The Rancho of the San Ramon Valley
By Beverly Lane
The Pachecos loved the valleys around Mount Diablo. Beginning in 1828, members of the Pacheco clan petitioned for and received Mexican land grants north, west and south of the mountain, which was then called El Sierra de los Bolbones after the Volvon Indians of the Clayton area.
The land was excellent for raising cattle and had been part of Mission San Jose’s huge grazing territory. Because the missions were being closed by the Mexican government, the land was available. The main drawback was hostile Indian activity, for they were no longer the friendly tribes the Spanish had encountered 50 years earlier.Juan Salvio Pacheco, his wife, Maria Carmen del Valle, and their children were first generation Spanish settlers who came to San Francisco in 1776 with the Anza expedition. Their grandson Salvio Pacheco successfully petitioned for the Rancho Monte del Diablo in 1828, their daughter-in-law Juana Sanchez de Pacheco received the Rancho Arroyo de las Nueces y Bolbones in 1834 and their son Bartolome Pacheco (with his nephew Mariano Castro) were granted the Rancho San Ramon Valley in 1833.
Thus, Pachecos became the first non-Indian owners of Concord, Walnut Creek and the San Ramon Valley.
Gov. Jose Figueroa granted Pacheco and Castro two square leagues of land which today would include Alamo, Danville and northern San Ramon. Castro had the northern league and Pacheco the southern, for a total of over 8000 acres. The sketch-maps or disenos of that day were more conceptual than exact, since there were few trained surveyors and the population was sparse.
Cattle herds moved over large areas at will, with periodic roundups and slaughters producing the hides and tallow which were the ranchos’ most important product. Calves were branded with the cow’s mark and ownership was established by the brand.
In the 1830s, the San Ramon Valley was still wild country, with abundant game and birds, huge reeds adjacent to the creeks, large herds of tule elk roaming the foothills and grizzly bears everywhere. There were aggressive Indians living on the Mt. Diablo foothills who rustled horses and cattle and burned outlying buildings. Because of this, Pacheco and Castro received permission to live out of the valley.
Mariano Castro and his family lived in the Pueblo de San Jose. He built a small, redwood house in the valley for use by himself and his sons during the roundup season. One source states that both Castro and Pacheco built houses and corrals on the southern end of their land, far away from the Indian bases.
Bartolome Pacheco arrived in California with the Anza expedition at age 10 and joined the military company of the San Francisco Presidio at 15 or 16. He was present at the dedication of Mission San Jose in 1797 and retired after 20 years as a soldier. His sister, Barbara Pacheco de Castro, was Mariano’s mother.
Bartolome lived in the San Mateo area and, when he died in 1839, his son Lorenzo became the owner. Also a soldier, Lorenzo had been cited for bravery after a lengthy battle in the San Joaquin Valley in the huge Indian rebellion led by Estanislao in 1828-9. Lorenzo Pacheco and Rafaela Soto were married in 1837 and lived in Pueblo San Jose.
When Lorenzo died fighting Indians in 1846, Rafaela Soto de Pacheco and her four small children inherited the Pacheco league of the Rancho San Ramon Valley. Soon the first American immigrants came to the Valley, admired the open land and settled with barely a nod to Mexican ownership. The notorious American land attorney Horace Carpentier “helped” Senora Pacheco with her title challenges and ended up owning the entire Pacheco-Castro rancho land. Topographic maps today show the land as Rancho San Ramon (Carpentier).
The second rancho in the valley belonged to Jose Maria Amador and was established south of today’s Crow Canyon Road.
Sources: Warren Beck’s Historical Atlas of California; articles by Leonora Fink and Dorothy Mutnick; History of Contra Costa County (1882); Mildred Hoover’s Historic Spots in California.
First appeared as a column called Presenting the Past in the Danville Weekly