Don José de Arnaz

Born in Spain, Don José de Arnaz (1820-1895) was educated 

came to this continent in 1841 as a supercargo (shipboard trader) on the Joven Guipuzcoana.  Once here, he was a storekeeper, rancher, and he provided medical assistance, notably innoculations against smallpox.  Arnaz' Los Angeles area Rancho covered most of the Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes.  He had bought sections from  the sons/heirs of the rancho's original grantee, Bernardo Higuera:  Secundino Higuera (in 1849) and Francisco Higuera (in 1867).  The underlying grants were confirmed by the U.S. Government in 1872 and recorded "at request of Jose de Arnaz and Francisco Higuera."

​Arnaz Avenue, by his ranch house, was renamed Robertson Boulevard in 1926, at the instance of "Isadore B. Dockweiler and a number of property owners."  And, in 1939, the remaining 330 acres of the former Arnaz ranch were bulldozed make way for Beverlywood.  Today, Beverly Hills' Arnaz Drive is the last Los Angeles marker - though it is more often (wrongly) linked to Desi Arnaz than to Don José.

Don José is better remembered in Ventura County, where, on June 8, 1846, 
he was granted the  48,823 acre  Rancho Ex Mission San Buenaventura by Governor Pio Pico Ventura County Historical Landmarks & Points of Interest (prepared by the Ventura County Cultural Heritage Board Staff and last updated in 2016) quotes a  1936 history by Ventura County Star writer E.M. Sheridan, which described Arnaz as an aristocrat born in Spain in 1821 and educated in medicine.  "He came to California in 1841 and was not only a doctor, but a merchant, rancher, public benefactor and an energetic influence in establishing the township of San Buenaventura.  In addition to successful cattle and sheep raising, wheat and lima beans were grown on his ranch.  The ranch is now known for its apple orchard."  The Rancho Arnaz Adobe (aka Stage Route Half-Way House) was built in 1863 and is "the oldest continuously lived-in residence" in Ventura County.  Formerly known for apples and cider, it is currently Rancho Arnaz Horse Boarding Stables.

The Ojai History website says that "Arnaz was also a great success in the field of agriculture.  He planted the first field of wheat and raised the first crop of lima beans in Ventura County.  Arnaz was not only a merchant, doctor and rancher, but he was also an energetic influence in establishing the township, which was incorporated in 1864 as San Buenaventura.  Arnaz was also a supervisor from Santa Barbara County, which, at that time, included San Buenaventura.  He was also one of the owners of the Santa Ana Water Company."  

In January 1847,  

Childrens' Lawsuit

In 1847, Arnaz married Maria Mercedes de Avila (aka Merced Abila and Merced Avila de Arnaz) (1832–1867).  Seven years her passing, in May 1874, two of their children, Adela Arnaz and Virginia Arnaz de Auguisola, along with Virginia's husband Manuel Augisola (aka Anguisola and Arguisola) sued Don Jose for failing to distribute the widow's estate to them.  They won at trial, but the California Supreme Court (in a case called De Auguisola v. De Arnaz (1876) 51 Cal. 435) reversed the decision, holding that Merced had put her full faith in José, and he could do what he wanted.

The case may provide the best historic record of Don José's business dealings; the Supreme Court recounted the childrens' allegations – even if it did not pass on their veracity:  

When he married Merced, José had no property of his own, real or personal;

In 1848, or 1849,  Merced acquired by inheritance and gift from her uncle, Antonio Ygnacio Abila, and from other relatives, as her separate property, six hundred head of cattle, three hundred horses, ten mules, ten oxen, and four thousand dollars in money;

José received possession of the property, to be managed and controlled by him for the use of his wife;

In 1854, José purchased with said property, or the avails thereof, one-sixth interest in the Rancho Santa Ana , (aka Rancho Santa Anna) which was conveyed to said Merced

In 1855, José also purchased with said property, or the avails thereof, the undivided one-half of the Rancho Rincón de Los Bueyes, but took the conveyance in his own name, in trust for said Merced; José , but took the conveyance in his own name, in trust for said Merced

In 1858, José  purchased with said property, or the avails thereof,  a tract of land 400 varas in extent, a part of the Rancho San Jose , and took the conveyance in the name of said Merced;

In 1869 or 1870, José purchased with the increase of said stock and with the rents and profits of said real estate, three thousand sheep, which were pastured on said Rancho Santa Anna till April, 1874, when they were sold by said Jose for $ 9000;

In 1868, José sold Rancho Santa Ana for $ 600;

In 1872, José  sold seventy-five acres of said Rancho Santa Ana for $ 550;

In 1873, José sold a large parcel of said Rancho Santa Ana for $ 15,000, $ 7000 of which was paid down, and a note and mortgage given to him for the sum of $ 8000 payable November 19, 1875;

Jose had also received from the rents and profits of the property, and from the sale of other portions of it, $ 15,000;  and

When Merced died in December, 1867, there remained unsold a part of the Rancho Santa Ana, an undivided one-half interest in the Rancho Rincon de Los Bueyes, cattle, and other ranch stock of the value of $ 3000;

A Wikipedia article reports (currently without any citation), that in 1874, Arnaz sold the Rancho Santa Ana land to sea captain Richard Robinson, Judge Eugene Fawcett, Jr., and H.C. Dean, who subdivided the land and started the development of the Ventura River Valley.

Merced's uncle, if he was the same Antonio Ygnacio Avila (1781 - 1858) as found in this Wikipedia article, was the grantee of the Rancho Sausal Redondo.    

(His second wife, Maria Camarillo de Arnaz is the namesake of Camarillo, California.)  


While the lawsuit left some facts, Arnaz contributed to the historical record through his own words, in Recuerdos (Memories) dictated to Thomas Savage for the Bancroft Library in 1878.  The portion of his telling (excerpted and translated as Memoirs of a Merchant by Nellie Van de Grift Sanchez (1856-1935) and published in the Automobile Club of Southern California's Touring Topics 
 in 1928) depicts Arnaz crossing paths with explorer, soldier, and politician, John C. Frémont as well as with bandido/Mexican patriot Joaquin Murietta .  (Jean Gibson Ordonez' contemporaneous (presumably full) English translation of Recuerdos is held by the Bancroft Library  (BANC MSS C-D 32  trans.).)

along the California coast.[3] He opened a store in Los Angeles, and married Maria Mercedes de Avila (1832–1867) in 1847. Avila was the niece of Antonio Ygnacio Avila.[4

On June 24, 1889, Don José recorded his subdivision of his portion of Rancho Rincon de los Bueyes.  In Arnaz' subdivision, the larger lots (A through E) in the hill land to the west ranged from 73 to 126 acres.  The smaller lots on flatter land to the north and east were generally 20 acres.  The road between lots 32 and 21 is Arnaz Avenue, now Robertson Boulevard.  The road immediately west was Anguisola Avenue.  
​​The Rancho land to the east belonging to Antonio José Rocha shows Rocha's adobe  – which survives to this day .  
Arnaz' Rancho, covering most of the Rancho Rincon de los Bueyes , is now broken up into (among other things) Cheviot Hills Park, Hillcrest Country Club, Beverlywood, and the Cheviot Hills area subdivided as Country Club Highlands. Robert C. Gillis paid $200 per acre for 625 acres.   

On June 25, 1905, the Los Angeles Herald reported that R. C. Gillis, "one of the principal land owners between Los Angeles and the ocean" had bought the 625 acre Arnaz ranch "through Leo J. Maguire & Co. for Maria Carmarillo [sic] de Arnaz and her children, heirs of the late Don Jose de Arnaz."  A couple of days later, on June 27, 1905, the same paper reported that "Edward F. Tripp and associates have paid R. C. Gillis $140,000 for the Don Jose de Arnaz rancho of 625 acres.  ....  Mr. Gillis bought the acreage last week for $125,000."  Robert Conran "R. C." Gillis developed railways and land and operated, among other enterprises, the Santa Monica Land & Water Company and the Los Angeles Pacific Railway Company, the latter of which ran a line (then called the Ocean Park short line, later called the Venice Shortline approximating Venice Boulevard) through the southeast corner of the Arnaz Ranch. 

On June 9, 1906, the Los Angeles Herald reported the "Old Spanish Estate is Finally Settled."  The Court valued the approximately 800 acres (733 after deducting the rail line crossing it) at $140,000 – about $175 per acre.