Abel Stearns

Last updated
Abel Stearns
Portrait of a drawing of Abel Stearns, ca.1840-1860 (CHS-1805).jpg
BornFebruary 9, 1798 (1798-02-09)
DiedAugust 23, 1871 (1871-08-24) (aged 73)
San Francisco, California
NationalityAmerican, Mexican
Occupation Entrepreneur, Rancher
Known forEarly California pioneer
Spouse(s) Arcadia Bandini

Abel Stearns (February 9, 1798 – August 23, 1871) was a trader who came to the Pueblo de Los Angeles, Alta California in 1829 and became a major landowner, cattle rancher and one of the area's wealthiest citizens.

Alta California province of New Spain

Alta California, known sometimes unofficially as Nueva California, California Septentrional, California del Norte or California Superior, began in 1804 as a province of New Spain. Along with the Baja California peninsula, it had previously comprised the province of Las Californias, but was split off into a separate province in 1804. Following the Mexican War of Independence, it became a territory of Mexico in April 1822 and was renamed "Alta California" in 1824. The claimed territory included all of the modern US states of California, Nevada and Utah, and parts of Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. In the 1836 Siete Leyes government reorganization, the two Californias were once again combined - into a single departamento. That change was undone in 1846, but rendered moot by U.S. military occupation of California in the Mexican-American War.

Contents

Early life

Stearns was born in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, the son of Elizabeth (née Goodrich) and Levi Stearns, a farmer. His parents were both from families that came from England in the 1600s. [1] Stearns went to Mexico in about 1826, where he became a naturalized citizen. [2]

Lunenburg (CDP), Massachusetts CDP in Massachusetts, United States

Lunenburg is a census-designated place (CDP) in the town of Lunenburg in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 1,760 at the 2010 census.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometers (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fourth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 129 million people, Mexico is the tenth most populous country and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states plus Mexico City (CDMX), which is the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the country include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana, and León.

Los Angeles

In 1829, Stearns emigrated to Monterey, California, then settled in the Pueblo de los Ángeles, present day Los Angeles, California. He obtained a government concession to build a warehouse at San Pedro, the nearest seaport. Later, he established a stagecoach route connecting San Pedro Bay with the Los Angeles pueblo. In 1831, he built a three-story flour mill on North Spring Street, Los Angeles. Soon, Stearns became one of the most prominent and influential citizens of the pueblo. [3]

Monterey, California City in California, United States

Monterey is a city located in Monterey County on the southern edge of Monterey Bay on California's Central Coast. Founded on June 3, 1770, it was the capital of Alta California under both Spain and Mexico. During this period, Monterey hosted California's first theater, public building, public library, publicly funded school, printing press, and newspaper. It was also originally the only port of entry for all taxable goods in California. In 1846 during the Mexican–American War, the United States flag was raised over the Customs House. After California was ceded to the U.S. after the war, Monterey hosted California's first constitutional convention in 1849.

Stagecoach type of covered wagon

A stagecoach is a four-wheeled public coach used to carry paying passengers and light packages on journeys long enough to need a change of horses. It is strongly sprung and generally drawn by four horses.

San Pedro Bay (California) bay near Los Angeles in California, United States

San Pedro Bay is an inlet on the Pacific Ocean coast of southern California, United States. It is the site of the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, which together form the fifth-busiest port facility in the world and the busiest in the Americas. The community of San Pedro, Los Angeles forms the western side of the bay, and shares the name.

In 1842 Stearns bought his first rancho, the 28,000-acre (110 km2) Rancho Los Alamitos between Los Angeles and the harbor. However, there was a drought between 1862 and 1864 which was said to have resulted in the death of 50,000 cattle on Stearns land alone. Stearns mortgaged the rancho to Michael Reese, who then purchased it at a sheriff's sale. Reese's estate was then sold to John W. Bixby and Isaias W. Hellman, a founder of the Farmers and Merchants Bank.

The Spanish issued Concessions of land to retired soldiers as an inducement for them to remain in the frontier. These Concessions reverted back to the Spanish crown upon the death of the recipient. Later, the Mexican government encouraged settlement of the coastal region of Alta California by issuing much larger land grants to Mexican citizens, both native born and naturalized. The grants were usually two or more square leagues, or 35 square kilometres (14 sq mi) in size. Unlike Spanish Concessions, Mexican land grants provided permanent, unencumbered property-ownership rights to the land, with most being called "ranchos." The ranchos granted by Mexico included most of the land along the California coast, around San Francisco Bay, inland along the Sacramento River, and land within the San Joaquin Valley.

Rancho Los Alamitos United States historic place

Rancho Los Alamitos takes its name from an 1834 Mexican partition of the 1784 Rancho Los Nietos, a Spanish concession, covering an area in present-day California's southwestern Los Angeles County and northwestern Orange County. Los Alamitos means the Little Cottonwoods or Poplars in Spanish, after the native Fremont Cottonwood trees there.

Isaias W. Hellman American financier of German-Jewish descent

Isaias Wolf Hellman was a German-born American banker and philanthropist, and a founding father of the University of Southern California.

In 1842 Stearns made the first shipment to the U.S. Mint of California gold on record. On July 8, 1843, his package of 1,843 ounces of placer gold valued at $19 an ounce was deposited in the Philadelphia Mint by Alfred Robinson. [4]

United States Mint Produces circulating coinage for the United States

The United States Mint is a unit of the Department of Treasury responsible for producing coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce, as well as controlling the movement of bullion. It does not produce paper money; that responsibility belongs to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The Mint was created in Philadelphia in 1792, and soon joined by other centers, whose coins were identified by their own mint marks. There are currently four active coin-producing mints: Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, and West Point.

The Philadelphia Mint was created from the need to establish a national identity and the needs of commerce in the United States. This led the Founding Fathers of the United States to make an establishment of a continental national mint, a main priority after the ratification of the Constitution of the United States.

Alfred Robinson (1806–1895) was an American businessman and author in 19th century Alta California of Mexico and California of the United States. Robinson wrote Life in California in 1846, an influential early description of the region, and Juaneño Native American people.

Following the Mexican-American War, Stearns represented Los Angeles to the US military government of California, 1848-1850. He was a delegate to the 1849 California Constitutional Convention, [5] representing the district of Los Angeles; later he was California State Assemblyman, and a Los Angeles County Supervisor [6] and a member of the Los Angeles Common Council, the legislative branch of the city government.

California State Assembly lower house of the California State Legislature

The California State Assembly is the lower house of the California State Legislature, the upper house being the California State Senate. The Assembly convenes, along with the State Senate, at the California State Capitol in Sacramento.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Five-member governing body of Los Angeles County, California

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is the five-member governing body of Los Angeles County, California, United States.

The Los Angeles Common Council was the predecessor of the Los Angeles, California, City Council. It was formed in 1850 under state law, when the city had only 1,610 residents, and it existed until 1889, when the city had about 50,400 residents and a city charter was put into effect.

Ranchos

Stearns' Ranchos, 1875 Hand-book and directory of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Kern, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and San Diego counties, with a list of the post-offices of the Pacific coast (1875) (14773965104).jpg
Stearns' Ranchos, 1875

By 1860, Stearns was the most important land owner in Southern California, and owned Rancho La Habra, Rancho Los Coyotes, Rancho San Juan Cajón de Santa Ana, Rancho Las Bolsas, Rancho La Bolsa Chica, Rancho Jurupa and Rancho La Sierra (Sepulveda). Stearns was hit hard by the drought of 1863-64, causing the loss of thousands of cattle. By 1868 Stearns had suffered such financial reverses that he mortgaged all his ranch assets in what were then Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Robinson Trust

To obtain the necessary operating capital, he formed a real estate sales partnership, with Alfred Robinson and four San Francisco investors; Samuel Brannan, E. F. Northam, Charles B. Polhemus, and Edward Martin; that became known as the Robinson Trust in 1868. He turned over 177,796 acres (720 km2) to the Trust, including all but one of his ranchos.

The era of the large cattle ranchos was on the way out. In its place came agriculture, as ranchos were broken up and generally sold in 40-acre (160,000 m2) farms and ranches. The Robinson Trust acted as sales agents for the subdivisions. In order to gain maximum coverage for their campaign, they linked themselves to the California Immigrant Union and helped guide that organization's sales pitches.

Despite considerable friction between Stearns and the other members of the trust, the Robinson Trust nevertheless succeeded. By 1870 Stearns was out from under the debts incurred by the drought of the 1860s and was on his way to accumulating yet another fortune.

Family life

Stearns was nicknamed "Cara de Caballo" (Horse Face) because of his long-jawed countenance. [7] In 1841, he married Arcadia Bandini of the wealthy Bandini family. They lived and entertained at their Los Angeles home, the historic Don Abel Stearns House. Stearns died on August 23, 1871, at age 72 in the Grand Hotel, San Francisco, California, and is interred at Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles. [8] [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker Los Angeles landowner and Californiana

Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker (1825–1912) was a wealthy Californio landowner and socialite of Los Angeles. She played an important role in the elite society of Los Angeles and, later, Santa Monica. She was married to two wealthy Anglo-American men over the course of her life, Abel Stearns and then Colonel Robert S. Baker. Like many californias of her time, Arcadia Bandini provided to her Anglo husbands opportunities for entrance into and alliances within the established californio elite society. She was a skilled businesswoman in her own right, as well as a renowned hostess and organizer of balls and other social functions. Through her Bandini family wealth and the wealth of her husbands, Arcadia Bandini de Stearns Baker amassed an enormous estate and fortune, and upon her death was one of the wealthiest women in America. In her later life, she was considered "the great benefactress of Santa Monica" for her investments in and contributions to the development of the city. Because she had no children and did not leave a will, her death prompted an infamous court battle for control of her estate.

Manuel Dominguez Viceroy of New Spain

Manuel Dominguez (1803–1882) Early-California ranchero holder and politician. His public career included Alcalde (Mayor) of the Pueblo de Los Ángeles and Third Prefect of the Southern District of Alta California. He was a signee of the first California Constitution. He solidified legal claim to the large southern California land concession, Rancho San Pedro, through government transitions from Spanish colonialism to Mexican government to United States statehood. The adobe home he constructed on the rancho is now a California historic landmark.

Rancho Jurupa was a 40,569-acre (164.18 km2) Mexican land grant in California, United States, that is divided by the present-day counties of Riverside and San Bernardino. The land was granted to Juan Bandini by Governor Juan B. Alvarado in 1838. Located along both banks of the Santa Ana River in southern California, the rancho included much of the land in the present day city of Jurupa Valley, as well as the downtown area in the city of Riverside.

Rancho La Ballona was a 13,920-acre (56.3 km2) Mexican land grant in the present-day Westside region of Los Angeles County, southern California.

Rancho Cañón de Santa Ana was a 13,328-acre (53.94 km2) land grant in present-day Orange County, California given by Mexican governor José Figueroa in 1834 to Bernardo Yorba. The name means "Canyon of Santa Ana". The grant included present-day Yorba Linda.

Rancho Guajome

Rancho Guajome was a 2,219-acre (8.98 km2) Mexican land grant in present day San Diego County, California given in 1845 by Governor Pío Pico to Andrés and José Manuel, Indians. The name comes from a Luiseño phrase involving the word "frog", likely wakhavumi "frog pond" or waxáawu-may "little frog". The grant was south of San Luis Rey River and Rancho Monserate and north of present day Vista. The site is now registered as California Historical Landmark #940.

Robert Symington Baker American businessman

Colonel Robert Symington Baker (1826–1894) was a businessman and landowner, from Rhode Island. He came to California in 1849 and engaged in mining supplies business, also as Cook and Baker in San Francisco,Calofornia. Later he became associated with General Beale in the cattle and sheep business in the northern part of the state and in the Tejon area.

Jonathan Temple, or Don Juan Temple came to Mexican California in 1828 and became a large California rancho landowner, cattle rancher, and one of the region's wealthiest citizens.

Rancho Los Coyotes was a 48,806-acre (197.51 km2) 1834 Mexican land grant resulting from the partition of the Rancho Los Nietos grant, in present-day southeastern Los Angeles County and northwestern Orange County, California. The rancho lands include the present-day cities of Cerritos, La Mirada, Stanton, and Buena Park.

Rancho Los Cerritos was a 27,054-acre (109.48 km2) 1834 land grant in present-day southern Los Angeles County and Orange County, California The grant was the result of a partition of the Rancho Los Nietos grant. "Cerritos" means "little hills" in Spanish. The rancho lands include the present-day cities of Cerritos and Long Beach.

Rancho Las Bolsas was a 33,460-acre (135.4 km2) 1834 Mexican land grant resulting from the partition of Rancho Los Nietos, located from the coast on inland within present day northwestern Orange County, California. The Spanish name "las bolsas" means "the pockets", and refers to pockets of land amongst the marsh wetlands of the Santa Ana River estuary. The rancho lands, adjacent to the southeast of Rancho La Bolsa Chica, include the present day cities of Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Fountain Valley and Westminster.

Cornelio Ávila was the founder of a large and prominent southern California family.

Rancho La Bolsa Chica

Rancho La Bolsa Chica was an 8,107-acre (32.81 km2) Mexican land grant in present day coastal northwestern Orange County, California given in 1841 by Governor Juan Alvarado to Joaquín Ruiz. The name means "little pocket", and refers to pockets of land amongst the marsh wetlands of the Santa Ana River estuary. The rancho lands include the present day city of Huntington Beach, the community of Sunset Beach, and the significant Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

Rancho Las Cienegas was a 4,439-acre (17.96 km2) Mexican land grant in present-day Los Angeles County, California given in 1823 to Francisco Avila by Governor Luis Antonio Argüello. "La Cienega" is derived from the Spanish word cienaga, which means swamp or marshland and refers to the natural springs and wetlands in the area between the Baldwin Hills range and Baldwin Hills district, and Beverly Hills. The rancho was north of Rancho La Cienega o Paso de la Tijera and east of present-day La Cienega Boulevard between Wilshire Boulevard and Jefferson Boulevard. The Los Angeles River would periodically change course historically, and flowed through the rancho's lowlands to Ballona Creek and the Santa Monica Bay until 1825, when it returned to the flowing through Rancho San Pedro to San Pedro Bay.

Rancho Jesus Maria was a 42,185-acre (170.72 km2) Mexican land grant in present-day northern Santa Barbara County, California given in 1837 by Governor Juan B. Alvarado to Lucas Antonio Olivera and José Antonio Olivera. The grant extended along the Pacific coast from Shuman Canyon south to the Santa Ynez River. It is the site of the present day Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Don Abel Stearns House

Don Abel Stearns House was located in Los Angeles, California, US. His home was at the southeast corner of Main and Arcadia streets. Here he built a substantial, wide spreading adobe surrounding a large courtyard. The house was a one-story adobe, and covered the entire ground occupied by the block, with an extensive "patio" or inner court in the center. When the outer gates were closed, this was a citadel capable of withstanding a siege.

Casa De San Pedro

Casa De San Pedro also called Casa De San Pedro Hide House and Casa de is was of the oldest commercial structure on the San Pedro Bay. It site was designated a California Historic Landmark on June 6, 1978. The site is now near Meyler and Quartermaster Roads in San Pedro.

References

  1. http://www.laokay.com/halac/RanchoLosAlamitos.htm
  2. BARROWS, H. D. (January 1899). "ABEL STEARNS". Annual Publication of the Historical Society of Southern California and Pioneer Register, Los Angeles. 4 (3): 197–199. doi:10.2307/41167726.
  3. Fedewa, Philip (1970). Abel Stearns in Transitional California, 1848-1871. unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Missouri.
  4. Wright, Doris M. (1977). A Yankee in Mexican California: Abel Stearns, 1798-1848. W. Hebberd,Santa Barbara.
  5. First California Constitutional Convention
  6. "Supervisor Abel Stearns" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-05-27. Retrieved 2009-03-16.
  7. Portrait of a drawing of Abel Stearns, ca.1840-1860
  8. Public Radio International
  9. Journal of San Diego History