Friday, August 21, 2015

Who owned O.C.’s roads in 1918?

Motoring in Orange County, 1910s
The history of our roads is fascinating, and today I came across a curious 1918 newspaper article that sheds some light on that history.  But first, a bit of background…

Abel “Horse Face” Stearns (and his Stearns Rancho Company) was once the largest landholder in Southern California. He had vast holdings across today’s Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Orange Counties. Here in O.C., his lands included the following ranchos: La Habra, Los Coyotes, San Juan Cajón de Santa Ana, Las Bolsas and Bolsa Chica. But the drought of the 1860s devastated the cattle industry and Stearns was forced to throw in with a real estate partnership to get out from under crushing debt. The partnership, called the Robinson Trust, successfully brought Stearns back into the black by selling land. Stearns died in 1871, but his company went marching along.

The following article, from the May 13, 1918 Santa Ana Register, refers to a document in Orange County’s Book of Deeds 324, page 193:


The county has received an unusual, rather remarkable deed. It covers strips of property from Yorba to the sea, and it slides into deeds given as far back as 1868. The deed, presented to the Board of Supervisors today by the Stearns Rancho Company, is for all interest that the company has in strips of land reserved for road purposes.

As deeds were given by Alfred Robinson, trustee for the ranch company, from 1868 on down to the present day, there were reservations made for sixty-foot roads at township and section lines and for forty-foot roads at quarter-section lines. These reservations left title in the ranch company. Since then, whenever a new road was needed to which the county did not have a deed, the ranch company has been called upon to give deeds.

The matter has been of considerable annoyance to the ranch company as well as to others. The ranch company decided to give over to the county every right it has in the reservations, and to that end it has offered the county a deed. That deed is a blanket deed. It merely says that to the county it deeds all of its reservations for road, natural stream and ditch purposes.
Whittier Blvd. in the La Habra area, looking west, circa 1918

1 comment:

EDGE4194 said...

Fascinating! Thanks, as usual, Chris for the interesting info.