Rancho San Francisco

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Rancho San Francisco
Rancho San Francisco map 1843.jpg
1843 Map of Rancho San Francisco
Location Northwestern Los Angeles County and eastern Ventura County, California
Coordinates 34°23′24″N 118°34′48″W / 34.390°N 118.580°W / 34.390; -118.580Coordinates: 34°23′24″N 118°34′48″W / 34.390°N 118.580°W / 34.390; -118.580
Area 48,612 acres (196.7 km2)
Official name: Rancho San Francisco[1]
Reference No. 556
Official name: Oak of the Golden Dream[1]
Reference No. 168

Rancho San Francisco was a land grant in present day northwestern Los Angeles County and eastern Ventura County, California. It was of 48,612 acres (196.7 km2) by Governor Juan B. Alvarado to Antonio del Valle, a Mexican army officer, in recognition for his service to the state of Alta California.[2][3] It is not related to the city of San Francisco.

The rancho was the location of the first documented discovery of gold in California in 1842, in Placerita Canyon.[4] Much of the present day city of Santa Clarita lies within the boundary of what was Rancho San Francisco. The adobe headquarters of the rancho, and the site of the discovery of gold (known today as the "Oak of the Golden Dream"), are designated California Historical Landmarks.[1] The rancho included portions of the San Gabriel, Santa Susana, Topatopa, and Sierra Pelona Mountain ranges.

Early history[edit]

After Mission San Fernando Rey de España was established in 1797, the administrators there realized they would need more land for agriculture and livestock, and they looked north to the Santa Clarita Valley to establish their estancia, or mission rancho. Subsequently, the Tataviam Indians who had been living there were relocated to the Mission, where they were baptized and put to work. The Estancia de San Francisco Xavier was built in 1804 at the confluence of Castaic Creek and the Santa Clara River.[5]

Following the Mexican War of Independence, the missions were secularized and the land taken by the Mexican government. In 1834, Lt. Del Valle was assigned to inventory the property of Mission San Fernando. The rancho was supposed to be returned to the Tataviam, but Governor Alvarado deeded it to his friend Del Valle instead on January 22, 1839. The Del Valle family moved into the former estancia buildings (near what is now Castaic).[5]

Del Valle died in 1841. On his deathbed, he attempted to reconcile with his estranged son Ygnacio by writing him a letter and offering the entire rancho to him as his inheritance. However, Del Valle died before the letter was delivered to his son.[2] Regardless, Ygnacio took control over the land.

Gold discovery[edit]

Oak of the Golden Dream in 2008

On March 9, 1842, Francisco Lopez, the uncle of Antonio's second wife Jacoba Feliz, took a rest under an oak tree in Placerita Canyon and had a dream that he was floating on a pool of gold. When he awoke, he pulled a few wild onions from the ground only to find flakes of gold clinging to the roots.[6] However, he was not just lucky. Lopez had studied mineralogy at the University of Mexico and it was likely he had been systematically looking for gold.[7] Moreover, evidence suggests that gold had previously been found in the area as many as thirty years prior, but Lopez's discovery was the first documented discovery of gold in the state.[8] This sparked a gold rush on a much smaller scale than the more famous California Gold Rush several years later. About 2,000 people, mostly from the Mexican state of Sonora, came to Rancho San Francisco to mine the gold.[6]

This discovery was mostly ignored by the American public. For one thing, California was not yet a U.S. state, so this was in essence a Mexican discovery. However, certain people who later played a large role in the other gold rush took note. John Sutter, who had sided with Gov. Manuel Micheltorena during his power struggle with former Gov. Alvarado, was imprisoned after the Battle of Providencia near Mission San Fernando after the insurrection had succeeded. After his release, he headed north through Placerita Canyon, and seeing the mining operation, determined to search for gold near his home, Sutter's Fort.[6]

During the Mexican–American War, Del Valle destroyed the mine to prevent the Americans from gaining access to it.[9] The tree where Lopez took his nap is now known as the "Oak of the Golden Dream" and is registered as California Historic Landmark #168.[1]

Later history[edit]

Following the war, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo allowed Mexican landowners to keep their lands. However, Jacoba Feliz sued for control of Rancho San Francisco. The judgment for Feliz's lawsuit was handed down in 1857. Ygnacio Del Valle received the westernmost portion of 13,599 acres (55.03 km2), Feliz (now Salazár) took 21,307 acres (86.23 km2), and her six children received 4,684 acres (18.96 km2) each.[10][11]

Unfortunately, at this time Southern California experienced a great deal of flooding, and ranchers were forced to mortgage their properties in order to pay for damages. Feliz mortgaged her portion of the land to William Wolfskill, who returned a portion of it back to Del Valle in exchange for him settling her debts. Floods were followed by droughts, which again exacerbated the ranchers' problems.[10] Finally, in 1862 Del Valle was forced to sell off most of his land to oil speculators (the Philadelphia and California Petroleum Company headed by Thomas A. Scott), keeping only his Rancho Camulos.[12] The oilmen were unable to find any oil, and Rancho San Francisco eventually landed in the hands of Henry Newhall, whose name is now closely associated with the Santa Clarita Valley area.[13]

Newhall granted right-of-way to Southern Pacific Railroad to build a rail line to Los Angeles and sold them a portion of the land, upon which sprang a new town that the company named after him, Newhall.[14] Another town grew around the train station and Newhall named it after his hometown, Saugus.

After Newhall's death in 1882, his heirs formed the Newhall Land and Farming Company, which managed the lands. In 1936, Atholl McBean, Newhall's grandson-in-law, discovered oil on the property and changed the name to Newhall Ranch.[13]

Historic designations[edit]

  • California Historical Landmark NO. 556 RANCHO SAN FRANCISCO Adobe[1]
  • Placerita Canyon State Park – California Historical Landmark NO. 168 OAK OF THE GOLDEN DREAM: where Francisco Lopez found gold. [1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Los Angeles". California Historical Landmarks. Office of Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2007-04-16. 
  2. ^ a b Wormser, Marci (September 1, 1999). "Del Valle descendant pursues her roots". The Signal. Retrieved 2007-04-09. 
  3. ^ "The Del Valle Family". Rancho Camulos Museum: The Home of Ramona. 2009. Retrieved September 3, 2012. 
  4. ^ Rawls, James, J. and Richard J. Orsi (eds.) (1999). A golden state: mining and economic development in Gold Rush California. California History Sesquicentennial, 2. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 3. ISBN 0-520-21771-3. 
  5. ^ a b Worden, Leon (August 28, 1996). "Latins Invade, Conquer Western SCV". The Signal. Retrieved March 8, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c Worden, Leon (October 2005). "California's REAL First Gold". COINage magazine. Retrieved 2007-04-16. 
  7. ^ Worden, Leon (January 24, 1996). "The real story of California's first gold discovery". The Signal. Retrieved 2007-04-16. 
  8. ^ Worden, Leon (August 14, 1996). "New Study Will Nag SCV Historians". The Signal. Retrieved 2007-04-16. 
  9. ^ Rasmussen, Cecilia (November 11, 2001). "Del Valle Family Played a Starring Role in Early California". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2007-04-09. 
  10. ^ a b "Ygnacio del Valle, Landowner". Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. Retrieved 2007-04-09. 
  11. ^ "Plat of the Rancho San Francisco finally confirmed to JACOBA FELIZ, et al." 1 AMR 1. Ventura County Recorder Retrieved January 2, 2014 from CountyView GIS.
  12. ^ Worden, Leon. "SCV Chronology: A Timeline of Historical Events". Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. Retrieved March 8, 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Worden, Leon (June 7, 1995). "Prime Valencia Real Estate, $2 an Acre". The Signal. Retrieved 2007-04-20. 
  14. ^ Newhall, Ruth Waldo (1992). A California Legend: The Newhall Land and Farming Company. Newhall Land and Farming Company. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]