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Ranch of St. Peter

Granted to:  Juan José Domínguez in 1784 by Governor Pedro Fages

Size:  75,000 acres

Location:  Los Angeles County

The Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno sailed along the California coast in 1602.  On November 29 he came upon a wide bay which he named San Pedro Bay in honor of Peter of Alexandria, a bishop from the 4th century whose feast day had just been celebrated.


Mission San Gabriel was established in 1771 on land some miles east of San Pedro Bay.  The padres at the mission used the land here for grazing their 20,000 head of cattle.  When the land grant of Rancho San Pedro was made, the padres at Mission San Gabriel objected.  They felt that the land should be reserved for their use.


Rancho San Pedro was the first large land grant made to an individual by a Spanish governor in California. 

Governor Pedro Fages had come to California with Gaspár de Portolá and Father Junípero Serra in 1769.  At that time, Fages was a captain in charge of the soldiers who accompanied the group.  Now that he was governor, Fages wanted to reward those soldiers who had been under his command.

Spain did not grant ownership of the land but simply the right to use the land.  When Mexico took control of California from Spain, those people who were holding Spanish land grants found it wise to request that the land be re-granted by the new governor.  Rancho San Pedro was re-granted in 1822 to Cristobal Domínguez.


Juan José Domínguez, the first owner of Rancho San Pedro,  was 65 years old when he came to California from Mexico.  He was a soldier with the Portolá expedition.  He requested the grant of rancho land, and received it in return for his military service under Fages.  At the time of the land grant, Domínguez was still a soldier, stationed at the San Diego Presidio. Even before receiving the rancho, Domínguez owned some cattle and horses which he kept on government-owned land near San Diego.


Rancho San Pedro was in the shape of a triangle that stretched from present-day Wilmington on the south to Compton on the northeast and to Redondo Beach on the northwest.  It included land near the mouth of the Los Angeles River.

For a time after he received the grant of Rancho San Pedro, Juan Domínguez continued with his soldier duties at San Diego.  He sent a mayordomo, or manager, to take care of his new rancho.  Soon, however, he moved his herd of horses and 200 head of cattle from San Diego to the new rancho.  He built several huts in which he and the rancho vaqueros (cowboys) lived.

Domínguez was quite old by this time.  He was losing his eyesight, and he did not stay long at Rancho San Pedro. He did not build an adobe ranch house on his land.  He soon went to live at Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Domínguez, who had no children of his own, planned for Rancho San Pedro to go to his nephew, Cristóbal.  Until that time, he asked a friend to manage the rancho for him.  The friend let a soldier, Juan Sepúlveda, use part of the rancho.  After Juan Sepúlveda died, his children claimed ownership of this part of the rancho.  Though Cristóbal protested, in 1827 Governor José María de Echeandía  granted 31,629 acres to the Sepúlvedas as Rancho Palos Verdes.


Rancho San Pedro was often called the Domínguez Rancho.  The Domínguez family is one of the few early California families who were able to keep at least a part of the rancho granted to them before California became a state.  While Cristóbal Domínguez owned Rancho San Pedro, his son Manuel managed the rancho for him. 

In 1858, Manuel presented his claims for this rancho to the U.S. Land Commission and received title to 43,119 acres.  Don Manuel still owned more than 24,000 acres at the time of his death in 1882. 

The rancho was then divided among his six daughters.  Their children, too, kept ownership of the property.  They leased portions of it to oil drillers, airports, factories, shopping centers, and suburban development.  In the 1950s, however, the Domínguez family still owned portions of Rancho San Pedro.


In September 1846 the pueblo (town) of Los Angeles had surrendered to the American forces.  When Commodore Robert Stockton and Colonel John C. Frémont left the town with only 50 soldiers to guard it, the Californians revolted.  The American soldiers retreated until reinforcements arrived.  When they headed back toward Los Angeles on October 8, they were met at the Domínguez Rancho by a force of 120 mounted Mexicans led by José Antonio Carrillo.  The Mexicans were victors in this encounter, preventing the Americans from retaking Los Angeles at that time.


In 1864, General Phineas Banning purchased part of Rancho San Pedro from the Domínguez family.  Banning, the founder of the city of Wilmington, built a large home for his family here.  That home is now the Banning Residence Museum.  It contains a great deal of history about the Los Angeles area in the 1800s. 


The densely-populated center of the Los Angeles metropolitan area now covers the original Rancho San Pedro.  The towns of Carson, Compton, Dominguez, Gardena, Torrance, and Wilmington are built on Rancho San Pedro land.

A hint of the life of Rancho San Pedro can be gotten at the Domínguez Ranch Adobe.  This is the home built in 1826 by Don Manuel Domínguez, who lived here for more than 50 years.  The building and seventeen acres of land around it were given by the Domínguez family in 1924 to the Claretian Order, a religious group founded in Spain in 1849.  A chapel window in the Domínguez Ranch Adobe bears the words "Domínguez 1826."

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