As a relative of John and Jessie Fremont, I lay claim to the Rancho Las Mariposa. I have contacted attorney Eileen McKenzie who specializes in Spanish Land Grants.
In 2005 I took a train to Sonoma to see my newborn grandson, Tyler Hunt. He had been abandoned by his father. Heather Hanson and I took Tyler to Vallejo’s home which is a museum. Juan Bautista Alvarado used to live here. Juan used to own Rancho Las Mariposa. I informed my daughter our family history exceeded that of Vallejo. I could tell she did not get it. She is not well read and shuns history. The next day we drove to Colma and I entered the lost tomb of our Stuttmeister and Janke ancestors who were Prussian Forty-Eighters who helped Fremont found the Republican Party.
My niece, Drew Benton, is the daughter of Garth Benton, and Christine Rosamond (Presco) Benton. Garth is the cousin of the famous artist, Thomas Hart Benton, the grandson of Senator Thomas Hart Benton, whose daughter, Jessie Benton, married John Fremont.
It is not gold I am after – but I will take any ore that is rightfully mine. What I would like to do with any land due me, is fulfill my grandfather’s dream. Royal Rosamond was a author and poet who discussed with his good friend, Otto Rayburn, the founding of a Poet’s Colony on forty acres Royal owned in Arkansas. To make this Dream come true, I have founded ‘The Royal Rosamond Academy of Art and Poetry’. I will try to make RRAAP an accredited college so my students can qualify for a Student Loans.
If any gold is found, I will name my mine ‘The Tyler Mine’ after my grandson.
John (Jon) Gregory Presco
President: Royal Rosamond Press & Royal Rosamond Academy of Art and Poetry
Rancho Las Mariposas was a 44,387-acre (179.63 km2) Mexican land grant in present day Mariposa County, California given in 1844 by Governor Manuel Micheltorena to Juan Bautista Alvarado. The grant takes its name from Mariposa Creek, which was named for the butterflies (“mariposas” in Spanish) in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The grant was near Yosemite on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain, and encompasses present day Mariposa and the former towns of Agua Fria and Ridleys Ferry.
Juan B. Alvarado, a former Mexican governor of California, was awarded the grant in 1844. The ten square league grant was described as being located generally on the Mariposa Creek between the San Joaquin River, Chowchilla River, and Merced River and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This is much bigger area than ten square leagues, and the intent was that Alvarado would select the particular ten square leagues within these boundaries – what has been called a “floating grant”. Alvarado never complied with the usual requirements for a grant due to the presence of hostile Indians.
After playing his part in the Bear Flag Revolt in 1846, John C. Frémont, soldier, explorer, and (later) presidential candidate, decided to settle down in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1847 he sent $3,000 to the U.S. consul to the Territory of California, Thomas O. Larkin, to buy a ranch near Mission San José. Despite clear instructions, for some reason, Larkin purchased Rancho Las Mariposas in the southern Sierra Nevada foothills from Juan B. Alvarado. To Frémont this was worthless land, over one hundred miles from the nearest settlement, had no farms or ranch lands, and was inhabited by hostile Indians. Frémont demanded the ranch near the Mission San Jose or his money back. Larkin did not act, and from 1847 to 1848 Frémont was in Washington defending himself at a court-martial. When Frémont returned to California, he learned of the gold discovery at Coloma. Shortly thereafter, Frémont discovered gold in the Mariposa region. Frémont’s unwanted tract of land turned out to be the richest rancho in California. Before Frémont could legally establish his grant boundaries, thousands of miners arrived on the scene. Few of the miners acknowledged Frémont’s claim and a legal battle began that would take until 1856 to settle and 1859 to finalize.
Using the vague description of the original Alvarado grant, Frémont “floated” his ten square league rancho from the original claim to cover mineral lands including properties already in the possession of miners. Rancho Las Mariposas took shape along a wide vein that stretched from Mariposa Creek to the Merced River. When the boundaries were surveyed, the grant included Mariposa, Bear Valley and the Pine Tree and Josephine mine complex. The Pine Tree Mine was discovered in 1849, and it was consolidated with the Josephine Mine in 1859. The ore from the Pine Tree and Josephine mines was crushed at the Benton mill. Frémont also owned and operated the Oso House hotel in Bear Valley. He and his wife Jessie Benton Frémont made their home in Bear Valley until 1859, when they bought a home in San Francisco.
With the cession of California to the United States following the Mexican-American War, the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided that the land grants would be honored. As required by the Land Act of 1851, a claim for Rancho Las Mariposas was filed with the U.S. Board of Land Commissioners in 1852, who confirmed his title, according to the survey, which he, himself, had made. On appeal to the U. S. District Court, the decision of the Board was reversed and Frémont’s lawyers immediately appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In December 1854, the U. S. Supreme Court remanded his case back to the District Court, declaring the claim valid and ordering an official survey, and the grant was patented to John C. Frémont in 1856.
Frémont never worked the mines himself but preferred to lease the mines to different entities. Frémont hired Palmer, Cook & Co., San Francisco bankers, to organize the Mariposa Mining Co. in 1850.
In 1857, Frémont leased the Mount Ophir section of his grant to Biddle Boggs. However, the Merced Mining Co. occupied the property and operated a gold mine. Merced Mining Co. maintained that the official survey had been made in a clandestine manner and that Frémont had no title to the minerals, as his grant was for grazing and agricultural purposes only. Lengthy litigations in the face of hostile public sentiment piled up court costs and lawyer fees. In 1858, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Merced Mining Co. A rehearing was granted and in 1859 the California Supreme Court reversed itself, and ruled in favor of Biddle Boggs and Frémont. The other claimants lost many valuable holdings. In the summer of 1858 a group of armed men seized the Pine Tree Mine, but after five days of armed confrontation with Frémont’s men, they were ordered out by the governor.
After the dissolution of Halleck, Peachy & Billings, Trenor W. Park worked on Frémont’s legal and financial problems. In January 1863, Fremont, then a Major-General in the Union Army, sold Rancho Las Mariposas with its mines and infrastructure to Morris Ketchum, a New York City banker, who formed a public corporation, the Mariposa Company, and sold stock. In 1863, Frederick Law Olmsted, noted New York landscape architect, came to Mariposa as superintendent for the Mariposa Company. Olmsted was not a mining expert. Investments were made in stamp mills, tunnels, shafts, and the other infrastructure related to the mining towns. By 1865, the Mariposa Company was bankrupt, Olmsted returned to New York, and mines were sold at a sheriff’s sale.
The town was founded as a mining camp on the banks of a seasonal stream known as Aqua Fria. This original town site was located about 6.0 miles (9.7 km) to the west of present day Mariposa. After a flood during the winter of 1849/50, and fires, the town was moved to the location of today’s Mariposa, although mainly due to better terrain and the presence of Mariposa creek, a large producer of placer gold. The gold in small Aqua Fria creek was soon removed, and lacked water most of the year. So the populace moved on to the new boomtown. The large Mariposa mine soon opened, with a 40 foot waterwheel crushing gold ore. This provided a stable source of employment, and Mariposa soon became the supply hub for hundreds of outlying mining districts. Placer gold, that which is found in creekbeds and alluvial deposits, was soon extinguished, and the era of hard rock, deep mining began. In 1851 the “new” town of Mariposa became the county seat, which reached nearly to Los Angeles. By 1854 Mariposa had a grand courthouse which is still in operation. Some refer to the lumber being cut from an area to the east of town known as “logtown” but no maps or certifiable sources can attest to the existence of Logtown. Most likely the lumber for the courthouse was milled in Midpines, where there was an unusual abundance of sugar pine trees.
John C. Frémont had a Spanish land grant that gave him ownership of most of the Mariposa mining district, but the possibility of securing his property was nearly impossible due to the huge influx of gold seekers, and little or no enforcement from the few law keepers available. In book #1 of Mariposa county records, originally filed in Aqua Fria, on Page 2, there is a claim known as the Spencer quartz mine and adjacent millsite. This claim was just hundreds of feet from Fremonts grant line, and its owners were Lafayette H. Bunnell, and Champlain Spencer, who became rather wealthy from the placer gold in Whitlock and Sherlocks creek. They later erected a 40′ waterwheel and steam mill, along with several arrastras. Mr. Bunnell later published a memoir of his time in Midpines and entry to Yosemite valley, which is still in print today – “The Discovery of the Yosemite”. Mr. Spencer has never been acknowledged as having named Half Dome, a prominent feature in Yosemite valley. These educated gentlemen and adventurers eventually sold “Spencers Mill” to a French and English conglomerate for a tidy sum. All is quiet now on Spencers mill, but much evidence of a series of mills and the arrastras remain.
Alvarado was born in Monterey, Alta California, to Jose Francisco Alvarado and María Josefa Vallejo. His grandfather Juan Bautista Alvarado accompanied Gaspar de Portolà as an enlisted man in the Spanish Army in 1769. His father died a few months after his birth and his mother remarried three years later, leaving Juan Bautista in the care of his grandparents, the Vallejo family. He and Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo grew up together in the Vallejo household. They were both taught by William Edward Petty Hartnell, an English merchant living in Monterey.
On June 14, 1846, a group of foreign settlers staged the Bear Flag Revolt, capturing the town of Sonoma and General Mariano Vallejo. On July 7, Commodore John D. Sloat occupied Monterey, declaring to the citizenry that the Mexican–American War had begun. Pico, Castro, and Alvarado set aside their differences to focus on the American threat, but by the end of August, Pico and Castro would flee to Mexico, and Alvarado would be captured. Following his release, Alvarado would spend the remainder of the war on his estate in Monterey.