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Before the arrival of the Spanish the area that was to become Rancho Nacimiento was divided between Native Americans of the Chumash Tribe to the south and members of the Cholaam subdivision of the Salinian Tribe to the north.1 Rancho Nacimiento owes its name to the river that runs through it. The Nacimiento River, however, got its name through sort of a misunderstanding. In 1769, the expedition led by Gaspar de Portolá2 camped next to the river. They assumed they were close to the river’s birth, or nacimiento. Later travelers, such as the Juan Bautista De Anza expedition of 1774 thought that the river had been named after the Christian Nativity, another meaning of nacimiento.3
Like Rancho San Juan, the site of Rancho Nacimiento was part of the extensive holdings of Mission San Miguel. Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1822. After Mexico secularized the missions in 1833, Mission San Miguel was confiscated by decree. The missionary was discharged and a salaried administrator was placed in control.4 In 1839, a rancher named Juan Antonio Espinosa submitted a petition to be granted the “land known by the name of Nacimiento” and was apparently successful. What happened to Espinosa is unknown, because Nacimiento was one of the ranchos granted to the Christianized Indians of Mission San Miguel in 1844 during the term of Governor Manuel Micheltorena. These grants were later rejected by the U S Land Commission.5
After the Bear Flag Revolt and the capture of Monterey by American forces in 1846, Major John C Frémont led a battalion south from Monterey into the Salinas Valley.“At Rancho Nacimiento Fremont’s force engaged in a running gun battle with a band of Californios. With little other opposition, Fremont quickly took control of the central coast and briefly occupied Mission San Luis Obispo before moving his troops south to Los Angeles.”6
By September of 1868, Robert G Flint was established on the Nacimiento River. At that time, three Americans passed through on their way south from Watsonville, a town 100 miles to the north of San Miguel, near Monterey Bay. Soon after they reached San Luis Obispo, it was learned that the men had stolen horses in Watsonville, and had committed larceny at the house of Ferdinand Frankenheim and Robert G Flint.7
A posse was assembled to pursue the thieves, James Southerland, Benjamin Harris, and Charles Rolette. During the chase, Southerland fatally shot posse member Bonifacio Manchego. The outlaws were captured and returned to San Luis Obispo, where the Grand Jury was in session. Each of the outlaws got four years in state prison. Southerland got an additional sixteen years for second-degree murder.8
I have no indication that Robert G Flint Jr ever actually lived at Rancho Nacimiento. All the letters I have from him while he lived in the area are datelined some variant of “Rancho San Juan”. However,“. . . he built the property’s original ranch house on a mesa above the east bank of the [Nacimiento] river.” 9But this resource says the buildings were built in the 1870s. We can only assume that in 1868 there was some sort of house belonging to Robert Flint where Ferdinand Frankenheim dwelt. Frankenheim seems to have been a shady character who had arrived in San Luis Obispo County some time before September 1868. He was a German Jew who had been living in England, where he had undergone bankruptcy as a diamond merchant in 186410. He had formed some sort of partnership with Robert Flint; perhaps he was tasked with managing Rancho Nacimiento. The Partnership of Flint and Frankenheim was dissolved “by mutual consent” two months later, in November.11 By 1875 Frankenheim was back in England, where he died in 190312.
Stanley (1976), p 39.Nacimiento Ranch House.
No elaboration of the nature of the “larceny” that occurred in September 1868 has been found.
The northern part of Rancho Nacimiento was in Monterey County, the southern in San Luis Obispo Co.13 The Salinas and San Antonio Rivers formed part of the boundary of the Nacimiento Rancho, and the Nacimiento River ran through it.14“The Nacimiento Ranch was one of the most beautiful ranches in the world up until the time when the United States government took it over in preparation for World War II and made it into a military training installation — the present Camp Roberts. This great spread had everything needed for the raising of grain and cattle; fertile, rolling hills on either side of the ever-flowing Nacimiento River, extensive grazing lands farther to the west, and ample water for irrigation.“The ranch house and headquarters we on the east side of the river on a beautiful, oak-covered plain. . . .” 15“Favorable aspects of ‘the Nacimiento’ were: a fine stand of timber, a compactness of the land and an abundance of water, which was provided by three fine streams.”16
The Nacimiento’s far-reaching acres included mountains and valleys, open cattle range, hillsides of California oak, and cultivated plains.17
In 1871 Robert G. Flint paid $3,375 in gold coin to William Pinkerton for land in San Luis Obispo County that was to be part of Rancho Nacimiento.18 Besides a ranch house, Flint also built a stable, a barn, corrals, storerooms, a granary, and a rodeo ground.19
In 1873 Flint, together with Ferdinand Frankenheim and William McGuire applied for a patent for a half-section plus three quarter-sections of land, or a total of 800 acres, in Township O24S, Range O11E, Monterey Co, CA.20 This property was certainly an addition to the northern part of Flint’s Rancho Nacimiento. In 1870 Robert, along with C D P Jones, and W L, C D and H B Morehouse had been summoned to San Francisco, to defend their claim to three-quarters of a section of nearby land in Township 024S, Range 012E, which the State of California averred was unjust and illegal.21
On 12 Jun 1885, less that 5 months before Robert’s death, the California Governor signed a patent for 320 acres for Robert G Flint, also in Monterey Co.22
The following may have been during the time of George and R G Flint III:"Before the end of the century, things had quieted down in the San Miguel area. Seldom was there a major crime. However, the local court was the scene of the trial of Jesse Contraras, a vaquero on the Nacimiento Ranch who was accused and convicted of cattle stealing. The horns and hide with a brand on it were found near Jesse's cabin in the woods south of the ranch house. Jesse only wanted to feed his family and probably thought he was entitled to a steer once in a while. But the cattle barons thought differetly, and Jesse was sent to San Quentin."23
Rancho Nacimiento straddled el Camino Real, “the Royal Road”, the trail that connected the chain of missions established by the Franciscan fathers in early Spanish California. The exact route of the road was often changed as portions became too worn or muddy for easy passage. As noted under “The Ranching and Later Careers of Robert’s sons”, in later times there was considerable disagreement regarding the propriety of placing gates across this road to control the ranch’s cattle. The debate was not resolved until after the ranch had passed out of Flint hands.“The matter of the location of the road from San Miguel to the Nacimiento river, across the Flint ranch, which has for nearly a year past been the subject of much personal controversy and some litigation, has at last reached a settlement. The right of way is granted to the county nearly straight across the ranch from Woodmansee’s line, substantially on the route designated by Mr. Flint, senior, before his death. The crossing of the Nacimiento, however, will be carried a little further down stream in order to reach a point with a substantial gravel bottom. This road will require some grading and a number of small bridges, but it ought to develop into a good road.”24
2 The Portolá Expedition was the first land exploration of what is today the state of California. The Spanish were already established in Baja California, but they were becoming nervous about Russian and British activities to the north and wanted to stake their claim.
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4 Ohles (1997), p 13. Contact me?
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9 CCMH (2005), p 13; though this source erroneously attributes these structures to Robert's son, George Flint, who didn't inherit the ranch until 1887.
10 The Solicitors' Journal and Reporter, v 8, p 929, @ Google Books.
11 San Luis Obispo Pioneer, v 1, n 48, 28 Nov 1868.
12 JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) [database online]. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: West London Synagogue of British Jews, Register of Burials.
13 1902 map of Rancho Nacimiento.
14 Ohles (1997), p 127.
15 Report of a board appointed under an act of Congress in 1901, during the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt; quoted in Ohles (1997), p 132–133.
16 Stanley (1976), p 38.
17 CCMH (2005), p 16.
18 Ohles (1997), p 127.
19 CCMH (2005), p 13; though this source erroneously attributes these structures to Robert's son, George Flint, who didn't inherit the ranch until 1887.
20 Land Records (ws).
21 San Luis Obispo Democratic Standard, 30 Aug 1870.
22 The Record Union (Sacramento, CA) 13 Jun 1885, p 2, c 1: "Land Patents Issued".
23 Stanley (1967), p 130–131.
24 Paso Robles Record, 7 Mar 1896, quoted in Ohles (1997), p 130–131.