The Journal of San Diego History
Fall 1995, Volume 41, Number 4
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

by Iris H. W. Engstrand and Mary F. Ward

Images from the Article

The Guajome Ranch House remains today as one of California’s best examples of Anglo-Hispanic domestic architecture still intact. Built on an original Mexican land grant located in San Diego County, it lies within a rural area three miles northwest of Vista and six miles east of Oceanside. The structure, located on North Santa Fe Avenue is somewhat hidden from view, with the front facade facing toward a meadow. The undeveloped lands nearby have a rolling terrain and are generally limited in plant growth and trees. The eye catches formerly cultivated fields, various decorative plants clustered about the ranch house, an outcropping of rock, and a small pond. Rabbits and squirrels dart about and several species of birds inhabit the area.

The name Guajome comes from the Luiseño word “wakhavumi” which translated means frog pond.1 The region was first occupied by the Luiseño Indians, so called by the Spaniards because of their proximity to Mission San Luis Rey. The aboriginal Luiseños were gatherers and hunters; they harvested wild seeds and nuts (principally their staple, the acorn), hunted small game and reptiles, caught insects and supplemented their food supply with sea life taken from the Pacific Ocean and adjacent tidal lagoons. As in most of the inhabited area of aboriginal California, the Luisenos lived in a basic socio-political unit called by the Spaniards a ranchería, The rancheria was not an extended area, but was simply the village and its immediate environs — of which there were perhaps as many as thirty in Luiseño territory. Archaeological surveys in the vicinity of the adobe show the presence of five Indian sites.2

Most of the San Luis Rey Valley, as well as the land which would become Rancho Guajome, was utilized by the Franciscan padres for grazing of major and minor livestock and growing crops. Indian rancherías associated with the mission were scattered throughout the valley and extended inland to the headwaters of the San Luis Rey river. Mission San Luis Rey De Francia, the eighteenth mission founded June 13, 1798, by Father Fermi n Francisco de Lasuen just east of present day Oceanside, was built on a grand scale. It soon grew to be the largest mission with a peak population of nearly 3,000 during the 1820s. Its livestock count reached over 50,000 head divided almost equally between cattle and sheep. The vast mission lands included the ranchos of San Juan, Santa Margarita, San Jacinto, and Las Flores, and the asistencia of San Antonio de Pala.3

In 1822, Mexico gained independence from Spain. Jose Maria Echeandia, Mexican Governor of California, issued a decree July 25, 1826, which initiated secularization of the California missions. Because Indians failed to leave the mission, Echeandía implemented another secularization plan on January 6, 1831, which did not take effect, but left the Indians with mixed signals as the word spread that they would soon be free to do as they pleased. While the padres continued to administer the missions, conditions at San Luis Rey deteriorated rapidly. Secularization became official under Governor Jose Figueroa in August 1834 and by 1836, the first Mexican land grant was carved from the area generally considered to be under San Luis Rey’s control.4

Governor Pio Pico gave Rancho Guajome to Luiseño brothers Andrés and José Manuel, former neophytes at Mission San Luis Rey, on July 19, 1845.5 Soon after, the brothers sold the 2,219.4 acre (one-half league) rancho to Abel Stearns, a wealthy Los Angeles rancher and merchant, for $550.6 After California’s admission to statehood, the Land Claims Commission decreed that certain confiscation and sales of mission land had been illegal. Abel Stearns appealed the decision and won. In the meantime “a petition for approval of the grant was filed on behalf of Andrés and the heirs of José Manuel. By this time, ownership had passed from their hands, but title was belatedly confirmed to them in August, 1858.”7

In 1851 Abel Stearns, called “El Rico,” gave Rancho Guajome as a wedding present to his sister-in-law Ysidora Bandini, who had lived with the Stearns family and run their household for several years.8 Ysidora’s husband Cave Couts received a patent for Guajome in 1872.9 Neither the circumstances nor settlements of the claims of these parties is clear, which may in part be attributed to the loss of some of the Land Commission documents in the 1906 San Francisco fire. After 122 years of ownership by the Couts family, Rancho Guajome was acquired by San Diego County in 1973 through condemnation proceedings.10 The court ordered $1,021,840 payment to Earl Richardson, the last resident, for title to the ranch house and 165 acres of the original grant.11

Guajome Ranch House, a focal point for San Diego County’s Guajome Regional Park, was surveyed November 1936 by the Historic American Building Survey (HABS), listed as California State Landmark No. 940, and, for its exceptional value to the nation’s history, was designated on April 15, 1970, as a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.

The Owners of Rancho Guajome

Cave Johnson Couts was born at his family’s ancestral home near Springfield, Tennessee, on November 11, 1821. Ruins of the old farm house and the family burial plot close by, established by his grandfather circa 1790, still remain in the possession of Couts’ descendants.12 The third of twelve children born to William and Nancy Johnson Couts, Cave attended schools in Springfield, Tennessee, and Hollowell Preparatory School in Alexandria, Virginia; then received an appointment to West Point in May 1838, arranged by his uncle Cave Johnson through James K. Polk.13

Young Couts was graduated from West Point in 1843, commissioned Brevet Second Lieutenant in the Regiment of Mounted Rifles, and was assigned to frontier forts prior to the Mexican War. Lt. Cave Couts arrived in California in 1849 with an expedition sent out from Monterrey, Mexico, to reinforce troops occupying California. Couts kept a day-by-day account of the six- months march to California. His diary, safeguarded in the Huntington Library Archives, serves as an excellent resource for military historians.14

In May 1849, Lt. Couts reported to Los Angeles, then to San Luis Rey with instructions to prepare the old mission building for military quarters. After a month’s duty there, Cave was ordered to San Diego to act as military escort for the American-Mexican Boundary Commission.15 While awaiting the survey parties in San Diego, Couts met his future father-in-law Juan Bandini, distinguished social and political leader of San Diego.16 On September 3, 1849, Lt. Couts wrote in his Journal: “I have been living in the house of Don Juan Bandini since we came to San Diego and can never forget the unbounded kindness of his wife Dona Refugia and Señorita Ysidora, Dolores, Chata.”17

In the final months of 1849, Lt. Couts commanded the escort for the boundary survey team from San Diego to the Colorado River. He established Camp Calhoun at the mouth of the Gila River as a base, and founded Camp Salvation near Calexico to assist the weary immigrants enroute to California.18

Couts began a long career of serving California when on August 1, 1849, he was elected a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention called by the military governor, Brigadier General Bennet Riley. Early in 1850, the San Diego Ayuntamiento (Town Council) commissioned Couts to draw the first subdivision map of the Pueblo lands of San Diego, thereby opening the way for their legal sale. Couts gave the town’s streets their present historic names.19

The young Easterner began investing in livestock with Juan Bandini and buying land in and around San Diego. In the city’s first tax list in 1850, “Teniente Cave J. Couts” was assessed $11,740 for property located at La Playa, Old Town and Soledad.20

But it would be Couts’ marriage to Bandini’s daughter that would substantially enlarge his property holdings and bring him prosperity as a Southern California ranchero. Cave Johnson Couts and Ysidora Bandini were wed April 5, 1851, in Old Town San Diego amid a fiesta that lasted a week.21 Among the wedding gifts to the bride was the 2,219.4 acre tract of land known as Rancho Guajome presented by her sister Arcadia’s husband Abel Stearns.22 Within two years Cave began construction of his residence at the ranch. Cave and Ysidora resided in Old Town after their marriage in 1851 until Cave moved Ysidora and their two San Diego born children to Guajome in 1853. Eight more children were born at the ranch.23

On October 9, 1851, Couts resigned from the Army, but was pressed back into service with a volunteer company in December. Assigned the rank of Captain, Couts was second in command against a rebellion led by Antonio Garra, an ex-neophyte of San Luis Rey Mission who pledged to destroy all white settlers along the coast in protest over the demand by California officials for payment of taxes by Christianized Indians. Couts was Judge-Advocate at the trial which condemned Garra to death.24 Soon after, Couts received an appointment as Colonel and Aide-de-Camp on the staff of California’s Governor John Bigler, who was inaugurated January 8, 1852.25

For many years Cave Couts continued to serve his community in a number of official positions. He was a member of San Diego’s first Grand Jury, assigned to the Board of Supervisors six times, appointed County Judge presiding over the Probate Court, one of the first chosen Judges of the Plains, and was elected to the office of Justice of the Peace, a role he held off and on for twenty years. As sub-agent for the Indians of San Diego County, Cave Couts frequently displayed a sympathetic and paternal attitude toward his wards.26

On the other hand, Guajome’s cordial host was also a man with a violent temper who did not hesitate to take the law into his own hands if he felt himself wronged. Twice in 1855 he received indictments from the San Diego County Grand Jury on charges of whipping two Indians with a rawhide reata — one of whom died as the result of his injuries. Couts later won an acquittal on grounds that one of the jurors was not an American citizen. On February 6, 1865, he shot and killed Juan Mendoza, former majordomo at Rancho Guajome and a Mexican revolutionary. Mendoza, who had threatened Couts’ life on several previous occasions, came upon his ex-employer in Old Town’s plaza. He apparently tried to avoid a conflict, but Couts fired twice and Mendoza fell dead in his tracks. Judge Benjamin Hayes, serving as counsel for Couts, pointed out that the murdered victim was known to be a robber and troublemaker and his client had merely acted in self defense. Couts secured another acquittal.27

Couts’ early investment in livestock paid him huge profits in his early years as a ranchero. The “cattle boom,” which began in 1849 as a result of the Gold Rush and the forty-niners’ enormous demand for beef, continued for seven years before several factors caused its abrupt end. Large imports of New Mexico sheep and Eastern cattle in 1857 brought down the market for local cattle. At the same time, a two-year drought plagued Southern California, causing the cattle men to dump their animals on the market rather than allow their stock to die for lack of pasturage. Many owners of the large ranchos turned to slaughtering their cattle for hides, tallow and dried beef, a practice initiated during the Spanish and Mexican eras.28 Cattle thieves and the “no fence” law compounded the problems. A legal “fence” had been defined by the California State Legislature in 1851 and rancheros were liable for damages caused by their herds to enclosed fields.29 A later law in 1872, required the rancheros to enclose their herds altogether.30

Day to day life at Rancho Guajome never lacked excitement. This was a certainty guaranteed by the nine lively Couts children. The first child, Abel Stearns Couts, had died in 1855 before reaching his fourth birthday. By this time, however, María Antonía Arcadia had been born in San Diego, and William Bandini (Guillermo Antonio) at Rancho Guajome. These were followed by Cave Jr., or Cuevas as he was sometimes called. Nancy Dolores (Ana Venancia), Ysidora Forster, Elena Francisca (Helen), Robert Lee (Roberto), John Forster (Juan), and María Carolina (Caroline).31 Judge Benjamin Hayes,32 a frequent visitor to Guajome with his son Chauncey,33 found the Couts children “full of life and interest.” He recalled that one evening:

Poor Cuevas, the youngest son, whom [Couts] loves best, was “in Coventry” at our arrival. The father had just sent him to sit in the corner, for quarreling with little Nancy. Father and son both forgot the matter when Chauncey delivered him the marbles of a dozen colors brought from Los Angeles. Soon Billy and the sweet María Antonia joined Cuevas and Chauncey and I left them to their amusement under the porch.34

General prosperity for the Southern California cattle ranchers ended in 1861. During the winter of 1862, a deluge of rain struck the area. The flooding paralyzed business, drowned thousands of cattle, and possibly destroyed a “a fourth of the State’s taxable wealth.”35 The resultant crop of grass so greatly increased the size and fatness of herds they could not be absorbed on the “glutted” market. Two years of drought followed causing the cattle’s worth to be “determined solely on the value of the hides.”36 An epidemic of smallpox in the San Luis Rey Valley in 1862 added yet another dimension to the tragic times. Cave Couts posted a sentinel to prevent anyone from approaching Rancho Guajome and his family was spared from the dreaded disease.37

Couts met the financial setbacks of these years by selling a portion of his San Diego property. His assessments for one year showed that the value of his holdings dropped more than $8,000.38 He “avoided a complete financial catastrophe during the lean years by turning to intensive agriculture, rather than extensive. To his cattle and horses he added a large band of sheep.” And these industries, he “supplemented with orange groves and vineyards.”39 Couts is remembered for his early recognition of the natural agricultural and horticultural advantages of the region. He requested seed from the United States Patent Office in 1854 and was one of the first to plant orange trees.40 Couts’ vast orchards included bearing varieties of “apple, peach, almond, pear, quince, fig, lemon, granade (pomegranate) black walnut, apricot, mullberry, plum, olive and persimmon,” as well as the tropical fruits of “Chicomoya, Marengo and the Avocado.”41 He first developed an adequate supply of water for his crops through a carefully engineered irrigation system by “converting Guajome’s ‘frog pond’ into a network of basins and streams of running water.”42

Through diversification of his various industries, Couts recovered his losses of earlier years and began to acquire vast acreage in the County for investment and grazing land for his prize Spanish Merino sheep. Nevertheless, as the drought continued into the 1870s and the new fence law took effect in 1872, Cave hurried to market and sold off his remaining herds at ruinous prices in 1873.43 With the last one-third portion of San Marcos Ranch purchased in 1874, however, Couts controlled almost 20,000 acres at the time of his death.44

In his last years Cave suffered the discomfort of an aneurysm of the aorta. A final attack caused his death on June 10, 1874, at 53 years of age.45 His widow, Ysidora lived on at the ranch and managed its operations. She welcomed guests and joined in family activities. She was described by Judge Hayes as “vivacious, mild, witty, intelligent.” Despite her youthful beauty and enjoyment of attention, however, Ysidora did not like to be photographed.46 Her reputation as a cordial hostess was known throughout the region, but in one case it was not appreciated. She had entertained Helen Hunt Jackson, author of Ramona, at the ranch in the early 1880s, but Helen’s visit ended abruptly when Doña Ysidora and Helen quarreled. The disparity in their ethnic backgrounds apparently made it impossible for the two women to be philosophically compatible.47 The influence of Rancho Guajome life on Jackson’s novel is still a matter of speculation.

Ysidora died peacefully, surrounded by her children, on May 24, 1897.48 Local archives abound with records and information on the Couts family and their deeds, both personal and public. Besides San Diego histories, published and in manuscript form, both contemporary and modern writers provide data on every facet of life at Rancho Guajome. As early as 1899, the famous photographer and authority on American southwest history, Adam Clark Vroman remarked that Rancho Guajome was:

undoubtedly the finest specimen of the old Spanish times of California, it would be a reasonably good investment for the town of Oceanside or the State to own it and keep in repair for the attraction it would have for the thousands of tourists who are to come each year to Southern California. Let there be at least one of these old Spanish homes preserved for those who follow us. We do not put the value upon them now that will be twenty, forty, or sixty years hence, but then it will be too late to save them.49

Construction History of Guajome Ranch House

According to the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, “the Guajome Ranch House, erected in 1852-53, is the finest extant example in the United States of the traditional Spanish-Mexican one-story adobe hacienda with an inner and outer courtyard plan.”50 The floorplan followed a combination of American Colonial precedent and Hispanic traditional architecture. As stated in California Architecture, “Adobe buildings did not become extinct with statehood. Particularly in the south, where timber was scarce, adobe continued as a preferred material for non-urban dwellings well into the 1850s.”51 For building materials, adobe replaced colonial stone and the framing, when available, was from coastal redwood. Some of the features that shared a common Anglo-Hispanic tradition included the use of local materials, a detached kitchen, rooms side-by-side flanking a central hall or alternatively a breezeway which connected the rooms, the carriage gateway/entrance, and a simple box-like beginning.52

Walter Colton, the first American alcalde at Monterey wrote in 1846, that “Nearly all the houses in Monterey are of one story with a corridor. The walls are built of adobes, or sun-baked brick, with tiled roofs. The centre is occupied by a large hall, to which the dining-room and sleeping apartments seem mere appurtenances ….It has a wood floor, and springs nightly to the step of those who are often greeted in the whirl of their amusements by the risen sun.”53 The features of Rancho Guajome incorporated from an American Colonial tradition included a finished fireplace,54 milled doors and windows of American sash design, continuous house-barn-sheds, and a south orientation to protect from cold winter winds.55 This eclectic mixture of architectural features common to the 1850s and 1860s chronicled the blended traditions of California’s rancho life with remarkable continuity. Rancho Guajome, as restored to its interpretive period of 1852-1897, stands as an authentic representation of the two cultures—Hispanic and American. The arched stucco façade of the 1920s is not a true feature of Spanish tradition. It was an American attempt to romanticize the Spanish Mission period and had no application to residential dwellings. It was popularized during the 1920s by Charles Fletcher Lummis, editor of the promotional magazine Land of Sunshine.”56

It is reasonable to believe that Cave Couts began work on his adobe ranch house about 1852,57 and that he utilized local Indian labor. He probably applied procedures learned by the Indians from the original mission craftsmen, because some would still have been alive to supervise the ranch house construction in 1852. In accordance with the policy concerning Indians, employment of the natives was encouraged so that they might provide for the maintenance of their families. When Couts assumed the position of Indian sub-agent, he expressed his regard for them. He wrote to his area supervisor:

These Indians are probably more advanced than any pertaining to your superintendency, and require but little attention with proper management. They understand the cultivation of the soil and are the dependents of our rancherías for vaqueros. They live comfortably in rancheros of tule (some few in adobas) on what they gather from their wheat and barley fields, gardens, acorns and cattle stealing.58

The Luiseños were described in 1852 as being “the most sprightly, skillful and handy of the Southern California Indians.”59

In Cave Couts’ personal papers, his “Journal” entry states: “Guajome established 24 (unreadable) 1853.”60 Hubert Howe Bancroft substantiated the date of Guajome’s founding as “24 March 1853.”61 The earliest mention of a dwelling at Rancho Guajome is found in the diary of Cave J. Couts, when he recorded on September 3, that he “moved his wife and children to the ranch in 1853.”62

It is known through contemporary accounts that Couts operated a store on Rancho Guajome, stocked with provisions for his employees and neighbors.63 His 1853 “shop account” book in the Couts Collection at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, firmly establishes the store’s existence by that year. A ledger entry for 1853-54 also lists building materials Couts purchased for Rancho Guajome.64 In 1854, the San Diego Tax Collector assessed Cave J. Couts, $4,500 for Guajome, $1,000 for land, and $3,500 on improvements. During the following year, the assessment went up on ranch improvements to $5,000.65

Couts valued Guajome at $10,000 in 1855 and recorded the fact in his account book where he also gave a partial inventory of his holdings at the ranch: “470 head cattle, 4 yoke oxen, 18 sheep, 100 hogs, corn, wheat, potatoes, onions, chili, barley, pear, 7 wagons, 3 plows, 1 carriage (one-old), 4-wheel barrows, 200 chickens, 4 ducks.”66 The tax assessment for improvements on the property peaked in 1855 at $5,000. Then the tax rolls carried the property at $4,000 until 1860, when the amount dropped to $2,000. The figure stayed at $2,000 until 1867, when the assessment came back up to $3,000, where it remained until Cave Couts died.67 These figures probably reflect the fact that times were good during the “cattle boom” years of 1849-1855 and were then followed by a market decline and two years drought.

The dimensions and configurations of the original building have been determined for this early period. By the year 1852, the residence probably included the five-room west wing and a defensive wall that incorporated the main (garden) courtyard.68 During 1853, Couts instituted a complete transformation of the Rancho grounds using some 300 Indian laborers living near the Mission San Luis Rey.69 Couts’ account books show the materials imported for use in constructing the ranch house, furnishing the finished rooms, including the kitchen, and the items used in connection with the blacksmith shop. For example, on March 21, 1853, Couts lists “7 tin plates, 8 earthen bowls, pot and hooks, oven and top, skillet and top knives, forks, and spoons, frying pan, 2 wagons, 8 mules and 6 sets of harness.” On November 15, 1853, he lists “3 pair windows, 211 ft. lumber, 2 pair hinges, 6 chairs, 300 ft lumber/hwd 129 ft redwood and 1 door.” On November 18, he recorded “2 doors, 3 padlocks.” December 5, he wrote “2 wagon loads of household furniture, and 1/2 dz skins.”70

Household members at Guajome in 1854 were numerous, In addition to Cave Couts, his wife and three children, and one or two relatives who might have been staying there, there were employees, both domestic servants and ranch hands, with their spouses and children, all living on the site.71 In May of that year, Couts began manufacturing adobe bricks. Indian artisans mixed the clay, pounded the mud into forms and dried them in the sun in preparation for use. Erection of the walls began on August 14. The walls were about half way up on August 20, when it began to rain. The downpour continued all that night and did not end until noon the next day. Couts jotted down a sad note in his journal “lost about 8,000-10,000 adobes.” No permanent damage was done, however, and construction continued.

By January 1, 1855, the main residence had reached the dimensions Couts planned in his sketch.72 No further expansion of the ranch house seems to have been made until the mid-1860s. Unstable times of ten years’ duration had followed the completion of construction in 1855.73 The collapse of the cattle boom, a two year drought broken by a flood year, and a smallpox epidemic, were some of the factors that led to the weak economy. Couts diversified his operation at Guajome during this period by developing more intensive agricultural and livestock production. Preoccupied with solvency of his operations, Couts focused his attention away from further development of the residence.

One of the more colorful events of this period was the double-wedding held at Rancho Guajome on April 16, 1863, when Couts’ brother William B. Couts, 33 wed Refugio Argüello, 21 and Capt. Alfred H. Wilcox, 39 of Colorado river fame, married her sister María Argüello, 25. The girls were the daughters of Santiago Argüello of La Punta Rancho. The wedding festivities lasted all day and all night.74

Couts had recovered his losses from the previous ten-year period and with new profits began to consider improvements and additions to the adobe in 1866.75 By October 1865, numerous letters had passed between Cave Couts and his agent E. W. Morse, in San Diego, regarding the delivery of a cooking “range,” and a search for someone to install same. Couts wrote that he would send for the “range fixer,” that he already had the “brick and lime and full directions on how to perform the operation,” and Morse was to let the “professional cooking ranger” come out to Guajome whenever he sent for him.76 Couts discovered the first installation was quite “unsatisfactory.” He wrote to Morse that “the ranger [had] put up the chimney crooked, and filled the flue with mud and mortar, with no way to clean it up,” Couts would have to do the work over again.77 Plans for the kitchen wing at Guajome were probably prepared at this time. Research conducted on the Ills French range at Guajome today has proven that it is the same one Couts installed in the 1860s.78

Further evidence of construction at Guajome is found in Couts’ correspondence to Morse on November 28, 1866, informing Morse of supplies to be picked up from the steamer and delivered to Couts’ foreman. Articles mentioned here were: “lumber, locks, hinges, etc.”79 Couts’ journal shows that school teachers were hired at Guajome. The first, Mrs. Douglas, started teaching October 20, 1866, followed by Ada Samuious, Professor Gould, Waldemar Muller, and Violet Whaley. Winifred Davidson, who visited Cave Couts, Jr. in 1936, noticed that”…in one corner [was] the old schoolroom with its many windows,…and outside a few feet south of the house, stands the quaint chapel…”80

The interior was furnished and decorated on a lavish scale-even by present-day standards. Ysidora brought with her many elegant items from her father’s house, including china, silver, and what is thought to be California’s first piano. Imported from Europe, the stately instrument stood on delicately carved legs with a cabinet of lacquered and inlaid mahogany. Couts also owned an iron safe and used it to store his valued papers and personal diaries. The master bedroom, furnished with a massive hand carved four-poster bed, was also graced by marble topped tables and washstands. Just off the bedroom, in Ysidora’s sitting room, were brocaded chairs and sofas, and a large ornamentally carved Florentine mirror made especially for her.81

Throughout the house, the walls displayed a collection of contemporary oil paintings and treasured family mementos. In the parlor a hanging chandelier brightened the room with the reflected light of its polished crystal prisms. Everywhere the house boasted of the wealth and prosperity so often associated with the halcyon days of California’s rancheros.82

The first increased tax assessment after 1855 occurred in 1867.83 At this time Couts added the chapel, kitchen wing, sheep shearing shed, bathhouse, repaired the reservoir, and further modified the residence. The chapel, constructed in 1868 of adobe brick with a stone foundation and wood shingle roof, was dedicated by Bishop Thaddeus Amat, first Catholic Bishop of California on Christmas eve in 1869. It was named the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist.84

Couts built the chapel for the convenience of his wife Ysidora, so that she would not have to travel so far to worship. In 1868, the nearby San Luis Rey Mission was in such a deteriorated state that the family traveled to either San Diego or Los Angeles for services. The Couts children and their classmates from nearby ranchos attended prayer services as long as school was conducted at Guajome. An exterior door from the schoolroom led to the chapel. In the absence of a resident priest, mass was said by any itinerant priest who might pass that way. Couts built the stone cellar below the chapel to store his supply of imported and domestic wines and “spirits,” and as a safe storage from his Indian servants who considered the place sacred.

Three marriages of record took place at the original Guajome chapel: María Antonia Couts m. Chalmers Scott on 11/19/1874, William Bandini Couts m. María Christina Estudillo on 11/10/1878,

and Elena Francisco Couts m. Parker Dear on 7/6/1881. Three children born to Robert Lee Couts and Susan Virginia Thompson Couts at Rancho Guajome were baptized in the chapel: Mañuelita Couts, b. 5/11/1883, Robert Lee Couts, b. 11/4/1884, James Thompson Couts, b. 2/21/1886.85


The structure was six years old when Historian Hubert Howe Bancroft visited Guajome in 1874. He described the chapel as follows:

On one side of the garden is the capilla or private chapel of Mrs. Couts, which we all visited in the afternoon. The building is wholly separate from every other, about 40 by 70 feet with a partition across the middle, against which in front is placed the altar, and there I saw a beautiful marble crucifix, images, pictures and flowers, almost everything being of pure white. The back part was the priests room.86

Bancroft was accompanied by his eight year old daughter, Kate, who wrote in her diary:

They have a little chapel, where they go every evening for prayers, Antonia said. The alter [sic] is all ornamented beautifully, and it has a little organ in it. I did not see any confessional closet in it though.87

The actual furnishings of Guajome Chapel circa 1890 are documented in a photo taken by Adam Clark Vroman.88

In the October 24, 1868 edition of the Daily Alta Californian, a school chum of Cave Couts, Sr. at Hollowell School in Virginia gave an excellent description of “The Guajome Hacienda.” He commented that:

the Couts residence was “emphatically” green and was situated upon the slope of a small valley, among dry and naked hills, in which are several springs and small lagoons, surrounded with willows and other indigenous trees. The building, with stableyards and corrals connected, are upon an extensive scale. The rooms—all of one-story—are built in the old Spanish style, around a double court, the outer for carriages, saddles, shops, servants’ quarters, etc., the inner for family uses, and planted with orange and lemon trees, oleanders, and festooned all around with Passion flower vine. Upon the south side is a handsome yard and garden, planted with oranges (several of the trees loaded with fruit), lemons, figs, olives, pomegranates, and various kinds of shrubbery and ornamental trees. A small orchard and vineyard adjoins this, in which I found two species of trees (both bearing) with which many pleasurable reminiscences and early home ties of my host and self are associated—black walnut and persimmon….

The article continued with the notation that the houses and outer walls were covered with tiles obtained from “the ruins” of nearby Mission San Luis Rey, and that

the red color of these, the white walls and various shades of green foliage surrounding, give a very tasty and pleasing appearance to this oasis. Yet this style of architecture is open to much criticism, notwithstanding the plea that a better proportioned and more comfortable order is to be sacrificed to the then necessity of rearing a fortification fabric. Now that this necessity has passed away, he might let in a little more sunlight and fresh air by punching some holes or making windows through the thick walls of his prison-like apartments. The proprietor has a league of land attached to this home place, with a third interest in a large rancho (the San Marco) adjoining; also has leased the Mission tract, containing some twenty leagues, poco mas o menos, claimed by Pioche, Hawes and General Howard.89

After the supplemental construction to the ranch house in 1866-67, there is no evidence of further work conducted on the building by Couts prior to his death in 1874.90

Cave J. Couts, Jr. made the next structural change at Guajome in late 1886, when he added a second story sewing room over the main portico for his bride Lily Bell Clemens.91 He also placed wood siding over exterior walls, including the chapel, following the natural trend begun in the 1850s when many adobes were sided with clapboard for protection against water erosion. Since adobe walls were susceptible to deterioration if the roofs were not continually repaired and rainwater could melt them into a formless mass of mud, Couts thought he could protect the ranch house. The original chapel suffered this kind of damage between 1905 and 1924.92 He also installed concrete walkways and added a fountain to the garden courtyard.

The widow Ysidora, who by this time was in her late sixties, lived at the rancho with Cave, Jr. and Lily Bell and their son, Cave Couts, III., called “Toots.” Couts, Jr., during this time, made frequent business trips, leaving his mother and wife alone for long periods of time. Because they had so little in common, Ysidora and Lily Bell generally kept to themselves. By this time the rest of the family had moved away, and Rancho Guajome had lost some of its lustre.93

The ten-year marriage of Couts, Jr. ended in a bitter contested divorce two months before his mother’s death in 1897. The suit over his son’s custody, actions brought by the other heirs to Ysidora’s estate and a faulty investment kept Couts Jr. in court off and on for the next several years. He kept Guajome intact by buying back his brothers’ and sisters’ interests, but he never had enough capital to refurbish or repair the buildings.

When Helen Hunt Jackson, author of Ramona, visited Rancho Guajome in the spring of 1882 in her role of “special U.S. Commissioner, to investigate conditions among the Mission Indians of Southern California,” her opinions were not always welcomed by Ysidora Couts.94 As soon as Jackson published Ramona in 1884, critics began to speculate on the true locale of the popular novel. Guajome became one of several legendary sites. And, “about 1887 a Ramona promotion, of fantastic proportion commenced in the region, with picture postcards by tens of thousands and Ramona tours…”95 Cave J. Couts brother, William B. Couts living in Oceanside in 1902, promoted himself for hire as a tour guide in a pamphlet he published titled San Luis Rey Mission and the Home of Ramona.

This mission, and the Indians found in the reservation, was the starting point for Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona. The Couts family do not claim that Guajome, their home place is the real Ramona’s home, but tourists will have it that it is for the reasons found on the last page. Laying aside the Ramona points, you will find Guajome a place laid out for a typical home, and no place like it in the state.

W. B. Couts will not take your money if you are not satisfied with your visit to the ranch. When convenient, write or telegraph the day before you come, to

W. B. Couts,Oceanside, California

The Guajome Ranch

This old home is now the home and property of Cave J. Couts, and visitors are kindly requested to call upon W. B. Couts at Oceanside, when wishing to visit the ranch.96

Adam Clark Vroman and George Wharton James, documentary photographers, visited Guajome in the 1890s.97 The Vroman and James Guajome photos pay particular attention to the garden courtyard, the carriage court, chapel and the redwood board cladding on the south side of the house.

Insolvent and in constant litigation after the 1880s, Cave J. Couts Jr. tried unsuccessfully to market Rancho Guajome to many and diverse groups which included the Guajome Fruit Colony (1894),98 the U.S. Government (1902), and the Guajome Health Club (1905).

On August 26, 1902, a Commission was appointed by the U. S. Secretary of the Interior to select a “suitable tract of land in Southern California, for the location thereon of the Warner’s Ranch Indians ‘and such other Indians as may not be provided with suitable lands elsewhere.'” In the following report, the Commission rejected the offer of Cave J. Couts, Jr. to sell Rancho Guajome to the Federal Government for this purpose.





2350.25 ACRES……………………………….$55,000


Arable, 1800 acres; now cultivated, 1420 acres; irrigable, 200 acres; now irrigated, none. Had this year 1300 acres in wheat, barley and oats; 120 acres in corn, beans, pumpkins and melons. All land not arable is good pasture—not 10 acres of waste land in the whole tract. No timber to speak of. About 20 inches of water now flowing (May 31st). All within boundaries of the ranch. Very large tile-roofed adobe house, built Spanish-fashion around a hollow court 100 feet square; adobe chapel; large frame barn; 3 frame buildings (servants’ quarters); stone reservoirs; small orchard of old orange trees; 100 acres under 5-board fence; 9-1/2 miles 3-wire fencing.





This rather famous rancho—one of the few old-style Spanish haciendas left in California, and supposed by some to be the spot described by Helen Hunt Jackson as the home of “Ramona”—lies near the Mission of San Luis Rey and about eight miles from Oceanside, its railroad point. The fine old ranch-house is in admirable repair, and merits preservation as a historic landmark. This ranch is at an average distance of about 6 miles from the seacoast, and an average altitude of less than 400 feet. It is largely unprotected from the fogs and trade-winds; and the ocean is visible from several points on it. The rainfall is light, and non-irrigated crops are in consequence uncertain. There is no irrigation, nor serious possibility of any on a scale worth mention. The locality would be entirely unsuitable for Indians born and bred in the mountains at an altitude over 7 times as great; remote from the sea, and in an arid region.99

The financial impasse which afflicted the rancher prompted Couts to approach Charles Lummis: “If the Pala lands have been set aside by the Government, as an Indian Reservation, I presume it will soon be necessary to make a survey of the exterior boundaries …should these surveys be necessary, I will thank you very much for your influence in getting the surveys awarded to me.”100

San Diego architects William Hebbard and Irving Gill, influential pioneers in the Mission Revival movement, were contracted in 1904 or 1905 by a consortium of doctors from Los Angeles and San Diego counties to provide plans for a radical remodel and expansion of the Guajome adobe for use as a spa and sanatorium. The brochure Rancho Guajome Health Co., produced in 1905, and illustrated with a Hebbard and Gill rendering for this project, remains the primary documentation of the plan. The sketch depicts a pseudo Spanish-Colonial structure of some grandeur, replete with arches, anachronistic Italian corner bell towers and Mission pediment façades. This project never progressed beyond publicity, and no actual remodeling was carried out.101 Guajome was also studied by the San Diego architect Hazel Wood Waterman sometime between 1905 and 1910. Waterman researched and recorded features of the ranch house during her preparation for the 1910 restoration of the Casa de Estudillo in Old Town San Diego, now a State Historic Park. Photos and notes pertaining to her interest in Guajome, including an American Homes and Gardens article with illustrations of Guajome, are preserved in the Waterman Collection in the San Diego History Center.102 Certain features of the garden in the Casa de Estudillo, including the present rooflines of the interior verandas, may have been adapted from Guajome by Waterman.

California writer and coastal explorer Smeaton Chase, who visited Guajome between 1910 and 1911, found the place “a particularly sad instance” of an unworthy fate:

The ruin of the Guajome seems more like the hideous decay of a murdered body than the peaceful dissolution which sheds over most ancient buildings that peculiar charm we can all recognize. Cans, bottles, and other refuse covered the floors and the broken chairs and tables of the rooms we entered; the fish pond was slimy and defiled; the fountain dry and shattered. But for a few flowers that bloomed in the dusty courtyard I could discover nothing of attraction. It was a relief to turn our backs upon the place.103

Charles Lummis, founder of the Southwest Museum, built a replica hacienda modeled on Rancho Guajome in 1916-17. The Museum’s Casa De Adobe Handbook states”…the old residence of the Couts at Guajome, in San Diego County, was the nearest to the old type to be found anywhere; in fact, it may be said that the patio of the Casa de Adobe was patterned directly after the patio of the Rancho Guajome.” Casa de Adobe benefactor Henry W. O’Melveny recalled that”…no other early home was copied.”104

A settlement from the estate of his wealthy Aunt Arcadia Bandini Stearns de Baker in 1916 enabled Cave J. Couts, Jr., then destitute, to repay his debts and refurbish the house and grounds at Guajome.105 Most of Couts’ legacy went to settle old debts, which left little means for the Guajome restoration or any additions.106

In planning his alterations, Couts was influenced by the fad which swept the Southwest for fictionalized “old California” architecture. The 1920s remodeling, conducted by Couts, bears no resemblance in plan or detail to the 1905 Hebbard & Gill plan, nor does it utilize or preserve features recorded 15 to 25 years earlier by Jackson, Vroman, James, Waterman, Lummis, and others. To the contrary, the changes created by Couts Jr. demonstrate that he acted with reference to the work of the Mission Revivalists. He removed the historic redwood cladding and original entrance portico recorded by Vroman, replacing it with superficial frame and stucco arches partly enclosed by sun porches. The two-dimensional appearance of these arches is belied by the authentic bulk of the adobe walls behind them. Couts Jr.’s fastidious approach represents in essence an “on the cheap side” effect fashionable to the moment, produced at the expense of the authentic nineteenth century Anglo-Hispanic treatments noted by historians. The cement stucco cladding, by acting as a moisture barrier, was found to have been a primary contributor to the deterioration of the original fabric of the structure.107 This cladding will have to be removed throughout to enable the preservation of the original building fabric.

The 1920s remodeling program initiated by Couts, Jr. besides a new façade, included guest apartments, bathrooms, garages, sheds, updated electrical wiring and plumbing. He rebuilt the Chapel on its original site, but added a vestry. The original configuration of the Chapel was rectangular.108 The Chapel construction materials were stucco over adobe brick, a stone foundation and cellar, and wood shingle roof. Interior walls were plaster over adobe brick. Couts, Jr. had the chapel rededicated on September 23, 1924, to the memory of his mother in a service commemorating her birth.109 Couts opened Guajome’s doors during the 1920s and settled into the image of a latter-day Ranchero. Called the “last of the Dons” by Guajome guests, he became known throughout Southern California for his genial hospitality.110

Cave Couts, Jr., second generation owner of Rancho Guajome, is a perfect example of California’s “fantasy heritage.” It was all there—a beautiful adobe ranch-house, a “visit” by Ramona, an orchard, vineyard, and cattle roaming the nearby hills. The problem? The ranch house was run down because of Couts’s serious financial problems during the settling of his parent’s estate, his personal life was in shambles because of a messy divorce and child custody suit, and his brothers and sisters were barely speaking to him because of the legal entanglements involving a division of the rancho lands.111 The answer? The pouring of mission-style arches and the re-creation of Guajome’s Hispanic heritage according to the dictates of Hollywood and the tourist industry.

With his inheritance from Aunt Arcadia Bandini Stearns de Baker, Couts could take a dilapidated ranch house and garden that had previously been littered with refuse, and a fountain that was dry and shattered, and convert them into a colorful Hispanic/Moorish mission revival tourist attraction. Writers of the period could characterize the mission style as recalling “the heroic work” of the early missionaries and predict that the style would “make California more distinguished, the more it [was] used.”112 Couts rebuilt the chapel and dedicated it to the memory of his mother, overhauled the fountain, cleaned up the garden, and attempted to recover the family possessions that had been willed to Mission San Luis Rey.

Couts basked in his refurbished reputation as “the last of the Dons” and entertained lavishly. He invited a Hollywood movie company to film “The Pride of Palomar” at the rancho and gave newspaper and magazine interviews to all who came. Unfortunately Couts could not outdo his neighbor, the celebrated Leo Carrillo, who could star in the movies made on his ranch “Los Quiotes” and could still carry on as a dapper “don.”113 The mission-style arches created a kind of false front not only for the rancho, but for Couts’ personal situation. By the 1920s, Couts was trying to keep his own finances in a solvent state and keep son Cave Couts III in sufficient funds to support a wife, baby, an automobile, and a low-paying job. His Ranchita Mine near Julian still had not paid dividends or been sold, and Couts, Jr. had become the father of two children, Belda and Earl, by his housekeeper Ida Richardson.114

In 1932, a young woman by the name of Virginia Kassler stayed at the ranch for two weeks to interview Couts in preparation of a book. The “old don,” who had just had a meeting with his bankers, lamented that “the bandits of the old days were more honest and honorable than the modern banker.” Nevertheless, Ms. Kassler was impressed. She wrote:

To the east, Palomar, San Jacinto, and San Antonio are as blue as a butterfly’s wing and the country is dotted with cattle. We pass one of the Guajomes—the frog-ponds. The bird life is vivid; the spectacular white cranes, ugly little mud-hens and many fat and appetizing ducks that will mysteriously disappear on Sunday, when the duck-season opens. The ponds are like sparkling sapphires set in green gold…

Back at the ranch, Mr. Couts was interviewing a villainous-looking halfbreed who stood cowed and humble answering in meek monosyllables to Mr. Couts’ voluble Spanish…In the corners of the beams of the portales around the patio are little pouches that look like tiny hornets’ nests, but they are moss. At sunset, as I watched the horses coming home, I saw a flight of cranes. Then suddenly there were great splashes, and they landed in a pool that I could not see because of the rushes.

Life at Guajome goes on much as it did eighty years ago. The ranch is to a large extent self-supporting; much hand-work is done, and the old methods are still used.115

The only known structural changes made to the ranch house after 1924, came in the 1940s when quarters occupied by Ida Richardson, the housekeeper and companion of Cave Couts Jr., were renovated to create a modern bathroom with pullman and wardrobe, and the kitchen in the new kitchen wing was refurnished with a new breakfast nook, updated sink, range and refrigerator.116

The activities at Rancho Guajome after 1900 were not representative of the true Anglo-Hispanic tradition of the early American period. In fact they were not exceptional in any way except as a sad commentary on a dynamic family that had run its course from the Tennessee heritage of West Point graduate Cave Johnson Couts and the proud Bandini family of Spain, Peru and San Diego through the unhappy Cave Jr. and the problems of an extended family of middle-class status. The rehabilitation attempt of the 1920s was a last gasp to regain stature and significance. On the surface, the romance returned briefly, but underneath the new façade lay only the remains of a once proud era. Today, however, Rancho Guajome represents its true Anglo/Hispanic heritage illustrating a colorful era in California’s past. The restoration showcases an adobe house of distinction well worth the visit. The history of its residents is truly a testimony to the daily life and traditions of a bygone era.



1. “Wahoma” is mentioned by Indian agent Benjamin D. Wilson as being among those Luiseño bands living in northern San Diego County. John F. Caughey, ed., The Indians of Southern California in 1852, The B. D. Wilson Report and a Selection of Contemporary Comment (San Marino, California: Huntington Library, 1952), 17.

2. Gary Fink, “The Archaeology of Guajome Regional Park,” 1979, County of San Diego, Department of Public Works. See also Raymond C. White, Luiseño Social Organization (Berkeley and Los Angeles: 1963), 122-123; and Lowell John Bean and Florence Shipek, “Luiseño” in California (volume 8 of Handbook of North American Indians), Washington, D.C., 1978, 552.

3. See Zephyrin Engelhardt, San Luis Rey Mission (San Francisco: James H. Barry Co., 1921). Captain Gaspar de Portolá made the first recorded contact with these people in July 1769, on his expedition from San Diego to Monterey.

4. The Mexican Decree of Secularization dated August 17, 1833 was implemented by Governor Figueroa on August 9, 1834.

5. Terms of the grant required the grantees to place the land under cultivation and to build a house, however, no data has been found to confirm that the Luiseños ever met this requirement. Said tract granted by Pío Pico, while Governor of California, by deed of concession, July 19, 1845, filed July 22, 1845. Book D. p. 73. Deed Records, San Diego County Recorder’s Office.

6. Deed Andres, et al. to Abel Stearns, filed Dec. 1, 1852. betw Andres & Ascension, his wife, Catalina, widow of late Jose Mañuel and Solome, mother of same, & Abel Stearns of Los Angeles, $550. Recd for Record Mar. 18, 1853. Book D, p. 73. Deed Records, San

Diego County Recorder’s Office. No evidence has been found to indicate that property other than land was conveyed to Stearns by

the Luiseños. See note 22 for biographical note on Abel Stearns.

7. Transcription of Proceedings of Land Case No. 145 S.D., Andrés et al. Claimants vs. United States, MS, The Bancroft Library, Berkeley, California.

8. Abel Stearns to Cave J. Couts, 5 February 1853, Stearns Collection, Huntington Library. Actual title of Guajome transferred in an “indenture made April 25, 1858, betw Abel Stearns and Ysidora Bandini de Couts, sum of one dollar, sell & quit claim, parcel of land known as Guajome.” Book 1, p 227. San Diego County Recorder’s Office. There is no indication that Stearns ever built a structure at Guajome, or used the ranch for any purpose other than to pasture cattle.

9. San Diego Union, 4 July 1872, 3:1.

10. County of San Diego vs. Select Homes, Case no. 333377.

11. County of San Diego Real Property Department, Rancho Guajome Files.

12. James T. Van Rensselaer to Ysidora Bandini Couts de Lechlider, 28 September 1967, San Diego County Parks Guajome Genealogical files, M 2-1-6, Vol. I.

13. Cave Johnson, born in Robertson County, Tennessee on January 11, 1793, practiced law for a time in Clarksville, Tennessee, served as a circuit judge in 1820, and in 1829 began the first of seven terms in Congress. Cave Johnson advised Polk in the 1844 presidential election and in return for his services was appointed Postmaster General on March 5, 1845, initiating such reforms as lower postal rates, prepayment of postage by the sender, the use of adhesive postage stamps, and a systematized mail service. Record of the Johnson Family prepared for Cave Johnson Couts by his Uncle Cave Johnson, Nashville, Tennessee, 1858. Huntington Library. Also, Ursula Smith Beach. “Cave Johnson Father of the Prepaid Postage Stamp,” Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle. 19 February 1967.

14. Portions of Couts’ diary have been published in Cave Johnson Couts “Hepah, California!” The Journal of Cave Johnson Couts from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico to Los Angeles, California, During the Years 1848-49, ed. by Henry F. Dobyns. (Tucson: Pioneers Historical Society, 1961). The Couts collection consisting of some 16,000 pieces was acquired by the Huntington Library from Mrs. Ida Richardson, former housekeeper of Cave J. Couts, Jr. in 1958. It contains the personal and business papers of Cave Johnson Couts (1821-1874) and Cave Johnson Couts, Jr. (1856-1943). Cataloguer’s Summary to the Cave Johnson Couts Collection, p. 1, Couts

Collection, Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, California, See “Report,” Thomas L. Scharf to San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department 2-24-76.

15. By terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 2 February 1848, a joint Commission was assigned to establish the boundary line between the United States and Mexico, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Both Commissions were to arrive in San Diego no later than 31 May 1849; both parties were late. The Americans arrived first and the Mexican contingent a month later.

16. Juan Lorenzo Bruno Bandini was born October 4, 1800, in Arica, Peru. His father José Bandini (1771-1841), native of Cádiz, of Spanish and Italian descent, was a lieutenant in command of the Spanish ship Nymphia at the Battle of Trafalgar. Juan’s half-brother, Antonio Bandini, born June 13, 1814, became the XXIV Archbiship of Lima. Administrative Papers of the Municipality of Lima, [Peru] 1790-1840. Juan Bandini arrived in San Diego, California, circa 1819, and saw the province change from Spanish into Mexican hands. Bandini was one of the first Mexicans to give up the cause of Mexico in favor of the United States and rendered valuable services to the Americans. Letter from J. T. Van Rensselaer to Nan Couts, June 9, 1966, County Parks Guajome Collection; Hubert Howe Bancroft, The History of California, Vol. II, 709-710; and William E. Smythe, History of San Diego, 1908, 1:164-166. For a short summary of the Bandini Family see Patricia Baker, “The Bandini Family,” Journal of San Diego History, 15 (Winter 1969): 25-27.

17. Couts, California!, p. 97. Juan Bandini and his wife María Dolores Estudillo, daughter of San Diego resident, Capt. José María Estudillo were married in San Diego, November 20, 1822. Their five children were José María, Juan Bautista, Josefa, Arcadia, and Ysidora, considered three of the most beautiful girls in California. When María Dolores Estudillo died in 1834, Juan Bandini married María del Refugio Argüello in 1835. The five children born to this union were: María de los Dolores, Margarita (Chata), Juan de la Cruz, Alfredo, and Arturo. See San Diego County Parks Bandini Family Genealogy files, compiled by Wayne Fabert, 1975.

18. For Couts’ experiences during his escort duty with the Boundary Commission, see Cave J. Couts, From San Diego to the Colorado in 1849: The Journal and Maps of Cave J. Couts, ed. by William McPherson (Los Angeles: Arthur M. Ellis, 1932).

19. Couts signed and delivered the map and was paid $2,000, but contemporary opinion credits cartographer/artist H. M. T. Powell for the work. Couts named the streets after a number of historical figures. For example, Whitman for martyred Oregon missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman; Taylor, for Mexican War Hero General Zachary Taylor; Riley, for the United States Military Commander of California General Bennet Riley; Jefferson, for President Thomas Jefferson; Hancock, for Declaration of Independence signer John Hancock; Conde for Mexican General Pedro García Conde; Juan, for his father-in-law Juan Bandini; Congress and Hortensia for two ships frequently docked at San Diego Harbor. Iris W. Engstrand and Thomas L. Scharf, “Rancho Guajome, A California Legacy Preserved,” Journal of San Diego History 20 (Winter 1974): 13.

20. Cave Johnson Couts bought the Colorado House Hotel which he enlarged and opened to the public, according to an announcement in the San Diego Herald, on May 29, 1851. Assessment rolls reflected improvements and valued the property at $4,500. And, on June 4, 1851, Couts bought property described as the Lopez House for $1,500. Deed Book O (31). State Park Records Frontera Area, San Diego. Contemporary printed materials referred to the residence as the “C.J. Couts Town House,” although it is not known whether Cave Couts and his wife ever resided in this dwelling. Correspondence implies Couts rented the house to tenants during his ownership. Couts Collection, Huntington Library.

21. Certificate of Marriage, Deed Book C:376, San Diego County Recorder. Ysidora Bandini was born September 13, 1828 in San Diego. There is some discrepancy in the spelling of Ysidora’s name. “It should probably be spelled with an ‘I’ since the Spanish ‘I’ looks like an English ‘Y’. The name appears here with a ‘Y’ since Ysidora herself apparently adopted that spelling.” Engstrand and Scharf “Rancho Guajome.” Also, some confusion surrounds Ysidora’s birthdate. The Couts’ Bible, Rancho Guajome Chapel Plaque, and the marker in Calvary Cemetery record Ysidora’s birthdate as September 23, 1829, Reverend Father Vicente Pasqual Olíva, however, baptized Ysidora on September 14, 1828, and recorded “nacida el dia antes,” therefore, September 13, 1828, is the more respected date for the birth of Maria Ysidora Barbara Bandini. See Baptisms, Book II, Mission San Diego de Alcalá, 6202, and letter, 10/27/95, Sister Catherine Louise LaCoste, C.S.J., Archivist, San Diego Diocesan Archives.

22. Of German descent, Abel Stearns was born in Lunenberg, Massachusetts in 1798. He emigrated to Monterey, California in 1829, hoping to obtain a land grant. In 1833, Stearns settled in Los Angeles, forming a partnership in the trading business with Juan Bandini, whose daughter Arcadia he married June 22, 1841, when she was 14 years old. Although 29 years younger than Stearns, Arcadia was proud of Don Abel’s accomplishments, and the union was a happy one. Acquiring land through mortgages held, Stearns became the wealthiest man in Los Angeles County by 1858, with assets over twice that of anyone else in the County. He died without heirs in 1871. See Doris Marion Wright, A Yankee in Mexican California, Abel Stearns, 1798-1848, (Santa Barbara: Wallace Hebberd, 1977) and Robert Glass Cleland, Cattle on a Thousand Hills, Southern California, 1850-80 (San Marino: The Huntington Library, 1951).

23. See Parks Couts Genealogy Files, M 2-1-6, Vol. I, II, and Couts Family Bible in San Diego County Parks Collections.

24. Noel M. Loomis, “The Garra Uprising of 1851,” Brand Book II (San Diego Corral of the Westerners, 1971), 3. George Harwood Phillips, Chiefs and Challengers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), 107.

25. Couts, California!, 99. Hence, Couts was known socially as “Colonel.”

26. Couts also served in minor capacities such as School Commissioner, and Voting Inspector in San Luis Rey. San Diego Herald, 22 April 1854, 2:2; San Diego Herald, 13 May 1854, 3:2; San Diego Herald, 9 September 1854, 2:b; San Diego Herald, 10 September 1859, 2:3; San Diego Herald, 12 September 1857, 2:4; for a study of Cave Couts as a Judge, see Leland Ghent Stanford, San Diego’s LL.B. (Legal Lore and The Bar), (San Diego: Neyenesch Printers, 1968), 82-84.

27. Engstrand and Scharf, “Rancho Guajome;” Report of Coroner’s Jury on the Body of Juan Mendoza, February 6, 1865, Coroner’s Inquest Collection, No. 152-4, San Diego History Center Research Archives; People vs. Cave J. Couts, Case No. 174, Superior Court of San Diego County, California. In his book San Diego’s L. L. B. Legal Lore and the Bar, Leland Stanford casts doubt over Couts’ character as a whole: “In this hero’s shadow, however, lurked nepotism, arrogance, quarrelsomeness, questionable husbandry, and possible wrongful subjugation of Indian proteges over whom, as federal sub-agent for such natives in his area, he held autocratic power.”

28. Cleland, Cattle On A Thousand Hills, 62-63.

29. California, The Statutes of California, 1st Sess., 1850, p. 131.

30. Los Angeles News, Sunday, 25 February 1872; Cleland, Cattle On A Thousand Hills, 62. “From the standpoint of the cattlemen, the enclosure of thousands of acres of grazing land thus became a financial impossibility, and the Trespass Act, so bitterly criticized by the settlers, was a sine qua non of the open range.”

31. María Antonía Arcadia (1853-1936) married Chalmers Scott of Los Angeles; William (1854-1935) married Cristina Estudillo and became manager of the Baker Estate Realty Company of Los Angeles; Cave Jr. (1856-1943) married Lily B. Clemens; Ana Venancia (Nancy, 1857-1868) died at the age of eleven while attending school in Los Angeles; Ysidora (1860-1952) first married William D. Gray and later Judge George H. Fuller of Los Angeles; Eléna (1862-1952) married Parker Dear of Alhambra; Robert (1864-1920) married Susan Thompson and moved to Los Angeles; John (1866-1934) married Susan Irene Gurnett; and Caroline (1868-1944) married John Bandini Winston of Los Angeles. See Couts Family Bible in County Parks Couts Collection and County Parks Genealogy records. M 2-6, Vol. II.

32. For an excellent insight into life at the rancho in these years see, Benjamin T. Hayes “Emigrant Notes,” Bancroft Library, CE 81-9:95. District Court Judge Benjamin Hayes plied the backroads of San Diego County in the 1850s-60s, while conducting the functions of his office. His favorite overnight stopping place was Rancho Guajome. For an eyewitness account of local conditions in the early American Period, see Marjorie T. Wolcott, Pioneer Notes from the Diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes, 1849-1875, (Los Angeles: Privately Printed, 1929.)

33. Chauncey Hayes was to become a pioneer business and legal leader of Oceanside, San Diego County. Stanford, San Diego’s L.L. B. (Legal Lore and the Bar), 69.

34. Hayes, Pioneer Notes, 223.

35. Ibid., 126-127.

36. Cleland, Cattle on a Thousand Hills, 62-63.

37. Couts to Stearns, 21 December 1862; Couts to Stearns, 4 January 1863, Stearns Letters, Huntington Library.

38. Assessment rolls, Cave J. Couts, 1854 Tax Statement, Couts Collection, San Diego History Center Research Archives. This left Couts’ property evaluation in Old Town and La Playa at $11,798 or a total assessment of $24,453.50.

39. Couts to Morse, 16 August 1864, Couts Collection, San Diego Historical Society Research Archives. Couts wanted information and shearers to take care of his 2,000 head of sheep.

40. Couts to General Demers, 5 December 1854, James Copley Library, La Jolla, California; Engstrand and Scharf, “Rancho Guajome.”

41. San Diego Daily World, 20 February 1874. Guajome on-site horticulture survey in February 1979, was completed for the County Parks Department by Gilbert Voss and Mary Ward.

42.Engstrand and Scharf, “Rancho Guajome”; Clarence Alan McGrew. City of San Diego and San Diego County: The Birthplace of California (Chicago, 1922). William Wolfskill of Los Angeles advised him to plant grape vines. See also Wallace W. Elliott. History of San Bernardino and San Diego Counties (San Francisco, 1883). As an interesting sidelight, Juan Jose Warner, who owned Rancho San Jose del Valle and Rancho Valle de San Jose, recommended that Couts treat his orange trees with the following prescription to rid them of insect pests: “To one barrel of soap-suds add a common sized bucket full of guano and syringe weekly for a month or two.” Letter from J.J. [Jonathan Trumbull, aka Juan José] Warner to Cave J. Couts, January 22, 1862, Couts Collection, Huntington Library.

43. Los Angeles Star, 1 November 1873. Couts disposed of the last of his stock at $7.50 per animal, a sacrifice compared to the “boom years” price of $75.00 per head; Couts, California!, 100.

44. Assessment rolls, Couts Collection, San Diego History Center Research Archives. In the tax list for March 4, 1873, Guajome and Buena Vista, each 1/2 league (2,219.4 acres a piece), 2/3 of two leagues at San Marcos, two leagues at La Jolla, and lots in La Playa and Old Town were assessed to Cave J. Couts.

45. San Diego Union, 11 June 1874, and “Register of Deaths,” 1873-1903, San Diego County Recorder.

46. Prior to their marriage, Couts sketched his bride to be, but lamented he “made a glorious failure.” See Couts’ sketchbook, Ct 2542, Couts Collection, Huntington Library.

47. Ysidora Bandini Couts filed a suit for defamation of character against Helen Hunt Jackson in Los Angeles County but Jackson died before the case ever went to trial. Personal interview by the author with Ysidora Bandini Couts de Lechlider, Hemet, CA 1977.

48. Ysidora’s obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, 25 May 1897, lists the cause of death as blood poisoning as a result of foot surgery.

49. A. C. Vroman and T. F. Barnes, The Genesis of the Story of Ramona (Los Angeles: Kingsley-Barnes & Neuner Company, 1899).

50. United States Department of The Interior, National Park Service, National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings, “Statement of Significance,” 9 February 1967.

51. Sally B. Woodbridge, California Architecture, Historic American Buildings Survey (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1988), 35.

52. Carole Rifkind, A Field Guide to American Architecture, 3-4. “The early southern house plan has two rooms, side by side or flanking a central hall.”

53. Fabricas: A Collection of Pictures and Statements on the Mineral Materials Used in Building in California Prior to 1850, State of California Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mines, 71.

54. Woodbridge, California Architecture, 31.

55. Rifkind, A Field Guide to American Architecture.

56. Kirker, California’s Architectural Frontier, 121.

57. According to Elliott, History of San Bernardino and San Diego Counties, 1883. “…Colonel Couts went out there in 1852, to take possession and inaugurate his improvements…he carried a few boards from San Diego and with them and willow poles, hauled from the river bottom two miles away, he put up a little shed, sufficient to cook and sleep in…” This information was no doubt furnished by Couts’ widow Ysidora who was living at Guajome when Elliott visited the ranch.

58. Cave J. Couts to Thomas J. Henley, Guajomito, 7 July 1856; Wilson, Indians of Southern California in 1852, 199.

59. Wilson, Indians of Southern California in 1852, 19-21.

60. Couts Journal, Huntington Library, CT 2543 (13).

61. Hubert Howe Bancroft, “Personal Observations During a Tour Through the Line of Missions of Upper California,” 47. In 1874, Bancroft visited Cave Couts at Rancho Guajome to gather historical data he would later publish in his History of California.

62. Couts, California!, 99.

63. Benjamin I. Hayes. “Emigrant Notes,” Bancroft Library, CE 81-9:95.

64. Couts Journal, Couts Collection, Huntington Library. CT 3543 (13). See Figure 4, p. 34.

65. By this time Couts controlled all of Ranchos Buena Vista, Soledad, and Guajome. Assessment rolls, Couts Collection, San Diego History Center Research Archives.

66. Couts Journal, Couts Collection, Huntington Library, Ct 2543 (6).

67. Assessment rolls, Couts Collection, San Diego History Center Research Archives.

68. See James W. Garrison, ed., “Guajome Ranch House—Condition Assessment Report: 1985-86,” compiled by the Center for Architectural Conservation, College of Architecture, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, for the National Park Service.

69. Benjamin D. Wilson to Cave J. Couts, 13 June 1853. In a letter to Wilson, August 15, 1853, Couts asked if Indians could occupy San Diego’s deserted mission during the “rainey season.” Wilson Papers, Huntington Library; San Diego Herald, 23 June 1855.

70. This referred to condoms made from sheep or pig bladders.

71. Couts, Journal entry January 1, 1854 showed 34 employees.

72. See Couts’ drawing of Guajome, circa 1855. Couts Collection, Huntington Library; Garrison, “Guajome Ranch House”; Assessment rolls, Couts Collection, San Diego History Center.

73. See inventory in Couts’ Journal for 1 January 1855.

74. Ruth Taunton, “Romantic Saga of Old San Diego, Brave Steamboat Captains Comes to Light,” San Diego Union, 19 July 1942.

75. Assessment rolls, Couts Collection, San Diego History Center Research Archives; unidentified newspaper clipping of 27 September 1924, “Old Chapel Rededicated,” County Parks Guajome Collection.

76. Couts to Morse, 22 September 1865; 14 October 1865; 15 October 1865; and 22 October 1865; Couts Collection, San Diego History Center Research Archives.

77. Couts to Morse, 7 November 1865, Couts Collection, San Diego Historical Society Research Archives; Couts to Morse, 15 October 1865, Couts Collection, Huntington Library.

78. In the Ils illustrated brochure, a listing of prominent customers includes Hotels, Restaurants, Cafes, Clubs, Institutions, including both Stanford and Berkeley Universities, Hospitals, and Residences including those of Henry J. Crocker “The John G. Ils… French Cooking Ranges (Brick Set), A California Invention…which has been before the public since the ‘Fifties,’ giving universal satisfaction and being almost exclusively used on the entire Pacific Coast in preference to all other Ranges or Stoves either cast iron or steel.” Bancroft Library, Berkeley, CA.

79. Ibid.

80. Couts Journal, Couts Collection, Huntington Library, CT 2543 (6); Interview between Winifred Davidson and Cave J. Couts, Jr. in “Notes of 1936,” Couts Collection, San Diego History Center Research Archives.

81. Personal interview at Guajome, 23 November 1973. Also, San Diego County Parks Guajome Photo Collection.

82. Ibid.

83. Assessment rolls, Couts Collection, San Diego History Center Research Archives.

84. Personal communication with Monsignor Francis J. Weber, Diocese of Los Angeles, on 25 November 1985; and unidentified clipping, 27 September 1924, “Old Chapel Rededicated,” Personal communication Ysidora Bandini Couts de Lechlider, 1976.

85. The unmarked graves located near the chapel, contain the remains of two Couts family children: Abel Stearns Couts, first child of Ysidora and Cave, born in San Diego, 21 January 1852, and died at Guajome, 27 October 1855, 4 a.m., and Mañuelita Couts, first child of Susan and Robert Lee Couts, born in Los Angeles 11 May 1883, died at Guajome 8 September 1883, 11 p.m. See Couts Family Bible in San Diego County Parks Couts Collection.

86. Hubert Howe Bancroft, “Personal Observations during a Tour through the Line of Missions of Upper California,” C-E 113:49, Bancroft Collection, Bancroft Library, Berkeley.

87. Kate K. Bancroft, “Travels of Kate K. Bancroft, Through the Line of Missions of Upper California,” Ms., Special Collections, Mandeville Library, University of California, San Diego.

88. See Adam Clark Vroman Collection, V-326, Los Angeles County Museum.

89. “Letter from Southern California (Special Correspondent of the Alta), Guajome Rancho,” Daily Alta Californian 15 October 1868, 24 October 1868.

90. San Diego Daily World, 20 February 1874.

91. This second story sewing room addition was destroyed by a fire on January 13, 1974. Fire report to County Building Dept. An unattended electric heater in the sewing room caused the fire.

92. Personal communication with John Jerome Brennan, 27 August 1877; Mrs. John Forster Couts, 28 September 1877; and Mrs. Ysidora Bandini Couts de Lechlider, 1979.

93. Cave Johnson Couts, Jr., born June 5, 1856, married Lily Bell Clemens on January 14, 1887. Their son, Cave Johnson Couts III, was born October 15, 1887 at Guajome. Cave Jr. and Lily Bell divorced after ten years of marriage. Couts Bible, County Parks Guajome Collections and County Parks Genealogy Files, M 2-1-6, Vol. II.

94. Evelyn I. Banning, Helen Hunt Jackson (New York, Vangard Press, 1973), 170.

95. Karen J. Weitze, California’s Mission Revival (Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, Inc., 1984), 8-16. Weitze quotes Charles Lummis “in an interview with Frank Miller, owner of Riverside’s Mission Inn, Lummis asked what Ramona had been worth in dollars and cents to California. Miller answered, ‘I figure that book has brought at least fifty million dollars into this region.'” And, see San Diego County Parks Historical Collection of photographs which depict Guajome as “Ramona’s Home.”

96. C. F. Lummis correspondence with Cave J. Couts, Braun Research Library, Southwest Museum.

97. See A. C. Vroman and T. F. Barnes, The Genesis of the Story of Ramona (Los Angeles: Kingsley-Barnes & Neuner Company, 1899), and Vroman photos in the Los Angeles County Museum, V-320, 321, 322, 323, 325, 328, 329.

98. Map filed 24 November 1894, No. 68, County of San Diego.

99. “Final Report of the Warner’s Ranch Indian Advisory Commission,” 26 August 1902; C. F. Lummis correspondence with Cave J. Couts, Braun Research Library, Southwest Museum, MS.1.1.924, and Sharon Loughlin Bollinger, “Cave Johnson Couts, The Last of The Dons,” (M.A. thesis, University of San Diego, 1976), 126.

100. C. F. Lummis correspondence with Cave J. Couts, Braun Research Library, Southwest Museum.

101. San Diego Union, 25 April 1905; 16 May 1905; 26 May 1905; 11 June 1905; 27 July 1905.

102. Charles F. Holder, “The Patio in Southern California” American Homes and Gardens, 2 (March 1906): 186-189.

103. Smeaton Chase, California Coast Trails (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1913), 39-40; Cave J. Couts to John T. Gaffey, 17 November 1902, CC C-B 552, Bancroft Library; Parks Guajome Collections, personal communication, Ysidora Bandini Couts de Lechlider, 1976.

104. Casa de Adobe Handbook, pp. 5-7, Southwest Museum, and The Masterkey, Southwest Museum (July-August 1927, Vol. 1, No. 3.

105. Los Angeles Examiner, 3 September 1912; 16 September 1912; and Los Angeles Examiner, 4 June 1915, “7,000,000 in Baker Estate to Be Divided.” Also, document titled “Collateral Inheritance Tax to be paid by each of the heirs of the Estate of Arcadia B. de Baker, Deceased.” The report of the Inheritance Tax Appraiser shows the total taxable value of the estate to be in the sum of $6,454,936.78.” Cave Couts, Jr. received an inheritance of $162,296.48. Personal interview with Jerome B. Brennan, 1978.

106. Bollinger, “Cave Johnson Couts, San Diego County Pioneer,” 125.

107. Geotechnical/Hydrologic Study, Guajome Ranch House, File No. 20823.01, 21 June 1991, p. 45, 6.8.

108. Bancroft, “Personal Observations,” p. 20, and Elliott. History of San Bernardino and San Diego Counties, California, 1883.

109. “Rehabilitation Work On Old Guajome Ranch House Near Vista Is Under Way,” San Diego Union, 20 July 20, 2:1-8. Unidentified clipping “Old Chapel Rededicated,” 27 September 1924, Lechlider Collection, County Parks Guajome files. Cave Couts, Jr. to Margaret Gaffey, 31 August 1924, County Parks De Fontenay Collection, and County Parks Couts Genealogical files, M 2-1-6, Vol. III.

110. Popular writer of the 1920s, Peter B. Kyne visited Guajome, and credited Couts, Jr. with providing copy for his novel The Pride of Palomar published in 1921. In 1922, William Randolph Hearst produced a movie filmed on location at Rancho Guajome, based on Kyne’s book called “The Pride of Palomar.” Parks Guajome Collections. Tape, courtesy of Oceanside Historical Society.

111. Cave Johnson Couts (b) Manuscript Collection, The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, Estate of Cave Johnson Couts (a), Estate of Ysidora B. Couts, Divorce of Cave J. Couts (b), and Elizabeth B. Couts, Box 84 (A-D), Land papers-Rancho Buena Vista, Box 75 (2), Rancho Guajome, Box 77 (4)(a-b), (5), Ranchita Mine, Julian, CA, Box 81 (1-2). Diary of Cave Johnson Couts (b), CT 2546 (4-6), Guajome Photos, Box 90 (1-50), Guajome Surveys, CT 2568 (1-6), Legal papers, Box 84. Also, Box 99, Cave J. Couts (b) diary entries for May 25, 26, 1897, July 3, 1897, March 14, 1900, July 19, 1900, which disclose Couts’ despair over his dismal finances, the disapproval and rejection by his family, and his loneliness. CT 2546 (4-6). Couts had tried to sell Rancho Guajome to the Guajome Fruit Company (1894), the U.S. Government (1902), L. S. Mace of Los Angeles (1905), the Guajome Health Club (1905), South Coast Land Co. (1906). See Engstrand and Ward, “Rancho Guajome: An Architectural History.” Preliminary Historic Structures Report, 28 July 1993, p. 16-17, fn 91-94.

112. Felix Rey, “A Tribute to Mission Style,” Architect and Engineer (October 1924), 77. “Even of themselves the simple Mission forms calm mind and heart…”

113. See Dale Ballou May, “The Adobe is my Birthstone: Leo Carrillo’s Rancho de los Quiotes,” Journal of San Diego History 35 (Fall 1989): 231-247.

114. Couts Collection, Huntington Library, Diary of Cave Johnson Couts (b), CT 2546 (16); see also Antoinette May, The Annotated Ramona, (San Carlos, CA.: Wide World Publishing, 1989)., 231; and Bollinger, “Cave Johnson Couts, Jr., Last of the Dons,” 74-106.

115. The Butterfield Express, 1 (July 1963). Also, Couts Collection, Huntington Library, Box 89, Box 90 (16), (49); and Bollinger, “Cave Johnson Couts, Last of the Dons,” 160-163.

116. The Richardson family consisted of Mrs. Ida Richardson, and her two children born at Guajome in the 1920s, Belda and Earl. It is presumed their father was Cave Couts, Jr. In 1943, when Couts Jr. died, he willed a life estate in Rancho Guajome to Mrs. Richardson. Heirs of Earl Richardson, deceased, resided at Guajome until the County of San Diego took over the ranch on February 25, 1975. See San Diego County Parks Richardson Family Genealogy files, M 2-1-6.

Iris H. W. Engstrand, Professor of History at the University of San Diego, received her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. Dr. Engstrand, who chairs the board of editorial consultants for the Journal of San Diego History, has published fourteen books including San Diego: California’s Cornerstone and Spanish Scientists in the New World; The Eighteenth Century Expeditions.

Mary F. Ward has been employed by the County of San Diego since 1975 as Public Historian. Ms. Ward graduated from The Bishop’s School for Girls, and attended San Diego State College and the University of San Diego. Her publications include Rancho Peñasquitos, On The Road to Yuma and County Of San Diego Landmarks.