Rancho El Molino

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Rancho El Molino was a 17,892-acre (72.41 km2) Mexican land grant in present day Sonoma County, California given to John B.R. Cooper by Governor José Figueroa in 1833 and officially confirmed by Governor Nicolás Gutiérrez in 1836.[1] "Molino" means "mill" in Spanish, and the name refers to Cooper's sawmill. The grant extends south from Russian River along Atascadero Creek, and encompasses present day Forestville.[2][3][4]


Captain John Bautista Rogers Cooper (1791–1872) married General Vallejo’s sister Encarnacion in 1827. At the direction of Governor Figueroa in 1835, General Vallejo began construction of the Presidio of Sonoma to counter the Russian presence at Fort Ross. To extend the settlements in the direction of Fort Ross, Cooper was granted Rancho El Molino in 1833. Cooper constructed a water power-operated commercial sawmill in 1834. Cooper also provided recommendations to Vallejo for grantees for the nearby Rancho Cañada de Jonive, Rancho Cañada de Pogolimi, and Rancho Estero Americano.[5]

With the cession of California to the United States following the Mexican-American War, the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided that the land grants would be honored. As required by the Land Act of 1851, a claim for Rancho El Molino was filed with the Public Land Commission in 1852,[6] and the grant was patented to John B. R. Cooper in 1853.[7]

Cooper’s daughter Ana Maria had more to do with Rancho El Molino than her father did. She married Hermann Wohler in 1856, and the newlyweds were given 1,320 acres (5.3 km2) near Forestville.[8] Herman Wohler (1826–1877), the German born husband of Ana Maria de Guadalupe Cooper, came to California in 1848 and became active in real estate. He served one term in the California State Legislature of 1855, and later had an office in San Francisco from which he managed his properties, including farm lands in Sonoma County. After Hermann Wohler's death in 1877, the central 1,320 acres (5.3 km2) were sold to Raford Peterson and his partner Charles Farmer, whom Peterson later bought out.

When Captain Cooper died in 1872, he left a large landed estate to his wife, Maria G. Encarnacion Vallejo Cooper, his son J.B. Henry Cooper, his two daughters Ana Maria Wohler and Amalia Molera, and his friend G.H. Howard. He directed the sale of his share of Rancho El Molino, to pay his debts.

Historic sites of the Rancho[edit]

  • Site of Cooper's Sawmill. The waterpowered mill was constructed in 1834, and destroyed by floods in the winter of 1840-41.[9]


  1. ^ 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. ^ Diseño del Rancho El Molino
  3. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Rancho El Molino
  4. ^ Mexican Land Grants in Sonoma County
  5. ^ Hoover, Mildred B.; Rensch, Hero; Rensch, Ethel; Abeloe, William N. (1966). Historic Spots in California. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-4482-9. 
  6. ^ United States . District Court ( California : Northern District) Land Case 227 ND
  7. ^ Report of the Surveyor General 1844 - 1886
  8. ^ Penny Hutten, 2008,Forestville,Forestville Historical Society, Arcadia Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7385-5805-9
  9. ^ Cooper's Sawmill (California Landmark 835)

Coordinates: 38°28′48″N 122°52′12″W / 38.480°N 122.870°W / 38.480; -122.870