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Wild Squash Ranch

Granted to:  Apolinaria Lorenzana in 1840 by Governor Juan B. Alvarado

Size:  8,881 acres

Location:  San Diego County

A number of ranchos were granted to women during the period of Mexican rule in California.  Most of the women who received land grants were women from well-known Spanish families, whose fathers or brothers had helped the government.

Jamacha Rancho, however, was granted to a woman who had been an orphan, and who was known only for her kindness and good work.


The Tipai Indians, part of the Kumeyaay or Diegueņo group of tribes, lived in this southern part of California.  Their land stretched from the coast to the inland desert.  A Tipai ranchería, or village, was on the land that became Jamacha Rancho.

The Tipai made use of the plants that grew where they lived.  One of the plants that grew in the inland areas was the wild squash vine.  The squash were used as food.  The gourds, or shells of the squash, when hollowed out and dried, were used as containers for food and water.

The Tipai word for gourd or for wild squash vine was jamacha


Apolinaria Lorenzana came to California in 1800 when she was a child.  She had been living in an orphanage in Mexico.  Along with seven other children from the orphanage, she was placed in a home in the San Diego area.

When she was still a young girl, Apolinaria began to work at Mission San Diego.  She was good at nursing sick people.  She was kind to the Indian workers at the mission.  They called her La Beata, the devout one.


Doņa Apolinaria had been living on this piece of land for several years before 1840, when the land grant was made.  We do not know why she was given ownership of the land by the Mexican governor, Juan B. Alvarado.  Likely it was for her service at the mission.

It may also have been because she was a friend of the Pico brothers, who were powerful men in the government of the San Diego area and of California at this time.  A few years earlier, in 1937, Don Pío Pico's mother and sisters had fled to Doņa Apolinaria's home to escape an attack on their rancho.  Doņa Apolinaria gave them shelter for a few days.

The land that Doņa Apolinaria was granted was south of the present-day city of El Cajon.


In 1843 Doņa Apolinaria received the grant of a second rancho.  This one was granted to her by Mexican Governor Manuel Micheltorena.  At just over 28 acres in size, this was the smallest land grant made by any Spanish or Mexican governor.  It was later completely surrounded by the much larger El Cajón Rancho, which was granted in 1845.

The little rancho was called Rancho de la Caņada de los Coches, meaning "the glen of the hogs."  This name had been used even before the land was given to Doņa Apolinaria.  Los Coches had been used by the padres at Mission San Diego as a place to keep their hogs.  The land may have been given to Doņa Apolinaria so that it could continue to be used in this way.  Doņa Apolinaria took care of the hogs for the mission.

The site of the old grist mill on Rancho de la Caņada de los Coches is now California Historical Landmark No. 425.


Compared to most of the ranchos, Jamacha Rancho had very few cattle and horses.  Though Doņa Apolinaria lived on the rancho, she did not have much livestock.

Doņa Apolinaria lost Jamacha Rancho in 1852.  It became the property of two men, A.R. Eddy and Frank Ames.  After she lost this rancho, Doņa Apolinaria gave Rancho de la Caņada de los Coches to the Catholic Church.  She went to live in Santa Barbara.  When she died there, at a very old age, she was blind and penniless.


On Jamacha Rancho was a spring where mineral waters bubbled out of the ground.  In 1887, Captain Charles Fitzallen arrived in the San Diego area on a ship from Wales.  He was sick with scurvy, a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C.  Scurvy was a common ailment for those who took long ocean voyages, because they did not have enough fresh fruits and vegetables to eat.

While regaining his health, Captain Fitzallen worked as a sheepherder.  One of the sheep camps was at the spring on Jamacha Rancho.

Captain Fitzallen's health improved so quickly while he was camped near the spring that his doctor, P.C. Remondino, decided the spring water must have healthful minerals and healing powers.

Alfred H. Isham, a traveling salesman, heard about the spring and got the rights to bottle the water and sell it.  He advertised it as "Isham's California Water of Life -- the Fountain of Youth."

Many people in California and in the eastern U.S. bought the bottled water from Isham for one dollar a gallon.  Business was good until 1907.  Then an article in Collier's Magazine said that Isham's claims for the water were not true.  His business failed, and Isham left San Diego.

People in the San Diego area continued to come to the spring as a nice place to have picnics.


Another part of Jamacha Rancho became known as Dictionary Hill.  About 1920, the land here was purchased by a dictionary salesman.  To promote the sale of his books, he gave away a plot of land with each dictionary that was purchased.  This shows that even as recently as 1920, some land in California was not considered to be worth much money.


As the years passed, Jamacha Rancho was divided up and sold to many different people.  In 1943 one tract was sold for about $115,000.  In 1965 the same tract brought about $5 million.

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