RANCHO SAN ANTONIO
Ranch of Saint Anthony
Granted to: Luís
Peralta in 1820 by Governor Pablo Vicente de Sola
Size: 44,688 acres
Location: Alameda County
Anthony of Padua was born in Portugal in the 13th century. He settled in Padua, Italy, where he became a popular preacher. St. Anthony is credited with performing many miracles during his lifetime.
BEFORE THE RANCHO
The grassy hills overlooking the east side of San Francisco Bay had clumps of oak trees growing on them. Behind the hills, further east, were redwood forests. Indians had lived on these shores for several thousand years, though not many had chosen these particular hills for their villages.
Luís Peralta was 17 years old when he came to California with his family. His parents, who were from Sonora, Mexico, were among the settlers led by Juan Bautista de Anza to the San Francisco Bay area in 1776. This group had made an overland trip of many months from Mexico to California. Luís' father, Gabriel, was a soldier, and the family lived in a log house that he built on the San Francisco peninsula.
Like his father, Luís joined the Royal Spanish Army in 1782. He was a corporal in the Yerba Buena Company. For a time he was assigned as a guard at Mission San José. He later became a sergeant and took part in several military actions against the Indians in the Mission San José area. From 1807 to 1822, Luís was in charge of protecting the pueblo (town) of San Jose.
1820 SPANISH LAND GRANT
In 1820 the Spanish Governor Pablo Vicente de Sola rewarded Luís Peralta for his military service by giving him two land grants. One was Rancho San Antonio, one of the largest of the grants made by a Spanish governor.
Rancho San Antonio included most of the land on the east side of San Francisco Bay. It reached from El Cerrito Creek on the north to San Leandro Creek on the south, and from the Bay to the ridge of the mountains on the east.
Don Luís was also granted a small rancho closer to the pueblo of San José.
RANCHO SAN ANTONIO
Don Luís soon had large herds of cattle and sheep on Rancho San Antonio. He built a big adobe home along one of the creeks, in the northern part of his rancho. But Don Luís, who was now over 60 years old and retired from his military career, preferred living on his smaller rancho in San Jose. He wanted his sons to take care of Rancho San Antonio.
THE PERALTA FAMILY
In 1784, Luís Peralta had married 14-year-old María Loreto Alviso, who had also been among the families who came to San Francisco with Anza in 1776. Luís and María had 17 children; five daughters and four sons lived to be adults.
The four sons were José Domingo, Vicente, Antonio María, and Ignacio. By 1830, three of the sons had come to live on Rancho San Antonio. Antonio had married María Galinda in 1828, and moved into the house that Don Luís had built. In 1836, Vicente married María Encarnación Galindo and built a house on Temescal Creek.
Soon José Domingo settled in the northern part of the rancho. His house was the first in what became the city of Berkeley. Later, Ignacio built a home in the southern part of the rancho.
Don Luís Peralta lived to be 91 years old. In 1842 he divided Rancho San Antonio between his four sons, giving each one title to a section of the property. Ignacio received 9,400 acres in the southern part of the rancho, stretching from the area of present-day San Leandro to the Oakland Coliseum. Antonio was given 16,000 acres that included the Lake Merritt area. Vicente's land reached from Lake Merritt to the present-day Berkeley border. José Domingo received the northern-most section, extending to the present Alameda/Contra Costa County border.
In 1851 when the U.S. Land Commission reviewed the land grant papers for Rancho San Antonio, they confirmed that it belonged to the Peralta family. This was one of the biggest ranchos which the original owner's family was able to keep after California became part of the U.S.
THE BULLFIGHT RING
On their rancho lands the Peralta brothers built a bullring. This was one of only a few bullrings in California. Bullfights were often held on Sundays, or in connection with a fiesta. People from the nearby ranchos and from the pueblo of San Jose would join the Peraltas to watch the bullfights.
The bullring had a high wall around it so the bulls could not get out. There were seats for the people who came to watch the fight. The Mexican people loved the bullfight. But soon after California became part of the U.S., bullfights were no longer allowed.
PROBLEMS FOR THE PERALTAS
When gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in 1849, the Peralta brothers were not interested. They chose to stay on their rancho rather than joining the rush to the gold fields.
But Rancho San Antonio, with its fertile land and good harbor, was in danger. It was right in the path of the gold diggers as they rushed from San Francisco to the Sacramento Valley. Soon other people were trying to take parts of the Peralta's land.
Men who came for gold and became discouraged because they didn't get rich quickly, thought they would like to have some of the land. They put up tents and refused to get off the land. Sometimes they drove the cattle off the land, or even killed the cattle. They were known as "squatters."
The Peraltas tried to make the squatters leave their land. They made protests to the U.S. government, but nothing helped. Land agents tried to trick the Peraltas out of their rancho. There were claims that the deed was not legal because Don Luis' daughters had not been given any of the land. The Peraltas fought these claims, but bit by bit the land was taken away from them.
Three men (Horace Carpentier, Edson Adams, Andrew Moon) came to Rancho San Antonio in 1850. They thought it would be a good location for a town. They leased some land from Vicente Peralta. Then they mapped out streets and began selling lots, even though they did not own the land. The Peraltas protested, but before the courts would decide the issue, the rancho was covered with buildings.
THE RANCHO TODAY
Where Don Luís Peralta and his four sons once grazed their vast herds of cattle, there are now cities. Oakland, Berkeley, Piedmont, and Alameda are built on Rancho San Antonio land. The Peralta name is familiar as the name of many streets in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.