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Guide to the Den, Bell, and Luton Families Papers MS-07
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Collection Details
 
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  • Conditions Governing Access note
  • Conditions Governing Use note
  • Preferred Citation note
  • Bibliography
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition note
  • Biographical/Historical note
  • Scope and Contents note
  • Separated Materials note

  • Title: Den, Bell, and Luton Families Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MS-07
    Contributing Institution: Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. Presidio Research Center
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 2.2 Linear feet 2 record storage boxes
    Date: 1784-1974
    Language of Materials note: Materials in Spanish and English.
    Abstract: The papers of the Den, Bell, and Luton Families are focused largely on land ownership by brothers Nicholas and Richard Den, early settlers of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, and their heirs. They highlight the transition in land tenure during the Mexican period and early years of California statehood as well as the inner operations of land and oil development in Santa Barbara County during the first part of the twentieth century.
    creator: Den, Nicholas Augustus
    creator: Den, Richard S.
    creator: Meagher, Thomas Francis, 1823-1867
    creator: Micheltorena, Manuel, 1802-1853
    creator: Pico, Pio, 1801-1894
    creator: Stearns, Abel, 1798-1871

    Conditions Governing Access note

    Collection is open to researchers.

    Conditions Governing Use note

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Director for Historical Resources. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation Research Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation note

    Den, Bell, and Luton Families Papers, MS-07, Presidio Research Center, Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, Santa Barbara, California.

    Bibliography

    Bell, Katherine M. Swinging the Censer: Reminiscences of Old Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara, CA: Finlay Press, 1931.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition note

    Gift of Nancy Luton Jackson.

    Biographical/Historical note

    Den Family Nicholas August Den (1812–1862), son of Emanuel Den and Katherine O’Shea, came to California, by way of Nova Scotia, from Waterford, Ireland. Den had studied to become a medical doctor in Dublin, and although there is no record of his having graduated, he became the first medical doctor in the Santa Barbara area, moving there in 1836. He later served as mayor of Santa Barbara. He married Rosa A. Hill, a daughter of Daniel A. Hill in 1843 and died in 1862, leaving ten children.
    Richard Somerset Den (1821–1895) also studied medicine in Ireland. Afterwards, he sailed to Australia and then Mexico, landing in Mazatlan, before arriving in Santa Barbara in the fall of 1843 where his brother lived. Richard Den was given a certified medical license in 1844 by Governor Micheltorena to practice medicine in Mexico, and he treated wounded Californios and American prisoners during the Mexican-American war. Den also practiced medicine in Los Angeles where he resided for much of his life. He never married.
    Over the course of his life, Nicholas Den acquired several Mexican ranchos in Santa Barbara County, starting with Rancho Dos Pueblos in 1842. In 1845 Den and Daniel Hill became lessees of the Mission Santa Barbara lands which were granted to his brother Richard in 1846 by Governor Pio Pico. Richard acquired Rancho Los Prietos in 1857 and Rancho Tequepis in 1858. The brothers also owned the Rancho San Marcos which Richard managed for a number of years.
    Bell Family Nicholas Den’s daughter Catarina Maria Den, who grew up on Rancho Dos Pueblos, married John Stewart Bell in 1842. Bell was born in Tahiti where he father had a sugar plantation. They lived in Santa Barbara and had five children: Katherine Maria Den Bell, Charles Den Bell, Caroline Alexandra Bell, Rosa Margaret Antonia Bell and Mary E. Bell. Katherine M. Bell married Seth Cheney and in 1931 she compiled a history of her mother Catarina’s life entitled Swinging the Censer: Reminiscences of Old Santa Barbara.
    Luton Family Caroline "Carrie" Bell married George Roscoe Luton. They had one son, William and lived in Montecito, California.

    Scope and Contents note

    The papers of the Den, Bell, and Luton Families are arranged in four series: Series 1 Documents; Series 2 Miscellaneous Family Materials; Series 3 Photographs; and Series 4 Printed Matter. The papers are focused largely on land ownership by brothers Nicholas and Richard Den, early settlers of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, and their heirs. They highlight the transition in land tenure during the Mexican period and early years of California statehood as well as the inner operations of land and oil development in Santa Barbara County during the first part of the twentieth century.
    The types of materials contained in these papers include: correspondence; land titles, deeds, and leases; legal documents including opinions, powers of attorney, and depositions; diaries, photographs, and printed materials. Many of the deeds to various parcels and ranchos are scarce handwritten copies of the originals. Many are accompanied by certifications of authenticity by local officials or by the U.S. Surveyor General.
    The documents in Series 1 form the bulk of the collection. Many were owned by Richard Den and were annotated by him. Some of the most significant items document the transfer of the lands once owned by Mission Santa Barbara. Detailed inventories of livestock, agriculture, buildings, aqueducts, material goods, and other features provide a glimpse of life at the mission before 1846. The selling of the missions by Governor Pio Pico and controversies over ownership of land afterwards is also documented in several legal documents, since lawsuits were filed over ownership. Richard Den’s medical practice is also described in several letters to Thomas Larkin requesting reimbursement for services he provided during the Mexican American War, and in several diaries from his work in Los Angeles. The inheritance and management of land by later generations of Bell and Luton families can be traced through the title documents and other correspondence from the early part of the 1900s.
    A seemingly unrelated but interesting item is a letter to an unknown correspondent (one of the Den brothers?) from Irish nationalist Thomas Francis Meagher (1823-1867) written when he was a prisoner in exile in Van Dieman’s Land, Tasmania. Meagher eventually escaped from Tasmania and settled in the United States, participated in the Civil War and eventually was appointed acting governor of Montana.
    Included in Series 2 are Nicholas Den’s Last Will and Testament and Katherine Bell’s 2 volumes of the abstracts of title for Dos Pueblos Ranch. Series 3 includes several mounted photographs of adobe buildings in Santa Barbara in the area of the Presidio and a number of photographs of the Santa Barbara earthquake in 1925. Series 4 includes several publications that belonged to family members, as well as the proceedings and testimony for the court case of the heirs of Nicholas Den vs. Richard Den.

    Separated Materials note

    Two books removed and added to library collection.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Bell, John Stewart
    Bell, Katherine M., 1844-1926
    Den, Nicholas Augustus
    Den, Richard S.
    Hill, Daniel A.
    Luton, Caroline
    Luton, George Roscoe, 1880-1947
    Rancho Dos Pueblos (Calif.).
    Rancho Las Armas (Calif.).
    Rancho Los Prietos (Calif.).
    Rancho San Marcos (Calif.).
    Rancho Tequepis (Calif.).
    Santa Barbara Mission.
    Church lands--California
    Deeds
    Diaries
    Estate inventories
    Land tenure--California
    Leases
    Letters
    Oil and gas leases--California
    Ranches--California