José Eusebio Boronda

By Robert B. Johnston


José Eusebio Boronda, the third son of Manuel Boronda and Maria Gertrudes Higuera to survive infancy, was born in early 1801. At his christening, March 9, 1808 at Mission Santa Clara, he received the name José, as his older brothers had before him, which placed them all under the protection of St. Joseph. Corporal Manuel Boronda, a member of one of the earliest expeditions to Alta California, founded the family in the remote northern province. He worked both as a carpenter and as a teacher in San Francisco where he helped build adobe structures at the Mission and the Presidio. When about forty years of age he married thirteen year old Senorita Higuera on the 23rd of January 1790 at Mission Santa Clara. Their prolific descendants are scattered throughout California and other parts of the world as well.

About 1817, Manuel and his young family moved to Monterey where he constructed the first adobe casa to be located outside of the walls of the old Spanish Presidio. He selected a small site of twelve to fourteen acres on a rise of land behind the San Carlos Presidio Chapel. Once more he became a teacher, conducting a school for boys in his new home. It may have been at this time that Eusebio and Juan Bautista Alvarado (leader of the Revolt of 1836 and subsequent Governor of California) became classmates; this is suggested by testimony given by Alvarado many years later.

Don Antonio Buelna, a close neighbor, taught "a select school for girls" in his home just across a small canyon from the Boronda Adobe in Monterey. The two families were great friends "and it is not strange that...Eusebio Boronda married one of the Buelna senoritas."

The fun loving Boronda young men joined,

...the groups that collected at weddings, baptisms, birthdays, where much hilarity, verses and songs prevailed. They made a lot of noise...healthy, exuberant spirits..."
It was in this early period that a handsome blue-eyed young Englishman in his mid 20s, named William Robert Garner and nick-named Patas Largas or Long Shanks because of his long lanky legs, decided, in 1828, to make the Monterey area his permanent home. He had exchanged the difficult experiences of whaling for the "Free, careless life of the ranchos" and mingled readily in the social life of the rancheros.

During these first halcyon years he probably rode lazily about California, eating beef and frijoles and drinking aquardiente, earning his way by doing odd jobs of carpentry and mechanics...

While Eusebio was courting Maria Josefa Buelna, he met William who had fallen in love with Maria Francisca Butron, one of the heirs to Rancho La Natividad. Two years after baptism into the Roman Catholic faith, a date for the marriage of William and Francisca was set. Few preliminaries were needed for Eusebio and Josefa. They exchanged their marriage vows September 5, 1831 at Santa Cruz. Perhaps William Garner and his betrothed attended the ceremony. A little more than two months later, Eusebio served as best man for his friend when William Garner and Maria Francisca Butron were married on November 25, 1831, by Padre Juan Moreno at the Mission San Juan Bautista. The Garners built a new adobe casa on Rancho La Natividad just north of the home of the bride's parents.

Where Eusebio and Josefa lived during the first few years of their marriage is unknown, but in 1836 they were living on the Rancho Los Vergeles where the former served as Mayordomo of the 9,000 acres granted to José Joaquin Gomez the year before. La Natividad and Los Vergeles were adjoining ranchos and the headquarters of each were close to the entrance to the pass through the Gabilan mountains to San Juan Bautista.

The Garner's and Boronda's were neighbors. Josefa Boronda had given birth to six children, including one set of twins, by the fall of 1836. Fourteen persons resided on the Rancho Los Vergeles in 1836. Soon, the Gomez Adobe became a popular stopping place for travelers. However, Eusebio sought land of his own where he and Josefa could make a home for their growing family. His first grant was for only 500 varas in the El Tucho area in 1838.

Meanwhile, Eusebio's friend, Garner, though he continued raising wheat and cattle and selling hides and tallow from rancho La Natividad, discovered a business enterprise more suited to his skills in carpentry and mechanics. Near Monterey there were pine forests, and on the slopes of the Carmel Valley grew small stands of tall redwoods. Prior to the introduction of the first waterpower sawmill in 1842 in the Santa Cruz area, logs were dragged to a sawpit by oxen. There two men, one above and one below, laboriously pulled a long steel blade up and down to produce crudely sawn lumber. Garner employed up to two hundred Indians in this "mindless drudgery." Teams of bullocks hauled the lumber to Monterey. In 1835, Garner began sawing in the forest of Santa Cruz as well as in the Carmel Valley. He entered into a five-year contract with Thomas O. Larkin to cut timber on the land of José Amesti and ship the lumber to the Monterey merchant. These events may appear to have only an incidental relationship to Eusebio Boronda. Nevertheless, in tracing the origins of construction and the style of architecture of the "new adobe house" (the Boronda Adobe) which Eusebio built on his own rancho in the 1840s, they should be considered very important.

Eusebio's economic progress was much slower and inferior to that of William Garner. When Eusebio Boronda made his first small purchase at Larkin's store in 1836, he was required to submit the name of his brother-in-law, George Allen, as security.

Desiring to have a rancho of his own Eusebio, in 1839, settled his family on a tract of land which he called San José, located on the north side of the winding, twisting Sanjo del Alisal, (the great slough, or deep ditch, of the alisal), between Cooper's La Bolsa del Potrero y Moro Cojo on the west, Castro's El Sausal on the east, and bordering Espinosa's La Bolsa de las Escarpines on the north. A cattle brand and earmark would have been required for any one seeking a large grant of land. Eusebio, no doubt, had one for he registered it with Monterey County on the 10th of January 1852. However, the design for his and several others were lost when the corner of the Brand Book was torn off many years ago.

On a hill close to a lake which extended toward the northeast, he built an adobe house (the Boronda Adobe) and roofed it with tiles. From here there was a beautiful view to the south across the Salinas Plain to Mount Toro and the hills bordering the south bank of the Salinas river. Eusebio also built corrals for horses and cattle, and enclosed some land on which he cultivated corn, wheat and beans. Maria, one of the five daughters, who later married Alfred LeBaudour, was born in this ranch house. Eusebio applied for the grant of the rancho which he called San José, and on February 1, 1840, Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado made the presentation in person for one and one half leagues, "mas o menos", about 6,700 acres. The Department Assembly of California gave its approval in the latter part of 1840. Juridical possession was given on the 16th of November 1842, when Boronda's neighbors Don Juan Cooper, Don Trinidad Espinosa and Don Santiago Moreno were present. Don Teodoro Gonzales, Justice of Peace, officiated and Manuel Castro and Francisco Rico served as official witnesses. When the claim of Boronda to this land was finally confirmed and the U.S. Patent issued July 13, 1860, the name became Rancho Rincón del Sanjón and it had been reduced in size to 2,229.70 acres, or about one-half of a Spanish league.

In 1841, Eusebio became a minor public official, juez aux, or deputy Justice of the Peace. Perhaps earlier, but certainly in this same year, he was employed by William Garner to haul lumber from the redwood sawpits to Monterey. Garner may have had some reason to not fully trust his friend of earlier years, for he wrote to Larkin on August 2, 1841:

I wish you would take the trouble to measure the 1,000 ft. of boards that you buy from Eusebio and if there is any thing short I will make it up to you,

...and pay [him] 2 $ and five rials in goods..."

At least through 1842 Eusebio was hauling lumber in considerable quantities and taking his payment in goods. As late as 1847-1848, Eusebio and his wife Josefa bartered sheep, barley, and packed butter for goods at Larkin's store. Since the store was in Larkin's house, Eusebio had a first hand opportunity to become acquainted with the architectural style introduced in this unusual home and with his builders.

There are several features of the so-called "Monterey Colonial" in the "new adobe house" which José Eusebio Boronda constructed near the northeast corner of his ranch probably between 1844-1848. Although only one-story compared to Larkin's two-story house, both have: a shingle roof which slopes four ways, wide open verandahs (all four sides in Boronda's house) double-hung window sash, window panes approximately same size and shape, indoor fire places for heating, and white washed open beamed ceilings.

Some of the men who could very well have helped Eusebio plan and build his "new adobe house" were William R. Garner, George Allen, Thomas Doak, William Anderson, David Littlejohn and Thomas Blanco. They all worked for Thomas O. Larkin during the 1830s and 1840s.

During the War with Mexico, 1846-1848, José Eusebio Boronda participated in the Battle of Natividad in mid-November of 1846, using his reata as an effective weapon of offense against two of the group of Americans bringing to John C. Fremont horses through the Gavilan mountains from San Juan Bautista to Monterey.

At the end of the first year of California in the union, in 1851, the Monterey County Assessor's record of José Eusebio Boronda read:

Rancho San José-Salinas

4,000 acres of pasture land @ $1.00$4,000.00
House on the same300.00
20 milk cows @ $20.00400.00
12 heifer cows @ $10.00120.00
2 yoke of bullocks (oxen @ $50.00100.00
3 horses100.00
15 sheep @ $3.5052.50
$5,072.50

How and why the acreage was figured at 4,000 instead of one and one-half leagues specified in the Mexican grant, is not clear. Two years later it was correct to one and one-half leagues and then became 6,700 acres for a couple of years and declined to 6,400 acres, until 1861 when it became 3,000 acres, although patent issued in 1860 made it 2,229 70/100 acres. In 1859, no land was assessed to either José Eusebio or Josefa, though the latter was assessed for several hundred dollars in personal property. Even in 1861, one year after the patent had been issued, the assessor's records referred to Boronda's land as "Rancho de San Jose." The assessor's records were far from accurate for any taxpayer during these years. The size, location and description of the boundaries of property were based upon hopes, guesses and rough estimates.

One cannot learn from the assessor's records when Eusebio built his second adobe house. A book on Spanish Colonial or Adobe Architecture of California, 1800-1850, by Donald R. Hannaford, published in 1931, dates the second adobe as 1848 without giving any source. Hannaford was gathering his data at the very time Charles S. Brooks purchased the property. Brooks, a man of considerable financial means, was very interested in the adobes history. More of the Boronda descendants were still living, including José Sylvano Boronda, one time owner and son of Eusebio. One of the diseno filed with the Land Commissioner in 1853, shows a small sketch of a house in the northeast corner of the rancho. The survey made by the U.S. Surveyor-General's in December 1858 located and designated the second adobe as "Boronda's House," but did not show the first house. A partition map of 1869, dividing the rancho (excepting some parcels sold to other parties) among the ten children, located and named the first home as "the old adobe house" and second house as "the new adobe house." In a deed of 1880, José Eusebio refers to a forty acre parcel of land in the northeast corner of the rancho as "being all of the ... Rancho now owned by me, the 'Adobe House' ... in which we now reside."

The 1850s and 1860s were two decade of tension and struggle within the Boronda family as the children reached maturity and sought to control or gain a portion of their father's lands. All of this was aggravated by the conflict with the aggressive Anglo-Americans and the necessity of validating the claim to the Mexican land grant before a U.S. Land Commission created in 1851 and in the Courts of the United States. This was costly and time consuming. Parcels totaling several hundred acres were sold and/or leased to American landowners, including David Jacks, Jesse J. Carr and George Graves, probably to help pay for legal expenses. In 1852 Eusebio had such serious differences with his wife, Josefa and children that he felt compelled to a separation from them. He deeded the rancho and all of his other property, excepting a mattress, a few cows, horses, sheep, chickens and an oxcart, to his wife and children to do with as they pleased. This so-called deed was recorded in the Recorder's Office of Monterey County. But some 15-16 years later Eusebio successfully sued his children to recover the rancho, claiming the separation was only temporary, having lasted only nineteen months, and that the document of 1852 did not actually pass title to his wife.

In 1853, Eusebio filed his claim to the rancho before the land Commission where it was confirmed in 1855. The U.S. District Court also confirmed the grant and an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was vacated in 1857. After a survey, by the U.S. Surveyors-General's Office completed in 1858, a patent for 2,229.70 acres, one third the size of the original grant, was issued July 13, 1860. However, his case came close to being lost because the original documents of the Mexican grant were mislaid. Blame for the mishap was directed at Eusebio, his wife Josefa, and W. H. Halleck, their lawyer. Fortunately, a notable array of witnesses, including W. E. P. Hartnell, ex-Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado, José Castro, and Benito Diaz testified that the grant actually had been made as claimed.

Between 1860 and 1865, California suffered a year of great floods and two years of great drought, the worst in the history of California. Added to the other strains, these factors may have hastened the death of Maria Josefa de Boronda on July 17, 1864. Francisco, a son, appointed as Executor, filed her will with the Probate Court. He noted that, as of July 1865, thirteen head of stock had died of starvation. José Eusebio had signed the will agreeing to its provisions which divided the rancho among the ten surviving children. Francisco was appointed guardian of the minor children. Nevertheless, José Eusebio brought suit against Francisco and the other children in 1867 and in 1868 and recovered title to the rancho as explained above. Though successful in his suit, José Eusebio agreed to a partition of the ranch surveyed by his son-in-law, A. L. Cervantes, in 1869, dividing the property substantially as it had been done in Josefa's will.

A new town was being born to the east of the Boronda ranch, along the banks of the Sanjon del Alisal in the years 1867-1874. Salinas City was its name. Eugene Sherwood, one of two subdividers of the new city, and his financial backer, Richard Hellman of San Francisco, joined with two other landowners and Boronda in promoting the urban growth of the area. They granted to the County of Monterey a 50 foot right-of-way for a road along the boundaries of the ranchos Rinconada del Sanjon and El Sausal, connecting the Salinas-Castroville road with Santa Rita. In 1872, the citizens of Salinas were successful in a county-wide vote which transferred the county seat to the new town on the Salinas Plain. At first the county officers were housed in a ramshackle building on Main Street. In early 1877, fire broke out in the office of the County Tax Collector, M. A. Castro. When it was discovered that $20,000.00 of county money was missing. Castro and his deputy were tried twice for arson and embezzlement, but acquitted. However, José Eusebio Boronda who had pledged $8,000.00 on surety for Castro found himself under a great financial strain. It was another year of drought and some of the bondsmen lost their lands. José Eusebio Boronda having married a new wife, one Ricarda Rodriguez, arranged in 1880 with two of his children, for a tax free, rent free, life estate on the forty acres "mas o menos" which he called his "homestead place" and settled down to live in his second house beside the road which bears his name to this day.

Copyright by Robert B. Johnston.


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