Rancho El Sobrante

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Don Víctor Castro, a Californio ranchero and politician, was granted Rancho El Sobrante in 1841.

Rancho El Sobrante was a 20,565-acre (83.22 km2) Mexican land grant in present-day Contra Costa County, California given in 1841 by Governor Juan Alvarado to Juan Jose Castro and Victor Castro.[1] The name means "left over " in Spanish—the grant's boundaries were determined by the boundaries of the surrounding grants: San Antonio, San Pablo, El Pinole, La Boca de la Cañada del Pinole, Acalanes, and La Laguna de los Palos Colorados. This grant included the area between present day El Sobrante and Orinda.


Brothers Juan Jose Castro (1803–1869) and Victor Ramon Castro (1817–1897) were among the eleven children of Francisco María Castro (1775–1831) and María Gabriela Berreyesa (1780–1851). Francisco Castro had been a soldier at San Francisco, who after serving as alcalde and in other public offices, was granted Rancho San Pablo in 1823. Juan Castro and Victor Castro served in the San Francisco militia.[2]

Juan Alvarado, married María Martina Castro (1814–1875) in 1839, and was thus brother-in-law to Juan Jose Castro and Victor Castro. Juan Castro was grantee of Yerba Buena Island in 1838, and Victor Castro was grantee of Mare Island in 1841. But neither brother settled permanently, and both grants were rejected by the Public Land Commission. Juan Castro and Victor Castro then identified an area of land which was not described in any land grants of the time, and applied for a grant for Rancho El Sobrante.[3]

Victor Castro built a two-story adobe dwelling in what is now El Cerrito, and became one of the first members of the Board of Supervisors of Contra Costa County in 1852.

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 Sobrante was filed with the Public Land Commission by Juan José Castro and Victor Castro in 1852.[4] The sobrante grant presented a complicated case of land ownership when it came into the U.S. courts. The area was entirely surrounded by other grants and its boundaries determined by the boundaries of the surrounding grants. After legal conflicts lasting more than three decades, a grant of over 20,000 acres (81 km2) was patented to Juan José Castro and Victor Castro in 1883.[5]

A square league of 3,872 acres (15.7 km2) was sold in 1847 to Ward and Smith, a San Francisco merchant business. A square league of 4,098 acres (16.6 km2) was sold in 1860 by Victor Castro to Eugene Kelly[6] and G.H. Woodruff, San Francisco bankers. By 1893, a survey map shows Victor Castro (Juan Jose had died) as the owner of just 549 acres (2.2 km2). Thousands of acres had gone to pay attorneys' fees in long struggles in the courts, against both more or less legitimate claimants and plagues of squatters who tried to profit from the Castros' troubles. More lawsuits were filed until 1909, when the final partition decree settled legal ownership of the land within Rancho El Sobrante.[7]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Kyle, Douglas; Hero Rensch; Ethel Rensch; Mildred Hoover (2002-09-06). Historic spots in California (5 ed.). Stanford University Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-8047-4483-1.
  3. ^ Moraga Historical Society. Tres Ranchos del Sur: Historic Mexican Land Grants, by Kay Norman, Sarge Littlehale and Carol Moll
  4. ^ United States. District Court (California : Northern District) Land Case 403 ND
  5. ^ Report of the Surveyor General 1844–1886 Archived 2013-03-20 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Death of Eugene Kelly, New York Times December 20, 1894
  7. ^ Adams v Hopkins, 1904, Reports of cases determined in the Supreme Court of the State of California, Volume 144, pp.19-46,Bancroft Whitney Co., San Francisco

Coordinates: 37°55′48″N 122°13′48″W / 37.930°N 122.230°W / 37.930; -122.230