Division of Rancho Monserate

Originally Published In Village News October 15, 1998

Contributed by the Fallbrook Historical Society

Don Rivers, President

In 1846 Ysidro Alvarado was a citizen of the Republic of Mexico when he received the 13,322-acre Monserate Land Grant from the Departmental Legislature of Mexican California. Upon his death in 1863, the United States Land Commission had not given final approval as to the ownership and title of the Mexican land grants.

In 1870, the United States Land Commission confirmed ownership of the Monserate lands to the children and legal heirs of Ysidro Alvarado: Tomas Alvarado, Dolores Alvarado de Serrano and Lugarda Alvarado de Palomares. However, it was not until 1874 that the final survey was completed and at that time Papers of Voluntary Partition were filed with the County of San Diego.

Lugardo Alvarado de Palomares was living in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters when she received ownership of her approximate 4,500 acres of the western portion of the Rancho Monserate, which is closest to Fallbrook. They immediately leased the Rancho Palomares to R. Turnbull.

Dolores Alvarado de Serrano and her husband received approximately 4,500 acres of the middle portion of the Monserate Ranch. They built a home in the lower section of what today is known as Live Oak Canyon. When the William Gird family purchased the Serrano ranch in the early 1880s, they lived in the Serrano house until they could build their own frame house on higher ground.

Tomas Alvarado received approximately 4,500 acres of the eastern portion of the Rancho Monserate and built an adobe hacienda on the south side of San Luis Rey River just west of where Interstate Highway 15 is located today. The only structure still standing from the era is a chapel near the Rancho Monserate Country Clubhouse. The Fallbrook Financial Corporation, San Diego Historical Society, the County of San Diego and the Rancho Monserate Country Club have very nicely restored it. The Pankey family who still holds title today purchased a large portion of Tomas' land.

In 1885 Lugarda Alvarado de Palomares granted her son-in-law, Henry Abila, (Concepcion's husband) the legal right to collect the rents and profits from the Palomares ranch and hold them in trust for all the children. She wanted to be certain that their inheritance would be protected, especially since her youngest daughter, Christina was unmarried and Francisco and Porfirio, her two sons were still minors. A few years later, Lugarda authorized Henry Abila to have a house constructed on the northern boundary of the Palomares Ranch where a County Road (Stage Coach Lane) was being planned.

In 1891, the townspeople and small farmers of Fallbrook petitioned the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to form the Fallbrook Irrigation District. They were acting under a new California law, which provided the opportunity for communities to acquire water and distribute if for irrigation purposes.

Among the people that signed the petition were Fallbrook's doctors and ministers of the Methodist Church; two hotelmen, Matthew Tomlins; and George F. Westfall; Westfall's mother-in-law, Mary Jane Woodbury; both VanRensselear, a newspaperman, active on the Board of Trade and G.F. Van Velzer, the editor of the Fallbrook Review (the petition was published in Van Velzer's newspaper); Zenas Freeman, a homesteader; and E.J. Johnson, owner of the local ostrich farm.

The petition and boundaries of the Fallbrook Irrigation District were granted, and Fallbrook residents voted 70 to 18 in favor of establishing the district. Matthew Tomlins, the owner of the Fallbrook Hotel was made Collector for the District. In November 1891 the bonds were passed to finance the purchase of water from the Temecula and Pauba Land Company.

The boundary of the Fallbrook Irrigation District on the north did not reach the Temecula River (today's Santa Margarita); on the east it went almost to today's Live Oak Park. On the south the boundary included the San Luis Rey River; and on the west it took in enough of the Santa Margarita River to reach the Temecula River. It was from the Temecula that the District expected to obtain its water supply.

The District levied an assessment on property owners within the boundaries. When some did not pay because they were protesting against the Irrigation District, their lands were put on a delinquent tax list, and Tomlin bought the lands for the amount of the delinquency.

When the San Diego Board of Supervisors held public hearings on the Fallbrook Irrigation District, they heard objections from 13 property owners who wanted their lands excluded from the District. The Palomares land comprised one third of the whole district, and it had its own water source running through it, the San Luis Rey River. After their land had been sold for taxes because they did not pay the assessment, Henry Abila, agent for all of Lugarda Palomares' children, filed suit against the Fallbrook Irrigation District. Life went on while Abila's suit made its way through the courts. Francisco Palomares came of age and his signature joined Abila's on the legal documents. Porfirio Palomares moved to Fallbrook to work with his brother-in-law. When the Federal Court Judge declared California's water law and its irrigation districts to be unconstitutional, all California was shocked. Newspapers throughout the State featured Fallbrook's water case and even the Howard Law Review commented.

Fallbrook Irrigation District appealed to the Supreme Court, which in 1896 reversed the decision, but California tightened its irrigation law. Fallbrook Irrigation District's actions were reexamined, irregularities were found and it was declared void. The Palomares family still owned their land, as did 13 other Fallbrook residents.

In 1903 William Gird purchased the southern half of the Palomares Ranch, approximately 2,200 acres. J.A. Henry and family of Lincoln, NH in 1911 purchased the northern half of the Palomares Ranch including the house. The Palomares family no longer owned any of the original Monserate Land Grant.

Some of the more recent owners of the Palomares property were J.W. McCormac, 1924; Clarence Story, 1954; Victor Hanson, 1964; and today Fallbrook Land Conservancy.

Go To:

Fallbrook Historical Society
Fallbrook, CA Area Information: History
Elizabeth Yamaguchi's Writings On Fallbrook History

Copyright © 1998-1999 by Fallbrook Historical Society
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to the Fallbrook Historical Society at this source:
Comments and feedback: Don and Mary Rivers
Last update: 23 January 1999.