The land was excellent for raising cattle and had been part of Mission San Jose's huge grazing territory. Because the missions were being closed by the Mexican government, the land was available. The main drawback was hostile Indians who were no longer the friendly tribes the Spanish had encountered 50 years earlier.
Juan Salvio Pacheco, his wife Maria Carmen del Valle, and their children were first generation Spanish settlers who came to San Francisco in 1776 with the Anza expedition. Their grandson Salvio Pacheco successfully petitioned for the Rancho Monte del Diablo in 1828; daughter-in-law Juana Sanchez de Pacheco received the Rancho Arroyo de las Nueces y Bolbones in 1834; and son Bartolome Pacheco (with his nephew Mariano Castro) were granted the Rancho San Ramon Valley in 1833.
Thus, Pachecos became the first non-Indian owners of Concord, Walnut Creek and the San Ramon Valley.
Gov. Jose Figueroa granted Pacheco and Castro two square leagues of land, which today would include Alamo, Danville and northern San Ramon. Castro had the northern league and Pacheco the southern, for a total of more than 8,000 acres. The sketch-maps or "disenos" of that day were more conceptual than exact, since there were few trained surveyors and the population was sparse.
Cattle herds moved at will over large areas, with periodic roundups and slaughters producing the hides and tallow that were the ranchos' most important product. Calves were branded with the cow's mark, and ownership was established by brand.
In the 1830s, the San Ramon Valley was still wild country, with abundant game and birds, huge reeds adjacent to the creeks, large herds of tule elk roaming the foothills, and grizzly bears everywhere. The aggressive Indians living on the Mount Diablo foothills rustled horses and cattle and burned outlying buildings. Because of this, Pacheco and Castro received permission to live out of the valley.
Mariano Castro and his family lived in the Pueblo de San Jose. He built a small, redwood house in the valley for use by himself and his sons during the roundup season. One source states that both Castro and Pacheco built houses and corrals on the southern end of their land, far away from the Indian bases.
Bartolome Pacheco joined the military company of the San Francisco Presidio at 15 or 16. He was present at the dedication of Mission San Jose in 1797 and retired after 20 years as a soldier. His sister, Barbara Pacheco de Castro, was Mariano's mother.
Bartolome lived in the San Mateo area and, when he died in 1839, his son Lorenzo became the owner. Also a soldier, Lorenzo had been cited for bravery after a battle in the San Joaquin Valley during the huge Indian rebellion led by Estanislao in 1828-1829. Lorenzo Pacheco and Rafaela Soto were married in 1837 and lived in Pueblo de San Jose.
When Lorenzo died fighting Indians in 1846, Rafaela Soto de Pacheco and her four small children inherited the Pacheco league of the Rancho San Ramon Valley. Soon the first American immigrants came to the Valley, admired the open land and settled with barely a nod to the Mexican ownership. The notorious American land attorney Horace Carpentier "helped" Senora Pacheco with her title challenges and ended up owning the entire Pacheco-Castro Rancho lands. Topographic maps today show the land as Rancho San Ramon (Carpentier).
The second rancho in the valley belonged to Jose Maria Amador and was established south of today's Crow Canyon Road.
Sources: Warren Beck's "Historical Atlas of California"; articles by Leonora Fink, Dorothy Mutnick; "History of Contra Costa County" (1882)
Beverly Lane, a longtime Danville resident, is curator of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley and co-author of "San Ramon Valley: Alamo, Danville, and San Ramon."