Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cucamonga Rancho

This is a continuation of my retracing George Q. Cannon’s 1849 journey. An index is found in the first post.

December 10, 1849 (Monday):

Rich Company – Forward Group (Sycamore Grove to Cucamonga Ranch): Charles Rich and his forward group traveled 11 ½ miles to the Cucamonga Ranch where they got beef and other provisions they needed. [1] The diarists had a particularly hard time with the name Cucamonga. Variations of the word included: Chocomonga, Cocommingo, Cocomonga, Cocomongo, Comingo, Pokamongo, Coco Mongo, Cocoa-Mungo and Cocomungo.

December 11, 1849 (Tuesday):

Rich Company – Forward Group (Cucamonga Ranch to Williams Ranch): Rich and his forward company left Cucamonga Ranch…

Rich Company – Rear Group (Sycamore Grove to Cucamonga Ranch): Bigler commented that the feed was green at Sycamore Grove. They left Sycamore Grove about 8:00 a.m. for Cucamonga Ranch, 11 ½ miles [2] to the southwest. Bigler mentioned that upon arrival at the ranch they were “a glad set of fellows.” Their journey through the desert was through and they had the “possibility of getting something to eat.” [3]

December 12, 1849 (Wednesday):

Rich Company – Rear Group (Cucamonga Ranch): The rear group of the Rich company remained at Cucamonga Ranch in order to “hunt for Bro. Fife’s horse.” Henry Bigler bought “a bushel of wheat for 3 dollars and ground it on the hand mill and will eat the flo[u]r without boulting which is a common thing among the Spaniards of this co[u]ntry.” Bigler also bought a few “horns of good wine” for 50 cents.[4]

December 13, 1849 (Thursday):

Rich Company – Rear Group (Cucamonga Ranch to Williams Ranch): Having found all the horses, they left for Williams Ranch at 1:00 p.m…

December 21, 1849 (Friday):

Portion of Hunt Company (San Bernardino Valley to Cucamonga Ranch): The Hunt company traveled down the “beautiful valley, about 10 miles wide and some 60 miles long” toward Cucamonga Ranch. The ranch was “on the right hand side” as they “proceeded down” the road. “Immense herds of cattle and horses could be seen in every direction feeding upon the young grass that was starting up in consequence of the recent rains. The buildings” of the ranch were “on a high hill,” now known as Red Hill, “that overlook the valley and afford a beautiful prospect.” The ranch “had a vineyard, and beside grapevines, there were figs, pears, apple, apricot and peach trees. The Steward of the ranch was a negro from the United States” [5] who “was acquainted with Brother Hunt.” The “balance” of the men at the rancho “were Spaniards.”[6]  The Hunt company “bought some fresh beef, corn, wheat, and a little wine made on the ranch” and stayed at the ranch for the night. The Gruwell brothers were also there and “got drunk enough to be quarrelsome and breathed out a great deal of malice against the Mormons.” The Spaniards on the Ranch wanted the Mormons to “whip them.” The Spaniards were “acquainted with the Mormon battalion,” felt they were “good men,” and “did not like to hear” the Mormons “spoken against as a people.” The Hunt company told the Spaniards that the Gruwell’s and their people “were a drunken pack and were not worth minding.” The Hunt company inquired about the Rich company and were informed that they were at the William’s Ranch waiting for them, and all had arrived safely.[7]

December 22, 1849 (Saturday):

Hunt Company (Cucamonga Ranch to Williams Ranch): The Hunt company started for the William’s Ranch…

January 13, 1850 (Sunday):

Pomeroy Relief Party (Cajon Pass to Rancho Cucamonga): They reached Rancho Cucamonga, the “first settlement in Lower California.” It was filthy and nasty. “An American was keeping tavern” and they “obtained a supper of hominy, potatoes, cornbread, beef and liver.” They could “not have relished” their meal had “hunger not made” them “blind to the manner in which it was served up.” They “had some very fine wine and two or three of the party got quite glorious.” They “camped about ¼ mile beyond the Rancho.” [8]

January 14, 1850 (Monday):

Pomeroy Relief Party (Rancho Cucamonga to Williams Ranch and Gruwell’s): They “hitched up and after a drive of ten miles reached Rancho del Chino or Williams’” Ranch…

Cucamonga Rancho:

History: Cucamonga Rancho was granted to Tiburcio Tapia by Governor Alvarado in 1839. After Tapia’s death in 1845, the rancho passed to his daughter Maria Merced Tapia, who married Victor Prudhomme, a French resident of Los Angeles. Prudhomme owned the property in 1849.[9]  Cucamonga Rancho was the first commercial winery in California and only the second in what is now the United States (the other being in South Carolina).[10] Cucamonga Rancho was a welcome resting and restocking point after crossing the desert. Other illustrations of this point follow. On December 31, 1850, David W. Cheesman described his feelings on arriving at Cucamonga Ranch and eating fresh meat:

“None but the half-famished can tell of the joy this gave us for we had had but little fresh meat since we left Salt Lake and none for the last four hundred miles of travel. Some chickens came to the camp and the crowing of the cock was music to our ears…We had now arrived in the Valley of California. The mountains, dreary wastes and deserts were behind us. Here opened up the most lovely country we had ever beheld. The grass was up and seemingly all over the valley, some four inches in height, the climate soft and exhilarating.”[11]

Gwin Harris Heap, in 1853, stated:

“We were saluted by the cheering bark of a dog, and in a few minutes found ourselves in the center of a large cluster of buildings and welcomed in the most friendly manner to Cocomonga Rancho by the Mexican proprietor…Our arrival at the Rancho de Cocomonga will long be the green spot in our memories and it was a pleasant sight to us to witness the satisfaction of our travel-worn mules, in passing from unremitting toil and scanty food to complete rest and abundant nourishment.”[12]

The above description of Cucamonga Ranch is complemented by descriptions given from other travelers. In March, 1854, several members of an exploring party came in to the ranch from the Cajon Pass. Lieutenant A. W. Whipple stated: “The house of Senor Prudhomme, the owner, stands on a grassy knoll and has been visible nearly the whole day. Below it are cultivated fields.”

Baldwin Mollhausen, of the same party, stated: “We determined to pass the night near a white building that we could see gleaming through the thick falling rain from a slight elevation in the plain…Before reaching the white building on the hill we came to a vineyard, and soon afterwards to some low cottages. As we were separated from the hill by a swollen stream we thought we would make a halt by the first buildings we came to but our hopes to obtain shelter under a hospitable roof were grievously disappointed, partly from the very dirty aspect of the aforesaid habitation, which made us disinclined to enter them, and partly from the inhospitable temper of the inhabitants…The circumstance was surprising, but it was afterward in some measure explained. The vineyard, it appears, belonged to a Californian, living at a great distance off, who had placed these people here to look after it. They were evidently very poor, and lived in rude log huts, and a few others, not much larger than hay-cocks, were occupied by Indians…They stand such in the position of serfs, and are bound, for a consideration of a small quantity of bad food, to labor in the vineyard and perform any other work for the proprietor.”[13]

Cucamonga Ranch was a popular place for wine, particularly after a long trip on the trail. Jacob Stover relates his visit to the Ranch on Christmas Day, just a few days later:

“The owner was a negro.[14] We came to the house, stacked our blankets in a pile, and went up where he was making wine of grapes and in rather a novel way to us. He had a beef hide with a hole in the center of the hide, four forks planted in the ground and four poles run through holes cut in the edge of the hide, which bagged down so it would hold two or three bushels of grapes. He had two forks, one on each side of the skin, and a pole tied from one fork to the other. Two buck Indians, stripped off naked, took hold of this pole with their hands and tramped the grapes. The wine would run. We ate grapes then went at the wine, caught it in our tin cups, as we all had one apiece. The old negro stood and looked on. We drank it as fast as the Indians could tramp it for awhile. The old negro after awhile said, ‘Gentlemen, you have had a hard time of it, I know, but de first ting you know you will know noting. You are welcome to it.’ The old negro was right. They began to tumble over and the wine came up as fast as it went down. He got a spade and gave it to me, told me to dig holes at their mouths. So I did. Finally Dr. Downer and I were the only ones left on our feet.”[15]

_______ Erkson, of the Rhynierson party, also related a wine incident at Cucamonga Ranch:

“Rhynierson said to one of the party, ‘Charlie, you had better hurry on ahead [to Cucamonga Ranch] and try to get some meat before the crowd comes up.’ Charlie went on ahead and we drove along at the regular gait, which was not very fast about these times. We saw nothing of Charlie, so I went to the house to look for him and found him dead drunk on wine. He had not said a word to them about provisions. That wine wrecked us all. All had a little touch of scurvy, and it seemed to be just what we craved. I bought a big tumbler of it for two bits and carried it to my wife. She tasted it at first rather gingerly, then took a little larger sup of it, and then put it to her lips and never stopped drinking till the last drop was gone.”[16]

Peter Derr indicates that the negro at Cucamonga Ranch “had been with Fremont” and “knew how to treat” the starving members of their company, “giving them but a little at a time, thus saving their lives.”[17]  G. C. Pearson, also of the Gruwell-Derr wagon train, indicated that “the major-domo, Jackson, had been employed by the American Fur Company, was an old mountaineer, and understood our situation at a glance – gave us some weak wine and shut us in a room, where we remained safely until next morning, when he fed us sparingly of weak broth and wine fresh from the vats – it really was grape juice unfermented. This treatment saved us; a hearty meal, or what we could have eaten, would have surely proved fatal.”[18]  Hamelin referred to the ranch as “Cocoa Mungo” or “Jackson’s Rancho.”[19]  14 months earlier, on October 23, 1848, Orville Pratt indicated that the ranch was “owned by one Prudhomme.” He then stated he got his “first news of the discoverey of gold” from “a negro.”[20] Eight months later, in August, 1850, David Cheesman indicated that “Michael Snee, an Irishman,” was “Major Domo for Prudhomme, the owner of the Ranch” and he brought them a “gift of fresh beef.”[21] From the foregoing, it appears that the negro was named Jackson, was an American trapper and the steward or major domo of the ranch for the non-resident owner, Prudhomme. It also appears that an Irishman named Snee replaced Jackson as steward some time before the next summer.

Today: The winery was located at what is now the northeast corner of Vineyard and Foothill Boulevard in Rancho Cucamonga. There is a large multi-story restored version of the winery at that location which is now a gift shop.
However, the restored winery post-dates 1849.[22]  
Also at the Vineyard and Foothill Boulevard site is the restored adobe home of Cucamonga Rancho’s owner, Tiburcio Tapia.
The adobe was in existence in 1849, but was located about one-half mile west on Red Hill (to see the approximate location, go several blocks further north up Vineyard and turn left onto Red Hill Country Club Drive and take it to the top of the hill).
The adobe is now occupied by a tavern, coffee bar and gift shop.[23]
[1] Rich, p. 192; Rich states it was 15 miles, but the Mormon Way-Bill indicates the distance between the camp west of Cajon Pass and “Coco Mongo ranche” as 11 ½ miles.

[2] Bigler; Bigler states the distance as 15 miles, as did Charles Rich: I have used the distance in the Mormon Way-Bill.

[3] Bigler

[4] Bigler, p. 25

[5] Orville Pratt, a year earlier, on October 23, 1848, mentioned that he “got the first news of the discovery of gold” from “a negro” at the “first ranch on the route after striking California, owned by one Prudhome.” (Spanish Trail Extracts, p. __)

[6] Pratt

[7] Pratt

[8] Hamelin

[9] 49ers, p. 108, n. 128; Rancho Cucamonga, p. 273

[10] Patton, Gregg “After Years of Decline, Vineyards are Fruitful and Multiplying,” The Sun, April 5, 1998 (hereafter “Years of Decline”).

[11] Spanish Trail Map, p. 121

[12] Central Route, p. __

[13] Black, Esther Boulton Rancho Cucamonga and Dona Merced, Redlands: San Bernardino County Museum Association, pp. 212-213 (Rancho Cucamonga)

[14] The owner was actually Prudhomme and the negro was the steward. See the discussion below.

[15] Stover, pp. 285-286

[16] Erkson, pp. 136-137

[17] Derr

[18] Pearson

[19] Hamelin

[20] Rancho Cucamonga, p. 209

[21] Rancho Cucamonga, p. 212

[22] Rancho Cucamonga, p. 265

[23] A bronze plaque located near the recreated adobe reads: “In 1839 Governor Juan Alvarado granted the 13,000 acre tract called Cucamonga to Tiburcio Tapia, an ex-soldier who was a prominent merchant and alcalde in Los Angeles. A half mile west of this marker, Tapia, employing Indian laborers, immediately built an adobe house on a vantage point on Red Hill. The large adobe was abandoned in 1858 when Tapia’s heirs sold the rancho. The adobe soon disintegrated into its native earth. This marker is located on land which once was a part of Tapia’s rancho.” Right next to the bronze plaque is another lithographed plaque which reads: “This 30-foot by 160-foot adobe structure was built by Tiburcio Tapia in 1839, and has witnessed a great deal of California history…a history punctuated by Catholic missions, Mexican ranchos, Yankee clipper ships, Butterfield stage coaches and, occasionally, by violence. Tiburcio Tapia was a prominent citizen of early California: soldier, guard, trader, merchant and eventually wealthy land-owner. Tiburcio was 50, when in 1839, Juan Batista Alvarado, Governor of Mexican California, rewarded his loyalty with 13,000 acres of prime land. This area’s “sticky,” clay-like soils made excellent sun-dried bricks for adobe structures which were popular in early California. Their foot-thick walls helped keep occupants warm in winter and cool in summer. Strengthened by the addition of straw or grass and shaped in wooden forms, damp “brick” were left to dry in the sun before being stacked to create walls. Exterior walls were usually coated with white wash, wood or other water-resistant material, and further protected from direct rainfall by overhanging roofs. This adobe eventually was restored by Webster H. and Clifford H. Thomas, whose father purchased the winery in 1918.” Another lithographed plaque near the other two reads: “This was California’s oldest commercial winery. The winery’s two 1,400 gallon oak aging casks were not “coopered” locally, but were carried “around the Horn” on a clipper ship! Missionaries brought grape vines to Mexico and California in the late 1700s to provide sacramental wines. In fact, the Mission San Gabriel vineyard provided the “Black Mission Grape” cuttings used by Tapia to establish his Mother Vineyard in 1839: twelve rows, each with forty-seven plants. Six years later, his 13,000-acre property contained more than 3,400 vines.” Another bronze plaque sits apart from the other two, but next to the restored adobe and reads: “Cucamonga Winery: Established by Tiburcio Tapia to whom the Cucamonga rancho was granted March 3, 1839 by Governor Juan Batista Alvarado of Mexico.” Tapia’s 21 square mile land grant encompassed parts of present-day Ontario, Upland, Etiwanda, Cucamonga, Fontana and Colton. The old age of some of the present day vines, some going back to the 1880’s, produce “a very intense flavor, especially in the zinfandels. They are quality wines.” (Years of Decline)

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