By Michele E. Buttelman
When using the term “old California” many people think of a specific era in California history, the “rancho period.”
The “rancho period” is considered to be between the 1830s and the 1850s. This is the time in which the Mexican government distributed lands through land grants that had been under the control of the missions to private individuals.
Over a period of about 60 years, the Spanish and Mexican governments made about 500 land grants for ranchos in California. Of these, only about 30 originated during the Spanish period (1769-1822), while most came about during the Mexican era (1822-1848).
Rancheros were people who had been loyal to Spain or Mexico, and had shown that they were capable of farming the land in a productive way. The first rancheros were soldiers who had come to the region as early as 1769. Most, though, were settlers whose families had come to Alta California in the 1770s. After Mexican independence, they called themselves Californios, because they felt closely connected to the land of California.
Ranchos made way for suburban homes and shopping centers, but vestiges of the ranchos and their adobes remain.
5164 E Telegraph Road (Highway 126)
Piru, CA 93040
Rancho Camulos is a 40-acre National Historic Landmark, one of only 146 such designations in California, situated within an 1,800-acre working ranch.
It is the best remaining example of a Spanish-Mexican rancho in its original rural environment and is noted for its literary significance as the setting for Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel “Ramona.”
“Ramona,” was first published in 1884 and is still in print. It is the romantic tale of a young girl raised by a Spanish Californio family who falls in love with a Native American ranch hand.
Camulos Ranch, established by Ygnacio del Valle in 1853, was carved out of the 48,612-acre Rancho San Francisco, granted in 1839 to Ygnacio’s father Antonio del Valle, majordomo and administrator of Mission San Fernando.
In 1925 the ranch was sold to the Rubel family.
The Rubel family’s heirs formed a non-profit museum that now oversees the restoration and interpretation of the historic buildings. The museum is governed by a board of directors that includes del Valle and Rubel descendants.
It became a National Historic Landmark in February, 2000.
Currently, docent-led tours are offered on Sundays from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. Cost: $5 per person. You will see the interior of the main adobe built in 1853, the chapel, the winery, the schoolhouse, the Tataviam Native American village and the beautiful rose garden and grounds.
Rancho Camulos is one of the only Mexican land grant ranchos in California that is open to the public and still preserved in its original rural environment.
Los Encinos State Historic Park
16756 Moorpark St.
Encino CA 91436
Los Encinos State Historic Park includes the last parcel of land of what used to be an Indian Village of the Tongva and Tataviam Indians known in this area as Fernandeno and the 1849 rancho buildings from the de La Osa Rancho which occupied this area after the San Fernando Mission was built.
The De la Osa Adobe is open for self-guided tours upon request.
The guided tours and visitor center remain closed.
This California rancho includes the original eight-room de la Ossa Adobe, the two-story limestone Garnier building, a blacksmith shop, a natural spring and a pond.
Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum
18127 S. Alameda St.
Rancho Dominguez, CA 90220
The Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum at Rancho San Pedro is the site of a Spanish land grant of 75,000 acres from King Carlos III to Juan Jose Dominguez in 1784. Dominguez was a retired Spanish soldier who came to California with the Portola expedition and later with Father Junipero Serra. The Rancho included the entire Los Angeles harbor.
During the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) the Battle of Dominguez Rancho was fought in 1846 on the property.
The Museum offers free tours of the Adobe residence on every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday and also on the first Thursday and Friday of the month at 1p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Tours conducted by reservation only.
Rancho Los Cerritos
4600 Virginia Road
Long Beach, CA 90807
In 1784 a Spanish soldier, Manuel Nieto, received a land grant of 300,000 acres as a reward for his military service and to encourage settlement in California. Nieto’s acreage was reduced in 1790 because of a dispute with the Mission San Gabriel, but he still laid claim to 167,000 acres stretching from the hills north of Whittier to the sea, and from today’s Los Angeles River to the Santa Ana River.
The original ranch house, constructed in 1844, was later remodeled by the Bixby family in 1930 and is now a free museum owned by the city of Long Beach.
The museum is open Wednesday to Friday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Camarillo Ranch House, Camarillo
201 Camarillo Ranch Road
Camarillo, CA. 93012
The Camarillo Ranch was a land grant to Gabriel Ruiz in 1766 purchased by Juan Camarillo in 1875. The current three-story 14-room Victorian Queen Anne ranch house was built in 1892 to replace the original adobe that was destroyed in a fire. Docent led house tours are on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., last tour starts at 1:30 p.m.
House tour fees are $5 per person (cash only). Children 12 and under are free. Rubber soled shoes are recommended.