Abel Stearns

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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.


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.


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

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  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