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Home of the Frogs

Granted to:  Andrés and José Manuel in 1845 by Governor Pío Pico

Size:  2,219 acres

Location:  San Diego County

Guajome is an Indian word meaning "home of the frog."  Since there were five ponds and lakes on this rancho, it may truly have been the home of many frogs!


Mission San Luis Rey was founded in this area in 1798.  It was a very prosperous mission, producing wheat, wine, olives, and oranges.  The large herds of cattle and sheep owned by the mission no doubt grazed on the land that later became Guajome Rancho.


In 1845, Mexican Governor Pío Pico granted the land for Guajome Rancho to two Indian brothers, Andrés and José Manuel.  These men had been workers at Mission San Luis Rey.  The grant they received was one of the last Mexican land grants given, as Mexico lost control of California the next year.

It was unusual for a land grant to be given to an Indian.  Even though the plan of the Spanish government had been for all of the mission lands to be returned to the Indians, this seldom happened.  Mostly, the Spanish and Mexican officials wanted the land for themselves or their friends.

The land granted to Andrés and José Manuel was located east of the present-day city of Oceanside.

The Manuel brothers did not keep their rancho for long.  They sold the land to a Los Angeles businessman, Abel Stearns, for $550.  In 1851 Abel Stearns gave the rancho to Cave Couts.


Cave Johnson Couts was an American from Tennessee.  He came to California in 1848 as a lieutenant in the 1st Dragoons of the American Army.  In addition to his military assignments at San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Luis Rey, he was a surveyor.  When California became a state, Couts served as a member of San Diego County's first grand jury and as a county judge.

In 1851 Cave Couts married Doña Ysidora Bandini.  Ysidora's father was Don Juan Bandini, a well-known San Diego citizen.  Ysidora's sister, Arcadia, was married to Abel Stearns.  When Cave Couts and Ysidora were married, Abel Stearns gave them Guajome Rancho as a wedding gift.

That same year, Couts resigned from the U.S. Army.  He was then made a colonel and aide-de-camp for the American governor, John Bigler.


The history of Guajome Rancho was somewhat different than the other California ranchos, because most of it happened after California had become a state.

Cave Couts wanted his rancho to be the finest in the county.  When he was given the rancho, there were no cattle nor buildings on it.  He purchased cattle and began grazing them on the rancho in order to have money to build a house.  Several times, he drove herds of cattle to San Francisco, where he could get a better price for them as meat for the people who had come to seek their fortunes in the California gold fields.

It took some years to build the large home that Couts wanted.  He hired 300 Indians to help with the construction.  When completed, the ranch house had 20 rooms, built in a square around a large patio with a fountain in the middle.  There was also a kitchen wing with a big fireplace where large kettles were hung over an open fire.  A room just for baking had an oven that took up all of one wall.

In addition to the ranch house, Guajome Rancho had a carriage house and stables for the carriage horses, and shops for a blacksmith, carpenter, and leather workers.  Saddles and bridles, shoes and boots were made on the rancho.

In 1868 Couts built a chapel on the rancho.  It was dedicated to his mother.  The priest who lived on the rancho held services for the family and workers in the chapel.  He also was a teacher for the ten children in the Couts family.


Cave Couts was known as a good businessman, and he built up the herds of cattle at Guajome Rancho.  He also became the owner of two other ranchos.

Couts purchased Buena Vista Rancho, which is now the city of Vista in northern San Diego County.  Couts gave this rancho to his daughter, María Antonia, when she married Judge Chalmers Scott.  The Scotts moved to the rancho in 1879 and lived there for a few years.

The third rancho purchased by Couts was Los Vallecitos de San Marcos (now the city of San Marcos).


Guajome Rancho had one of the grandest ranch houses in all of California.  However, history records that life did not go smoothly for Cave Couts.  He is said to have had a fiery temper.  Several times he was charged with assault for beating his rancho workers.

In 1866 Couts dismissed from his employment a man named Juan Mendoza, who had been serving as his mayordomo, or manager of the rancho.  Mendoza threatened to kill Couts.  For a time Couts stayed away from Mendoza, who was challenging Couts to a duel.  But one day Couts and Mendoza met in the plaza at San Diego.  Couts fired first, killing Mendoza.  Murder charges were filed but, as in the past, Couts managed to have the charges dismissed.  


Cave Couts died in San Diego in 1874.  His son, Cave Couts Jr., inherited Guajome Rancho.  He and his wife, Lilly Belle Clemons, lived in the grand ranch house.  They had a son, Cave III.  Cave Couts Jr. died in 1943 at the age of 87 in the same bed at Guajome Rancho where he had been born.  Cave III died in 1948.   The old Colonel Couts, his son and his grandson are all buried in Calvary Cemetery in San Diego.


Mrs. Ida Richardson and her son, Earl, lived in the ranch house for many years.  They farmed 600 acres of land and raised cattle.  But the rancho was in the path of suburban development.  In an attempt to preserve it, Mrs. Richardson  offered the land to the state as a park, but it was refused.  Later a bill was introduced in the U.S. congress to create a national historic site of the ranch house and other buildings,  but this too failed to happen.

In 1973, the adobe ranch house built in the 1850s by Cave Couts was purchased by the County of San Diego.  Guajome Regional Park was created three miles north of the city of Vista.  The Couts home is preserved as California Historical Landmark No. 940.

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