Monthly Archives: November 2012

Introducing Gerónimo and Catarina López


Gerónimo and Catarina Lopez in their later years.

As noted in a previous post, Gerónimo López was born in Los Angeles in 1828.  HIs father, Esteban, received land in what later became the Boyle Heights neighborhood east of the Los Angeles River and Gerónimo may have lived in this area briefly.  While there is not a great deal known about his youth, Gerónimo was sent to the Mission San Fernando to live in 1837, when his uncle Pedro was the majordomo (foreman) there.   Included in Pedro’s family was his six-year old daughter Catarina.  He also attended a private school established by Tomás Feliz, owner of the Casa de Cahuenga across from today’s Universal City.

Gerónimo was involved in a pivotal event in the transition from Mexican to American control of California.  The invasion of American troops in late Summer 1846 led to the conquest of the pueblo of Los Angeles, but the native Californios revolted and recaptured the town and reasserted authority.  Several months later, a second American force marched north from San Diego and engaged Californio forces at the San Gabriel River in modern-day Montebello before fighting a last battle against their adversaries at Los Angeles on 9 January 1847.  While the battle ended with the Californios yielding, but, in the meantime, another force of Americans led by Lt. Col. John C. Frémont was marching towards Los Angeles from the north and, on 10 January, was camped at Castaic.  Pico, looking to end hostilities with Frémont instead of Commodore Robert Stockton, who had taken Los Angeles, sent the 18-year old Gerónimo, who was his scout, to Frémont with the offer of surrender and the signing of a treaty.  This document was signed by the two parties at Feliz’ Casa de Cahuenga on the 13th and Gerónimo was present at the event that marked the official conclusion of the war in California.

That same year, Catarina, then aged sixteen, left the San Fernando area and went to Los Angeles to attend school.  She seems to have remained at the pueblo for a few years.  In the meantime, her father, Pedro, acquired a tract of land from Andrés Pico a couple of miles north of the mission and constructed an adobe house there. He planted vineyards and fruit trees on the property and enjoyed the use of a spring for his domestic and agricultural needs.  While Gerónimo had received some property on the future Boyle Heights tract from his father and built an adobe house on it, his marriage to his second cousin on 9 September 1851 (the first anniversary of California statehood) led to the newlyweds moving in with her father at his ranch.

The couple remained with Pedro for ten years until his death in 1861, at which time the ranch was left to them.  Gerónimo, however, had acquired a forty-acre parcel in present Sylmar which had been part of a 200-acre ranch granted to a San Fernando Mission Indian named Samuel in 1845.  The 20% section Gerónimo acquired had been held by Maria de los Angeles Burrows and was purchased for $4.00 an acre during a time of economic depression.  Water, however, from San Fernando Creek was sufficient for the property’s needs, even if the few years following the López purchase were marked first by a flood in the winter of 1861-62 and then two years of horrendous drought that virtually destroyed the cattle industry, the region’s economic backbone.

The adobe house built by Gerónimo López on his 40-acre parcel was situated on a road that became part of the transcontinental Butterfield Stage line in the late 1850s and, even though that line was soon terminated, the road remained a busy stagecoach route through the area.  Adding a stage stop and store to his compound, Gerónimo called his domain López Station and there was a post office and school eventually included by him there, as well.  By the late 1860s, 40-mule teams hauling silver ore from eastern California mines stopped off there as they made their way to Los Angeles.

A population and land boom that broke out in the late 1860s and was carried through to the mid-1870s brought three real estate speculators to the eastern San Fernando Valley, Charles Maclay, George Porter and Benjamin Porter purchased some land and established the town of San Fernando in September 1874 on 1000 acres.  By then, the Southern Pacific Railroad was engaged in constructing a line that would link northern California with Los Angeles and which would pass through the new town.  Gerónimo López quickly realized the importance of the new endeavor and constructed the first building in town, an adobe at the corner of Celis and Maclay streets that was used as an office for Maclay and George Porter.  Today, the city’s post office is located on the property, just a short distance from the López Adobe.

028In fact, it wasn’t long until Gerónimo and Catarina decided to pull up stakes from López Station, which lost business to the railroad, and move to San Fernando.  The adobe was razed and the property later, in 1913, became the site of what is now the Van Norman Reservoir, west of Interstate 5 in today’s Granada Hills.  As to the move to San Fernando, that will be featured in a later post!

Categories: Catarina Lopez, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Lopez Station, Pedro Lopez, San Fernando History | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Find of the Week: Mounted Horns

What: Mounted Bull Horns
Where: Lopez Adobe living room | storage 

The process of unpacking all the Lopez Adobe artifacts that had been sent into storage was a very taxing one. Needless to say, we had to sort through more bubble wrap and acid free tissue paper in three months than most people will ever see in a lifetime. One of the first things that stood out to us—it is actually quite hard to miss—was this set of mounted bull horns. Although we’re still in the process of sorting out their exact origin, the horns are a little different than some of the animal trophies you might see around other historic homes. Instead of taxidermic bears or rams or cougars, which reached a level of considerable popularity during the Victorian era as they evoked images of wilderness adventures, the bull horns tell us something unique about life in California.

Well before California had become a state, when the region was still the far-flung northern province of New Spain, there was one thing that drove the economy of that remote stretch of land: cattle. Few resources were available to those early californios, who would often have to go months at a time waiting on correspondance and supplies from Mexico City. First via the missions and later, following their secularization, through the rancheros, the cattle industry became the veritable life blood of California. Not only was the meat highly coveted, but hides, leather goods, and even the fat and bones were sizable sources of income. There was even a time when the cured and tanned hides were colloquially referred to as “California bank notes.”

Vaqueros lassoing cattle | Image: Nancy Olmsted

By the time the missions became secularized in 1832, it is estimated that they collectively owned over 151,000 heads of cattle.(*Click here to find out how many each individual mission at that time.) Not surprisingly, when the ranching system took over, a vibrant and distinct culture developed around the cattle industry. The yearly rodeos that were intended to count and brand the rancheros’ herds became highly-anticipated festivities that included music, dancing, and large family gatherings. After the discovery of gold in 1849, and with thousands of gold-seeking migrants flocking into California, the demand for beef essentially sky-rocketed. It was much easier—and cheaper—to use California cattle to feed the gold miners than have to wait for meat to be shipped from places as far away as Argentina. Furthermore, several Southern Californians made sizable fortunes for themselves driving cattle to the northern claims, where the biggest concentration of mining camps were located.

All in all, the cattle industry played a significant role in the lives and livelihood of many California—especially, Southern California—families. Even if it’s not to our particular interior design tastes, it makes perfect sense why the Lopez family would not only revere the cattle trade, but have a pair of mounted horns front and center in their living room. They’re definitely eye-catching!

Categories: California History, Find of the Week, Home Life, Leisure, Lopez Adobe, San Fernando History | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing the Lopez Family

Hailing from New Spain, Ygnacio López and Maria Facunda Mora were among the early colonists of the Spanish department of Alta California within New Spain (México) in the 1770s.  Ygnacio, born at Loreto in Baja California in 1728, and Facunda, who hailed from Tepic and was born about 1733, were among the settlers at San José, the first pueblo in California.  Among two sons who came with them were Juan Bautista, born in 1754, and Claudio, who was thirteen years younger.  Ygnacio López died in 1781 at San Diego was buried at Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Juan Bautista López, who had been the mayordomo (or supervisor) at the Mission San Miguel in Baja California in the 1790s, was married to María Dolores Salgado and among their children was Pedro López, born in 1805.  Pedro was married to María Ygnacia Villa at San Juan Capistrano in 1828 and their union, among other children, produced a daughter named Catarina and a son, Valentin.  Pedro was the mayordomo (foreman) at Mission San Fernando from 1837-1847.

Meanwhile, Juan Bautista’s brother, Claudio (1767-1833) was married to Luisa María Cota (1776-1851), of a prominent family in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.  Claudio was quite well-known himself in the Los Angeles area, serving as alcalde (mayor) of the pueblo in 1825 and was also the long-time mayordomo at Mission San Gabriel, holding that post for over thirty years until the early 1830s.  Among the children of Claudio and María López was Esteban (1790-1852).  Esteban was a member of the governing council of Los Angeles, known as the ayuntamiento, and, in 1835, received a grant of property within the boundaries of the pueblo and located on the east side of the Los Angeles River.  In this section, commonly called Paredon Blanco (White Bluffs, for the cliffs overlooking the river), Esteban, who was married to María Jacinta del Sacramenta Valdez, built a house and doled out sections of this land to some of his children,.

One was was Francisco, whose discovery of gold at Placerita Canyon, in the mountains east of today’s Santa Clara, in March 1842 was the first find of that precious metal in California, six years before the bigger discovery of James Marshall that launched the Gold Rush.  He had two daughters, María Sacramenta, who married George Cummings, and Francisca, who married Jesús Bilderrain, and both became long-time residents of the “east side” area.

Then, there was Gerónimo, born on 30 September 1828 and who was seven years old when his father received the Paredon Blanco property.  Not long before his father’s death in 1852, Gerónimo received some of the land there and built a house upon it.  This may have been as a gift because of the marriage of Gerónimo to his second cousin, Catarina, which took place in 1851.

Future posts will deal with this history of Gerónimo and Catarina, their descendants, and their adobe house.

[17 July 2015: a belated thanks to Clinton Leiva Mungary, who last December, pointed out an error about Francisco López being the father of María Sacramenta López de Cummings and Francisca López de Bilderrain.]

Categories: Catarina Lopez, Francisco Lopez, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History | 3 Comments

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