05 December 2010

Historic 1858 and 1862 Maps of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino

In 1851, a decade after the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino was granted to Antonio Maria Lugo and eight years after Lugo's son-in-law, Isaac Williams, secured an addition that expanded the property to some 44,000 acres, Congress passed a land claims act for California.

The question of the legitimacy of Spanish and Mexican-era land grants had been raised with the treaty that ended the Mexican-American War three years previously.  Even though the American envoy, Nicholas Trist, agreed to include a provision that guaranteed these grants, that article was stricken from the ratified treaty at the behest of Congress and President James K. Polk.

When gold was discovered in the Sierra Nevada Mountains just nine days before Mexico ratified the treaty, the dynamics of land ownership changed dramatically.  Instead of some 10,000 non-Indians residing in California, the next several years saw about a quarter of a million emigrants, many of whom tried placer gold mining to little or no success and a great deal of whom thought to acquire land.  Much of the prime holdings, however, were congregated in large ranchos granted under Spanish and Mexican rule.

Congress commissioned two reports to determine the validity of land grants and one came up with the idea that they were largely legitimate while the other thought differently.  Accepting the latter, under the proposition that it was better to open up California land to new settlers, Congress passed the 3 March legislation mandating that holders of existing grants take their documentation and send witnesses to a land commission for a hearing.  After that body's decision, however, there was a right of appeal to federal district and, ultimately, the Supreme Court.  With the land commission approving about 75% of the 800 or so claims, this meant that most appeals were brought to the courts by the United States, which did so automatically, regardless of the merit of the claim.

The costs to land owners could be staggering.  Lawyers had to be hired, surveyors brought in to make maps required by the process, and property holders faced the unsavory prospect of having their claims take, on the average, seventeen years to adjudicate from the commission and courts.  During that enormously long period, the economy went through great turbulence.  In 1851, the Gold Rush was in full flower and owners of ranches stocked with cattle made significant sums feeding the teeming hordes that came to California.  By the end of the decade, though, the decline of gold production was precipitous and ranchers suffered with little demand for their growing inventory of livestock.

In 1861-62, a period of heavy rainfall of biblical proportions unleashed flooding on a massive scale, washing away cattle and crops.  The El Niño phenomenon was followed, though no one knew it then, by the La Niña effect--that is, a two-year drought that decimated an already tottering cattle industry.  For Spanish-speaking Californios who built their society around the cattle ranch, not just their economy, the results were devastating and they still had to contend with the land claims proceedings that were, in most cases, not concluded until later in the decade.

By 1870, then, agriculture was predominant on smaller farms carved out from foreclosed and sold ranchos that were subdivided.  American migrants came again in large numbers from the destruction caused by the Civil War.  Massive economic, political and social change ensued during the land claims process.

Surprisingly, the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino survived intact and would largely remain so until the 1890s.  Isaac Williams, owner of the rancho from the early 1840s, died in 1856 before the worst of the trials and tribulations mentioned above took place.  The property passed to his two daughters, Merced and Francisca, whose interests were managed by their husbands, John Rains and Robert Carlisle.  Disputes between the brothers-in-law led Rains to sell his interest to Carlisle and move to a new home at Rancho Cucamonga.  Rains was mysteriously murdered in 1862 and suspicion rested in many minds upon Carlisle.  The latter, too, met a violent death through a legendary gun battle with the King brothers, Frank and Houston, of El Monte, which took place at a Los Angeles hotel, the Bella Union, which had been once owned by John Rains.

Still, the land claim first filed by Williams and then continued under Carlisle was approved.  As part of the process, surveys were conducted of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.  Thanks to OAC, or the Online Archive of California, a database of collaborating libraries and archives in California, these documents are available for viewing on the Internet.  Two surveys of the rancho are provided through the database, one from 1858 with 1864 amendments and another from 1862.

The November 1858 drawing is by Los Angeles-based surveyor Henry Hancock, who surveyed a great many land claims parcels.  Hancock, born in 1822 in New Hampshire, was a lawyer as well as a surveyor and came to California during the Gold Rush, but moved to Los Angeles in 1850.  He represented the Rocha family as attorney in their land claims case and, when their legal expenses led them to sell the ranch, it was purchased by Hancock (he also had an interest in the rancho that included much of Beverly Hills, though he lost this to foreclosure to William Workman of Rancho La Puente, a near neighbor of Isaac Williams.)  Hancock was a partner in one of the first attempts to drill for oil in the Los Angeles region because the rancho he obtained from the Rochas had large surface deposits of asphaltum or tar, called in Spanish brea.  Hence the name of his rancho, La Brea (as well as the Rancho Cañon de la Brea in Brea Canyon, which gave the name of the city within which is the western portion of Carbon Canyon!)  Hancock's wife was Ada Haraszthy, whose father Agoston, a Hungarian, was a major viticulturist in winemaker in 1850s and 1860s California.  Their surviving child, G. Allan Hancock, inherited his father's interests at Rancho La Brea and, when oil was produced there in the early 1900s and afterward (around the time of the development of Olinda in this area) became a wealthy man.  Allan Hancock developed the still-exclusive residential neighborhood of Hancock Park on the La Brea rancho, was the discoverer of the La Brea tar pits archaeological site, and was also invested in Santa Maria in northern Santa Barbara County, where Hancock College is named for him and where he died at age 90 in 1965.

Henry Hancock's survey has some notable features, including the siting of the ranch house, though without any specific locating notations.  There is also reference to "High Rolling Hills," meaning the Chino Hills, running northwest to southeast.  Up at the northern side of the rancho there is an interesting notation of a "Clump of Willows in Permanent pool of Water." This would be somewhere in Chino, east of the 71 Freeway and south of the 60, but specifically it is not possible to tell from the map.

At the bottom of the survey is a small portion of the "Overland Stage Road," which had been called the Colorado Road (because it went from Los Angeles to the Colorado River) from at least 1850 and which became known as the Butterfield Stage Road (hence the Butterfield Ranch neighborhood of Chino Hills.)  Later, this was the Pomona-Rincon Road, a name still retained in a road that is in several segments in our area.  Finally, the route of State Route 71 was aligned generally along portions of the old road.  The "Overland Stage Road" route appears again at the top of the map along the border with Rancho San José, at the Chino Hills/Diamond Bar/Pomona boundary area.  What is striking, however, is that the indications of the road from the partial markings at the southern and northern extremes shows that the route went clearly west of the ranch house, once located at what is now Boys Republic.  This seems to lead to the idea that the road went more along what would be closer to Peyton Drive.  Other later maps might give better clues as to the route followed by the old highway, a major transportation route for the broader Los Angeles region.

At the far upper left or northwest corner of the rancho is a notation for "Cañada de la Brea," although this is actually what is now known as Tonner Canyon.  We know this because the entirety of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino falls within San Bernardino County and what is today called Brea Canyon is in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Interestingly, a similarly-named canyon is partially marked out at the southwestern portion of the Chino rancho and is named "Brea Cañon" with two other smaller canyons clearly outlined just to the south.  This is almost certainly Carbon Canyon being the first with Soquel and, probably, Telegraph canyons being the other two.

The link to the 1858 Hancock survey, which was resurveyed in May 1864 by Thomas Sprague, and which is archived at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley is:


In October 1862, Robert Carlisle hired surveyor Frank Lecouvreur to draw up a new map of the Chino Rancho.  Lecouvreur was born in 1829 in Prussia to a French father and Prussian mother.  He, like Hancock, was a Gold Rush migrants, coming to California in 1851.  Settling in Los Angeles in 1855, he was the deputy county clerk for three years and then was hired to be the deputy surveyor for Hancock and likely assisted on the 1858 survey of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.  Lecouvreur then succeeded Hancock was county surveyor when the latter, an avid supporter of the Union cause during the Civil War, was given a military commission in Los Angeles.  This appears to explain why Lecouvreur conducted the 1862 survey.  After finishing his second term as surveyor, Lecouvreur left from the business and became cashier at the prominent Farmers and Merchants Bank of Los Angeles, where he became a member of the board of directors before retiring because of health problems in 1886.  He lived, however, fifteen more years before dying in Los Angeles in 1901.

The 1862 map actually provides less detail in terms of landmarks or notable features than the earlier survey.  At the far southern portion, instead of the Butterfield Stage Road, there is a marking for "Chino Creek," which emptied, as it does now (albeit as a flood control channel), into the Santa Ana River.  It might also be noted that the rancho to the southeast was called El Rincon and there was a village in that area in what is now the Prado Dam area in Riverside County at the conjunction of the 71 and 91 freeways.

The same "Permanent Pool of Water" as well as a nearby section of "Gray Sandstone Rock" demarcated on the earlier survey are also shown, but no indication of the road to the west.  More pronounced than before, however, is the "Cañada de la Brea" along a longer portion of the western boundary of the rancho sloping from northeast to southwest.  As stated above, though, this is Tonner Canyon.

And, as previously, at the extreme southwest corner of the ranch is the markings of a small canyon (though not any to the south, as before) as well as what is identified as "Brea Creek."  There is even a smaller gully coming from the south and emptying into the creek--this could be anywhere within the Chino Hills portion of Carbon Canyon, but likely west of the S-curve where the Carriage Hills subdivision is located and probably quite close to where the Western Hills Oaks community is located.  Indeed, just outside of the rancho boundary and extending north of the creek is a long narrow small canyon, which gives every appearance of being Lion Canyon, the access point for the St. Joseph's Hill of Hope religious compound that is just to the west of the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood of Chino Hills.  This is evident, again, from the fact, that the western boundary of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino is also the dividing line between San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles counties at various points.

Finally, it is notable that the 1862 Lecouvreur map has a lengthy title that includes the notation: "showing the proposed Alteration of the Exterior Boundary line, on the authority of the approved Maps of the 'Rancho Santa Ana del Chino,' 'Rancho Addition to Santa Ana del Chino,' and 'Rancho El Rincon' . . ."  The differences appear, in fact, to be entirely about adjusting the boundary that separated Chino, the 1843 addition to the north and east (the boundaries of which do not appear on the 1858 map), and El Rincon and have nothing to do with the portions that include or are near Carbon Canyon.  Boundary disputes and differences, however, were common because of the inexact determinations of these lines during the land grant periods under Spain and Mexico. 

The link to the 1862 Lecouvreur survey, also deposited at the Bancroft Library, is:



bobbie said...

Very interesting, I appreciate this information. Jim Hicks, great great grandson of Isaac Williams and Great grandson of Robert Carlisle.

prs said...

Hello Jim, thanks for visiting and for the comment. It's nice to know there are descendants of the Lugo, Williams and Carlisle families still around. Hope there was something new in what you saw.

Anonymous said...

Love all your articles on Rancho Santa Ana del Chino. My husband also is the grat great grandson of Isaac Williams through the Apis line. Maria Antonia Apis had four children with Isaac. One of the children Victoria Regina Williams married Joesph Bridger and they raised their children on the Chino Rancho. Victoria and Joseph had a son named Thomas Joseph Bridger who was my husband grandfather, and my husbands name sake.

So the history and stories go on and it is article like this that help make it so.

Linda Bridger

prs said...

Hi Linda, thanks very much for your nice comment. Coming on the hills of Jim Hicks' comment, this makes putting some of this history out there worthwhile. As I said in my reply to him, I hope you've found some new items.