3 Rancho Los Alamitos

Rancho Los Alamitos

Infobox_nrhp | name =Rancho Los Alamitos
nrhp_type =

caption =
location= Long Beach, California
area =
lat_degrees = 33 | lat_minutes = 46 | lat_seconds = 36| lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 118 | long_minutes = 6 | long_seconds = 25 | long_direction = W
built = between 1800 and 1834
architect= unknown
architecture= Spanish Colonial
added = July 7, 1981
governing_body = Public
refnum=81000153 cite web|url=http://www.nr.nps.gov/|title=National Register Information System|date=July 12, 2007|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]

Rancho Los Alamitos takes its name from a Spanish land grant in southern California. It is also sometimes referred to as Bixby Ranch, after its last private owners. The early 1800s adobe ranch house, still stands today, housing a museum which presents the history of the area. The Rancho is on the National Register of Historic Places.


In the early days of Spanish colonization, Los Alamitos (The Little Cottonwoods or Poplars in Spanish), was the name given to one of five ranchos that were split off from an original grant given to Manuel Nieto, a former sergeant in the Spanish army, by the California governor, coincidentally his former commander. Nieto's original grant was not only one of the first three awarded by the Spanish in upper California, it was also the largest, comprising most of western Orange County and eastern Long Beach. After Nieto died, his children requested his original grant be separated, and Los Alamitos was one of the five divisions.

The 85,000 acre (340 km²) Rancho Los Alamitos originally included much of present-day eastern Long Beach, and all of the Orange county cities/communities of Los Alamitos and Rossmoor and most of Seal Beach, Cypress, Stanton and Garden Grove. Its ownership was to change and its boundaries would shrink many times. The historic ranch house and surrounding facilities for Rancho Los Alamitos can still be found adjacent to Cal State Long Beach.

The history of the Rancho Los Alamitos is almost a microcosm for the history of westward expansion in the United States. Situated in the flood plain between the mouths of the ever-shifting Los Angeles, San Gabriel and Santa Ana Rivers, the terrain of the rancho is virtually flat, and was subject to frequent flooding. The rancho building itself is located near springs alongside on one of the few small hills in the area. It was also the site of the major Native American Gabrielino (or Tongva) community of Puvunga.

In 1844 the rancho was purchased by Abel Stearns, a Massachusetts native who typified the many Yankees who settled in California and merged with the ruling Spanish population. Stearns, who married Arcadia, the daughter of early leader Juan Bandini, became one of the leading merchants and rancho owners in Mexican California.

The rancho was on the periphery of the battles that settled the California phase of the war between Mexico and the United States. After it became part of the United States, the rancho was the headquarters of the largest cattle ranch then in existence in the United States. Through shrewd business dealings, Stearns assumed control of Los Alamitos and many other surrounding ranchos. During the California Gold Rush, the rancho supplied much of the beef that would be herded north to feed the growing number of emigrants who were flocking to the gold fields of Northern California.

After a disastrous drought in the 1860s, Stearns lost control of the ranch which was then sub-let to a number of farmers until the early 1880s when John Bixby, a cousin of Jotham Bixby and Llewellyn Bixby who controlled the adjacent Rancho Los Cerritos, bought the rancho along with a group which included his cousins and Isaias Hellman, the founder of the Farmers and Merchant Bank and later the president of Wells Fargo Bank. Hellman was without a doubt, the preeminent banker of the era on the West Coast.

Trying to capitalize on the 1880s Southern California land boom, John Bixby developed the townsite of Alamitos Beach (which would eventually be assumed by Long Beach). Before Bixby, a very clever and entrepreneurial sort, could do much more, he died suddenly in 1888 (apparently an appendicitis attack) and the rancho was separated between the three major parties -- The developed Alamitos Beach properties were shared equally, while of the rest of the rancho, John Bixby's heirs kept the central section, the Bixby cousins from Rancho Los Cerritos assumed control of the northern portion of the rancho, and Hellman took control of the southern lands around present Seal Beach. Unfortunately, a financial crisis prevented the various parties from seriously pursuing John Bixby's dream of developing Alamitos Beach.

The Bixbys had once flirted with sugar beet production on their Northern California properties. Now in the still financially struggling 1890s, Jotham Bixby arranged to provide land for sugar beet production and recruited the capital of William Clark (one of the richest men in the United States, thanks to his ownership of Montana and Arizona Silver Mines, as well as some railroads) to build a sugar beet processing plant on a portion of the Bixby rancho property.


External links

* [http://www.rancholosalamitos.com/index.htm Rancho Los Alamitos Historic Ranch and Gardens web site]
* [http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/8californio/8californio.htm "“Californio to American: A Study in Cultural Change”", a National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan]
* [http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/ca/ Early History of the California Coast, a National Park Service "Discover Our Shared Heritage" Travel Itinerary]

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