This is a detail from pages 27 and 28 of the 1836 census of Los Angeles, as reproduced in the Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly in December 1936. The household is that of María Luisa Cota de Lopez and includes her grandson Gerónimo, listed at the bottom as 6 years of age. Click on the photo to see a larger view in a separate window.
While Gerónimo López was born to Esteban López and María Jacinta del Sacramenta Valdez, her death in 1830 and Esteban’s remarriage to Petra Varelas (also a widower, whose first husband Rafael Rubio was from a family that owned land near Esteban in what later became Boyle Heights) brought what appear to be substantial changes to Gerónimo’s upbringing.
When Los Angeles district officials conducted a census in 1836, Esteban, age 45, was living with 33-year old Peta and her three sons with Rubio and two sons with Esteban–these being Leandro, age 6, and Pablo, age 3, on their future Boyle Heights property. As for Gerónimo, he was in a different household—that of his grandmother Maria Luisa Cota (grandather Claudio Lopez having died a few years prior in 1833.) Luisa Cota, shown as being age 55, resided with her son Tiburcio and his wife Maria de Los Angeles Guillen (whose mother, Eulalia Pérez was the noted llavalera or keeper of the keys at Mission San Gabriel, where Claudio López had been foreman or mayordomo) and four children, another son José María and his wife Concepción Rayales and two children, and 6-year old Gerónimo.
Eight years later, just a few years prior to the Mexican-American War and the conquest of Alta California by invading U. S. military forces, a census was conducted. The 1844 enumeration showed Esteban López and Petra Varelas living with their two sons and two of her Rubio sons. Meanwhile, Luisa Cota, listed as age 67, was living with José María, Concepción and their five children and with Gerónimo, whose age, however, was listed as 12, when he was actually near 15 (ages especially could vary widely on almost any census!)
It is quite clear, then, that Gerónimo López, only a very small child when his mother died and his father remarried, was sent to or taken in by his grandmather Luisa Cota to be raised with her and lived with her for at least eight years and almost certainly longer. As has been noted in an earlier post in this blog, Gerónimo became a messenger to General Andrés Pico during the Mexican-American War when he was starting to emerge into manhood and may have already then left his grandmother’s household to make his way in the world.
In 1851, not long before his father’s death the following year, Gerónimo married his second cousin, Catarina López. Curiously, she could not be located on either the 1836 or 1844 censuses (when she would have been about five and thirteen years of age.)
But, from these two censuses, there are notable members of the families of both Gerónimo and Catarina to mention. Gerónimo’s sister, Concepción, for example, married Ignacio Palomares, who, along with his friend Ricardo Vejar, ran cattle on the Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas (or what became the Beverly Hills area) before obtaining a land grant in 1837 at Rancho San José, in today’s Pomona area. Ricardo Vejar’s uncle, Salvador, incidentally, was married to Josefa López, who was the first cousin to Gerónimo’s father Esteban.
Gerónimo’s brother, José Antonio, was, in 1844, a merchant who lived next door to Americans Samuel Pretice, Jonathan Temple and Temple’s brother Pliny. Jonathan Temple, an arrival of 1828 in Los Angeles, opened the pueblo’s first general store and his younger half-brother, Pliny, became a prominent merchant and banker in subsequent decades. Jonathan Temple’s earlier partner in the store was George Rice, like Temple a native of Massachusetts. Rice married Gerónimo’s sister Catarina and the two moved back to Massachusetts where Catarina died in 1851.
Gerónimo’s brother, Francisco, married Rosario Almenares and they had a daughter, Juana, who was married to Los Angeles City Marshal William C. Warren. He was notorious for being killed by his own deputy constable in 1870 in a daylight gun battle in a Los Angeles street over a reward the two claimed. She then married John Lazzaravich, a Croatian native and merchant who was a founder of Boyle Heights, where the López family had property since the 1830s. Another daughter of Francisco, Sacramenta, married George Cummings, whose 1880s business building in Boyle Heights has just been restored as a hotel for mariachi musicians.
A sister of Gerónimo, Josefa, married Cassiano Carrion and the two settled in what became Boyle Heights, although later their son Saturnino built an adobe house that still stands in San Dimas and is known as the Carrion Adobe, and which is a private residence. The Carrions obtained their property from the Palomares family—they shared the Lopez connection through the sisters, Concepción and Josefa.
On Catarina’s side, a couple of other linkages are worth noting. One of Catarina’s aunts was María de Jesus López, who was married to Tomás Féliz. Through the Feliz family, important connections to land in the eastern San Gabriel Valley were made. In one case, the daughter of Maria de Jesus López and Tomás Féliz was Maria de los Angeles, later married to Charles Burrows. She was able to acquire property near the Mission San Fernando and very close to where Gerónimo and Catarina had their Lopez Station house and stage stop.
Maria de Jesus López de Feliz had a younger daughter, Jacoba, who became the last wife of Antonio del Valle, whose son Ygnacio became the proprietor of the famed Rancho Camulos in the Santa Clara River valley of Ventura County and the del Valle family also owned the Rancho San Francisco, in the present-day Santa Clarita and Piru area, granted to Antonio del Valle, who died in 1841. It is said that Antonio was estranged from his son Ygancio, but offered the land to him in a deathbed letter that was never delivered. Still, Ygnacio took possession of the rancho.
Shortly thereafter, on 9 March 1842, Francisco López, brother of María de Jesus López de Feliz, was riding in San Francisquito Canyon on the ranch and stopped to rest under an oak tree. According to one version of a story, Francisco fell asleep and had a dream about gold. Pulling some nearby wild onions, he noticed gold flakes on them. This constituted the first discovery of gold in California, six years before the much larger and more famous discovery of James Marshall at Sutter’s Mill in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the first people to sell gold dust to the U. S. national mint at Philadelphia from Francisco López’s discovery was Pliny F. Temple, mentioned above, who worked with Gerónimo’s brother, José Antonio, at the Temple general store in Los Angeles. Another prominent Massachusetts merchant, Abel Stearns, also sold gold dust to the mint.
Finally, it has been noted that Catarina’s father, Pedro (1805-1859) was the administrator of the Mission San Fernando in the late Mexican period. As noted above, though, Pedro was not found in the 1836 and 1844 censuses. An upcoming post will trace Gerónimo and Catarina through American-era censuses.