The Earthen Corral


(Photo: Home that belonged to Vic Guerrero, son of Francisco. Later it was used as a small hotel).

Francisco Guerrero continued to spend a great deal of time in San Francisco. In 1850 he was murdered as he stood near the corner of Mission and 12th Streets. The fatal injury occured when a man following him on horseback struck him about the head with a slingshot.

On April 12, 1863 as Tiburcio Vasquez was seated near a window in a Half Moon Bay saloon, a volley of gunshots rang out. When it was all over, Vasquez was found dead, and the elusive murderer escaped.

At the time both Vasquez and Guerrero were witnesses for the prosecution in the famous Santillian land fraud case.


The Earthen Corral

pablo.jpg (Photo: In better times, this is what Pablo Vasquez’s barn looked like. Located near the Main Street Bridge in Half Moon Bay, it was demolished in the 1977s).

This left the northern 7,766 acres of the Corral de Tierra to Francisco Guerrero. Throughout his career, Guerrero held various political jobs in San Francisco. The common dividing line between the two halves of the Corral de Tierra was determined by the Arroyo de en Medio Creek in Miramar.

Guerrero built a ranch house known as te Guerrero Adobe on a hillside near a creek about one mile northeast of Princeton. Until 1906 the house was in fair condition, and included four rooms on the ground floor with an attic above. A porch extended across the entire front.

Tiburcio Vasquez constructed the first adobe in Half Moon Bay. Consisting of five small roms, it stood on the north bank of Pilarcitos Creek, northwest of the bridge in Half Moon Bay. His youngest son, Pablo, built a frame house nearby (now headquarters of DelMar Properties, a real estate firm). Pablo loved horses and he opened a livery business in an old barn near his home. The barn, erected in 1846, and which had fallen into severe disrepair, was demolished on February 18, 1977 as ordered by the City of Half Moon Bay.

…to be continued…

The Earthen Corral

In the 1840s the Corral de Teirra was divided intow two Mexican land grants. Tiburico Vasquez (sometimes confused with his nephew, a notorious bandit hung in San Jose in 1875) ran two thousand head of cattle and 200 horses on his 4,436-acre rancho.

Vasquez didn’t just fall from the sky; he had been the supervisor of the Mission Dolores livestock in San Francisco when he applied for the southern portion of this immense land grant.

…to be continued…

The Earthen Corral

Festive rodeos lasting several days were commonplace around Miramar in the 1840s. Accompanied by much merry-making and feasting, the round-ups included scores of “rancherosâ€?, or owners, and their cowboys or “vaqueros.â€?

These exciting occasions were highlighted with spirited competition among the vaqueros to excel in horsemanship and use of the lasso.

Cattle chosen for later slaughter were lassoed by the vaqueros; thrown down and burned with owner’s hot brand. Otherwise the wild animals were released and allowed the roam another year on the Corral de Tierra.

The Corral de Tierra [encompassing the present day communities of Montara, Moss Beach, Princeton, El Granada, Miramar, stretching to Pilarcitos Creek in Half Moon Bay] means earth corral. It was so named because the surrounding geographical features form a natural enclosure for cattle.

Up until 1840 Mission Dolores used the land for grazing. The Coastside was isolated territory, cut off from civilization by mountainous barriers, and the hills concealed a considerable population of mountain lions and grizzly bears.


Rancheros Sought Safety On The Coastside (1840s) Part V

bandit.jpg(Photo: The bandit Tiburcio Vasquez, whose uncle by the same name, owned the Corral de Tierra, stretching from Miramar to Half Moon Bay).

The Coastside was so isolated that the bandit Tiburcio Vasquez could visit his uncle on the remote Corral de Tierra without fear of being arrested by the authorities. He was finally captured in San Jose. The sheriff printed invitation announcing his execution on Friday, March 19, 1875.

GuerreroHse.jpg(Photo: Guerrero Farmhouse, later a hotel, Montara)

Francisco Guerrero continued to spend a great deal of time in San Francisco. In 1850, he was murdered as he stood near the corner of Mission and 12th Streets. The fatal injury occurred when a man stalking him on horseback struck him in the head with a slingshot.

On April 12, 1863, as the ranchero Tiburcio Vasquez sat near a window at a Half Moon Bay saloon, a volley of gunshots rang out. When the dust cleared, Vasquez was declared dead–and the murderers escaped.

It was later reported that there may have been a connection between the Guerrero and Vasquez murders. They had appeared as prosecution witnesses in an infamous land fraud case.

Although Candelario Miramontes did not live to see the outcome of the U.S. war with Mexico, all of his daughter Carmelita’s children were born in the adobe house on Mill Street in Half Moon Bay.

Descendants of these famous early Spanish families still thrive throughout California. Coastside street signs and geographical landmarks carry their names, a constant reminder of Half Moon Bay’s Spanish heritage.

Rancheros Sought Safety On The Coastside (1840s) Part IV

J-Hse.jpg(Photo: The Johnston House before it was restored. The historic house is open to the public–check with the HMB Chamber of Commerce for the schedule).

Few, if anyone, had managed to maneuver wheeled vehicles of any kind over that mountainous barrier. But the Johnston brothers perservered and triumphed over the geographical obstacles by gingerly lowering the wagons with ropes.

Half Moon Bay’s Spanish-speaking residents welcomed James Johnston and his Spanish bride, Petra. He further ingratiated himself with the locals by constructing a real American house, a “saltbox-style” farmhouse that was used as a social gathering place for Spanish and American guests.

Known as the “White House of Half Moon Bay”, the landmark has been beautifully preserved by the Johnston House Foundation.

Miramontes’ adobe house–where his midwie daughter, Carmelita lived after her marriage to Francisco Gonzalez, a ranchero’s son from Pescadero–stood on Mill Street, east of Main in Half Moon Bay. Tiburcio Vasquez built his five-room adobe on nearby Pilarcitos Creek and Francisco Guerrero erected an adobe on a hillside northeast of Princeton.

But it was Vasquez and Guerrero’s huge Corral de Tierra that evoked notions of the romantic Spanish past. Round-up time was the occasion for festive rodeos lasting for days. It was time for celebration. There was feasting and music as the vaqueros vied to prove their superior horsemanship.

While they enjoyed the competition, the vaqueros still had business to do. They lassoed cattle chosen for slaughter, branding the other animals and releasing them to roam for another year on the Corral de Tierra.

bandit.jpgThe “bandit” Tiburcio Vasquez, not to be confused with the ranchero by the same name.

On one of the happy occasions at the Corral de Tierra, a member of the Miramontes family wa shocked to see the mischievous bandit Tiburcio Vasquez, the ranchero’s nephew. The young bandit reflected the darker side of relations between the Mexicans and their new neighbors, the Americans. This Vasquez thirsted for revenge, scouring the countryside stealing horses and robbing stagecoaches.

Photo: courtesy San Mateo County History Museum. Please visit the museum at the historic Redwood City Courthouse in Redwood City.

…To Be Continued…

Rancheros Sought Safety On The Coastside (1840s) Part III

< <img id="image1052" src="" alt="miramontes.jpg" Photo: The Miramontes Family

"The rancheros felt safe but life did not go smoothly. While Miramontes, for example, maintained excellent relations with Vasquez and Guerrero, he had trouble with Jose Alivso, his neighbor to the south–the grantee to the Rancho Canada Verde y Arroyo de la Purisima.

Miramontes and Alviso were feuding over a narrow strip of land located between the two ranchos. Perhaps the problem could be traced to the original crude maps that were unclear.

Both men claimed it but only Alviso erected an adobe on the property.

There were angry confrontations and showdowns. Miramontes often complained that Alviso drove his men off whenever they came to work the land. Alviso made similar charges. [The disagreement was finally resolved when a court determined that the land belonged to Alviso].

Alviso may have triumphed in the battle over the land but the Miramontes family was prolific and had grown so large that visitors referred to their rancho in Half Moon Bay as the "Miramontes District".

One daughter, Carmelita, achieved local fame for her medical expertise as a midwife.

Some Americans squatted on the Miramontes rancho, firmly believing the US government would declare the land public domain–but there were others who became "legal" neighbors.

A portion of the Miramontes rancho had been sold to Ohio native James Johnston. Accompanied by his two brothers, the Johnstons heroically crossed the plains, mountains and deserts only to face the toughest obstacle of all.

The Johnston Brothers had no idea how they were going to drop down from the Santa Cruz Mountains into the beautiful Half Moon Bay Valley.

….To Be Continued…

Rancheros Sought Safety On The Coastside (1840s) Part II

The boundary line between the two ranchos was Medio Creek, which runs through present-day Miramar, later the locatio of a busy 19th century wharf were steamers docked.

Guerrero and Vasquez were acquainted with Candelario Miramontes. When Miramontes applied for a 4,424-acre rancho, the crudely drawn map included the present-day town of Half Moon Bay. Miramontes named his rancho ‘San Benito’ and that was what Half Moon Bay was called for decades.

Before the war erupted between the US and Mexico in 1846, the rancheros were absentee landlords. Cut off by insurmountable geographical barriers with no passable roads, they found little to attract them in Half Moon Bay. Compared with the Coastside, San Francisco wasw a busy hamlet–but Miramontes was able to grow corn, peas and potatoes near what is now the downtown area.

The Mexican-American War turned the ranchero’s lives upside down. They were now threatened by the growing American influence. Just as resentment against Spanish rule produce the renegade Indian, Pomponio, the mounting friction between the Mexicans and the Americans who challenged them, created the notorious bandit, Tiburcio Vasquez, a counterpart to Pomponio.

Coincidentally, the outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez carried the same name as his respectable uncle, the owner of the Corral de Tierra. But the unruly nephew was to become a folk hero, a Mexican version of Robin Hood. Some said Vasquez was driven to his outlaw existence by the manner in which the Americans treated the Mexicans as inferiors while dancing with their women.

As the US war with Mexico neared, Guerrero, Miramontes and Vasquez made the life-saving decision to flee San Francisco for their adobe houses near Half Moon Bay. In the late 1840s, about 70 people, including local Indians, comprised the entire population of the Coastside, according to the archives of the San Mateo County History Museum in Redwood City.

Rancheros Sought Safety On The Coastside (1840s) Part I

rancho1.jpgrancho2.jpg Photo: Rancho Corral de Tierra, courtesy San Mateo County

The Coastside rancheros found San Francisco a dangerous place to live in the 1840s.

Political turmoil permeated the air–the United States was preparing for war with Mexico–and California was the ultimate prize. As part of the Mexican regime, the rancheros–Francisco Guerrero, Candelario Miramontes Tiburcio Vasquez–were vulnerble and feared for their lives. So they sought haven on the Coastside where enemies would be unable to find them. The Coastside was so remote tht only the mountain lions could track them.

California had already weathered a change of rule as the baton of power was passed from Spain to Mexico. Now, as Americans moved in, a more significant cultural and political change was on the way. This was the setting on the eve of the Gold Rush that brought hoards of Americans to the Golden State.

Guerrero, Miramontes and Vasquez knew one another–they had been stationed in San Francisco under Mexican rule. But most likely it was Vasquez who knew the secret route into isolated Half Moon Bay. He had been the supervisor of Mission Dolores’ livestock and ws familiar with the Corral de Tierra, a 7, 766-acre piece of breathtaking grazing land stretching from Montara to Half Moon Bay.

The Corral de Tierra was so named because the terrain formed a natural enclosure.

Guerrero, Miramontes and Vasquez shared much in common. They had witnessed the dismantling of the harsh
Spanish mission system under which so many Indians had perished. They benefited from the demise of this system as loyal military officers and other deserving individuals were rewarded with tracts of land known as ranchos.

Vasquez applied for and received the southern portion of the Corral de Tierra. Francisco Guerrero, who had held various political positions in San Francisco, also applied for and received the northern section of the Corral de Tierra.

….To Be Continued…