News of the San Gabriel Valley since 1966.

TIME JOCKEY San Marino Ranch

By Joe Castillo

Honored Owners ….San Marino Ranch, today home to the Huntington Library, was owned by a number of the San Gabriel Valley’s most honored families and persons. In the days of the ranchos, before 1850 when California became a state, single families owned a vast majority of the open land in Southern California. One of the first men to recognize this fact was ‘Don Benito’ Benjamin Davis Wilson, who relocated here from New Mexico in 1846. Married to a Californio with two small children, Wilson sought to invest in land in this area and capitalize on his opportunity. Wilson was respected by the settlers in the area for his ability to speak both English and Spanish. He was elected the second mayor of City of Los Angeles in 1851. It was during this era when Los Angeles became a wild and violent town caused when frustrated miners in Northern California moved to the South, bringing their uncontrollable actions with them. Wilson’s first wife died of an illness and he remarried American-born Margaret Hereford, and moved his family of five to a tract of land called Huerta de Cuati. Once owned by the San Gabriel Mission, the land was rich in crops and vineyards and included a large lake which Wilson renamed Lake Vineyard. In 1867, Wilson’s eldest daughter married James DeBarth Shorb, an emigrant from Maryland. When Wilson was elected to the California State Senate, Shorb relocated to his father-in-law’s ranch at Lake Vineyard. Shorb ran Wilson’s business while Wilson was in Sacramento and Washington D.C. Eventually, Wilson left Shorb in charge of his business operations and when Wilson died in 1878, the entire operation became Shorbs’ to manage and run. Shorb bought a large home and christened it San Marino after his family’s plantation in Maryland.  He and his family continued to run the ranch but many of his business ventures lost money and Shorb began to fall into debt. Shorbs’ health was also failing and he was ordered to get more rest. At this same time, Shorb’s sister-in-law married George S. Patton, Sr., a lawyer in Los Angeles. As Patton’s health was failing, he and his family decided to also move into the Wilson/Shorb house. After Shorb’s death, his estate was left with a large debt and the land was used as personal collateral to pay it off. Patton was appointed to manage the property with any revenue used to pay off the large debt. This included revenue from Shorbs’ Alhambra Tract and the San Gabriel Wine Company. Farmer and Merchants Bank became a lien holder on the property and when the case was finally settled in court, Farmer and Merchants became the owner with Patton staying on to manage the business side of the operations. When Henry Huntington purchased the property from the Bank, Patton wrote a detailed account of what was needed at the ranch. Huntington was so impressed that he named Patton general manager of his property. Huntington built his mansion on the property in 1911, and in 1927 Patton died while living at Lake Vineyard. Wilson, Shorb, Patton and Huntington were all instrumental in the growth of Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, and the San Marino Ranch was their humble home at one time….

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