Sunday, June 21, 2009

History Of Santa Clarita Valley, CA #1

Ben and I moved to the City of Santa Clarita, CA about 15 years ago. We live in the town of Canyon Country which is one of the 6 towns within the city. The 6 towns are Canyon Country, Saugus, Newhall, Valencia, Stevenson Ranch, and Castaic.
Santa Clarita is located about 29 miles north of downtown Los Angeles and about 44 miles east of Ventura, CA.
About 200,000 people call the City of Santa Clarita home. The town of Canyon Country has about 35,000 people.
Santa Clarita is a city with a lot of history. I decided I would start to share the history of this area on my blog.
One of the most important historic happenings in Santa Clarita is the fact that this was actually the location of the first gold find in the state of California. History books claim that the first gold find was up in Coloma, CA at Sutter's Mill by James Marshall in January of 1848. This information is just not true.
The truth is, Marshall and Sutter gained notoriety because their strike was widely reported in east coast newspapers later that year.
The first California gold was discovered right here. In the Santa Clarita Valley. In Placerita Canyon, to be exact. Six years before Sutter's Mill. As most of you know, Placerita Canyon is my favorite place to hike.
In the 1840s, the area bounded by Piru Creek on the west and Elsmere Canyon on the east was run by the Del Valle family. They acquired it in 1839, when California Governor Juan B. Alvarado granted the rancho to Mexican Lt. Antonio del Valle. Stocked with cattle, sheep and horses, the rancho was headquartered at the Asistencia de San Francisco Javier at present-day Castaic Junction. Jose Francisco de Gracia Lopez, an uncle of Don Antonio's second wife, leased some land from the Del Valles and ran his own cattle.
Here's what happened on March 9, 1842, the day of Lopez' 40th birthday:

"At about noontime, (Lopez) was deep in CaƱon de los Encinos (Live Oak Canyon), picking a spot under an ancient oak tree for lunch and a siesta. "After his nap, Lopez dug up some wild onions with his knife and was surprised to discover gold clinging to their roots." Lopez and his associates scavenged the riverbanks and came up with more. They took their find to Los Angeles and sent word to Mexico City. Assayed by the Philadelphia Mint, the gold tested out at .926 fine. Hundreds of prospectors from Los Angeles and Sonora, Mexico flocked to Live Oak Canyon, which was renamed Placerita Canyon. "Placer," of Spanish origin, means surface deposits of sand or gravel containing gold. From 1842 to 1847, the miners culled some 1,300 pounds of gold from Placerita. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848 turned California over to the United States, and many of the Sonoran miners went home. History is unkind to Sr. Lopez, not only because it generally overlooks him, but because it often makes him out to have been a simple rancher who found gold by dumb luck. He wasn't and didn't. Both Reynolds and Ruth Newhall note that Lopez studied mineralogy at a university in Mexico before coming to the Del Valles' rancho. Evidence suggests that while here, Lopez systematically searched for gold. Reynolds writes: "While there had been rumors of other gold strikes prior to 1842, Lopez made the first authenticated find, started the first gold rush in California and made the first attempt at a mining claim. (Don Antonio's son Ignacio) del Valle was the first person to make mining laws in the state."

Today, the oak tree beneath which Lopez took his famous nap — the Oak of the Golden Dream — is a California Historic Landmark, near the Placerita Canyon Nature Center. Take Placerita Canyon Road 1 1/2 miles east of State Route 14 to the park entrance.
Here is a photo of my brother Keith standing in front of that oak tree.


  1. How very interesting and I love the tree photo. Thanks for sharing the history of the area where you live. Fascinating!

  2. Hi Kay glad you stopped by. I like history good post.


I appreciate your comments. Thanks for stopping by.