The Michael White Adobe – John Kielbassa’s History

When I'm researching local adobes, there are two books I always need to reference. "The Historic Adobes of Los Angeles County" by John Kielbassa is a comprehensive guide. Now, as you know, the Board of Education in San Marino is trying to tear this adobe down, and they need to be stopped – for their own good and for the sake of our collective history. But take a second and find out what we'll be missing:


The Blanco Adobe: On the campus of San Marino High School in San Marino, California stands an obscure little adobe, known as the "Blanco" or "White Adobe. It can be found toward the center of the school grounds near the athletic field. The house was built in 1845 by Michael White, alias Miguel Blanco. He received a land grant north of the San Gabriel Mission, which consisted of seventy-seven acres of former mission property. For many years the house stood upon this small tract of farmland known as Rancho San Ysidro and was in the midst of an orange grove up until the 1930s. But, progress prevailed and swallowed up the land right to the threshold of the old adobe. Long ago at this same site, the Gabrielino village of Sonangna stood. These early settlers were drawn to the area by the year round flow of underground spring water.


Michael White, a native of either England or Ireland, was born sometime between 1802 and 1806. He was sailor by trade and may have visited Baja California as early as 1817. Afterward, he made several voyages between the Sandwich Islands (Hawaiian Islands) and Mexico's Pacific coast. The British ship, Dolly, brought White to Alta California in 1829. He soon became a Mexican citizen, as did most Anglo immigrants at the time in order to marry and hold property. He was given a Mexican name, Miguel Blanco, which is the Spanish form of Michael White.


White may have first settled in the San Pedro area, although there was no permanent settlement there at that time of his arrival. San Pedro was part of the Rancho Los Palos Verdes, owned by the Sepulveda family, and was a desolate place. His living in San Pedro is supported by his name appearing on early records as being one of the ship builders of the Guadalupe, which was constructed there at Goleta Point in 1830. White, along with former pirate, Joseph Chapman, constructed the schooner, Guadalupe from the remains of the brig, Danube, which ran aground in a storm on Christmas Eve, 1828. The vessel was built for the padres of the San Gabriel Mission to be sold to sea otter traders. White sailed the Guadalupe to Mazatlan and returned in 1832. Upon his return from Mexico, White married Maria del Rosaria Gullien, who was a daughter of Dona Eulalia Perez de Gullien, the old matron and bookkeeper at the San Gabriel Mission. Following his marriage, White set up a small store at Rancho Los Nietos, a short distance south of the mission.


Smuggling was a common practice along the California coast in the 1830s. Mexican authorities imposed high tariffs upon imported goods, which was desperately needed by the citizens of the province. The settlers in California were neglected by Mexico and there was no industry, so there was a heavy reliance upon trade with foreign vessels and smuggling was generally accepted by the citizenry. White may have been involved in a smuggling scheme in San Francisco in 1833. Although a man named White was accused of this illegal deed, it has never been determined that the implicated individual named White was the same as Michael White.


In 1836, White was listed as living at Los Angeles, but as a former world adventurer, he had the wanderlust to move again. Three years later he went to New Mexico where he may have involved himself in the fur trade. He returned to San Gabriel with the Rowland and Workman Party in early November 1841. Later, William Workman and John Rowland, the party leaders, would acquire former San Gabriel Mission land known as Rancho La Puente.


In 1843 White was granted Rancho Muscupiabe by Governor Manuel Micheltorena. It was a single league of land located near the Cajon Pass in the San Bernardino Mountains. It was named for a Serrano Indian village in the vicinity. The remote rancho was subjected to frequent raids by Paiute Indians and their allies; therefore, it was abandoned in 1844 because it was indefensible. The following year, White participated in the revolt against Governor Manuel Micheltorena. He was a member of the company of foreigners led by William Workman at the Battle of Cahuenga late February 1845.


After a failed attempt with Rancho Muscupiabe, Miguel Blanco had another chance to become a ranchero. Due to the Mexican Secularization Act of 1834, all mission properties in California were available for sale. In 1845, White received a concession to 500 square varas (77.23 acres) of land north of the San Gabriel Mission from Governor Pio Pico. This tract was one of several smaller land grants in the area given to
former associates of the secularized mission. White may have had the land bestowed upon him for his service to the mission and for building the Guadalupe fifteen years prior. Also, being the son-in-law of the influential, Dona Eulalia, may have helped some. White named his small concession Rancho San Ysidro (Ranch of Saint Isidore).


After receiving the grant, he built the adobe dwelling, which stands today at San Marino High School. The original adobe section of the house was a story and a half. Later, a two-story wing made of wooden ship siding was added. White planted a vineyard and an orchard consisting of a variety of fruit trees. Although, this became his permanent home, he still yearned to travel and in passing years he embarked on several sea voyages.


The year 1846 brought war between the United States and Mexico. California entered the war in June of that year with the American invasion of Monterey. Los Angeles was the next to fall into the hands of the invaders two months later. In September, a revolt led by Serbulo Varela expelled the American garrison holding the pueblo. By this time, a party of fifteen foreign born (mostly American) yet naturalized Mexican citizens led by Benjamin Davis Wilson were stationed at Rancho del Chino to protect the eastern frontier from enemy forces that may approach from the Cajon Pass. The Californios doubted the loyalty of Wilson's men and set out to arrest them. Varela, Diego Sepulveda and Ramon Carrillo left Los Angeles with about fifty men, while Carmen Lugo with another fifteen to twenty men left from San Bernardino to converge upon Rancho del Chino.


On the night of September 26, 1846, the adobe ranch house of Isaac Williams, the owner of rancho, was occupied by Wilson's group when it was surrounded by the Californios. At dawn, the following day, gunfire was exchanged resulting in one Californio dead with two wounded and three American wounded. When the Californios attempted to set fire to the roof of the house, Wilson surrendered to Varela. This brief engagement became know as the Battle of Chino. Wilson's men were taken prisoner and marched to Paredon Blanco , the main camp of the California forces. The prisoners were nearly executed in retaliation for the death of Carlos Ballesteros, the only fatal casualty at Chino, but Varela and others intervened. Later, the prisoners were taken to Rancho Los Cerritos, near present-day Long Beach, where they were detained and ultimately released. Michael White returned to his home on San Ysidro and took a neutral position throughout the ensuing conflict.


After the war, and after California was admitted to the Union, the United States Land Commission was formed. White had to prove his claim to his little parcel north of the mission. He was able to do so and continued living there for many years. Here, he raised a large family and when his children married he gave the lots upon his ranch so that they could raise their own families. One daughter married Francisco Alvarado, the brother of Governor Jose Alvarado. The Alvarados lived on a quaint farm on the White Tract.


Eventually, White sold San Ysidro to L. H. Titus, who owned an adjoining ranch to the east. Titus, in turn sold the property to James C. Flood. Michael White, also known as Miguel Blanco, died in 1885.


The wood section of the Blanco adobe was razed, leaving the original adobe standing. The adobe fell into a state of disrepair by the 1930s and later it was restored. Today, the San Marino School District now uses the old adobe, which is relatively unknown, even to the local community. Plans are underway to make this historic structure available to the public. The San Marino Historical Society is taking the lead in this project. Tours may be arranged by contacting the San Marino Historical Society or the San Marino School District. The Blanco adobe is located on the school grounds of San Marino High School at 2701 Huntington Drive in San Marino, California.


Blanco Adobe

2701 Huntington Drive, San Marino, CA 91108



~ by ravenjake on October 7, 2009.

One Response to “The Michael White Adobe – John Kielbassa’s History”

  1. [this is good] I found this awesome obituary of Luther Harvey Titus, one of the owners of the Blanco Adobe, on a genealogy message board and believe it was originally in the Los Angeles Times. This is just gold. They really don’t write them like this any more. 
    May 2, 1900 pg I-15Burial of L. H. TitusCalifornia lost a prominent citizen when the remains of the late Luther Harvey Titus of Lamanda Park were yesterday committed to the grave at San Gabriel. Mr. Titus died on Sunday morning, and the funeral service took place yesterday afternoon at 2:00 o’clock, from his splendid late residence. There was a large attendance of people, many of them prominent in the affairs of Southern California. The house and grounds were literally encrusted with white roses, even the tree trunks being so covered. The massive casket rested in the parlor, and near it was another casket, a small metallic one containing the remains of Luther Harvey Titus, Jr., a child of 3, who died five years ago, and whose body rested ever since in a marble sarcophagus in the ranch grounds, waiting to be buried with the father. The service was conducted by Rev. Dr. Hartley of San Gabriel, assisted by Rev. E. W. Pasko of Lamanda Park. The interment took place at San Gabriel, the elder and younger Luthers being laid side by side in mother earth.Mr. Titus was born October 9, 1822, in the village of Hamburg, in western New York, of good old colonial stock. The boy was trained on the farm, and his first financial venture was the purchase of a 120-acre farm near Galena, Ill. In 1845 he went back to his native town, remaining there until 1849, when he started for California, sailing from New York for Galveston, Tex. There the overland journey began, fraught with excitement and danger to the end. At the Rio Grande he met D. S. Terry, and the roughing began. At the Gila River all but three of the party returned, but Titus and his companions pushed on, dodging the bloodthirsty Indians, camping without fires, doubling on their trail, and just before reaching the Colorado River overtook and became a part of a company of twenty-eight Americans led by Dr. James B. Winston of Los Angeles.The ferryboat over the Colorado River at Fort Yuma was an old government wagon, and the ferrymen, all Indians, took toll in blankets. Being afraid of attacks by hostile redskins, the party always kept their arms in condition, and Mr. Titus came hear losing his life through these precautions. He filled his powder flask one night, but in pouring out some powder to light a fire, he snapped a cap too close to the flask and it exploded, lifting him from his feet and blowing his face full of the black grains. While it was a severe accident, it did not stop the traveling, the party arriving at San Diego, August 13, 1849. He was thus one of the original ’49ers.At San Diego, Mr. Titus remained a month, and while there the power was dug out of his face, grain by grain, with the point of a knife. September 13 Mr. Titus arrived in San Francisco, going from there to Stockton and Mokelumne Hill, thence to Calaveras and back to San Francisco after a profitable trip. Leaving mining now, our Argonaut went into the lumber business, manufacturing shingles, selling them at $32 a thousand. In February 1850, he went to Feather River, but selling out, prospected successively on the old emigrant trail, in the Sacramento Valley, at Shasta and at Marysville, where he was taken down with “Trinity fever.” This was enough experience for him at the time, and on his recovery he went home by way of Panama, reaching the homestead in 1851. In 1869, twenty years from his first venture, Mr. Titus returned to California, going directly to Los Angeles, where he concluded to settle.It was necessary to return for his family, and accordingly on going back he induced them all to come with him to the Pacific Coast. His family at that time consisted of his wife, who was a Miss Maria Benedict, and to whom he was married in 1845, and of his daughter, Mary, and her husband, Capt. J. C. Newton, now of South Pasadena. They returned directly to Southern California and made a home on the Horseshoe ranch, between Lamanda Park and San Gabriel, and from here a favorite daughter, Clara, went forth to become a Sister in Los Angeles. That ranch became one of the famous ranches of the state under Mr. Titus’s care, and still remains a very fine property. Here he raised citrus fruits, and here also he embarked in the breeding of fine horses, the head of his stable being Echo, sired by Rysdick’s Hambletonian, and a magnificent animal.For seventeen years, or until 1887, Mr. Titus remained on the Horseshoe ranch. Not only was he creating a splendid estate, but his uncommonly able mind was compassing new and useful devices for his fellow men. He invented a process for making cement irrigation canals in a very inexpensive manner, thus conferring an almost inestimable blessing on the country. Then for the benefit of orchardists he invented a movable ladder, a device to aid in picking fruit, a tree-planting apparatus, and a curious variety of hand shears for cutting and picking fruit with the same hand. He first introduced a portable spraying apparatus, and also introduced many new varieties of fruits. In such ways, besides in the public spirit he always showed, Mr. Titus was a decided force in the upbringing of this sunny land. Upon leaving the old ranch he established himself upon another somewhat north and just in the confines of Lamanda Park. Here he bought a fine residence, and hither he brought, in 1891, a new wife, having married on the 1st of October Miss Ella C. McRary of Saratoga, NY. The following year their home was brightened by the coming of a boy, who was named Luther Harvey Titus, Jr., and who was to the day of his death the very apple of the eye of his father. So great was the attachment felt for the boy that when he sickened and died December 24, 1895, it was to the father a blow from which he never recovered. Luther, Jr., was brought home from San Francisco and placed in a temporary vault near the residence on the ranch. In death they will not be parted. The life of Mr. Titus since his marriage in 1891 was quiet, occupied in managing and keeping in excellent order his large properties. He has been identified with every advance in the neighborhood in which he lived, one of his latest acts being the active support he gave to the temperance movement, which resulted in the establishment of the Lamanda sanitary district. During the past year his devoted wife has carried him everywhere where health might be found, for it was seen that he was failing. For several months he has been a great charge, and oftentimes his mind would wander. Death came easily to him Sunday morning just at daylight. Mr. Titus leaves a widow and one daughter, Mrs. J.C. Newton of South Pasadena, and two granddaughters, Miss May Newton and Miss Frankie Cattran.San Francisco and New York papers will please copy this notice of his death.

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