that even the large rancho could not adequately contain.  Second, his large family needed additional land for their own maintenance and for inheritance.  Secularization, coming along in the mid-1830s, gave the opportunity for such expansion.  Consequently, in 1839, the Lugo family was able to secure a grant from Governor (and close relative) Alvarado for the Rancho San Bernardino at the base of Cajon Pass and the San Bernardino Mountains.

That same year, a daughter of Don Antonio, María de Jésus, married Isaac Williams, who was recently baptized a Roman Catholic (under the name Julián) and took Mexican citizenship.  There will, of course, be much more later on Williams and the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.

As stated above, Don Antonio first made overtures about Chino in 1834, but it was not until March 1841 that Governor Alvarado gave his uncle a preliminary grant (a final grant came later in the year) to five leagues (of an original request of eight), with a league consisting of a little under 4,500 acres, making the grant in the neighborhood of 22,000 acres.  Don Antonio moved quickly to build an adobe house, on the site of today's Boys Republic school in Chino Hills, on the west bank of Chino Creek and moved almost 4,000 cattle, an undetermined number of sheep and several hundred horses to the ranch from Rancho San Antonio.  Almost immediately after the final title was issued, Don Antonio's daughter and son-in-law, María de Jésus and Isaac "Don Julian" Williams moved out to Chino and built a separate residence from which Williams oversaw ranch operations after his father-in-law granted him half ownership of the ranch.  In 1843, Williams secured the three leagues (about 13,000 acres) that Don Antonio originally sought and this became the "Rancho Santa Ana del Chino Addition" to the north and west of the five leagues granted two years prior.  In 1847, Don Antonio granted his half of the rancho to his Williams granddaughters, María Merced and Francisca, who later married John Rains and Robert S. Carlisle, respectively, although other sources state that Lugo granted his half-interest to Isaac Williams about 1851.

As for Don Antonio, he maintained his Los Angeles residence for nearly another twenty years.  In late 1841, the sixty-seven year old ranchero married fourteen-year old Antonia Germán and the union brought about four more children.  He maintained his Los Angeles residence and adjacent vineyard, but lived part of the year at Rancho San Antonio at an adobe that was unfathomably destroyed in the 1980s.  Living until the advanced age of eighty-five and known to be vigorous and active until near the very end, Don Antonio passed away in February 1860, a rare link between the earliest days of Spanish colonization of Alta California and the earliest days of the American era in the Los Angeles region.

A curious euolgy was made in 1896 by Henry D. Barrows, who knew Don Antonio and attended his funeral:

To rightly estimate the character of Señor Lugo, it is necessary for Americans to remember the difference of race and environment.  Although he lived under three regimes, to wit, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo-American, he retained to the last the essential characteristics which he inherited from Spanish ancestors and, although . . . he had, as was very natural, no liking for Americans themselves as a rule, or their ways, nevertheles, he and all better class [!] of native Californians of the older generation did have a general liking for individual Americans and other foreigners, who in the long and intimate social and business intercourse, proved themselves worthy of their friendship and confidence.

The image of Antonio María Lugo is from the front cover of Edwin Rhodes' 1951 compilation, The Break of Day in Chino.


telva said...

Hello - nicely written story! I am in the process of working on a genealogy project for a client who is the direct descendant of Francisco and Antonio Maria Lugo. How timely this post was, for me to find it! Thanks very much for providing a wealth of knowledge that I may add to the family history (giving you credit of course), along with other information gleaned from 26 books.

telva said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
prs said...

Hi Telva, thanks for the comment and glad that you found useful information here. The story of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino is really a remarkable one that most of the almost 150,000 or so people who live within its boundaries know little or nothing about.