Archive for December, 2010

Land Grant Terminology

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Act of Possession – A ceremony performed after approval of a Mexican land grant in which the new owner and Mexican government officials participated. It occurred on the actual grant property in front of witnesses following the survey by the local alcalde. A brief description of the Acts of Possession for the Rancho Piedra Blanca can be found here. (more…)

Rancho San Simeon

Friday, December 24th, 2010

In 1821, Mexico declared its independence from Spain and, in 1834, Mexico’s Secularization Laws were ratified under the governorship of Jose Figueroa. The Mexican government then began transferring the mission lands to private individuals through the Mexican Land Grant system. Jose Ramon Estrada applied to governor Juan Alvarado for a grant of the Rancho San Simeon and his application was approved on December 1, 1842. (more…)

Rancho Piedra Blanca

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

On January 18, 1840, the Mexican governor of Alta California, Juan B. Alvarado, granted about 49,000 acres of the Rancho Piedra Blanca to Don Jose de Jesus Pico. The Rancho Piedra Blanca was described in the original grant to Pico as “…bounded by the arroya named ‘del Pinalito’ by that known by the name of ‘San Carpogaro’ by the sea and by the big mountain…” The arroyo del “Pinal” or “Padre Juan” lies about a mile south of the south fork of Pico Creek. The alcalde, Jose Mariano Bonilla, caused juridical measurement of the tract to be made on September 25, 1842. (more…)

John Wilson

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

John Downes Wilson, better known as Captain John Wilson, was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1798. By the time he was 30 he was master of the Thomas Nowlan, a ship trading in hides and tallow on the California coast. From 1828 to 1843 he was captain of several ships in this trade including the Ayacucho, a ship described in some detail by Richard Henry Dana in his book Two Years Before the Mast. After his sailing days he became a land holder and cattle rancher, ultimately becoming one of the biggest land holders in California. Although he was born a protestant, he converted to Catholicism in order to conform to Mexican law which restricted land ownership to Catholics. To this end he was sometimes known as Juan Wilson or even Juan Huilsons. (more…)


Friday, December 10th, 2010

Captain Lorin Vincent Thorndyke was the head keeper at Piedras Blancas Light Station for twenty-seven years from August 19, 1879 until August 22, 1906. Though not the first head keeper, he certainly had the longest tenure in that position.  “The Captain”, as everyone called him, was born in West Camden, Maine on January 28, 1839. Before coming to Piedras Blancas, he was in the Merchant Marine for many years and claimed to have been around the world five times. He also served at several lighthouses along the California coast including Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, Yerba Buena in San Francisco Bay, and, lastly, Point Hueneme, prior to being assigned to Point Piedras Blancas at the age of forty. (more…)