Guide to the San Diego Pueblo Lands Collection MS 267

Finding aid prepared by Katrina White
Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.
San Diego History Center Document Collection
1649 El Prado, Suite 3
San Diego, CA, 92101
June 7, 2011

Title: San Diego Pueblo Lands Collection
Identifier/Call Number: MS 267
Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
Language of Material: English
Physical Description: 1.25 Linear feet (1 box)
Date (inclusive): 1834-1880
Abstract: This collection contains reproductions of documents related to the original land grant for the pueblo of San Diego in 1834; the Board of Land Commissioners’ confirmation of the grant in 1854; decree from 1869 confirming settled land claims; and the private land grant for Rancho San Jacinto Viejo to Jose Antonio Estudillo and his family.
Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English and Spanish.
creator: San Diego Historical Society.

Biographical / Historical Notes

In the 1830s, following Mexico’s independence from Spain, Alta California became a department of the Mexican republic. Under the legacy of Spanish colonial law which Mexico continued to enforce, a pueblo could be formed by the election of certain municipal officials, including a mayor (alcalde), two councilmen (regidores), and a legal advisor/advocate (sindico). These municipal authorities then organized a civil government, or ayuntamiento, and were then entitled to a land grant from the Mexican public domain.
In accordance with this law, San Diego held its first election on December 21, 1834, electing the officials legally required to establish a pueblo. Those elected included: Jose Osuna, mayor; Juan B. Alvarado, councilman; Jose Maria Marron, councilman; and Henry Fitch, legal adviser. Following the election, the officials applied to the departmental government of Alta California for a grant of land from the public domain. Their petition was received favorably and granted by the governor, who ordered a land grant for the pueblo of San Diego. The exact location and quantity of land granted was unknown until 1845 when Fitch completed the first known survey and map of San Diego, charting a territory of nearly 50,000 acres. The pueblo of Santa Barbara also became an “ayuntamiento” and its officials applied for a land claim during the same period, the forms for San Diego and Santa Barbara being filed together.
Jose Antonio Estudillo, although not an initial municipal authority, was an active participant in San Diego’s first elections and a prominent landowner in San Diego during that time. Son of Jose Maria Estudillo, former comandante of Monterey and San Diego, Jose Antonio married Victoria Dominguez in 1826, becoming the brother-in-law of Juan Bandini. Marrying into another influential family helped him gain political clout and he served as San Diego revenue collector and treasurer from 1828 to 1830. Estudillo secured multiple land holdings during the 1830s and 1840s, including three lands grants in the San Jacinto area. Jose Antonio served as administrator and mayordomo at Mission San Luis Rey from 1840-1843, and was granted ownership to part of the Mission’s lands, known as Rancho San Jacinto Viejo, during his period of service.
Following Mexico’s surrender of Alta California to the United States in 1848 as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe, Congress created a Board of Land Commissioners for California to determine the validity of all land claims founded on Mexican land grants. The creation of this Board was directly related to article one of the treaty with Mexico requiring the U.S. to recognize all valid grants within the ceded territory that had been made prior to the beginning of the war. As required, the city petitioned their land claim in 1852 in case number 589: “President and Trustees of the City of San Diego vs. U.S. government for Pueblo Lands.” Locally known as the “Pueblo Lands case,” this claim was confirmed by the board in 1854 but the government appealed the ruling. However, the appeal was never followed up on, so it was dismissed and the board’s decision was confirmed and deemed final in 1857. The Fitch map was used to determine the boundaries of the city in this case. As with all other longtime landowners in the area, the Estudillo family also had to petition for their land to the Board of Land Commissioners. Jose Antonio Estudillo died in 1852, but his heirs, including his wife, Victoria Dominguez Estudillo, filed the claim and it was granted on November 21, 1854. The Estudillo family’s land disputes did not end there however, and they were back in court in 1879 regarding a dispute with their neighbor, John Flanagan over the boundaries of their land. Despite this minor dispute, the Estudillo family continued to own most of the Valley until the early 1880s, when parts of it were sold off.

Scope and Content

This collection contains a tracing and several copies of the original 1834 Mexican government’s decree establishing San Diego as an ayuntamiento and granting the city land from the public domain. There is a transcription of the document, accompanied by several different translations of the same document. The collection also includes a transcription of the proceedings of the 1852-1854 “Pueblo Lands” case brought before the California Board of Land Commissioners. There is also a transcription ("Island or Peninsula of San Diego") of a 1869 United States decree confirming previously settled land claims in San Diego. There are numerous reproductions of documentation from the U.S. National Archives related to the Estudillo family’s land claim in Rancho San Jacinto Viejo, dating from 1839-1880. Titles of sale, assessments and leases, as well as administrative documents from the Pueblo League of San Diego are included in the collection.


Items in this collection are arranged by subject.

Preferred Citation

San Diego Pueblo Lands Collection, MS 267, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Katrina White on June 7, 2011.
Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Tracing of 1834 Mexican decree has each sheet individually encapsulated. (June 13, 2011)


The tracing of the 1834 Mexican Decree was found in the San Diego County Clerk’s office. The original decree is most likely in the U.S. National Archives. All documents related to Rancho San Jacinto Viejo are reproductions from the U.S. National Archives.
Material added to collection from Document Files Collection; Pueblo Lands, Pueblo League of San Diego, and Pueblo Land Deed of Sale 1869 to Jacob Schiller files.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers 610702A and 960822.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Alvarado, Juan Bautista, 1809-1882
Arguello, Santiago
Bandini, Juan
California Board of Land Commissioners.
Estudillo, Jose Antonio
Estudillo, Jose Maria
Estudillo, Victoria Dominguez
Fitch, Henry Delano
Flanagan, John
Gassen, Adolf G.
Marron, Jose Maria
Matias Moreno, Jose
Osuna, Jose
Pueblo League of San Diego.
San Luis Rey Mission (Calif.).
Sutherland, Thomas W.
Alta California
Land grants
Land tenure
Monterey (Calif.)
Pueblo Lands
Rancho San Jacinto Viejo
San Diego (Calif.)
Santa Barbara (Calif.)

Box-folder 1:1

Mexican decree, 1834

Scope and Content

Original tracing of Mexican decree establishing San Diego and Santa Barbara as presidios and granting both cities land from the public domain, 1834 (individual pages encapsulated).
Box-folder 1:2

Mexican decree, 1834-1845

Scope and Content

Copies of tracing and transcription of Mexican decree establishing San Diego and Santa Barbara as presidios and granting both cities land from the public domain, 1834.
Reproduction of Fitch map of San Diego, 1845.
Box-folder 1:3

"President and Trustees of the City of San Diego vs. U.S. government for Pueblo Lands" case number 589, 1850-1889


Transcription of San Diego City’s land claim petition to the California Board of Land Commissioners.
Letter from City Attorney Thomas W. Sutherland to San Diego Mayor regarding records related to the incorporation of the Pueblo, August 26, 1850 (1 transcription, 1 photostatic copy).
Affidavit of Testimony of Santiago Arguello for Case No. 589, September 19, 1872.
Testimonies of Santiago Arguello and Jose Matias Moreno for Case No. 589, 1854 Sept. 13 (2 copies). Attached is a Decree of Confirmation filed for Case No. 589, November 19, 1889.
Box-folder 1:4

"Island or Pennisula of San Diego," 1869 June 11-July 6

Scope and Content

Transcription of United States decree further confirming land claims in San Diego previously settled, including land claim by Archibald C. Peachy and William H. Aspinwall.
Box-folder 1:5

U.S. Patent of Pueblo Lands, 1874

Scope and Content

Transcription of U.S. Patent of Pueblo Lands conferred by President Ulysses S. Grant, 1874.
Box-folder 1:6

Rancho San Jacinto Viejo Land Claims, 1839-1880 and undated


Reproduction of Jose Antonio Estudillo’s original Rancho San Jacinto Viejo land grant, 1839.
Reproduction of land claim petition presented to the California board of land commissioners by Victoria Dominguez Estudillo, widow of Jose Antonio, 1854.
Reproduction of land dispute case brought against the Estudillo family by John Flanagan, 1878-1880.
Reproduction of map of Rancho San Jacinto.
Box-folder 1:7

Titles of sale for Pueblo Lands, 1868-1872


Document of sale for multiple lots of city (pueblo) lands, 1868-1869
Copy of an Abstract of title for Lot No. 226, 1872
Box-folder 1:8

County Pueblo Lands assessments and lists of Lots leased, 1892-1893 and undated


County Lands Assessment Lists with handwritten entries of different lots and their acreage, 1892-1893
Two handwritten lists of Pueblo Lots leased to Adolf G. Gassen, undated
Box-folder 1:9

Pueblo League of San Diego, 1869-1889


Original handwritten Pueblo League Constitution and Bylaws with list of members, 1869
Transcription of Pueblo League Constitution and Bylaws with added document establishing the Multiple Protection Association (as a group within the Pueblo League), 1889
Box-folder 1:10

Secondary sources on Pueblo Lands, 1935-1952