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.
The grant for Rancho Piedra Blanca was presented to the Board of Land Commissioners for the State of California for confirmation in accordance with the Land Act of 1851 and, on December 13, 1853, the confirmation was granted. The confirmation was appealed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of California which issued a decree in favor of the Commissioners. An appeal of the decree was filed but subsequently withdrawn at the insistence of the U.S. Attorney General and, on February 24, 1857, the court issued its final decree confirming the grant.
In August, 1868, the Rancho Piedra Blanca, as finally confirmed to Don Jose de Jesus Pico, was surveyed by Luis Castro, Deputy U. S. Surveyor. The General Land Office calculated the area of the survey as being 48,984.58 acres, 159 acres in excess of the eleven league maximum allowed by the United States government. On July 19, 1872, Luis Castro completed a revised plat of the rancho making some minor changes near the northeast corner and excluding the lighthouse reserve from the rancho property
Don Jose de Jesus Pico was born into the powerful Pico family in Monterey in 1807. By 1836 he had become administrator of the Mission San Antonio de Padua near Jolon and in 1841 he was appointed administrator of the Mission San Miguel. At this point he married Dona Gabriella Villa and they established a home in San Luis Obispo. Mexican law required him to build a home on the Rancho Piedra Blanca, stock it with animals and plant an orchard, all of which he did. His adobe home was constructed a short distance from the ocean on the bank of a creek about three miles south of San Simeon Bay. Today this creek is known as Pico Creek.
Pico was a close friend of Romualdo Pacheco and his family. After Pacheco’s death his wife, Dona Ramona, married Captain John D. Wilson, also a friend of Pico. Wilson and Dona Ramona lived in a house on the corner of Broad and Monterey Streets in San Luis Obispo which currently houses the San Luis Obispo County Historical Society. In 1854, Pico sold a large portion of the Rancho Piedra Blanca to Captain Wilson for $15,000. This sale included a half interest in 600 acres near San Simeon Bay consisting of a strip of land bounded by the ocean, the Arroyo del Puerto San Simeon, the Arroyo de Laguna and a straight line connecting two points on the arroyos 500 varas from the ocean. It also included a full interest in all that portion of the rancho lying north of Arroyo de la Laguna, about 30,000 acres.
On August 8, 1859, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors instituted a property tax on the county ranchos. Expenses involved with grant ownership and taxes on the land were pressuring Pico and he accepted an offer from George Hearst for his remaining half ownership in the 600 acres near the bay and some other portions of the rancho. Hearst apparently had plans to develop the land around the bay but could not proceed as long as Wilson still held a half interest in the property.
When Wilson died in 1861, his property was left to his wife, Dona Ramona, his grown children from this marriage and his two step-sons. The step-sons were Romualdo and Mariano Pacheco, Dona Ramona’s children from her first marriage to Pacheco. Romualdo went on to become Governor of California from 1876 to 1877 and then was elected to congress. Mariano Pacheco and his wife, Francisca, received the north portion of the rancho where they built a home but he died shortly thereafter in 1865 leaving his wife and six children, all under the age of fifteen. His brother, Romualdo, was named executor of the will but he deferred to Juan Castro. Castro’s wife, Juana, who was the daughter of John Wilson and Dona Ramona, died in 1863. Two years after the death of Mariano Pacheco, Juan Castro married Francisca in 1865 and petitioned for guardianship of her six minor children thereby becoming the owner of the northern half of the Rancho Piedra Blanca where they lived.
During 1870, Hearst bought Wilson’s half interest in the bay property from Wilson’s son, John D. Wilson. Although Castro was forced to continue selling parts of his wife’s land, he refused to sell to Hearst but he did sell to Thomas J. Evans, Peter Gillis, William Moss and Franklin Phillips.
Hearst eventually acquired all of the property owned by Pico and, as Pico’s children reached maturity, he bought them out as well. When Castro’s step-children reached maturity, Hearst bought them out, too, ending Castro’s interest in the rancho.