El Cajon de Muscupiabe Grant – Part 1
Well, so far so good, but Michael White’s fortunes are going to begin to go south. It’s pretty telling that at no point in California All the Way Back to 1828, does he mention that he held the El Cajon de Muscupiabe grant, which was awarded to him in 1843. It must have been a sore point with him.
Things are about to go very wrong for the Californios. Indians throughout Southern California were hit with a huge smallpox epidemic in 1840, and they were dying in the order of thousands. The Spanish trail had just opened and thousands of Yankees were streaming in-and many of them were unsavory characters; horse thieves and cattle rustlers. The small Mexican political skirmishes are about to be replaced with real wars, but the biggest war that they were about to lose is a cultural war.
We will be getting to the gold rush and Joaquin Murrieta in a bit – but the conditions that led to those dramas were set up with the opening of the Cajon Pass, the Spanish Trail leading straight past the San Gabriel Mission into Los Angeles.
White, as we’ve read, struck up an acquaintance with Hipólito Espinosa and stayed at his place, Politana, before leaving with Tomás Salazar for Santa Fe. We’ve also learned that White regarded Salazar as a murdering psychopath with no regard for human life. Although he didn’t say it, there’s an implication that he was disappointed in the trip.
We also found out that he was a member of the Lugo colony, but we don’t know more about it that that. The Whites were prolific breeders, although quite in step with the style of the time. At this point, they have been married for 10 years, Michael is gone most of the time and Rosario is – where? We don’t know. She might be in Compton, or near the mission or even in San Bernardino with the Lugos, but California All the Way Back to 1828 doesn’t tell us how she is managing alone with the kids while he’s off making a living.
So we’re just going to have to piece together what evidence there is.
On June 21, 1842, Rancho San Bernardino was granted to Antonio Maria Lugo, his sons and his nephews, who grazed approximately 4000-6000 cattle in the area. The grant included a large part of the San Bernardino valley, 37,700 acres (153 km2) in all.
Lugo's adobe would later become Amasa M. Lyman's house. His brother repaired the Estancia and lived there. A community that grew up astride the Santa Ana River northeast of current-day Redlands would be known as Lugonia. It lost its identity with the November 1888 incorporation of Redlands.
In 1843, Michael White (also known in Spanish as Miguel Blanco), a Mexican citizen of English origin, was granted Rancho Muscupiabe, named after the Serrano village Amuscupiabit or "place of little pines."
Now according to Gerald Smith’s article for the Masterkey, “Rancho Amuscupiabit,” the Cajon pass has been used by Native Americans for a long time, but how long is open to debate. Maybe as long ago as the Pinto culture, maybe as recently as the Serranos, but it’s the only way to get from the desert into the basin and Amuscupiabit has a year-round spring.
You know how they say “you are on Indian land?” Well, folks, if you’re anywhere in the USA, a Native American got there first. The Serranos had a lot of problems, but Michael White wasn’t one of them. Michael White had a lot of problems, but it wasn’t the Serranos.
The Spanish discovered the pass in the 1770s – it was an established tribal trading route by then, the Mojave Trail, but there wasn’t much to be done about it. In 1806, Fr. Jose Maria Zalvidea, Michael White’s favorite priest, spent some time there evangelizing. Surely they must have spent some time discussing the possibilities of such an excellent location.