Rancho San Juan Capistrano del Camote

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Rancho San Juan Capistrano del Camote (Saint John Capistrano Of the sweet potato) was a 44,284 acre Mexican land grant in the San Juan Valley, 13.7 miles southeast of Shandon, California in present-day San Luis Obispo County, California.

History[edit]

Rancho San Juan Capistrano del Camote[edit]

The "ten square leagues" of the rancho was granted July 11, 1846, by Governor Pio Pico to Tomas Herrera and Geronimo Quintana both originally from Nuevo Mexico, unlike most ranchos in Alta California they raised sheep, commonly raised in Nuevo Mexico. Alta California was dependant on the trade of woolen goods from Nuevo Mexico for horses and mules over the Old Spanish Trail until immigration from Nuevo Mexico that began in the 1840's began to change that.

After Alta California was annexed to the United States and became the state of California, the grantees filed a claim with the Land Commission on August 14, 1852. That claim was rejected by the Commission December 26, 1854.[1]:Appx,42

Rancho San Juan Murders, May 12, 1858[edit]

In May 1858, two French Basques, Bartolomé Baratie and M. Jose Borel, had come from Oakland to raise sheep on the rancho. On May 12, shortly after they settled in at the rancho it was the subject of an infamous attack by eight of the bandit gang of Jack Powers and Pio Linares that resulted in the robbery and murders of the two men and the kidnapping of Andrea Baratie, the English/Chilean wife of Bartolomé. The gang also murdered Jack Gilkey, an American hunter at his home six miles away from the Rancho, where the gang had stayed overnight before their attack on the Rancho San Juan the next day. The gangs plan was to pin the blame for the crime on the two Californio servants of the Frenchmen. They were to have been murdered where their bodies could not be found. The two bandits, who were to carry out this plot spared the servants' lives, without telling their comrades. The result was that one of these servants went to the nearest rancho and informed Captain Mallagh, of the murder. Mallagh immediately rode to San Luis Obispo bringing word of the crimes. The news of this attack that for once left several witnesses caused Walter Murray and others in the town and surrounding ranchos to organize a Vigilance Committee in San Luis Obispo County that hunted down a member recognized by the servant, who confessed to his role which led to others who also gave the names and crimes of others. With the testimony of the wife who had also been let go by another gang menber, after she had seen the murder of her husband before her eyes, the Vigilance Committee was able to destroy this gang that had been conducting numerous robberies and murders for many years in the county.[2]:293–304, 306

Within two years of the murders the Southern District court dismissed the claim for failure of prosecution of the case by the grantees on August 8, 1860.[1]:Appx,42 The reasons for the failure of the grant case, was failure to prosecute the case, but Walter Murray in his letters to the newspaper San Francisco Bulletin in defense of the actions of the Vigilance Commitee, says the Frenchmen were there intending to purchase the grant:

"Old ranches were changing owners. Senor Pujol, a very worthy gentleman, a native, I believe, of old Spain, had purchased the San Simeon Rancho. A respectable Californian named Castro, from Santa Cruz County, had purchased part of the rancho of San Geronimo. The Messrs. Blackburn, of Santa Cruz, had purchased the Paso Robles Rancho, and quite a colony of Americans had settled in around them, and between them and Captain Mallagh's rancho, the Huer-Huero. Finally Borel and Baratie, two worthy Frenchmen from Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, were about to follow their example."[2]:299

The killing of these two men came at a critical time in the case so close to its resolution in 1860. Given the dangers illustrated by the fate of the two Frenchmen, and that it was a remote dangerous region, may have been the reason the case failed to be carried forward. No others were found to lend money to the grantees or buy the land from them and carry it forward themselves in the Southern District court.

San Juan Ranch[edit]

Following the 1860 decision the rancho became public land and after being surveyed, it was sold at a price of 25 cents to $1.25 an acre. In 1874, Robert Flint, a Canadian, purchased the headquarters of the old Rancho San Juan, as well as acreage extending up San Juan Creek, and moved onto the San Juan Ranch. Flint grazed cattle and cultivated crops on its bottom-lands, and acquiring additional property. By the time of his death in 1892, he had acquired 58,175 acres. Flint's two sons inherited the property and in 1898 they sold it to a German immigrant, Henry Wreden. Wreden died in 1931 but his two sons operated the ranch until 1941, when the San Juan Ranch was divided equally among the six remaining Wreden heirs. Eventually the six tracts of land were sold and drifted into different ownership.[3]

Nevertheless part of the Rancho San Juan still remains as the San Juan Ranch, 13.7 miles southeast of Shandon, California.[4] According to the San Juan Ranch website:

"In 1998, John and Brenda Stephenson purchased an 8,300 [acre] parcel of land that included the original San Juan Ranch headquarters, the original adobe homestead on San Juan Ranch, as well as a sweet spring used by Herrera to water his sheep in the mid 1800's. With their acquisition of this land, the Stephenson's retained rights to the name San Juan Ranch and its associated brand. Over the past seven years, with determined persistence, the Stephenson's have reassembled a substantial amount of the original San Juan Ranch. Through several more acquisitions, the Stephenson's have expanded their holdings by an additional 25,000 acres, bringing the present-day San Juan Ranch to over 44,000 acres. It is estimated that the Stephenson's have acquired three of the six tracts of land divided amongst the Wreden heirs in 1941. It is the Stephenson's desire to reassemble San Juan Ranch in its entirety and preserve the property's rich and historic livestock production."[3]

Part of the old San Juan Ranch is now the French Camp Vineyards.[5]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

  • San Juan Ranch Adobe, from luna.blackgold.org, photographic print: b&w; 12.8 x 9 cm of San Juan Ranch Adobe view from field with trees in foreground and hills in background; circa 1962.

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  1. ^ a b "304, 260, S. D., 577. Tomas Herrera and Geronimo Quintana, claimants for San Juan Capistrano del Camote, 10 sitios of 4,428 acres each, in San Luis Obispo county, granted July 11th, 1846, by Pio Pico to T. Herrera and G. Quintana; claim filed August 14th, 1852, rejected by the Commission December 26th, 1854, and dismissed for failure of prosecution August 8th, 1860." Ogden Hoffman, 1862, Reports of Land Cases Determined in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Numa Hubert, San Francisco.
  2. ^ a b Angel, Myron; History of San Luis Obispo County, California; with illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers, Thompson & West, Oakland, 1883
  3. ^ a b San Juan Ranch History from sanjuanranch.com accessed July 4, 2017
  4. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: San Juan Ranch
  5. ^ A History of French Camp from frenchcampvineyards.com accessed July 4, 2017