Chapter 15: The Coburn Mystery [Original Draft]

Loren’s new stable business brought him face-to-face with travelers from all over California. Pescadero pioneer Alexander Moore was a client who, when he visited San Francisco, boarded his horse with Loren Coburn. (It is said that Mr. Moore built the first wood frame house in Pescadero.)

It’s possible that in the course of conversation, Alexander Moore revealed that lands were for sale on the South Coast–and Loren began to express interest. He was beginning to view land ownership as “insurance” against future economic hardships.

Chatting with folks at the stable, people from all over the state, gave him a good sense of real estate values. He also learned that many of the Spanish rancheros were in danger of losing their land–and that they desperately needed cash.

Until California joined the Union, the Golden State had been composed of a series of huge ranchos with legal issues decided under Mexican and/or Spanish law. Now with Americans pouring in, the land law was evolving, and in the beginning there was much confusion and opportunity for sharp investors.

Quarrels over boundary lines became commonplace and talk of them filled Loren Coburn’s stable. One dispute 45 miles south of San Francisco near Pescadero drew Coburn’s interest.

The parties were quarreling over the boundary lines of two significant Mexican land grants: the Punta del Ano Nuevo (New Years Point) which included Pigeon Point, home to Portuguese whalers and light shipping–and– the Butano Ranch (the “gathering place for friendly visits”, which included Pebble Beach, Pescadero’s famous tourist attraction.

After learning of the dispute, Loren decided he was going to buy the ranchos.

Note: Such boundary disputes were commonplace. Mexico had carried forward the Spanish tradition of rewarding retiring soldiers and civil servants with grants of land. But by the 1830s the land policy had become corrupt and almost anybody could apply for one of these grants. All you needed was a sketch of the property you wanted, and instead of acres, the amount you desired had to be totaled in square leagues. Ideally, the sketch should have been cross-checked with prior officially recorded claims.

But–all of that tedious work became tiring for those who had to do it and the grant process fell apart and boundary lines overlapped.

Mexican Governor Micheltorena granted four square leagues (17,776 acres) of the Rancho del Ano Nuevo to Simeon Castro–inconveniently, Castro’s land overlapped by a single league or 4,444 acres the Ranch Butano belonging to someone else.

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