Abel Stearns Papers

Finding aid prepared by Huntington Staff in 1938.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Manuscripts Department
The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2191
Email: reference@huntington.org
URL: http://www.huntington.org
© 2014
The Huntington Library. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Abel Stearns Papers
Dates: 1821-1935
Collection Call Number: mssStearns papers
Creator: Stearns, Abel, 1798-1871
Extent: 97 boxes
Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2191
Email: reference@huntington.org
URL: http://www.huntington.org
Abstract: This collection contains the professional and personal papers of Southern California businessman and political Abel Stearns (1798-1871). The materials in the collection deal with life in California during the Mexican and early statehood periods, including the cattle industry, ranching, real estate, political and social life, and the gold discoveries in Southern California in 1842.
Language of Material: The records are in English and Spanish.


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Administrative Information

Publication Rights

The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item]. Abel Stearns Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


Purchased from Mrs. Margaret Gaffey Kilroy, February 1937.

Biographical Note

Abel Stearns (1798-1871) was born in Lunenberg, Massachusetts. As a young man he spent some years at sea, taking part in the trade with South America and China. In about 1826 he reached Mexico and during his residence there became a naturalized citizen. In about 1833, Stearns settled in Los Angeles, joined Juan Bandini in the trading business and married Bandini's daughter Arcadia. He became involved in almost every type of business and held minor political offices. In 1849 he represented the Los Angeles district at the constitutional convention in Monterey, and later was a member of the state assembly. By 1858, he had become the wealthiest man in Los Angeles County. After the drought of 1863-1864, he became bankrupt and had to sell a great deal of his property. He died in San Francisco in 1871.

Related Materials in the Huntington Library

Scope and Content

Professional and personal papers of Abel Stearns, including correspondence, business records, legal documents, and other manuscripts. The materials in the collection deal with life in California during the Mexican and early statehood periods, including the cattle industry, ranching, real estate, political and social life, and the gold discoveries in Southern California in 1842.
Correspondents include Juan Bandini, Cave Johnson Couts, Tomas Eleuterio Estenaga, John Forster, Thomas Oliver Larkin, Perfecto Hugo Reid, Alfred Robinson, and others.
Also included are diaries kept in 1879-1905 by Juan Bautista Bandini, son of Juan Bandini, who lived in the Santa Monica area.
The collection also contains a group of papers accumulated by John Tracy Gaffey, third husband of Mrs. Abel Stearns. The Gaffey papers contain correspondence, including letters from Stephen Mallory White, papers relating to San Pedro, California and historical sketches.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  

Personal Names

Stearns, Abel, 1798-1871


Couts, Cave Johnson,1821-1874--Correspondence
Forster, John, 1814-1882--Correspondence
Larkin, Thomas Oliver, 1802-1858--Correspondence
Reid, Hugo,1811?-1853--Correspondence
Robinson, Alfred, 1806-1895--Correspondence
White, Stephen Mallory, 1853-1901--Correspondence
Cattle trade--California
Real property--California
California--Gold discoveries--Sources
California, Southern--History--Sources
Los Angeles (Calif.)--History--Sources
Bandini, Juan,1800-1859
Bandini, Juan Bautista
Couts, Cave Johnson, 1821-1874
Estenaga, Tomas Eleuterio
Forster, John,1814-1882
Gaffey, John Tracy
Larkin, Thomas Oliver, 1802-1858
Reid, Hugo, 1811?-1853
Robinson, Alfred, 1806-1895
White, Stephen Mallory, 1853-1901


Business records--California--19th century
Diaries--California, Southern
Family papers--California
Letters (correspondence)--United States
Legal documents--California
Personal papers--California
Professional papers--California
Property records--California

Collection Contents

Box 1


75 folders
Box 2

Arguello, Jose A.-Arguello, Jose R.

60 folders
Box 3

Aruello, Luis A.-Avila, Antonio

61 folders
Box 4

Avila, Enrique-Banning

59 folders
Box 5

Bandini, Juan, Sr. 1837-1842

66 folders
Box 6

Bandini, Juan, Sr. 1843-1849

53 folders
Box 7

Bandini, Juan, Sr. 1850-1859

74 folders
Box 8

Bandini, Juan B. 1858-1862

74 folders
Box 9

Bandini, Juan B. 1863-1873

44 folders
Box 10


60 folders
Box 11


48 folders
Box 12


51 folders
Box 13


56 folders
Box 14

Carrillo, Estefana-Carrillo, Vicente

59 folders
Box 15


69 folders
Box 16


70 folders
Box 17


60 folders
Box 18

Couts, Cave J. 1851-1859

48 folders
Box 19

Couts, Cave J. 1861-1870

42 folders
Box 20


58 folders
Box 21


47 folders
Box 22


47 folders
Box 23

Estenaga, Thomas E. 1830-1841

52 folders
Box 24

Estenaga, Thomas E. 1842-1847

55 folders
Box 25


59 folders
Box 26

Fitch, Henry D.

45 folders
Box 27


78 folders
Box 28

Forbes, Charles H.

83 folders
Box 29

Forster, John

83 folders
Box 30

Giraudeau, Marcelin

92 folders
Box 31

Gonzalez, Miguel

55 folders
Box 32

Gonzalez, Ramon-Green

56 folders
Box 33


73 folders
Box 34

Hartnell-Howard, Volney

57 folders
Box 35

Howard, William-Johnson

65 folders
Box 36

Johnson, Charles R. 1851, February-1862, September

66 folders
Box 37

Johnson, Charles R. 1862, October-1871, February

52 folders
Box 38


72 folders
Box 39

Larkin, Thomas Oliver 1833-1844

43 folders
Box 40

Larkin, Thomas Oliver 1845-1858

50 folders
Box 41


84 folders
Box 42


72 folders
Box 43


66 folders
Box 44


88 folders
Box 45


79 folders
Box 46


73 folders
Box 47


84 folders
Box 48


64 folders
Box 49


80 folders
Box 50


75 folders
Box 51


93 folders
Box 52

Reid, Perfecto H. 1836-1842

57 folders
Box 53

Reid, Perfecto H. before 1843-1852

59 folders
Box 54

Robinson, Alfred 1833-1858

69 folders
Box 55

Robinson, Alfred 1859-1869

70 folders
Box 56

Robinson, Alfred 1870-1873

81 folders
Box 57

Roldan, Florencio-Roldan, Mariano

59 folders
Box 58


55 folders
Box 59


95 folders
Box 60


73 folders
Box 61

Stearns, Abel 1830-1845

85 folders
Box 62

Stearns, Abel 1846-1871

86 folders
Box 63

Stearns, E.-Stribling

81 folders
Box 64


69 folders
Box 65

Thompson, Alpheus B.

73 folders
Box 66

Thompson, Joseph P.

57 folders
Box 67


61 folders
Box 68


63 folders
Box 69


63 folders
Box 70


70 folders
Box 71

Miscellaneous business and legal papers 1829-1837

Household and personal accounts
Box 72

Miscellaneous business and legal papers 1838-1840

Household and personal accounts
Box 73

Miscellaneous business and legal papers 1841-1847

Household and personal accounts
Box 74

Miscellaneous business and legal papers 1848-1855

Household and personal accounts
Box 75

Miscellaneous business and legal papers 1856-1858

Household and personal accounts
Box 76

Miscellaneous business and legal papers 1859-1860

Household and personal accounts
Box 77

Miscellaneous business and legal papers 1861-1862

Household and personal accounts
Box 78

Miscellaneous business and legal papers 1863-1869

Household and personal accounts
Box 79

Miscellaneous business and legal papers 1870-1876

Household and personal accounts
Box 80

Miscellaneous business and legal papers [undated]

Household and personal accounts
Box 81

Papers relating to San Pedro, California 1831-1837

Box 82

Papers relating to San Pedro, California 1838-1840

Box 83

Papers relating to San Pedro, California 1841-1870

Box 84

Rancho Los Alamitos 1839-1865

Box 85

Ranchos-Upper California

Azusa (Dalton), Bautista, Boca de Santa Monica, La Bolsa Chica, Las Bolsas, La Brea, La Canada, Canada de Los Vaqueros, Canon De Santa Ana, and Los Coyotes.
Box 86

Rancho La Laguna 1844-1873, 1912

Box 87

Ranchos Jurupa, Mission Dolores-Lands, Palos Verdes, Del Paso, Paso De Bartolo, San Antonio (L.A. Co.), San Jose De Buenos Aires, San Juan Cajon De Santa Ana, San Pedro, Santa Ana Del Chino, Santa Gertrudis, Santa Rosa Island, Santiago De Santa Ana, Sespe, La Sierra, Sobrante De San Jacinto.

Box 88

Various ranchos of Upper California

Rancho Temecula, Rancho Temescal, Various Mines, Eagle Mills.
Box 89


Los Coyotes-Testimony...etc. Ranchos-Lower California: Ensenada De Todos Santos, Guadalupe, San Antonio, Santa Rosa, Tecate, Tijuana, Valle De San Rafael, Los Vallecitos, various ranches...
Box 90

Papers relating to Abel Stearns and Pierre Domec. Papers relating to Abel Stearns and John Parrott. Miscellaneous papers relating to land. Printed matter.

Box 91

Gaffey Papers

Box 92

Gaffey Papers

White, S.M.
Box 93

Gaffey Papers

San Pedro, California
Box 94

Bandini, Juan Bautista: Diaries 1883-1892

Volumes 2-4
Box 94A

Bandini, Juan Bautista: Diary 1879-1883

Volume 1
Box 95

Bandini, Juan Bautista: Diaries 1892-1905

Volumes 5-7
Box 96

Bandini, Juan Bautista: Diaries 1879-1888

Volumes 1-3; English translation
Box 97

Bandini, Juan Bautista: Diaries 1888-1905

Volumes 4-7; English translation