Maureen Megowan's Blog


The Partitioning of Rancho Los Palos Verdes

The following is one of a series of articles on South Bay History that I have had published in the South Bay Digs magazine:

                                            The Partitioning of Rancho Los Palos Verdes

Beginning in 1840, the Sepulveda family (consisting of Juan Capistrano Sepulveda and Jose Loreto Sepulveda ( the two oldest surviving sons of Jose Diego Sepulveda who had grazed cattle on the Rancho Los Palos Verdes since 1809 and had won a Spanish land grant for the Rancho), two younger brothers Jose Diego Sepulveda and Ygnacio Rafael Sepulveda, and their sister Maria Teresa Sepulveda),.began to sell or mortgage a large portion of their interest in the Rancho. In July 1840, Ygnacio Sepulveda surrendered his 20% interest to his brother-in-law Nathaniel Pryor for $50.

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 family began to incur significant debt. 

In 1855, Juan Capistrano Sepulveda mortgaged his 20% share of the Rancho which then went into foreclosure, but it was then purchased for $3,000 in 1858 by Jose Diego Sepulveda, Juan's younger brother, who had previously sold  his 20% interest in the Rancho in 1849 to a man named Santiego Johnson.  In 1855, Jose then deeded 12 acres of land back to his older brother.

in 1869, Jose Diego Sepulveda died, and left his 20% interest in the Rancho to his sons. Narbonne & Weston, two sheep herders, bought a 10% interest in the Rancho from Jose Loreto Sepulveda for $4,000 in 1872.

 Jotham Bixby

In December 1872, Jotham Bixby bought the 20% interest in the Rancho claimed by Maria Sepulveda. In August 1874, Jose Loreto Sepulveda mortgaged his remaining 15% interest in the Rancho which was foreclosed on in 1879, and then purchased by Jotham Bixby. In 1874, Bixby purchased the 20% interest in the Rancho claimed by Santiego Johnson's heirs at a public auction. This brought Bixby's total interest in the Rancho to approx. 45%. During these years, Bixby made additional purchases of a portion of the Rancho.

Numerous additional lawsuits were filed in the mid-1870's disputing ownership of the land making up the Rancho, due to parties sometimes buying or selling the same claimed interest, and requesting partitioning of the land. During the period from 1865 to 1880, the Sepulvedas were engaged in 78 lawsuits, six land partitions suits, and 12 suits over eviction of squatters.  From 1878-1882 the land was held in receivership. Sadly, Jose Loreto Sepulveda (who had sold or mortgaged his entire interest in the Rancho) died in 1881, a broken man.

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

At the conclusion of these complicated law suits on September 25, 1882, the Rancho was partitioned into 17 portions.  The largest share of 17,085 acres (approx 53% of the 31,629 acre Rancho), which included the Palos Verdes Peninsula, was awarded to Jotham Bixby, with only 12 remaining acres 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 younger  brother.

For more about South Bay Los Angeles history, go to 

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Comment balloon 0 commentsMaureen Megowan • July 18 2011 07:16PM


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