El Cajon de Muscupiabe Grant – Part 3

Well, ok. Just because he wasn’t living there didn’t mean he forfeited everything.  As long as there was no other claimant (and there wasn’t) then he got to keep the land. Not that he could do anything with it. Remember my “thing” about bad luck and good luck? Well, it seems like our boy, Michael White, is havin’ some bad luck, but maybe not. Maybe he’s lucky to be alive.


At any rate, he’s got another land grant, the San Ysidro Rancho, he’s got his family around him, and Peg-leg Smith ain’t nowhere in sight. Now, if you’re Raven Jake, that’s all you need, but some folks are harder to satisfy and it probably pissed him right off that other people came in and made a pile of money when he was there first. Just a little too far ahead of the curve…


Anyway, this mess got so litigious that he was probably lucky that he “just” risked his life over a not-so-great idea, while rich men got richer off the sweat of his brow. Good Lord, he put in a couple years of carpentry and nine months on the hill – but anyway, here’s the official story:


History Of San Bernardino And Riverside Counties By John Brown Jr, Editor for San Bernardino County and James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County with Selected Biography of Actors and Witnesses of the Period of Growth and Achievement volume I: The Western Historical Association, 1922 page 32


El Cajon De Muscupiabe Grant: A grant which caused much litigation in the courts for many years was that of El Cajon de Muscupiabe which was made in 1843 to Michael White, Miguel White, or Miguel Blanco as he was variously known, with the condition that he occupy the land in question consisting of one league and prevent the Indians from coming through the Cajon Pass to the coast country.


White, an Englishman, had come to the California Coast about 1817 and engaged in the coasting trade with the Sandwich Islands [Hawai’i] until 1828, in which year he took up his residence at Santa Barbara.


He located at Los Angeles in 1830 where he was married a year later, and first secured a grant to a valuable tract of land near San Gabriel Mission, of which his mother-in-law, the famous Eulalie Perez, was so long matron-in-charge, and later to the Muscupiabe grant.


For thirteen years White occupied this latter grant, but in 1856 sold a half-interest to Isabel Granger and Charles Crittenden, and the other half was sold in 1857 to Henry Hancock, a surveyor, who subsequently obtained the balance of the tract. The boundaries of this grant, like all other Mexican grants, were indefinite, and White, who although offered as much land as he chose to take in the Cajon Pass, had desired only one league at first, [and] took the precaution of having his grant changed from one of quantity to one of boundaries.


In 1867, Hancock, who then owned the grant and who was deputy United States surveyor, surveyed and located the grant of El Cajon de Muscupiabe, which now included nearly eight leagues of land, and the grant thus surveyed was confirmed and a patent issued by the Government in 1872. However, this patent was only given after a re- survey inasmuch as there was much dissatisfaction among the people of the locality and the question of its validity was so strongly agitated that in 1886 suit was commenced by the United States attorney to set aside the patent.


This, however, was denied and the original patent fully confirmed, although other suits have been instituted from time to time. While the title has remained unshaken and the purchasers who received their title through the Hancock survey are secure in their rights, there has been considerable other litigation this having to do with the water rights connected with the grant.


In 1877, a suit was begun by the settlers located within the boundaries of the grant against the large number of settlers in the valley below, who were using water from Lytle Creek – the grant occupants claiming the entire flow from this stream. The grant owner won their suit by decision of the Supreme Court in 1879, a decision which had an important bearing upon later irrigation litigation in that the supremacy of riparian rights against appropriation was established and that it decided that the statute of limitations is impotent when the land title is in question and held in abeyance by the United States Government.


This decision caused the organization of the Lytle Creek Water Company with a capital stock of $75,000 – the stockholders including nearly all of the water users. Of this company, an authority [H.D. Barrows] says its purpose was to unify the interest of appropriators on the stream and to fight the grant owners. These latter had the law on their side, but the settlers had the water and were holding and using it. An injunction was granted in favor of the grant owners, but was never enforced.


The conflict was a long and bitter one. In the meantime, the grant owners and others operating with them, quietly bought up the stock of the Lytle Creek Water Company until enough to control it was secured, and then sold out these rights to the Semi Tropic Land & Water Company with the riparian lands, which seems to have quieted the conflict. This practically ended the litigation concerning Muscupiabe grant.


My goodness, no wonder he didn’t want to talk about it. If y’all are into land grants and water rights, Glen Dawson’s notes give these references: In 1853 claim was made to the United States Land Commission, White to receive half the land and the attorney the other half. White sold his half in 1859 to Henry Hancock. The boundaries were stretched from the original one league to five leagues and not until 1889 was the matter finally settled. Because this land slipped through White's hands probably added to his bitterness in later life. (Beattie, Heritage of the Valley , 90, 92-93.) (See also "Rancheria Amuscopiabit" by Gerald A. Smith in the Masterkey , July-August, 1953.) An account of White's killing Chief Coyote in Cajon Pass is found in Guinn, A History of California and an Extended History of its Southern Coast Counties , Los Angeles, 1907. Vol. II, p. 2148. The Rancho Muscupiabe plat is filed in the San Bernardino Recorder's office in connection with the certification of title by the U.S. Land Office (U.S. Survey July 11, 1868), page 24. The accompanying pages give the court decisions validating the title.


Here’s another bit of news, when Benjamin Wilson was Justice of the Peace and assistant for Indian affairs in Riverside County just a couple years later in 1845, he was also commissioned to track down Walkara and his marauders and bring them to justice. Their mission was interrupted by the discovery of the Big Bear Lake area and no additional story of the pursuit was ever given. Hmm, imagine that. He got sent out to bring a gang of organized criminals to justice and turned it into a hunting trip. Guess guarding the pass ain’t that easy after all.

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~ by ravenjake on January 18, 2010.

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