Maureen Megowan's Blog


Partitioning of the Original Rancho de los Palos Verdes Land grant

For approx. 49 years, the Dominquez and Sepulveda families fought over the ownership rights to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Final title was conveyed in an 1858 land patent, signed by then-President James Buchanan  settling the long running dispute between the Dominquez and Sepulveda families. This land patent ceded the Rancho San Pedro totaling approx. 43,000 acres to the Dominguez family, and 31,000 acres of the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the two oldest Sepulveda brothers as the Rancho de los Palos Verdes.

The Partitioning of Rancho Los Palos Verdes

Beginning in 1840, the Sepulveda family began to sell or mortgage a large portion of their interest in Rancho de los Palos Verdes.

Watercolor of Don Diego Sepulveda Home

Watercolor of Jose Diego Sepulveda home by John Victor Carson., courtesy of CSU Dominquez Hills Archives

During the ten year period from 1855 to 1865, the Sepulvedas incurred significant financial difficulties, including a severe drought in 1862-1864 which wiped out most of their cattle herd. During this time, the Sepulvedas began to incur significant debt.   On May 11, 1855, Juan Capistrano Sepulveda mortgaged his share of the Rancho for a loan of $2,962 at an interest rate of 6% per month! In 1856, he then sold his interest in the Rancho to a man named Lamalfa, who then mortgaged the property, which then went into foreclosure, which was then purchased by Jose Diego Sepulveda, Juan's brother, for $3,000 in 1858. Jose Diego Sepulveda then deeded 12 acres of land to his brother Juan Capistrano Sepulveda, upon which Juan's house stood.

in 1869, Jose Diego Sepulveda died, and left his interest in the Rancho to his sons, Aurelio, Roman, and Rudecinda. Parts of the Rancho were sold or encumbered by loans, with Jotham Bixby involved in many of them.  Numerous additional lawsuits were filed in the mid-1870's disputing ownership of the land making up the Rancho de los Palos Verdes and requesting partitioning of the land, and from 1878-1882 the land was held in receivership, even though an additional land patent was issued to the Sepulvedas on June 23, 1880, signed by Rutherford B. Hayes. Sadly, Jose Loreto Sepulveda (who had sold or mortgaged his entire interest in the Rancho) died in 1881, a broken man. Numerous parties claimed an interest in the Rancho, based upon the transactions discussed above, many of them with conflicting claims, sometimes buying or selling the same claimed interest in the Rancho. During the period from 1865 to 1880, the Sepulvedas were engaged in 78 lawsuits, six land partitions suits, and12 suits over eviction of squatters.

At the conclusion of these complicated law suits on September 25, 1882, Rancho de los Palos Verdes was partitioned into seventeen portions . The largest share, the 17,031 acres which constituted the Palos Verdes Peninsula, was awarded to Jotham Bixby, with only about 12 acres awarded to Juan Capistrano Sepulveda (who died in 1896), and approx. 4,399 acres (most of the town of San Pedro)awarded to the family of Jose Diego Sepulveda (A.W.Sepulveda), his brother.

Rancho de los Palos Verdes Partition
Partition Map of the Rancho Los Palos Verdes, September 25, 1882---Courtesy of John G. Nordin

             Jotham Bixby  1905

The Bixby family retained ownership of the Palos Verdes Peninsula until they sold the property to Frank Vanderlip in 1913,

For more information about the HISTORY OF THE SOUTH BAY OF LOS ANGELES , visit my website at

For more information about Palos Verdes and South Bay Real Estate and buying and selling a home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, visit my website at . I try to make this the best real estate web blog in the South Bay Los Angeles and the Palos Verdes Peninsula. I would love to hear your comments or suggestions.

Comment balloon 1 commentMaureen Megowan • November 24 2009 08:39PM


Hi Maureen... I really enjoy posts with an area historic focus and this one was no exception!  I especially liked the graphics and pics!  BTW, speaking of pics, I like your new profile pic a lot too!

Posted by Steve Shatsky about 9 years ago

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