1. Livermore Amador Valley Land
The secularization of California missions from 1834 to 1837
opened great amounts of land throughout California for grants.
The area now known as the Livermore Amador Valley had been the
grazing land for Mission San Jose's thousands of cattle and sheep
since its establishment in 1796. The Mission church property
was turned over to the goverment who reduced it to just the land
surrounding the church proper. But for some few years earlier
the Mexican authorities had been whittling away at mission lands,
often in the form of land grants to those who had given exceptional
service to the government.
The metes and bounds of a grant were usually determined by
natural landmarks, such as trees or geologic features. Generally,
surveys were imprecise, relying on two horsemen and a rope of
known length. At a given point, one horseman held one end of
the rope while the other rode ahead to its end in a predetermined
direction. The first horseman then overtook the second, and they
kept exchanging places until they reached a final point. The
length of the rope and the number of times, give or take a few,
the exchange was made provided a distance.
Rancho San Ramon
One of those to whom land was given was Jose Maria Amador
whose years of service as a soldier merited him in 1835 a grant
of four leagues (a league nominally being 4,400 acres) of mission
land. He called it Rancho San Ramon. On a spot northwest of the
present intersection of San Ramon Valley Boulevard and Dublin
Boulevard, he built his home (destroyed in the 1868 earthquake)
near a natural water source called Alamilla Springs (hidden in
an apartment complex at that intersection, and still flowing).
Amador was one of the few grantees not entirely dependent on
the sale of hides and tallow as income. He established facilities
employing Indian laborers for tanning leather, making shoes and
soap, making saddles and harness, weaving blankets, even manufacturing
wagons. With the coming of Americans to the area, Amador took
the opportunity to sell the land south of the present Dublin
Boulevard to Irishmen Michael Murray and Jeremiah Fallon sometime
before 1852, and property to the north to a Mississippian, J.
W. Dougherty sometime after. In 1848, with the discovery of gold,
he temporarily departed for the Mother Lode country where, with
Indian laborers, he mined for gold. Amador County bears Amador's
Rancho Santa Rita
Extending east from Foothill Road, with the San Ramon grant
on the north and the Valle de San Jose grant on the south, Rancho
Santa Rita was given to Jose Dolores Pacheco in 1839. The grant
included more than 8,000 acres of excellent grazing land. Pacheco
was an absentee landowner: in 1844, his mayordomo (ranch manager),
Francisco Solano Alviso probably built the little adobe in 1844
that stands on Foothill Road overlooking the valley. The house
is known most recently as Meadowlark Dairy. Rancho Santa Rita
won't be forgotten - the Alameda County jail recalls it to memory.
Rancho El Valle de San Jose
When the title to Rancho El Valle de San Jose was finally
settled, the total area given the grantees was 64,000 acres,
making it one of the largest Mexican land grants given out. The
recipients were the Bernals, Jose Agostin, Juan Pablo and their
two sisters, one married to Antonio Maria Pico and the other
to Antonio Sunol. The grant boundaries extended from the Santa
Rita grant on the north to the Calaveras watershed on the south,
and as far east as Robert Livermore's Rancho Las Positas. By
1850, the herds of the rancho were estimated at twenty-five thousand
cattle, several thousand sheep and a thousand head of horses.
By the time the grant was finally patented in 1863, three of
the owners had sold their share to Juan Pablo Bernal. The Bernal's
were one of the few families to keep their holdings intact, selling
them off in "plots" of 100 to 500 acres each for any
price they could get. Much of the towns of Livermore and Pleasanton
and the intervening gravel pits now occupy the Rancho El Valle
de San Jose.
Rancho Las Positas
The fourth and second largest of the Mexican land grants
in the Livermore Amador Valley was made to Robert Livermore,
a naturalized Mexican citizen of English birth, and Jose Noriega
in 1839. Livermore had been living on the property since about
1835. He was as much interested in viticulture and horticulture
as he was in cattle and horses: he was the first in this area
to plant a vineyard in 1846 and an orchard of pears and olives.
Robert Livermore died in 1858 before the the establishment of
the town that bears his name.
The first building on his ranch was an adobe dwelling. In
1849 he added a two-story "Around the Horn" house,
the first wooden building in the valley. The adobe was in ruins
by 1875, but the wooden structure, essentially a "pre-fab",
was not torn down until the 1950's. Livermore's became a popular
stopping place after the discovery of gold for Argonauts headed
for the Mother Lode country, as it was the first night's stopping
place from San Jose.
The name, Rancho Las Positas, comes from small springs located
about a mile east of North Livermore Avenue that provided him
water for irrigating his fields.