Rancho La Brea and The Tar Pits

Much of California was already claimed by Mexican citizens before the state joined the US—Los Angeles included and Rancho La Brea of particular note. Rancho La Brea was named after the natural asphalt that occurred that bubbled to the surface on the land. The 4,439-acres of land was granted by the Mexican government to Antonio Jose Rocha and Nemisio Dominguez in 1828.

With the cessation of California from Mexico, to the United States was a challenge to the Rocha’s land ownership as well as many other Mexican citizens. While the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo guaranteed the previous land grants would be honored, holders had to assert their ownership. Antonio José Rocha, José Jorge Rocha, and Josefa de la Merced de Jordan filed their claim with the Public Land Commission in 1852. Yet, in 1860, the claim was rejected. With Henry Hancock, a lawyer and surveyor, the Rochas fought to maintain their claim. Though they eventually won the case and claim #CACAAA-085077 was patented to “A. J. Rocha et al.” in 1873, the legal expenses left the family broke. Hancock purchased several Mexican grants during this time for $2 or $3 per acre. He purchased Rancho La Brea and began commercially developing the land for the tar.

Today, this former claim comprises the Wilshire Miracle Mile, Hollywood, parts of West Hollywood, and the La Brea Tar Pits. While Hancock Park commemorates Henry’s son, who donated 23 acres to Los Angeles for a park, there is little to remember the Rochas.

Related Land Patents

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Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits

Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits

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