Chapter 17: The Coburn Mystery [Original Draft]

In the end, Loren Coburn, with the help of his attorney-partner, Jeremiah Clark, acquired both the Butano and Ano Nuevo ranchos. How the land was paid for became the source of many stories, none of them nice.

Here’s one: Knowing that meat was scarce and valuable in late 19th century San Francisco, Loren and a few hired men with guns sailed to Baja California where they loaded their boat with hogs and cattle. Loren and his men haggled over prices with the locals until they fell asleep…and then Coburn sailed off, having not paid for anything.

Another story: San Francisco attorney & Coburn’s partner Jeremiah Clark loaned money to the cash hungry rancheros. According to this version, Loren put the mortgages in his own name and when the rancheros couldn’t pay the money back, he ended up with all the land.

Coburn may have personally negotiated with the rancheros. His technique, some said, was to get the owners drunk, and when their minds were muddled, he got them to move the boundary markers.

Silly stories, all of them.

By 1862 Coburn and Clark owned the two ranchos, amounting to more than 20,000 acres. After that Coburn must have bought his attorney-partner out.

Meanwhile Loren leased for ten years, part of the Rancho Ano Nuevo, to the Steele brothers, a dairy farming family from Marin County. When the Steeles moved to the South Coast, they planned to raise stock and grow grain and vegetables.

[The two big ranchos were split up into smaller ones with new names: Pocket Ranch, Bean Hollow Ranch, Coast Ranch, Home Ranch and Cloverdale Ranch.]

Supposedly, the Steeles made a deal with Coburn prohibiting them from using Pigeon Point and limiting them to cultivating 400 acres–any more and they had to pay Coburn extra in gold. Coburn retained the right-of-way for his horses, cattle and employees over any path or road crossing the Butano creek.

Loren Coburn may have pushed around people but he couldn’t push the Steeles around.

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