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Ranch of the Angel Raphael

Granted to:  José María Verdugo in 1784 by Governor Pedro Fages

Size:  36,403 acres

Location:  Los Angeles County

Rancho San Rafael was named for the angel Raphael, one of the three archangels mentioned in the bible.  The name means "God has healed."  There was no connection, except in name, between Rancho San Rafael in Los Angeles County and Mission San Rafael in northern California. 

Rancho San Rafael was also known as Rancho La Zanja (lah san-ha), which means "ditch that brought water from the rivers."


Mission San Gabriel was founded in this valley in  1771.  The padres at the mission used much of the land around it as grazing for their cattle, which numbered over 20,000 head.  They also had many acres planted in wheat, barley, corn, and beans, as well as fruit orchards and vineyards.


José María Verdugo was a corporal in the Spanish Army when he came to California.  He had come from Loreto, Mexico, on the first Spanish expedition to California in 1769.  For a time he was commander of the guard at Mission San Luis Obispo.  Later he served as comandante (officer in charge) at the San Diego Presidio.  He was then transferred to Mission San Gabriel. 

While at Mission San Gabriel, Verdugo decided to buy some cattle.  He wanted to sell the hides to make extra money.  He heard that his friend, Juan José Domínguez, had been given a large land grant earlier that year by the governor.  That grant was Rancho San Pedro.  Now Verdugo decided that he also would ask the governor for land.


The land use permit granted to Don José in 1784 by Governor Pedro Fages was the second great Spanish land grant made to an individual in California.

The grant was for a triangular-shaped area of 36,403 acres located about five miles from Mission San Gabriel and twelve miles from the pueblo (town) of Los Angeles.  The southern tip of the triangle was at the junction of the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles rivers.  The grant was confirmed by Governor Diego de Borica in 1798.


Corporal Verdugo stayed in the Spanish Army for 13 more years after receiving the grant of Rancho San Rafael.  His brother managed Rancho San Rafael for him.  The brother built a house, planted a garden and vineyard, and looked after the herd of cattle and the horses that belonged to José Verdugo.

When he left the army, Verdugo came to live on his rancho.  He had been married while at Mission San Gabriel.  He and his wife had six children (five daughters and one son).


The padres at Mission San Gabriel were not pleased that Governor Fages was giving large land grants to individuals.  They felt that the missions should continue to have the use of all the land around them. 

Don José was unhappy that the Mission San Gabriel sheep were grazing on his land.  He was also unhappy with the padres at Mission San Fernando, who were using part of his land for growing their crops.  Don  José appealed to the governor.  The governor asked the mayor in the pueblo of Los Angeles to measure the land, and then to establish boundaries for Verdugo.  The governor also asked the padres at Mission San Gabriel to move their sheep.


José María Verdugo died in 1831.  Rancho San Rafael was then owned jointly by his son, Julio, and one of his daughters, Catalina.  Don Julio had a large family.  He built several houses on the rancho.  He raised large herds of cattle.

Some years later, Julio and Catalina divided the rancho.  Catalina, who was now blind, took the northern part (which later became the site of the cities of Glendale and Eagle Rock).  One of Julio's sons built a home for Catalina on her part of the rancho, and she lived there until her death in 1861.

In 1870 the rancho was broken up into 31 parcels and given to 28 different people.  María Sepúlveda, a stepdaughter of the Verdugos, received 100 acres of the rancho.  María was married to Tomás Sanchez, who served as sheriff of Los Angeles until 1865.  María and Tomás had 19 children.

A claim for parts of the rancho was filed with the U.S. Land Commission by Julio Verdugo and other heirs.  In 1882, 36,403 acres were confirmed as belonging to the Verdugo family.

Fernando Sepúlveda, a son-in-law of Julio Verdugo, built a home near the base of the Verdugo Mountains.  This house became the Casa Verdugo Inn.  The building was destroyed in 1915.


The city of Glendale now stands on Rancho San Rafael land.  When the city first came into existence, in 1876, it was called Verdugo.  In 1884 the residents chose the new name of Glendale.  The Verdugo family name was kept for Verdugo Canyon, Verdugo Springs, and the Verdugo Mountains.

In 1932 the City of Glendale restored Casa Adobe de San Rafael, the Sanchez Adobe, which is surrounded by trees on the land that was given to María Sanchez by Catalina Verdugo.  Tomás Sanchez built this adobe house in 1865 when he retired as sheriff of Los Angeles.  Casa Adobe de San Rafael is California Historical Landmark No. 235. 

The Catalina Adobe, built for Doña Catalina Verdugo in the 1830s, is California Historical Landmark No. 637.  Near this adobe building is a large oak tree under which Mexican General Andrés Pico made his last camp before surrendering to the American General Frémont in 1846.

Both the Casa Adobe de San Rafael and the Catalina Adobe are now within the city of Glendale.

Residents of the city of Glendale remember the history of Rancho San Rafael and the Verdugo family with the celebration of a Days of Verdugo festival and parade each October.

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