Posts Tagged With: Lopez family history

López Adobe Movie Night: A Different Experience



Andrea Brooks Rynders, a great-great-granddaughter of the Lopez Adobe’s long-time owners, Gerónimo and Catalina Lopez, gives a tour to visitors at last evening’s movie night.

Last night was another movie night presentation at the López Adobe, this time with the screening of the 1941 classic Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  The program was part of a series sponsored by the City of San Fernando’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The inflatable screen and projector were set up on the north end of the property near the storage and restroom building, while tours of the Adobe were offered for about two hours prior.


The location of the screening of the 1941 classic film, Casablanca, in an open area on the north end of the López Adobe property.  The city’s parks and recreation department put on this great series and council member Jaime Soto introduced and discussed the movie with guests.

Visitors to the house had the great experience of touring the early 1880s landmark with Andrea Brooks Rynders, great-great-granddaughter of Gerónimo and Catalina Lopez, the home’s owners for nearly four decades.

It’s one thing to hear the story of a family and house, but another matter entirely to get that from a descendant.  It’s something that people don’t get to do all that often and Andrea is carrying on the knowledge of her family and the house passed on through her father, the late John Brooks, who, sadly, passed away just before the López Adobe’s reopening in March 2015.


The López Adobe takes on different visual qualities when photographed at dusk with the lighting and the colors in the sky adding to the scene.

It was also another type of experience to be in the López Adobe at night, especially when the evening is cooler after a warm day, the building is lit up, and downtown San Fernando activity quieter.

As some of the photos here show, the Adobe takes on a really luminous quality when photographed at night (even from obviously amateur images like these!)  That’s why the movie night is such a great idea.  Not only do visitors get to see interesting films with commentary by city council member Jaime Soto, but they can see and experience the house in a different way.


With palm, orange and pomegranate trees in silhouette and exterior lighting on the house, the López Adobe looks pretty awesome at night.

The next opportunity for vistors to see the Adobe won’t be at night, but come out and take a tour and learn about the interesting history of the López family, their long-time home and the area on Sunday, 23 October from 1 to 4 p.m.

Categories: California History, Catalina Lopez, Downtown San Fernando, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, San Fernando buildings, San Fernando History, San Fernando photographs | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Pioneer Society of San Fernando

In April 1913, just shy of forty years since San Fernando’s founding, a group of citizens in the recently incorporated city (1911) gathered to create The Pioneer Society of San Fernando.

A scrapbook in the Lopez Adobe collection contains the handwritten constitution and meeting minutes for the organization, which seems to have existed in the 1930s, but only met infrequently, if the book is the only record of its meetings.

SF Pioneer Society Constitution 1

As was the case with so many of these historical societies that sprung up with increasing frequency in the United States, especially after the American centennial was celebrated in 1876, the object of the Pioneer Society was typical:

to cement the bonds of friendship among the older and former residents of this Valley, to enable them to renew acquaintanceship and to promote that fraternal spirit which should permeate those who have long resided in the same community.

Unlike other similar organizations, however, there was no mention of specific activities or projects, such as saving or marking historic landmarks (although the town was less than four decades old), having regular meetings, publishing historical material, presenting lectures, or having events.

Perhaps this is why the existing record of meetings is spotty!

SF Pioneer Society 1st Mtg Minutes 26Apr13

Among the surnames of those mentioned in the early days of the society were Hubbard, Jenifer, Wright, Maclay, Van Winkle, Webster, and Barclay–all representatives of early families of prominent merchants, farmers and others in town.

Quite a few early members came from the large López family, especially the many daughters of Gerónimo and Catarina.  These include their son-in-law, John T. Wilson, who married Grace López and who was chairperson of the first annual meeting of the society, held at his home on what, funnily enough, was dated as “Sept. 31, 1913.”  Also included were Catarina Millen and her husband William; Ramona Shaug and her husband Charles; Erlinda Alexander and her husband Joseph; and J.C. Villegas, a grandson through the Lopez’s daughter María.

There was a meeting on 30 October 1913 with little business of note conducted and then not again until the end of September 1914, which was equally uneventful.   A gathering of 10 October 1914, though, did feature the election of Catarina López as honorary president of the society and her son-in-law Wilson as 1st vice-president.  Again, though, the agenda was on the light side.

SF Pioneer Society Annual Mtg 31Sep13

The first evidence of an event held by the organization came at the May 1915 meeting, at which a picnic to be held at “Griffith’s park” on 12 June was discussed and committees appointed for “conveyances”, food and refreshments, and a “programme” of toasts and speakers, among other elements.

At the end of September 1916, the next gathering was held, at which the honorary president, presumably Catarina López, was retained, as were the officers.  There was some vague business about tin cups, with no explanation of what they were for, but a “cooperative dinner” was scheduled for late October.

SFPS 10Oct14

Then, it was a few years before any new activity arose, when a meeting of 17 April 1920  was held to arrange for the annual picnic, with committees formed and members appointed, and the date, a holiday preferred, to be selected subsequently.

The organization, as noted above, continued into the 1930s, but with not much happening.  There was a list compiled, sometime in 1930, of society members with names and, in many cases, the date when persons settled in town.  Among the early residents listed were:

Mary Proctor, 1870

John T. Wilson, April 1871

J.C. Maclay, April 1874

C.J. Shaug, July 1874

H.C. Hubbard, March 1875

F.M. Wright, September 1875

SFPS signatures 3Aug30

Of course, Gerónimo and Catarina López were on the list (noted as deceased, having passed away in 1921 and 1918, respectively), but no date of their arrival was given.  The newly married couple did settle at Mission San Fernando, though, in the early 1850s and later established Lopez Station, where today’s Van Norman Reservoir is located.

One of the later pages of the book is dated 3 August 1930 and contains several dozen signatures, perhaps those attending a society picnic.  Names include the Lopez-affiliated John and Grace Wilson; Luisa López McAlohan, who extensively remodeled the López Adobe in the mid-1920s; Catarina (Kate) and William Millen, whose wife Catarina must’ve been there, as she was the last López to live in the adobe up until 1961; Ramona Shaug; and the Brookses, descended through the Villegas line; as well as such surnames as Maclay, Hubbard, Fraisher, Webster, Wright, Van Winkle, Folger and more.

SFPS member list ca 1930 2

The organization eventually died off, as so many do, but a later group, the Friends of the López Adobe, emerged a few decades later, in the 1960s, to save the historic structure and which is still around today, keeping up the spirit of its predecessor.


Categories: Catarina Lopez, Catarina Lopez de Millen, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Louisa Lopez de McAlohan, Pioneer Society of San Fernando, Ramona Lopez de Shaug, San Fernando founders, San Fernando History, San Fernando people | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Francisco López Gold Discovery Lecture

Yesterday at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, a very thorough and very interesting presentation was made on the Francisco López gold discovery by Alan Pollack, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society.

Pollack obviously spent considerable time trying to sort out fact from fiction and history from myth as he discussed early gold discoveries in California, those documented and asserted; the López family history and the very limited information known about Francisco; and then carefully covered several major sources of information about the discovery.


The tunnel under Placerita Canyon Road leading to the alleged site of the López gold discovery has some murals, including this well-worn depiction of a broad swath of history from native Indians to gold miners to oil prospecting.

With respect to the first point, Pollack noted that, while the López discovery was the first major documented find, there was a very interesting document found that showed an 1838 deposit at the Philadelphia national mint of gold dust that was labeled as being from California.  He noted that there were accounts that claimed earlier instances of the location of gold.  Of course, who knows how many discoveries were made by the native Indians residing in what became California for thousands and thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans by 1770.

Pollack also discussed a bit of the López family genealogy to identify the Francisco was a cousin of Gerónimo and Catalina Lopez, the owners for decades of the López Adobe.  Their son, José Jesús, in a 1916 interview stated that Francisco was college-educated and studies mineralogy, so that this training was obviously essential in his find.  Francisco was also a part-owner of the massive Rancho San Francisco, encompassing today’s Santa Clarita Valley, which was the property of his sister and her husband, the del Valles.  Although Francisco would up being part-owner of other ranches, including Tujunga and Cahuenga, he seems to have died in some obscurity, as no record of his death or burial site have been found and he is missing from even the most basic of public records.


This detail of another mural shows Francisco López (of whom there are no known images) triumphantly waving his gold-flecked wild onions under the Oak of the Golden Dream.  Conveniently, a piece of paper under the tree identifies the date “Marzo 1842.”

As to the main sources of information, Pollack shared an image of a New York newspaper article from October 1842 that briefly discussed the discovery.   He then spent some time going through later, more detailed sources, the earliest of these being a letter in 1867 by longtime Los Angeles merchant and land baron Abel Stearns and the last from 1930 surrounded the landmark status bestowed on the Placerita Canyon site said to have been the very spot on which López discovered the gold.

Stearns identified the find as from April 1842 and wrote that López and some ranch hands stopped in the canyon while searching for lost horses and, during a rest break, he dug up some wild onions on which were flakes of gold.  This set off a rush, mainly composed of hundreds of experienced gold miners coming up from the northern mining state of Sonora in Mexico proper.


There it is–the alleged 500-year old Oak of the Golden Dream, where Francisco López is said to have found gold on 9 March 1842.

While Stearns noted that he sold gold dust to the mint in Philadelphia, there were others, too, that Pollack did not have time to discuss.  One was merchant Pliny F. Temple, who sent dust to a brother in Massachusetts to buy goods to send back to Mexican California–these are documented by surviving letters dating from 1842 to 1844.

A rather interesting tale from John Murray discussed a Mexican mineralogist who showed pebbles having gold  in them when he was visiting Santa Barbara and it was claimed that Francisco López was present when this took place, inspring his own search.  Murray, however, claimed that the gold discovery was actually in 1841, though not specified as to date.


The tale of the Oak of the Golden Dream must be true because it is literally carved in stone (or brass set in stone) in this 1991 plaque by, curiously enough, the Santa Clarita Valley Association of Realtors.

James M. Guinn, an educator and historian of early Los Angeles and southern California, wrote a lengthy 1895 article in the San Francisco Call, analyzing the known accounts and declaring that there was no way to know the absolute truth of what happened with the discovery, though he did say it was likely early 1842 and that López was the discoverer.  Guinn also went on to state that while James Marshall, who found the gold in 1848 that launched the Gold Rush, received a small pension and a statue, López had been forgotten.

Interestingly, Isaac Given write a letter to Guinn, saying that he came to California from New Mexico at the end of 1841 with a group commonly known by two of its presumed leaders, Workman (the father-in-law of the above-mentioned Pliny Temple) and Rowland, and that he was shown gold dust from the discovery by Stearns.  Other accounts, including one by a man alleged to have been 115 years old, assigned dates of 1838 and 1840 for the find.


Notably, the California state historic landmark plaque makes no mention of any dream, but rather matter-of-factly states that López found gold while gathering wild onions.  It does, however, declare that the find was six years before the Marshall discovery ushering in the Gold Rush.  Note the original registration was 1935, five years after the local dedication.  The plaque, however, dated from 1992 with the involvement of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society and E Clampus Vitus.

Perhaps the most persistent of the chroniclers was Francisca López de Bilderrain, a relative of Francisco, who claimed that Catalina López, of the López Adobe, told her that she was present, as a young girl of 12 or 13, when the first anniversary of the find was observed in 1843.  Based on this, Bilderrain, Catalina’s daughter Ramona López de Shaug, and Charles Prudhomme, a local history enthusiast, ventured into Placerita Canyon, where the tree said to have been the site of the discovery was pointed out based on Catalina’s recollection.  Prudhomme wrote a 1922 article in the annual publication of the Historical Society of Southern California based on this version.  Five years later, Catholic priest and church historian Father Zephyrin Englehardt reproduced Catalina’s account in a book he wrote.

Finally, there was a dedication of the purported discovery site on 9 March 1930, said to have been the 88th anniversary of López’s find.  For that event, a couple of men prominent in the creation of the landmark status came up with a new wrinkle in the story, grandiosely called “The Oak of the Golden Dream,” in which Francisco was not only taking a break from hunting the roaming horses, but fell into a slumber, during which he had a dream of finding gold.  Lo and behold, the gold was found.


. . . and, it’s got its own logo, too!

An affidavit was secured from Bilderrain, stating that the information she received from Catalina López was true and that this was relayed to her at a 1914 family reunion.  Meantime, local ranch owner Frank Walker donated the site of the tree for the dedication, which featured two plaques and speeches that went to great lengths to play up the importance of the discovery and to assure it a place in California history less overshadowed by the great Gold Rush of six years later.  Pollack’s reading of some of the speeches brought a bit of laughter for its overwrought language!

Bilderrain added to the earnest attempt to redress the wrong perpertrated on Francisco López by writing another version that was submitted to the California State Library in July 1930, including the alleged exclamation of Francisco when he discovered the gold:  something along the lines of “Gold!  I have found it!  Gold!!”  She also claimed there were numerous celebrations in Los Angeles when the word reached the little village of the find, that an emissary was dispatched to Mexico City to alert the federal government, and other embellishments.


Whether it’s the actual tree or not, long may it stand to commemorate an important event in local and state history!


In 1959, Placerita Canyon Nature Center was dedicated and a reenactment of the discovery was presented.  In later years, the long-vanished original plaques were replaced by new ones, including a designation of the site as a California state historic landmark and another by a local organization.  The tree, purportedly 500 years old, still stands just a few feet north of Placerita Canyon Road.

As Pollack noted in his excellent telling, however, the “true history” of the discovery is really unknown, from the actual date, to the real location, and details associated with the event.  He summed up by noting that the only person who could have told the story accurately was Francisco López, but he, evidently, left no version behind.  Not surprisingly, as with many notable historical events, the story has become more embellished and expanded over time, but the “Oak of the Golden Dream” has moved into legend and will almost certainly remain there.

Categories: 1842 discovery of gold San Francisquito Canyon, California History, Catalina Lopez, Francisca López de Bilderrain, Francisco Lopez, Geronimo Lopez, Gold Rush, José Jesús López, Lopez Adobe, Lopez History, Oak of the Golden Dream, Placerita Canyon, Ramona Lopez de Shaug, Rancho San Francisco, San Fernando History, Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Find of the Week: Cribben and Sexton Universal Stove, ca. 1910s

The Cribben & Sexton cook stove in the ca. 1920s kitchen at the Lopez Adobe. Comparing it to the ones in the ads (below), it is clearly a different model, but does have common elements, suggesting it is fairly close in age to the others

The Cribben & Sexton cook stove in the ca. 1920s kitchen at the Lopez Adobe. Comparing it to the ones in the ads (below), it is clearly a different model, but does have common elements, suggesting it is fairly close in age to the others

Another interesting artifact that will be featured pretty prominently in the Lopez Adobe once it reopens is the Cribben & Sexton Universal stove that is currently on display in the 1920s-styled kitchen.

The kitchen itself is in the former breezeway linking the two-room adobe built first by Valentine López to the two-story main structure erected by him shortly afterward and later by his sister, Catarina, and her husband and second cousin, Gerónimo.  The breezeway was enclosed about 1925 by Luisa López McAlonan, daughter of Gerónimo and Catarina, when she made a number of major renovations to the structure.

In any case, the firm of Cribben & Sexton was originally founded in 1873 and are perhaps best known for the stoves, heaters and other items at its Chicago factory throughout much of the early 20th century.  While it may be very difficult to get an exact date on the stove in the Adobe, it certainly does bear a resemblance to those seen in the ads that are reproduced here and which date to the early 1920s, although it may be a bit earlier given some differences in styling and construction.

If this dating is reasonable, then the stove actually fits in very well with the period of the room in which it resides and can be considered a very modern update to whatever had been used in the previous forty years of occupancy of the house by the family.

This ad comes from a 1921 issue of the “Saturday Evening Post” and features a Cribben & Sexton cook stove similar to the other styles featured here

This ad comes from a 1921 issue of the “Saturday Evening Post” and features a Cribben & Sexton cook stove similar to the other styles featured here

As with any major appliance, the stove can be an illustration of how rapidly-changing technologies were being used to make housework faster for women, whether it was cooking on a stove like this, using the new electric vacuum cleaners, washing machines, sewing machines, refrigerators and other household devices that greatly reduced the time to do work around the house and opened up more leisure time.

This is a copy of a magazine advertisement from about 1920 showing a model of the Universal stove, manufactured by Chicago’s Cribben & Sexton, that is close in appearance to the appliance (see below) in the Lopez Adobe main kitchen.

This is a copy of a magazine advertisement from about 1920 showing a model of the Universal stove, manufactured by Chicago’s Cribben & Sexton, that is close in appearance to the appliance (see below) in the Lopez Adobe main kitchen.

Commodities deemed to be “modern” were highly coveted during this time period, as the country sought to build on the momentum of the Industrial Revolution. The concept of having a machine or other sort of apparatus doing tasks people once thought could only be done manually was all part of the draw toward modernity, and many consumers clamored to have these products in their homes. This is provided, of course, that the household could afford these items, which in the 1920s, were becoming more affordable and, therefore, accessible to greater numbers of American families.

While it is not known what the López family used to cook their food in the Adobe at any time during its long occupancy of the house from the early 1880s to the early 1960s, it seems reasonable to assume that, in the 1910s or 1920s, they could have used something quite close to the stove now in the kitchen.

If you’d like to learn more about Cribben & Sexton, click here to read about the company’s founders. 

Categories: Cribben & Sexton, Cribben and Sexton, Domestic life, Find of the Week, Home Life, Lopez Adobe, Universal Stove | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gerónimo and Catarina López and the 1850 Federal and 1852 State Censuses

A map of a part of the ex-Mission San Fernando granted to Samuel, an Indian, in 1845.

A map of a part of the ex-Mission San Fernando granted to Samuel, an Indian, in 1845.  The tract was sold to Maria de los Angeles Feliz de Burrows, who then sold the 40 acre section at the top right of the square-shaped parcel to her cousins Gerónimo and Catarina López in 1855 for $160.  Several years later, the couple built an adobe that became the López Station complex where they resided for over 20 years before moving to the Lopez Adobe in 1883.

When California was admitted as the thirty-first state in the American union in September 1850, the federal census for the rest of the country had already been conducted. So, officials in the new state had to scramble to conduct a later version of the census, which was enumerated in the Los Angeles area early in 1851. Unfortunately, there was only one census taker for the entire county, John Evertsen of San Gabriel, and his count was so poorly done that the state decided to take its own census the following year, 1852. The discrepancy was enormous, with Evertsen counting 1,610 persons in the town of Los Angeles and 3,530 in the county while the 1852 enumeration tallied nearly 8,000 persons. Most of the difference appears to be in the couny of native indigenous Indians–Evertsen only counted a couple hundred, while the state count had nearly 4,000!

In any case, Gerónimo López doesn’t appear on either the 1850 or 1852 censuses, but Catarina does. In the 1850 enumeration, taken 17 January 1851, the 17-year old is listed in the household of José (age 36) and Ramona (age 30) López. Yet, her parents are known to have been Pedro, who would have been about 45 years old, and Maria Ignacia Villa, who died at age 36 a few years prior in 1847. The book, Historical Adobes of Los Angeles Countyby John Kielbasa states that Catarina had left the Mission San Fernando in 1847, perhaps because of her mother’s death, and gone to Los Angeles to attend school. She may have still been at school, then in in early 1851 when Evertsen did his count, but it is not clear who José and Ramona López were.

Notably, four of her brothers resided in the household with her, these being Francisco, born about 1834, Pedro (1835), Esteban (1839), and Valentine (1843), this latter being the builder of the López Adobe. Meantime, there were two other young people in the residence, including José Antonio López, age 18, and Augusta López, age 10, but these were not known to have been siblings of Catarina and her four brothers and perhaps were connected to the heads of the household.

There is, however, one more resident to point out: 83-year old Dolores Salgado, who was the grandmother of Catarina. Born in Loreto, Baja California in 1768, María Dolores Salgado married Juan Bautista López (1754-1829) when she was 14 years old in 1782 at Loreto and bore at least a dozen children over the next twenty-seven years, with her youngest surviving child being Pedro, Catarina’s father. It would seem clear that there was some immediate connection between the elderly matriarch, who died in January 1854, and the José López who headed the household and whose residence included several grandchildren of Dolores Salgado López.

When the 1852 state census was conducted just a little more than a year later, Catarina, age 20, was listed along with the same Augusta who appeared with her in the 1850 enumeration, along with a male López whose name appears to be spelled as “Marosa” and whose age was 21 and occupation as “Laborer.” Yet, Catarina was married to Gerónimo in the Fall of 1851, so there is a mystery here that the poorly-recorded and maintained state census records do not explain. Moreover, Kielbasa explained, sensibly, that, after her marriage, Catarina returned to San Fernando with Gerónimo and resided with her father Pedro. The couple began their family with the birth of José Jesús in 1853.

According to Kielbasa, Gerónimo and Catarina purchased 40 acres of land that had been part of a 200-acre tract granted in 1845 to Samuel, a native Indian associated with the mission. In turn, the property passed to Maria de los Angeles Feliz de Burrows, a relation of Gerónimo and Catarina, and she sold the forty acres for $4 an acre. This was to be the location of the adobe that formed the center of López Station, hope to the couple for some twenty years. More on that later!

Categories: Catarina Lopez, Geronimo Lopez, Lopez Adobe, Lopez Station, Maria de los Angeles Feliz de Burrows, Pedro Lopez, San Fernando History | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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