Antonio Seferino del Valle had not seen his son Ygnacio for six years, so when the lad of seventeen stepped off the ship at Monterey on July 27, 1825, the reunion must have been joyful. But the differences of opinion between father and son became readily apparent.
Ygnacio Ramón de Jesus del Valle was born in Jalisco, Mexico, on the first day of July, 1808. In March, 1828, young Ygnacio was commissioned as a second lieutenant on the staff of General Echeandía, rising to the rank of captain in command of the presidio at San Diego and chief customs house officer.
By 1832 the residents of Monterey were once again howling for the exile of Lieutenant Del Valle's San Blas Company. That year a young lady named Policanpia Lopez bore a daughter, Dolaría, and announced Antonio as the father. He refused to acknowledge paternity, which did nothing for his reputation in town.
Also in 1832, another of the province's periodic power plays developed into warfare between Governor Manuél Victoria, who held out in Monterey while General Echeandía stormed up from San Diego. In one crucial battle, the two lieutenants Del Valle — father and son — faced each other. The younger man's side won. Never again would they speak to each other.
Antonio was forty-six when he was assigned to inventory the property of Mission San Fernando. He counted only 541 Indian neophytes, a significant decrease. He recommended that a corporal be installed at the Asistencia de San Francisco to guard against the theft of cattle and horses by Christian Indians.
During this relatively quiet and productive period in his life, Antonio del Valle fell in love with Jacoba Felix, a lady about the age of his own son, and they were married.
By 1838 Jacoba Felix del Valle had borne two healthy children and was expecting a third when her husband decided it was time to settle down. He resigned his army commission and petitioned Governor Juan B. Alvarado for a grant of land described as:
Bounded on the west by the Arroyo Piru, which comes down from the mountains on the north and runs into the rivers called Santa Clara, and a line extended across ... to a large oak tree ... upon the top of a hill and standing alone ... a line drawn from said tree east through the hills until it reaches the door [la puerta] or bar which is in the high road from San Fernando to [Rancho] San Francisco ... and thence ... to the Arroyo Taburga on the east, following said arroyo in a northerly direction until it empties into the River St. Clare.
Diseño map of the Rancho San Francisco (Santa Clarita Valley), ca. 1843 | Click map to enlarge
At Antonio's request, a map, or diseño, was drawn by Pablo de la Guerra of Santa Barbara. It showed the Rancho San Francisco comprising eleven leagues, or 48,829 acres. One citizen protested that the land should go to the Indians, writing the governor that Del Valle was "nothing but a dried-up little piece of vanity."
Ignoring the protests, Alvarado sat at his desk in Santa Barbara on January 22, 1839 and with his signature made Antonio del Valle virtual lord and master of the Upper Santa Clara River Valley. The new ranchero joined the little clique of fewer than four hundred people who owned land in Alta California.
After the traditional ceremony that went with taking possession of a land grant, Don Antonio moved his family into the Asistencia de San Francisco Xavier on the bluff overlooking the junction of Castaic Creek and the Santa Clara River. Missing were the children of his first wife — María remained in Mexico while Ygnacio's name was never mentioned — and his poor little illegitimate Jose Antonio, age four; Victor Z. Ygnacio de Gracia, age one; newly-born Magdalena; and yet-unborn José Ygnacio.
Antonio had scarcely two years to enjoy his rancho, for he died on June 21, 1841, leaving behind sixteen bulls, 420 cows, 318 heifers, 576 calves, 1,008 sheep, 126 lambs, 128 mares, eighty-six horses, seventy colts, seventy-five square miles of land, and no will.
Four months later Doña Jacoba gave birth to María Concepción, leaving a total of eight children and a widow to battle over the estate.
On his deathbed, Don Antonio del Valle decided that something had to be done to patch up relations with his eldest son.
Dr. Nicholas Den, the family physician, was sent with a personal message to Santa Barbara, where young Ygnacio was in residence. If the son would settle down and marry, Don Antonio would give him a half-interest in a house at Santa Barbara, three hundred head of cattle, and "the place extending from the portsuelo of [Rancho] San Francisco towards the west" — in other words, the land between Piru Creek and Blue Point on the present Ventura County line.
By the time poor Dr. Den could return with a response for the fifty-three-year-old ranchero, Don Antonio had died intestate.