Rancho San Pablo

By The Honorable A. F. Bray
Contra Costa County, California Broadcast Station
KLX, Oakland, California Number 131, broadcast
December 12, 1936

The Rancho San Pablo in Contra Costa County has been prolific of much litigation. This is not surprising when one realizes the size of the grant. It consisted of 5 square leagues or approximately 13 square miles. It adjoined the Peralta Grant on the north and roughly embraced what are now the towns of El Cerrito, Kensington and a large part of the present city of Richmond, and ran up San Pablo Canyon to the side of the dam now maintained by the East Bay Municipal Utility District. So you see, it was well worth fighting for.

By 1856 this grant, which had originally been granted to the Castro family, was owned by a considerable number of persons, mostly children and grandchildren of the original Castro, and the husbands and wives of such children and grandchildren. Juan B. Alvarado, who had been one of the Mexican governors of California and his wife, who was a Castro, owned an undivided one-eighth of the San Pablo Rancho, at this time. Another eighth was owned by Antonio Castro and the members of his family; a similar share belonged to Juan Jose's Castro and Petra Bernal de Castro and members of their family; Gabriel Castro and Marcellina Felix de Castro and their family owned a similar amount, as did the family of Joaquin Castro and Trinidad Pacheco de Castro, and that of Victor Castro and Felicidad Carillo de Castro. The Francisco Moraga and Jose Moraga families claimed another eighth. All these are named that were of great historical importance in the early development of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

In the year 1856, all the people holding interests in this vast domain of territory, got together and decided to divide up the San Pablo Rancho into several lots in accordance with their undivided ownership's. So an agreement was drawn up in which commissioners were appointed to go out on the ground and to give to each owner a plot of ground equal to his proportionate share in the whole. Most of those interested signed the agreement. In fact, the heads of the families signed, and all the rest excepting five persons, whose total interests amounted to on-twenty-fourth (1/24) if the whole. On the assumption that as the heads of the families and others totaling 23/24th had signed, the others would follow suit, or, at least, would not object to the action of the others, the commissioners appointed in the agreement went ahead with the partitioning of the rancho.

It took them about a year and at the end of that time, all those who signed the agreement were well pleased with the division. But the holders of the 1/24th interest, who had not signed, were not satisfied and refused to accept the lands allotted to them, so the 23/24th interests went to court to force the 1/24ths interests to take what was given them. But without success-the Court holding that an out of court partition could not be forced upon landholders who did not agree to it. As a result, this partition was thrown out, and later on a court proceeding was brought to compel a partition and eventually this very valuable land was divided up between its many owners.

Suggested Reading:

Original papers of A. F. Bray in the Contra Costa County History Center archives.


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