Time Jockey’ William Wolfskill

by Joe Castillo

by Joe Castillo
January 9, 2013 • 462 views

Rancho Wolfskill …. In 1865, William Wolfskill and Leonard Rose each purchased subdivided parts of Rancho Santa Anita, with Wolfskill acquiring over 11,000 acres of the prime acreage for $20,000…. Wolfskill was from Kentucky and arrived in Mexico California in 1831. He was a horticulturist, who developed the first commercial grape in California, and in 1856 was deemed to have the best vineyard in the state. In 1862, Wolfskill owned two-thirds of all orange trees in California…. With his purchase of Rancho Santa Anita, Wolfskill and his expertise were seen as a perfect match to make the rancho prosperous again. But one year later, Wolfskill took ill and his life was cut short. In that short year, he only had time to do one thing, plant Eucalyptus trees, which still exists today on his Santa Anita property, especially the Los Angeles County Arboretum…. Wolfskill’s son, Louis Wolfskill, took over ownership of Rancho Santa Anita and soon the increase of American business turned the rancho into valuable property. The price of land continued to escalate throughout Southern California, and Louis began to sell off parcels of Rancho Santa Anita in order to increase his profits…. Alfred Chapman purchased 1,700 acres on the west boundary for $19,800, nearly the same price his father paid Hugo Reid for over 11,000 acres only 3 years before. Chapman’s property would later be named Chapman Woods, as it is still called today…. Louis Wolfskill offered the majority of his property, especially around the Reid homestead and lake, for sale. In 1870, Rancho Santa Anita was offered for sale at $9.00 an acre, by 1872 it had increased to $10.50 an acre. Finally, a Los Angeles merchant, Harris Newmark, purchased the entire rancho for less than $10 per acre…. Newmark had learned of a proposal to build a railroad adjacent to Rancho Santa Anita and sensed an increase in value of his recent investment. With no intention of developing the rancho, Newmark held on to the property, hoping eventually to turn a hefty profit with a big sale. Enter E.J. ‘Lucky’ Baldwin, who after some shrewd negotiating by Newmark, purchased Rancho Santa Anita for $25 an acre, a 150% increase in what he paid just a few years earlier… Naming the Gabrieleno’s  …. Mission San Gabriel Archangel was named by the Spanish missionaries after the Archangel Gabriel, the angel who could foretell the future. The indigenous people who lived in the San Gabriel Valley were known as the ‘Kizh’ or people of the river. The Spanish renamed them to the Gabrielenos, based on the named of the mission they were to help build. This was a common practice by the Spanish, who named the Gabrieleno neighboring tribes to the South after Mission San Juan Capistrano (Juaneno) and Mission San Luis Rey (Luiseno)…. Other neighboring tribes used their native names as no missions were built within their boundaries. To the east were the Mojaves, and to the North, the Chumash, the most advanced people in Southern California. The Chumash, who may have been in California up to 4,000 years prior to the arrival of the Gabrieleno’s, were master canoe builders and taught their trade to the Gabrieleno’s…. This led to the exploration and settlement of the Channel Islands by the Gabrieleno’s, as well as developing their fishing expertise. The Gabrieleno’s began to grow and their economy expanded as a result of increased trade with other Southern California tribes, and in time the Gabrieleno’s became the 2nd wealthiest people, after the Chumash, in all California….

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