Patterns on the Land, an exhibit of faithful reproductions of rare maps from the museum’s Research Library and Archives collection, was first on display at Ventura City Hall in May 2019, followed by the Agriculture Museum in Santa Paula in February 2020. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing many of the maps featured in Patterns on the Land and the stories they tell.

This week we will explore three Plat Maps for Ventura County spanning 1860 to 1867. You might find yourself wondering what a plat map is. Simply put, a plat map is a map, drawn to scale, showing the divisions of a piece of land.

Map 7: Rancho Cañada de San Miguelito plat map, 1860, 19 “x 15”

These three plat maps represent a process overseen by the Surveyor General of the United States, following California statehood (1850), that produced the California Land Act of 1851—which established a three-member Public Land Commission to determine the validity of prior Spanish and Mexican land grants. This process placed the burden on landholders to prove their title. A total of 813 claims came before the Commission, and many cases resulted in protracted litigation. The expense of long court battles required many land holders to sell portions of their property to pay for legal services. A total of 604 claims were eventually confirmed, but some cases were litigated even into the 1940s. In some cases, the original grantee had died before ownership was confirmed; such is the case of Ramon Rodriguez, original grantee of Cañada de San Miguelito (now sometimes known as “Taylor Ranch”), who was murdered on the Rincon while pursuing a thief. He wife, Juana F. de Rodriguez, and their heirs finally received patent (confirmation) to the land in June 1871. Each of these maps was hand drawn on a very fine grade of linen.

Explore the entire Patterns on the Land virtual exhibit here.

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