The following is one of a series of articles on South Bay History that I have had published in the South Bay Digs magazine:
Rancho Sausal Redondo, Rancho Ajuaje de la Centinela and Rancho Centinela
In its earliest days, El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, and Hermosa Beach were part of the ten-mile ocean frontage of Rancho Sausal Redondo, which means "Round Clump of Willows." In 1822, a year after Mexico had gained its independence from Spain, Antonio Ygnacio Avila was granted a permit to utilize grazing land totaling approx. 25,000 acres on what was to become Rancho Sausal Redondo, and on May 20,1837 received a land grant from Governor Juan Alverado for Rancho Sausal Redondo consisting of approx. 22,459 acres, which included the present-day cities of El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Lawndale, Manhattan Beach, and Playa del Rey. On June 19, 1856, the U. S. District Court issued a decree of confirmation of title to Antonio Ygnacio Avila for Rancho Sausal Redondo.
Map showing South Bay Ranchos and the old Stage
Coach route between San Pedro and Pueblo Los Angeles
Where the city of Inglewood is today there was another, smaller, Mexican rancho called the Rancho Ajuaje de la Centinela, which means the "Sentinel of Waters." This rancho was once part of the Rancho Sausal Redondo, and Ygnacio Machado had encroached on the land claimed by Antonio Avila, and was awarded provisional title to this land totaling approx. 2,200 acres at the same time that Antonio Avila received his land grant for the balance of the Rancho Sausal Redondo in 1837. In 1845, Machado traded the rancho to Bruno Avila, brother of Antonio Ygnacio Avila, for a small tract in the pueblo of Los Angeles. Bruno Avila, unfortunately, mortgaged his property at an interest rate of 6% per month, which was the standard interest rate at the time for personal loans, and unable to repay his debts, lost his property through foreclosure in 1857. Subsequent to this, the Rancho Ajuaje de la Centinela changed hands a number of times, eventually being acquired in 1860 for $3,000 by Sir Robert Burnett, a Scottish lord.
The Rancho Sausal Redondo property consisting of approximately 22,459 acres was purchased by Sir Robert Burnett on May 5, 1868, when it was sold to him through probate court for $30,000 to pay debts accrued by the Avila estate (Antonio Ygnacio Avila had died in 1858). Burnett combined the two ranchos under the name of Rancho La Centinela.
In 1873, Burnett leased the land to Catherine Freeman with an option to buy, and Burnett returned to his native Scotland. When Catherine Freeman died in 1874, Daniel Freeman, her husband, used the land for sheep, horses and orchards with fruit, almonds and olives. When a severe drought occurred in 1875 and 1876, he incurred heavy losses. In 1882, Freeman used his option to buy 3,912 acres for the sum of $22,243. On May 4,1885, Freeman purchased the remainder of Rancho La Centinela for $140,000. Daniel Freeman was the last person to own all of Rancho La Centinela. Daniel Freeman eventually sold his land to several real estate developers.
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