671 South Oakglen Avenue, Nipomo, CA 93444 dana@danaadobe.org 805.929.5679

Dana Family History

WilliamAs the Dana Family grew, they were increasingly involved with trade and politics. John Fremont stayed at Rancho Nipomo during the Mexican-American War – the conflict in which the United States gained control of California and much of the Southwest. The Dana family gave Fremont and his troops supplies for their trip to Santa Barbara. Following American annexation, Dana’s first son-in law, Henry Amos Tefft was a delegate to the state’s Constitutional Convention while many of Dana’s sons participated in local politics. By 1860, while his brothers were participating in local politics, Jose Ramon Dana was driving cattle to the San Francisco Bay area to be sold to Henry Miller – part of Miller and Lux Corporation that revolutionized the meat industry and turned it into the West Coast’s version of the factory system that was growing in New England.

The children of William Goodwin and Maria Josefa Dana began subdividing the original property as they reached adulthood. William Charles Dana was the first to do so when he married Modesta Maria Castro and moved to Los Berros (meaning “the watercress”) in 1861. The two built their own adobe home that still stands today. Other Dana children built their homes closer to the original Dana Adobe. When the Pacific Coast Railway extended its route from San Luis Obispo to the Santa Ynez Valley in 1882, the company built stations in Los Berros and Nipomo. The Dana Family began selling plots of land the same year, and the town of Nipomo developed. Los Berros also had a small housing tract develop, but never grew to the same extent as its neighboring town.

The introduction of transportation dramatically transformed the region. The Pacific Coast Railway enabled the movement of people and goods to and from the area during the turn of the century. Speculators planted thousands of eucalyptus trees around the Nipomo and Los Berros area, reportedly making it one of the largest stands of eucalyptus trees outside of Australia. Businessmen from Los Angeles developed quarries in Los Berros; while agriculturalists experimented with various crops around Nipomo that they shipped out of the region via railroad. These developing industries required labor. Initially immigrants from around Europe and China arrived and took up odd jobs, but by the turn of the century, racism and exclusionary immigration laws meant that Japanese immigrants were the main labor force in the Nipomo area. Federal immigration reform in 1924 essentially banned immigration into the United States, which left farmers scrambling for labor. The same decade saw the agricultural industry boom as cars became more readily available to transport goods and people, and roads along the California coast were improved. Each of which added to an increased labor need. Filipino immigrants found themselves filling the labor void, as the Philippines were a United States possession at the time and bypassed the newly created immigration laws. These immigrants worked in the fields and built the roads through Nipomo and the Central Coast, and have left a legacy still seen in the Central Coast’s Filipino community today.

Natural History of Nipomo

natural history of nipomoRancho Nipomo once encompassed the vast majority of land between what is now Arroyo Grande and the Santa Maria River – an area blessed by rich soil and natural resources that enabled the establishment of towns whose economy was based in agriculture and natural resource extraction. The original land grant awarded to William G. Dana and his family by the Mexican government in 1837 included Nipomo and the Los Berros region. The area’s history is significant not merely because of the history that took place within its boundaries, but also because of its relationship with distant places. The movement of goods and people is what connected Nipomo and its vicinity to the world and made it an extremely dynamic location to live.

If you would like to learn more about the natural history of Nipomo check out A Natural History of the Nipomo Mesa Region (available for purchase at the Dana Adobe or online).


Neighboring Rancheros

“Los Quatro Americanos:” (included Dana, see the Blond Ranchero, p. 74-79)

Francis (Franicsco) Ziba Branch (1802-1874): Francis Ziba Branch was born in upstate New York in 1802 and left his family at an early age to make his own way in the world. In 1830, after various experiences including sailing ventures on Lake Erie, he joined, at St. Louis, a trading party bound for Santa Fe. While there Branch joined the Wolfshill trapping party and came with them to California in the Spring of 1831. A few of the party decided to remain, Branch among them. He married Maria Dominga Manuela Carlon (1815-1909) in 1835 and he and his wife were granted land in the vicinity of San Luis Obispo. Later, by right of his own grant [Santa Manuela Rancho, granted in 1837] and two others [Pismo and Huer-Huero] which he claimed through his wife’s family and by purchase, he became possessed of one of the largest land holdings in the county. His business prospered and in 1874 he died, leaving a large family to share in a considerable estate. (www.oac.cdlib.org)

The three eldest Branch sons married three Robbins women, who were 1st cousins to the Dana siblings.  According to Juan Francisco, “…I remember Don Francisco as a fine man, slightly built but very hardy, and much interested in education.  He even sent to New York for a tutor for his children.  He built the first schoolhouse at Arroyo Grande and held many public positions in the new county of San Luis Obispo after its formation.” [Blond Ranchero, p. 75]

John Michael Price (1810–1902): John Price was born in England and went to sea at the age of 15.  Harsh treatment by the older sailors caused him to jump ship in Mexico.  He arrived in Monterey in 1830 and worked as a vaquero on various ranchos in the Salinas Valley before coming to the Rancho Nipomo in 1836.  According to Juan Francisco Dana, he became the Rancho’s mayordomo and stayed until 1840.  The enterprising vaquero Juan Miguel Prais ran cattle on Rancho El Pizmo as mayordomo before purchasing the land and settling his wife Maria Andrea Carlon (1829-1912) and their young family into old adobes on the rancho—just as California became a state.  Maria Andrea Carlon’s sister, Manuela Carlon married Francis Ziba Branch.  As American statehood settled over California, John Michael Price readopted his English name and language, established Rancho del Pismo, and founded the town of Pismo.  During the 1850’s he was well respected and served as a judge, sheriff and San Luis Obispo County supervisor. [Blond Ranchero, p. 76-79; www.pricepark.org/]

Isaac J. Sparks (1804?–1867): Isaac Sparks was born in Maine and was an otter hunter who came west with the Ewing Young party in 1832.  Sparks settled in Santa Barbara, bought a store and also erected the first two-story brick building in town.  He also built a one-story adobe and a store and settled down to life of a business man.  During an early hunting trip he fought a grizzly bear and lost an eye. [Blond Ranchero, p. 76]

Sparks obtained his Huasna Mexican land grant in Dec. 1843.  The land grant included all of the Huasna Creek Valley, a major portion of the Huasna River Valley, part of the Alamo Creek Valley, and ranges of hills between them al and was surveyed and parented in 1872-73 for a total of over 22,000 acres.  Like all grantees of the day, Sparks had become naturalized as a Mexican citizen, joined the Catholic Church and married a Mexican woman, Maria de las Remedios Josefa Eayrs.  The Sparks never actually lived at Rancho Huasna, preferring instead to be closer to his business holdings in Santa Barbara.  However the ranch was stocked with cattle and sheep and its operation was entrusted to John Price.  Shortly before his death in 1867, Sparks divided the ranch among two of his three daughters, Manuela Flora Sparks Harloe and Maria Rosa Sparks Porter.   (http://www.southcountyhistory.org/huasna.html)

Benjamin William Foxen (1796-1874): Foxen was born in Norfolk, England and joined the British Navy at age 14.  He later joined the merchant service and worked his way up to first officer.  Later in the Sandwich Islands, he met Alpheus Basil Thompson who was in need of a first officer on his ship which was engaged in the California-Boston hide and tallow trade.  After working for Thompson for two years, Foxen went into business for himself.  Using his own ship, he made his first visit to San Francisco Bay in 1815 and Santa Barbara in 1818.  In 1828 after completing the rebuilding of the schooner Goleta for William G. Dana, Benjamin Foxen captained the ship for several years trading in Alta and Baja California.  During his trading, he had met Eduarda Osuna, the step-daughter of Tomas Olivera.  As he wished to marry her, he was baptized into the Catholic faith in August, 1830 and given the name of “Domingo,” but the Indians called him “Don Julian.”  Guillermo Domingo Foxen and Eduarda Osuna were married at the Mission Santa Barbara in May, 1831.  The Foxen was granted the Rancho Tinaquaic in May of 1837.  Like his fellow ranchero, William Dana, Don Julian spent many years building up his rancho and large adobe ranch house.  In Dec. 1846, his rancho was the next stop for Capt. Fremont in his military drive south towards Santa Barbara after leaving the Rancho Nipomo.  Because he was Mexican by adoption, Don Julian decided the wisest thing was for him to remain neutral.  Juan Francisco Dana relates his version of the story: “Foxen told him [Fremont] that there was no way to go south except by the narrow Gaviota Pass. So when the rains stopped, Fremont…set out.  He was surprised when he got near Santa Ines Mission, to see William, one of Foxen’s sons, riding after the army with a message from his father for Fremont. He said that an ambush had been prepared at the Pass of las Gaviotas and huge boulders were being loosed to be pushed down by the Californios on the gringos as they went through.”  Young William Foxen then showed the troops over the tricky San Marcos Pass.  Juan Francisco Dana later wrote: “Don Julian surely paid a heavy price for his bravery for many of his native friends turned against him.  He was harassed by Indian raids from the Tulares to the east and his home was later burned to the ground.” [Blond Ranchero, p. 27-28]

John Wilson (1797?—1861) and Maria Ramona de Luz Carrillo Pacheco de Wilson (1812—after 1880):  Maria Ramona la Luz Carrillo was baptized at the Mission San Juan Capistrano on 24 Jul 1812.  Ramona Carrillo and Maria Josefa Carrillo de Dana (b. 1812) were second cousins.  At age 14 years old, Ramona married Romualdo Pacheco, native of Guanajuato, at the San Diego Presidio Church on 4 Aug 1826.  At the end of 1828, Pacheco was transferred to Santa Barbara, where he was made comandante and later being promoted to lieutenant in 1829.  In 1831, he was granted the use of a part of the Simi rancho.  While marching with a small part of his company to support Governor Victoria, Pacheco was killed in a fight near Los Angeles on 5 December 1831.  Ramona and Romualdo Pacheco had two sons: Mariano Pacheco born 1830 and Romualdo Pacheco, born in Santa Barbara within the month after his father’s death.

The widow, Ramona Pacheco married a second time to Juan (John) Wilson on 9 Nov 1835 (or 1837) at the Santa Barbara Presidio Church.  Witnesses to their marriage were Maria Antonia Carrillo and Jose Noriega (Jose de la Guerra y Noriega).  Ramona had lived with the De La Guerra family since she was widowed. Captain John Wilson was a Scotch shipmaster and trader who arrived in California about 1826.  He became a naturalized Mexican citizen in 1837.  He partnered with James Scott and Mr. McKinley in 1845 to purchase part of the Mission San Luis Obispo buildings for $510.  Wilson was a grantee of the ranchos Canada del Chorro and Canada de los Osos, where he spent the rest of his life.  [Bancroft’s California Pioneer Register and Index, p. 385]  Ramona Carrillo de Wilson was granted the Rancho de Suey in 1837 and it was patented and surveyed in 1865, containing over 48,000 acres.

The Dana and Wilsons stood as godparents for a number of their children: John Wilson was a godparent for Juan Francisco Dana; Ramona Carrillo Wilson was a godparent to Jose Ramon Ijinio Dana; both the Wilson’s were godparents for Adelina Elisa Dana (#2) and David Amos Dana.  The Danas in turn served as godparents for two of the Wilson girls.  Being a godparent was a very serious commitment to make sure the child was raised in the Catholic faith.  [Early California Population Project database]

Richard Henry Dana made a return trip to California in 1859 and recorded a chance meeting with Captain John Wilson (who had captained the Ayacucho) on 20 August 1859 aboard the Senator, traveling from San Francisco to San Diego. [History of San Luis Obispo, p. 55]

Mi Casa Es Su Casa:Being extended Dana/Carrilo Family, Friends, and famous Visitors to the Rancho Nipomo

They lived at the Adobe or on the Rancho:

Maria Isabel Ayala (bapt. 19 Nov 1836—May 1918): Isabel’s parents were Juan Jose Gervasio Ayala and Maria Rafaela de Jesus Arellanes (or Arrellanos).  Her father was married to another woman at the time.  This couple also had another child, Juan de los Dolores Ayala, born in 1839 and died in April 1841 on the Rancho Nipomo.  Isabel’s family stories (and her obituary) have her becoming a ward of the Robbins and Dana families.  She was taken into the Dana Family after age 11 “as a daughter.”  She reportedly had “several conversations with Capt. John Fremont,” which places her at the rancho in December 1846.  She was listed on the 1850 U.S. Federal Census with the Dana family in Nipomo.  We have a photograph of Isabel and five small children identified as the Dana children, including a young Adelina Elisa (age about 2 years), placing the photograph about 1850.  In 1855, Isabel Ayala was married to Felipe Grajada (abt 1812—1889).  Her uncle, Francisco Arrellanos, took her to be married from the rancho to the Mission Santa Barbara on horseback over San Marcos pass.  The couple made their home in Santa Barbara, where Mr. Grajada worked on the Mission aqueduct system. The Grajada family settled later in El Rio area of Ventura County. [Sources: correspondence from Isabel Ayala’s descendants, Isabel Ayala Grajada’s obituary, and research by Barbara Watson, Susan Gray, & Colleen Beck]

Josefa O’Brien (abt 1845–?): Josefa was listed as part of the Dana family after Isabel Ayala’s name on the 1850 U.S. Federal Census, dated Oct. 6, 1850.  Was she another “adopted” Dana child?  There was also Augusta (?) Ortega, age 21, female and born in California listed before the girls.  Both girls would be topics for further research.

Maria de la Encarnacion Carrillo de Robbins (March 24, 1814–June, 1876): Encarnacion was born just after her sister, Maria Josefa, and they were likely very close as young girls in Santa Barbara.  She married Thomas M. Robbins on February 3, 1834 in Santa Barbara.   Between 1823 and 1829 Robbins had been involved in the sea otter trade and served as a mate on the Waverly between 1826 and 1828.  Unfortunately, Robbins passed away July 15, 1857 in Santa Barbara leaving his widow Encarnacion with 10 children to support.  About 1861, Encarnacion was forced to sell their various properties in the Santa Barbara area to support her family.  During the same year, Encarnacion and several of her children moved to the Nipomo Rancho and remained there until about 1864 when their house burned down.   She later moved to Arroyo Grande with several of her remaining unmarried children. [The Middle of Nowhere, p. 20-21, 36]

According to an article written by Doris Olsen for the South County Tribune, “…Mrs. Robbins brought her younger children to the Nipomo ranch of her widowed sister, Mrs. William Goodwin Dana, in 1861.  The family remained there until after the marriage of Isabelle Robbins to Ramon Branch [1863] and Maria Antonio Robbins to Leandro Roman Branch [Oct. 1864] and then moved to a new adobe home situated in what is now the village of Arroyo Grande.  After the move another daughter, Concepcion Robbins, married Frank Branch [1867].”

William Rich Hutton (1826—1901):  Surveyor Hutton was 21 years old when he arrived in California in 1847.  Hutton was a friend of Capt. Henry W. Halleck, with whom Henry Tefft had stayed while serving as delegates to the California Constitutional Convention.  Early in 1850 while in Monterey, we speculate that he made the acquaintance of Henry A. Tefft, the future son-in-law of William G. Dana.  In May 1850, Hutton writes his mother about his trip south to San Luis Obispo with Tefft.  Hutton accepted a commission to survey the 38,000 acres Rancho Nipomo for Capt. Dana.  “…I found Capt. Dana an excellent, good natured old gentleman, and his daughter is a favorite with all who know her.…Since I have been here they have treated me kindly, and they live comfortably.  I sent up to San Luis for my things, and have commenced on this farm, as I cannot well do anything in San Luis until Capt. Wilson comes down.  The farm is about 10 miles long and, I believe, nearly as many broad, though a third of it is hilly and good for nothing.  The air is filled with the fragrance of the different species of clover, and in some places the oats are 4 feet high.”  Hutton served as Henry Tefft’s best man for his marriage to Maria Josefa Dana in July 1850 and in his later years wrote a description of the wedding.  Hutton was confirmed as the San Luis Obispo County surveyor in Sept. 1850, which he served until August of 1851.  He left California in 1853. [Research by Barbara Watson]

Henry Amos Tefft (1825-1852): Henry was a young lawyer recently arrived from Wisconsin, who settled in the San Luis Obispo area in 1849.  Tefft became acquainted with William G. Dana, and lived at Dana’s home in Nipomo for a four-month stretch.  During this time, Henry Tefft practiced law and became known and respected in the area.

Due to his blossoming reputation and Dana’s support, Tefft was elected as San Luis Obispo’s delegate to the state’s Constitutional Convention in Monterey.  This convention was seated in August 1849 with the Constitution of California completed on October 12, 1849.  Tefft was a vocal participant in the convention, arguing in favor of the right of Native Americans to vote, property rights for women, the establishment of county schools, and a “Homestead Exemption” clause enabling a homeowner to have his home declared exempt from seizure for the payment of debts.  After October, Tefft rode south, taking responsibility of distributing copies of the Constitution to the southern part of the state.

After the convention, Tefft was elected as San Luis Obispo County’s first assemblyman.  Later when the state legislature divided the state into judicial districts, Tefft was elected as the first district judge of the Second Judicial District (comprised of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties).  In July 1850, Henry married Maria Josefa Dana in a wedding ceremony conducted at Rancho Nipomo.

Henry and Maria Josefa settled into the Casa de Dana in Nipomo.  Tragically, Tefft died just a year and a half after his wedding.  On February 6, 1852 (the dates vary by accounts), he was aboard the coastal steamer Ohio when it entered the harbor of Port San Luis amid high waves, heavy surf, and inclement weather.  Tefft reportedly was planning to pick up Maria Josefa and then head on to San Francisco to take the train back to Wisconsin for a visit with his parents, and insisted on going ashore.  The captain sent Tefft and five sailors on a boat headed to shore.  Within 100 yards of the sand…the boat suddenly turned over, dumping everyone into the pounding surf.  Tefft and four of the sailors drowned. By all accounts, his wife was expecting their first child, Henry Tefft Jr., who was born after his death.  There are stories that Maria Josefa Tefft was not told of her husband’s death for a while.  Henry Tefft’s body was not recovered for burial.

Samuel Adams Pollard (1824-1904):  A Virginia native, Sam Pollard served in the Mexican-American War sometime between 1846 and 1847.  After the war, he was working as a clerk in New Orleans when news reached him of the discovery of gold in California.  He briefly settled into clerking San Francisco, but…“The city was then wild with dissipation, and I got very tired of it.  Having a chance to open a store on the shares down the coast, I accepted it and did very well,” recalled Samuel Pollard.  About May 1849, S. A. Pollard and his partner, William L. Beebe began building an adobe store in San Luis Obispo at the corner of Monterey and Chorro streets.

After finishing the store, the partners found nearly all their money was sunk in adobe, and they had little left for purchasing stock.  In order to get stock from San Francisco, it was a lonely 300-mile mule ride.  “Our first district judge was Judge Tefft, who had accumulated a back salary of $3,000, but had no way to collect it without the bother of a land journey.”  Pollard agreed to collect the salary if Tefft would give the partners use of it for six months without interest.  “So, we got our stock,” remembered Pollard.  When the SLO Post Office established on 28 July 1851, Samuel A. Pollard was appointed its 1st postmaster and operated out of his store under 1853.

Besides operating the store in San Luis Obispo, S.A. Pollard was very active in early city and county government.  On 14 April 1850, he was appointed the County Recorder.  During this period, William G. Dana was also serving as the San Luis Obispo county Treasurer.  Having been acquainted with and having done business with both her father, William G. Dana, and her late husband, Judge Henry Tefft, it is no surprise that Samuel A. Pollard became acquainted with the widowed Maria Josefa de Tefft .  He courted her and they were married on 20 December 1854 in the Mission San Luis Obispo.  The couple lived at the Dana Adobe on the Rancho Nipomo for a time after they married.  The couple eventually raised five children together.  Reportedly, Samuel ran the store at the Rancho for a time. Sometime after Captain Dana passed away in 1858, the Pollards settled in the San Luis Obispo area as noted in Maria Josefa Pollard’s letter to her family in the early 1860s.

Manuela Antonia Carrillo Jones de Kettle (1820—1900):  Maria Josefa Carrillo Dana’s younger sister, Manuela was born in June, 1820.  She married John Coffin Jones, Jr. (1796—1861), a Massachusetts trader, who had served as the U.S. Consular Agent for Commerce and Seamen in Oahu, Sandwich Islands.  Jones and Alpheus B. Thompson went into partnership, mainly in commerce trading in Santa Barbara.  Unlike his brothers-in-law (Dana, Thompson, Robbins and Burton), Jones had no formal residence for his family, no Mexican citizenship, and bitterly disliked California.  In 1846, Jones, Manuela, and two children sailed for Boston leaving Thompson to manage their Santa Rosa Island stock ventures and keep the books. The Jones family settled in West Newton, Massachusetts where Jones “farmed” until this death in 1861.  After five years, widowed Manuela remarried to George Nelson Kettle, an Englishman and widower with three children.  While he had investments in Massachusetts, the Kettles spent most of their time in Europe.  The San Luis Obispo Tribune of May 18, 1883 included a personal notice of the Kettles “stopping with the Danas in this county…After an absence of thirty-eight years she has returned to the scenes of her youth to find all her sisters, excepting Mrs. [William] Dana, dead.  The meeting between the two sisters is said to have been very affecting.”  This meeting was most likely at the Casa Grande in Nipomo where Maria Josefa Dana lived. Manuela Kettle died in Nice, France at eighty years of age.  [Ynez Durnford Haase, The Middle of Nowhere: the Carlos Carrillo Adobe, The Carrillo Family & Their Rancho Sespe, p. 22-24; History of San Luis Obispo County,p. 106]

Hubbard C. M. Ely (c. 1818-1889):  Hubbard C. M. Ely was born and named Elihu Ely, junior, in Binghamton, New York.  Elihu Ely Jr. was the great nephew of William Ely, who married Clarissa May Davis and was thus a relative of William Goodwin Dana.  Based on the date of his passport, Ely traveled most likely to California for the first time at the beginning of the Gold Rush.  Elihu Ely Jr. is noted as a bookkeeper at the Custom House in San Francisco in 1850.  In March 1851, Elihu Ely petitioned the California government to officially change his name from Elihu Ely to Hubbard C M Ely.  This was approved 28 Mar 1851.

About the 17th Apr 1853 H C M Ely set sail from (possibly) San Francisco for New York via Panama and arrived in New York about 16 May 1853 [NYT].  On board were the Dana brothers, Henry Camilo Dana (Enrique), noted as age 19, and Charles William Dana (Carlos), noted as age 17, perhaps traveling with Ely, who they knew from home.   The Dana boys are on their way to school in New York to stay near their aunt, Adelina Eliza (nee Dana) Darling.  Ely wrote a letter to Carlos Dana from San Francisco in 1854 reporting happenings on the rancho.

H C M Ely, Esq. conducted a number of business transactions for Capt. Dana in 1853 and 1854.  He aided William Goodwin and Maria Petra Josefa Dana when they deeded to Maria Josefa (their daughter) a large chunk of property in SLO (including the Dana Hotel) on 12 Nov 1853 and some Rancho property on 6 Dec 1853.  The other signature, either serving as law clerk or district attorney on these deeds, was Hubbard C M Ely. [SLO County Deed Book #A]

In August 1854, he handled the scrip and other documents for Wm. G. Dana in his controversy with the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors in regard to the rent of the courtroom. [Angel, 171]  Ely was possibly living in San Francisco later in 1858.  Ely returned east sometime afterwards and died in Wilmington, Delaware on the 25th of Nov 1889.