In 1848 the United States took possession of California. Under the Treaty of Guadalupe
Hidalgo the United States was bound to honor the legitimate land claims of Mexican
citizens residing in the captured territories. In Article VIII of the treaty, the
following is stated, "In the said territories, property
of every kind, now belonging to Mexicans not established there, shall be inviolably
respected. The present owners, the heirs and all Mexicans who may hereafter acquire
said property by contract shall enjoy ample as if the same belonged to citizens
of the United States."
In order to investigate and confirm titles in California, American officials acquired
the provincial records of the Spanish and Mexican governments in Monterey. Those
records, most of which were transferred to the U. S. Surveyor General's Office in
San Francisco, included land deeds, sketch–maps (diseños),
and various other documents.
The Congress of the United States established a Board of Land Commissioners by virtue
of an act entitled "An Act to Ascertain and Settle Private Land Claims in the State
of California" in 1851. The Act required a board of land commissioners to review
these records and adjudicate claims, and charged the Surveyor General with surveying
confirmed land grants. Of the 813 grants ultimately claimed, the land commission
approved only 604. The burden of proof for the land claims was placed on the individuals
seeking confirmation, in some instances this fell to the people who had bought the
Ranchos from the original grantees.
Once recognized, the official map of the land was recorded at the local Recorder’s
office. Some of the areas covered in these patents are in present day Riverside
County, which was not formed until 1893 from part of San Bernardino and San Diego
Counties. In San Bernardino County, the following land grants were recognized:
The Rancho El Sobrante de San Jacinto was granted in 1846, five leagues of land, or 48,847 acres, to María del Rosario Estudillo de Aguirre.
The Rancho La Sierra was granted in 1846, four leagues of land, or 17,774 acres, to Vicente Sepúlveda.
The other Rancho La Sierra was granted in 1846, four leagues of land, or 17,787 acres, to Bernardo Yorba.
The Rancho San Jacinto y San Gregonio was granted in 1843, 4400 acres, to Santiago Johnson; Louis Rubidoux was the claimant for the patent.
The Rancho Cucamonga was granted in 1839, three leagues of land, or 13,045 acres, to Tiburcio Tapia; Leone V. Prudhomme was the claimant for the patent.
The Rancho Rincon was granted in 1839, three leagues of land, or 4431 acres, to Juan Bandini; Bernardo Yorba was the claimant for the patent.
The Rancho Jurupa was granted in 1838, 14 leagues of land, to Juan Bandini. Part of the patent was purchased by Benjamin Wilson between 1841 and 1845. Abel Sterns was claimant for part of the patent for 13,819 acres. Louis Rubidoux was the claimant for the other 6,750 acres of the patent, part of which had been a gift from Bandini.
The Rancho Muscupiabe was granted in 1843, one league of land, to Miquel White; John Hancock was the claimant for the patent. The final claim for this patent was for 30,145 acres. The original patent to Miquel White had been one league of land, based on definitions versus a defined acreage; it was based on a row of cypress trees in the Cajon pass area. John Hancock, the purchaser of the claim and the U. S. Surveyor General, claimed the row of cypress trees was actually farther along in Highland, giving the claim seven leagues of land in total. Many court cases arose out of this claim. The final case reached the California State Supreme Court where it was settled in favor of John Hancock.
The Rancho San Bernardino was granted in 1842, eight leagues of land, or 35,509 acres, to José del Cármen Lugo, Diego Sepúlveda, and José Maria Lugo.
The Rancho Santa Ana del Chino was granted in 1841, six leagues of land, or 22,234 acres, to Antonio María Lugo. Lugo sold it to Isaac Williams in 1841. Williams’s received an additional rancho, the addition to the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, between 1842 and 1845 for 13,336 acres. Maria Merced Williams, Isaac Williams’s daughter, was the claimant for both patents.
Ranchos of San Bernardino County, from
Guide to the County of San Bernardino, WPA, 1940
Land titles can still be traced back to these original patents.
For more information on the Rancho lands and the original paperwork submitted to
the board of land commissioners, see the California State Archives web page on the
United States Surveyor General for California at http://www.sos.ca.gov/archives/collections/ussg/
For more information on the various lawsuits surrounding acceptance of the Rancho
lands see Finding Aid to the Documents Pertaining to the Adjudication of Private
Land Claims in California, circa 1852-1892, http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/hb109nb422/
Cowan, Robert G. Ranchos of California.
Fresno, Academy Library Guild, 1956.