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Guide to the Denton Family Papers MS 175
MS 175  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Biographical / Historical Notes
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Preferred Citation
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Processing Information
  • Separated Materials
  • Comments
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

  • Title: Denton Family Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 175
    Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 0.25 Linear feet (1 box)
    Date (inclusive): 1852-1930
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English and Spanish.
    Abstract: The collection contains family papers, land deeds, business papers related to Denton land surveys, and several maps of the Baja California region.
    creator: Denton family

    Biographical / Historical Notes

    Colonel William Denton (July 27, 1828-April 14, 1907) was born in Harrowby, England, to William Smith Denton and Sarah Nixon. He was the fourth of seventeen children. Denton came to the United States during the Gold Rush and worked as a civil engineer for the United States geodetic survey. Between 1858 and 1860, Denton participated in a surveying expedition of the Sea of Cortes and coastal Sonora region, accompanied by Federico Fitch, son of a prominent San Diego businessman. It is very likely that he met his future wife during this expedition since their ship stopped at her hometown of Mulege, Mexico. In 1860, he was married to Elena Cano de los Rios aboard the English battleship “The Cleo” at La Paz, Mexico. Elena Cano de los Rios Denton (May 8, 1845-September 23, 1930) was born in Mulege, Baja California, to Mariano Cano de los Rios and Petra Ruiz. Together, William and Elena had eight children: Eleana, William Smith, Oscar Allan, Sarah Brent, Paul Isham, Alexander Marion, Maria Soldad, and Morgan Gascoigne.
    In 1874, the Denton family moved to San Diego, where they remained for many years. Denton was employed by the International Colonization Company as a land surveyor in the Baja California region between 1884 and 1886, when he appears to have had a falling out with the powerful North American land syndicate. William Denton became a naturalized Mexican citizen in 1894 and was a prominent landowner in Baja California. Although at the time of his death, his American estate totaled only $1000, he owned several mines and ranches in Northern Baja California. These included: the Blanco Bay and Trinidad iron mine groups; Los Algodones Rancho, situated near the Colorado River; Rancho Jacume, situated on the U.S.-Mexican border; one-half interest in Toronjil, Angel de la Guarda, Nueva Esperanza, and La Vaca copper mines, situated on the Pacific coast; one-half interest in the Chubasco and Sireno gold mine groups; and one-half interest in the Vulcan iron mines, situated near the Pacific Coast.
    Upon Col. Denton’s death, his estate was shared amongst his family: half going to his wife, and the other half split evenly among his remaining children. His son Alexander appears to have taken over much of the responsibility for maintaining the family’s properties after Denton’s death. Alexander Denton carried on his father’s work as a land surveyor, drawing up several maps of the Baja California region that encompassed the Denton property in Mexico.
    William Denton’s daughter Maria Soldad was married to Sam Showley. The couple had two children: Samuel Denton Showley and Dan Showley. Dan Showley, who donated at least part of this collection, was a teacher of Spanish and History at Hoover High School.

    Scope and Content

    The Denton Family Papers includes documents on the Denton family history and Denton family estates (in U.S. and Mexico) as well as documents related to William and Alex Denton’s business relationships including their land surveys, and several maps of the Baja California region, including maps of specific Denton properties. Documents of particular interest include William Denton’s original Mexican Naturalization papers, original Mexican land deeds for each mine owned by the Denton family, numerous documents related to the International Colonization Company (also known as the International Company of Mexico), including a published statement from a lawsuit against the company, and field notes for the San Vicente Basin published by the company. Maps of note include an original, hand-drawn map of the lands surrounding the Cucupa Mountains, an original site plan of the Jacume area and of Los Algodones Rancho, and an oversized map of the entire Baja California region.


    This collection is arranged into four series:
    Series I: Family Papers
    Series II: Family Estates
    Series III: Business Relationships
    Series IV: Baja California Maps
    Within each series, items are arranged by subject.

    Preferred Citation

    Denton Family Papers, MS 175, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

    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.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Katrina White on May 19, 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.

    Separated Materials

    The Federico Fitch diary has been removed and is now part of MS 25 Fitch Family Papers. Photocopies of relevant pages are included in this collection.


    We have been unable to establish any connection between the Indiana land deed (in Oversize Collections D1) and the rest of the documents in this collection.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Accession numbers 851108A, 860318A

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    Original William Denton Mexican Naturalization document encapsulated and in Oversize Collections D1. (May 19, 2011)
    Original hand-drawn color map encapsulated and in Oversize Collections D1. (June 13, 2011)

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    California Academy of Sciences.
    Cantu, Esteban
    Cummings, Roland
    de Esparza, Timoteo R.
    Denton family
    Denton, Alexander
    Denton, Elena Cano de los Rios
    Denton, William
    Diaz, Porfirio, 1830-1915
    Huller, Louis
    International Colonization Compnay.
    International Company of Mexico.
    McAleer, Christopher
    Moore, Justin P.
    Rubio, Manuel, 19th cent.
    Saenz, Santana
    Scofield, Charles
    Scott, Chalmers
    Showley, Dan
    Showley, Maria Soldad Denton
    Sisson, George H.
    Algodones (Baja California, Mexico)
    Arquitas mine
    Baja California (Mexico : Peninsula)
    Blanco Bay mines
    California, Gulf of (Mexico)
    Colorado River Watershed (Colo.-Mexico)
    Durango (Mexico : State)
    Ensenada (Baja California, Mexico)
    Jacume Rancho
    Land surveying
    Las Cucupas Mountains
    Mexicali (Mexico)
    Rancho Punta Banda
    Real property surveys
    San Diego (Calif.)
    San Pedro mine
    San Vicente (Baja California, Mexico)
    Sonora (Mexico : State)
    Trinidad copper mines