Rancho Era


San José de Nuestra Señora de Altagracia y Simí

While this is the complete name of El Rancho Simi it is not used in any of the documents about to be described in this “new time table.”

The “espediente of a rancho is the collection of documents which gives the history of the title to the land. The “diseño” is a hand-drawn map which gives the main features of the rancho.  We have very poor copies of two versions of the diseño for EI Rancho Simi.

The earliest-dated document in the espediente at the State Archives in Sacramento is February 26, 1821, when the three brothers, Patricio, Javier and Miguel Pico, asked for the ownership of this rancho which they called San José de Gracia y Simí, to be reconfirmed to them (following Mexican Independence from Spain). They gave a description of the place.

On November 20, 1832, Rafael Pico (son of Patricio) and José de la Guerra y Noriega appeared in Santa Barbara before the acting “judge.” Rafael Pico stated that he had the powers of attorney of his remaining uncles (Miguel and Javier) and of his sister Simona Pico, and that they had agreed to “sell for the common benefit the Rancho named San José de Gracia y Simí…”  There follows a lot of bureaucratic paperwork regarding “two leaves of paper of the Second Seal,” Assisting Witnesses, Instrumental Witnesses,etc .

The vital part of this document which concerns our history is that Rafael was selling and transferring for himself and his associates, his rights to “…a Rancho called San José de Gracia alias Simí, which he obtained from the Government of the Territory, THROUGH HIS PATERNAL GRANDFATHER SANTIAGO PICO …”

“…the said Rancho is situated to the East of this Port between the Missions of San Buenaventura and San Fernando, and its boundaries are, on the East, the slope of the Sierra of Santa Susana, on the West, the lone oak (El Roble Solo), on the South, the oak grove of the Saucito and on the North the Volcano of Azufre together with a vineyard containing one thousand vines, . . . with all the entrances and exits …

“(The rancho) is hereby sold to the said Noriega, free of all encumbrances and as such, it is sold for the sum of $1019, $819 in coin and the balance ($200) in goods to his satisfaction, Señor Noriega being obliged to satisfy the Mission of San Gabriel for 800 head of cattle…”

During this same time period, “…the late Romualdo Pacheco was permitted by Señor Victoria who was Comandante General of this Territory, to place some stock on a portion of the Rancho,  … only a temporary right … the purchaser (José de la Guerra)” stated that “it was his will to permit for the present, the stock of the late Pacheco to remain on said Rancho in consideration of his orphans … ”

On September 24, 1841 José de la Guerra petitioned “for a title to the place named Simí.” The document reads in part: “Most Excellent Sir:  I, José de la Guerra y Noriega, Captain of Cavalry and Commandant of this Presidio (Santa Barbara), respectfully represent to Your Excellency that having acquired the Rancho known by the name of Simí, from the ancient owners of the same for the price agreed upon, as is shown by the deed of sale which is herewith presented … under this contract your petitioner had occupied said land for nine years peaceably…”

On April 25, 1842, José de la Guerra was declared the owner, and the diseño and espediente were ordered filed and registered… the document states that he had purchased the rancho from the Picos in 1832.

On April 25th, 1843 the giving of possession was ordered. The proper officials were to appear “On the lands of Simí, on the 28th day of the month of April 1843″… at 9 o’clock in the morning.  However, José Ruiz protested the boundaries and the event was postponed until measurements could be taken. On November 15, 1843 it was reported that agreement had been reached on the boundaries, and a new date set for taking possession.  Summons were again issued that all the proper witnesses were to appear on December 8, 1843 at Simí.

Finally, “On the Rancho of Simí on the 8th day of the month of December 1843, at nine o’clock in the morning, I, Joaquin Carrillo, Justice of the Peace of the District of Santa Barbara, accompanied by the assisting witnesses, personally establish Don Francisco de la Guerra (whom Don José had asked to represent him) … on the said Rancho of Simí, and he again exhibited the title, and grant of said Rancho, issued by his Excellency the Governor… Don Francisco de la Guerra as the agent of his father Don José de la Guerra, entered upon the lands of the Rancho of Simí, pulled up herbage, and scattered hands full of earth and took branches of trees as a sign of the true possession which he took of said Rancho of Simí.”

On the 26th day of September 1845, the grant was recognized by Pio Pico, Governor of the Department of the Californias, and the story came full circle, as Pio Pico was the grandson of the original grantee, Santiago Pico!

After the American period began, the title had to be confirmed to the De la Guerras under the new laws. Although filed in the early 1850s, it took until 1865 to be settled, and by that time José de la Guerra had died.  Within a very short time, the heirs no longer owned any of Rancho Simí. The remaining members of the family held onto the Tapo Rancho until 1878.


(This information is extracted from the Espediente at the State Archives

in Sacramento in March 1992.  Pat Havens.)

Our Simi Adobe was built at the beginning of the Spanish period, likely soon after the grant in 1795, as the local residents had to have some place to live while they operated the rancho. A part of that adobe still exists and is the focal point of our historical park. This was a stopover place between the Missions San Fernando Rey and San Buenaventura. In later years there was a stage stop nearby as well. There is little doubt this adobe was on the main route throughout all those early years.