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Rancho San Pedro Reference Collection

Identifier: SPC-1997-002

Scope and Content

The Rancho San Pedro Reference Collection consists of documents, maps, and newspaper clippings which document the history of the Rancho lands. Also included are copies of Dominguez family papers, including legal documents.


  • 1905-2004



This collection contains unprocessed material. Processed materials in this collection are open for research. Please contact the Archives and Special Collections department in advance to request access to unprocessed material.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Archives and Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical materials and not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.


Originally encompassing over 75,000 acres the Rancho San Pedro was granted to Juan Jose Dominguez by the King of Spain in 1784. Juan Jose had served as a Spanish soldier in California and received the land following his retirement. Juan Jose built one of the first adobes in the region and lived there for varying periods until his death in 1809. The Rancho San Pedro was then willed to Jose Cristobal Dominguez (a nephew) who in turn willed it to his sons. One of the sons, Manuel, eventually took sole ownership of the property. Manuel built a new adobe structure where he lived with his wife (Maria Engracia) and their children. He was also very involved in local politics and served as mayor of Los Angeles on three separate occasions as well as becoming one of the first county supervisors and delegate to the first constitutional convention of California in 1849. When California became a state in 1849 Manuel was responsible for proving the legality of the original land grant thus ensuring his ownership. A United States land patent was granted to him for the Rancho lands in 1858. The area covered by the patent ran from Redondo Beach in the west, to Compton in the east and the harbor in the south. Manuel used the land to graze cattle and raise crops. His brand, a lemon shaped mark, became a highly recognizable symbol on the ears of his cattle. In 1882 Manuel Dominguez died and left his estate, including the remainder of the Rancho lands, to his six daughters.

Five of the daughters married, three to Anglos, and went on to create corporations which would administer their holding. These corporations, The Dominguez Estate Company, the Carson Estate Company, the Watson Estate Company, the Francis Estate Company and the Del Amo Estate Company oversaw the daughters’ interests in the land. By 1930, when oil was discovered on Rancho land, most of the agrarian activities associated with the Rancho had ceased. It is estimated that the 350 oil wells developed on the land produced over $1 million year of income for a period of over 20 years. Today only two of the original estate companies survive, the Carson Estate Company and The Watson Land Company, but much of the of the heritage of the original owners of the Rancho and their descendants can be found as both local street and city names in communities which were part of the original Spanish land grant.

The original adobe structure built by Juan Jose Dominguez was replaced by a more permanent structure built by Manuel Dominguez. This more modern adobe served as the main family residence for many years. In the 1920's the Del Amo family gave the property to the Claretian order and built a structure to be used as a seminary. The Adobe continued to be used as a residence of the Dominguez family until 1924. In 1945 the Adobe became an official California State Landmark (No. 152). In 1976, to commemorate its 150th anniversary, the adobe underwent a complete restoration and again was recognized by being placed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. Today the Adobe is open to the public tours. The seminary building is now used by the Claretians as a retirement retreat.


2 boxes (plus two unprocessed boxes)

1 linear foot

Language of Materials



This collection includes correspondence, brochures, newsclippings, papers, and copies of historical documents related to the Rancho San Pedro. Subjects include the Dominguez Adobe and Claretian Seminary, families descended from the Dominguez sisters, companies owned by these descendants, and the history of the Rancho San Pedro.


Arranged in five series:

  1. Series I. General History (1905-1990)
  2. Series II. Legal Documents and Maps (1919)
  3. Series III. Dominguez Adobe (1941-2004)
  4. Series IV. Dominguez Family (1906-1987)
  5. Series V. Dominguez Companies (1955-1995)

Acquisition Information

Many items can be traced to Robert C. Gillingham, the author of The Rancho San Pedro. Other materials were donated through the years by faculty members and off-campus sources.

Related Material

For related material please consult the Del Amo Nurseries Collection, Del Amo Estate Collection, Dominguez Water Corporation Collection, Robert C. Gillingham Working Papers Collection, Rancho San Pedro Collection, Rancho San Pedro Photograph Digital Collection, Watson Land Company Collection, South Bay History Collection, South Bay Photograph Collection, andSouth Bay Photograph Digital Collection.

Secondary Sources

All of these publications can be found in the CSUDH Special Collections Library. Call numbers are at the end of the citation.

Carson, John Victor. Reminiscences of the Dominguez Ranch and the Carson Family. [F860.C3 C37] Crawford, C.M. A Short History of the Dominguez Family. [SPCOL F868.L8 C87 1955] Dominguez Water Corporation. Dominguez Water Corporation: Yesterday and Today. [SPCOL F868.L8 D63] Gillingham, Robert C. A History of the Development of the Dominguez Homesite. [SPCOL F868.L8 G48] Gillingham, Robert C. The Rancho San Pedro. [F868.L8 G5] Grenier, Judson. California Legacy: The Watson Family. [F860.W37 G75 1987] Hatfield, D.D. Dominguez Air Meet. [TL721.6 D65 H37]

Processing Information

The collection was first processed in the fall of 1997 and was opened to research without restrictions. In 2005, the collection was reassessed, with materials added and rearranged into a better working organization. During this process, photographs were removed to the Rancho San Pedro Collection. Materials that were clearly used by Gillingham to write the "Stories of Rancho San Pedro” series and The Rancho San Pedro were separated into the Robert C. Gillingham Working Papers Collection; some of his research materials are still scattered throughout this collection.

Project Information This finding aid was created as part of the Early Los Angeles/Rancho San Pedro Manuscript Cataloging Project, a CSU Dominguez Hills Library project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The project started in 2005. Project Director was Greg Williams. Project Archivists were Thomas Philo and Jennifer Allan Goldman.

Project Information

This finding aid was created as part of the Early Los Angeles/Rancho San Pedro Manuscript Cataloging Project, a CSU Dominguez Hills Library project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The project started in 2005. Project Director was Greg Williams. Project Archivists were Thomas Philo and Jennifer Allan Goldman.

Rancho San Pedro Reference Collection
Finding aid prepared by Jennifer Allan Goldman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the California State University Dominguez Hills, Gerth Archives and Special Collections Repository

University Library South -5039 (Fifth Floor)
1000 E. Victoria St.
Carson CA 90747