Don Carlos Antonio de Jesus Carrillo
Represented by Adobe by Ynez Haase.
Map of the Rancho Sespe Land Grant.
Courtesy of the Fillmore History Museum
Prior to 1833, the area that would become Fillmore and Bardsdale was under the governance of Mission San Buenaventura. Few Europeans lived in the area and it was mainly used for grazing cattle. That changed in 1833. Mexico had gained independence from Spain a few years earlier, and in 1833 the Mexican government passed the Secularization Act which nullified large land grants that had been granted to various missions. Instead, the land was given to individuals.
To apply for a land grant, it was necessary to make a written request to the zone governor, describing the land he was interested in and giving its dimensions and limits. This would be accompanied by a map or diseño, illustrating what was requested in the petition. If approved, the governor would issue an official declaration and the property would be surveyed and boundaries established. The beneficiary then had to build a house on the land; fill it with cattle; plant some in vines, fruit trees or cereals.
Don Carlos Antonio de Jesus Carrillo was the eldest of the seven children of José Raymundo Carrillo and Tomaso Lugo. They were married at the Carmel Mission in 1781 in a ceremony presided over by Junipero Serra. The Carrillos were a distinguished family, their lineage comprising an Archbishop of Toledo and a Viceroy of Mexico.
Don Carlos had a military career but after leaving military service he served in the Mexican Congress. He was briefly governor in 1837.
In 1829, before the Secularization Act, Don Carlos petitioned the Mexican government for Rancho Sespe. He already had a significant stake in what would become the counties of Santa Barbara and Ventura, including the island of Santa Rosa. Because he had a large extended family (ten children and at least 50 grandchildren), he needed additional land to support them. In his request, he asked for lands which extended “from an arroyo called Piru which, at its mouth, unites with that of Camulos, up to the hill which faces another arroyo named Mupu”. It was basically from the Piru River to Santa Paula Creek.
He received his property in 1833 under the name of Rancho Sespe. On the deed, he specified 6 squares. leagues or 54 squares. miles or 34,560 acres. Two copies of the act were filed, and this is what sowed the seeds for subsequent disputes and even murders. On the second copy there was an erasure and instead of 6 square leagues we read 2 square leagues. This opened the door for later settlers to claim land that Don Carlos, and later owner T. Wallace More, believed they owned. This argument is another chapter in the history of Rancho Sespe. For more information, visit https://www.fillmorehistoricalmuseum.org/rancho-sespe.
The concession extended from Santa Paula Creek in the west to Piru Creek in the east, for approximately 17 miles. The ranch was centered on where the Sespe River meets the Santa Clara River. Three years after Don Carlos and his family received the ranch, it housed 3,000 head of cattle, three or four herds of horses and mules, and around 400 sheep.
An adobe was built as the grant required, but the Carrillo family did not live in Rancho Sespe. They were residents of Santa Barbara. The mayor of Carrillo, Prudencio Ayala, who was in charge of Rancho may have lived there. The Carrillos may have stayed there when they came to the Rancho for the “rounding” of the cattle. At that time, there could be up to fifty family members and additional servants and guests. The adobe as it has been described could not have housed so many individuals.
Grace Atmore, who died in 1943, remembers playing in the adobe ruins on her way home from school in Santa Clara. She remembered it as being rectangular with six or seven pieces. Eventually, the school commissioners deemed the structure unsafe and had it demolished.
According to some historians, the adobe was found just north of the Santa Clara River, west of the mouth of the Sespe, and near the historic Sycamore on Route 126. Other local history writers have located the adobe just south of the Sespe meeting point. Saint Clare.
In 1848, California became a territory of the United States. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo guaranteed ownership of existing settlers, but the federal government quickly challenged the legal status of every Spanish / Mexican land grant. A Council of Commissioners was established to review the legal evidence that each claimant was required to submit. Don Carlos Carrillo filed his evidence shortly before his death in 1852.
His wife, Josefa, was his main heir, but she died in 1853. In April 1853, the Council of Commissioners decided that the land grant was valid and encompassed six square leagues. This was going to be disputed soon, but by then the Carrillo family would no longer be in the picture.
In the summer of 1853, the Santa Barbara Estates Court ordered that the ranch be sold at public auction with the proceeds to be divided among the Carrillo heirs.
The successful bidders were three brothers, T. Wallace, Henry and Alexander More, who bought it for $ 17,500, just over $ 600,000 in today’s dollars. After twenty years, this ended Carrillo’s involvement in Rancho Sespe.
The heirs of Don Carlos have not disappeared from the historical archives. Juan Jose Carrillo, grandson of Don Carlos, was the first Los Angeles police chief and the first mayor of Santa Monica. He then served as a judge. Juan Jose’s wife, Josefa Ramona Bandini Carrillo, along with her two sisters, created the first American flag used in California. At the time of the Mexican War, Commodore Stockton, along with a battalion of American troops, entered the city of San Diego. The city did not have an American flag, so Juan Bandini’s daughters started making one. The flag is kept in Washington, DC, among relics from the Mexican War.
Their son was probably the best-known offspring, actor Leo Carrillo.