Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rancho San Antonio

The Rancho San Antonio was the original land grant made by the Spanish throne to Don Luis Maria Peralta on August 3rd, 1820. The initial grant contained 44,800 acres and included the land that would become the cities of Oakland, Alameda, San Leandro, Emeryville, Berkeley, Piedmont, and Albany.

Don Luis was given the grant in recognition of years of service in the Spanish military. Though he never lived on the Rancho, his four sons, their families, and their employees established the first Spanish speaking communities of the East Bay. The Peralta Hacienda site, located on 34th Ave. in East Oakland, became the center of the Peralta family's operation in the East Bay.

In 1842, Don Peralta split the Rancho between his four sons, giving them each a quarter of the land. His five daughters received his cattle and the Peralta Adobe, along with a small plot of land. This division led to a great deal of familial strife that contributed to the breaking up of the Peralta family land. Following the conclusion of the Mexican-American War in 1848, the U.S. government recognized Spanish and Mexican land claims, but only if they could be proven in U.S. Supreme Court. In the years of litigation that followed, squatters lured in by the Gold Rush swarmed over the Peralta lands, claiming ownership and even subdividing and selling land illegally. Though the Peraltas would eventually prove their claims in court, it was too late and they had either lost much of their land to squatters or been forced to sell it to pay for legal fees and representation.

The family continued to lose land due to sales, legal troubles, and inheritance. In 1870 the last piece of land belonging to the Peralta family was sold to a developer.

The Rancho San Antonio is a huge part of the history of the East Bay. The families and settlers that moved to the area when it was under the control of the Peralta family were the first Europeans to live in the area, and their descendents are still resident in many cases, able to trace their families back to these initial settlers. The creation of the American communities of the East Bay, primarily Oakland but including a large number of satellite communities, is impossible to discuss without including the dissolution and sale of the Peralta's land and the United States actions to bring the Californios under government rule.

Getting There By Bike...
Chances are, if you're reading this anywhere in the East Bay you are probably in part of what used to be the Rancho San Antonio. There are a number of historical sites that are associated with the Rancho, and all of them are accessible by bike. The directly related sites would be the Peralta Home, the site of the Peralta Hacienda, and the memorial plaque in downtown San Leandro. There is also the Camino Real of the Rancho San Antonio, which can still be followed through Oakland and El Cerrito.

Taking the BART to San Leandro and visiting the memorial plaques and the Peralta Home would be the logical starting point. The sites are located about five blocks away from the BART station in a nicely maintained city park. The street that borders the park, E. 14th, is busy so be careful.
The Peralta Hacienda site is located at 34th Ave. and Coolidge in East Oakland. There is a great Italianate villa that was constructed by the last of the Peralta family, as well as a park that contains the original site of the Peralta family hacienda when they moved to the East Bay to claim their land grant. There are some interesting instructional materials scattered around the park that offer some insight into the history of the hacienda.

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