Domingo Peralta and Rancho Cordonices

Domingo Peralta

Related Letterboxes: Cordonices Creek, or Rancho Cordonices

Domingo Peralta was born on December 3, 1795, at Santa clara.   Domingo was the third Peralta brother to move to the Rancho San Antonio.  In 1841 he left his own rancho in present Santa Clara-San Mateo counties at the urgent request of his father and brothers, to aid in the full occupation of the northern part of the grant against the encroachment by squatters.  His portion of the original Rancho San Antonio included the present cities of Berkeley and Albany, and a small portion of Oakland.

In 1818, when Domingo was just 23 years old, he had been exploring the Rancho San Antonio with his brother Antonio.  At the edge of a creek the brothers found quail eggs, which they ate for their lunch.  They decided to name the creek Cordonices,  the Spanish word for quail.  When Domingo moved onto Rancho San Antonio over twenty years later, he named his portion Rancho Cordonices.

Domingo’s  first home on Rancho Cordonices, built in 1841, was a one-story adobe with tile roof and dirt floor.  It was the first non-native american dwelling in what is now Berkeley, on the south bank of Cordonices Creek.  Today there is only a plaque at the site of his home, in front of 1302 Albina Avenue, near St. Mary’s College High School.  In 1851 Domingo built a second home nearby, which was the first frame dwelling erected by any of the Peralta brothers.  It was built at the back of the lot at present 1505 Hopkins Street in Berkeley, across Albina avenue from the original adobe.  This house was two stories, with a long porch facing west.  It was painted yellow.  A family garden and an orchard were to the west of the frame house and south of the adobe.

Domingo is said to have been short and stocky, very dark in complexion, and bore a great physical resemblance to his father.  Domingo married Paulena de Pacheco on November 22, 1821, at Mission Santa Clara. After Paulina died he married María Eduviges Garcia on August 10, 1835 at Mission Santa Clara.  Domingo and Maria lived on Rancho Cordonices with eight children – four from his first marriage and four more from the second.

Like all the Californios who had ranchos granted during the Spanish and Mexican eras, Domingo’s life was severely impacted by the Goldrush.  He was burdened by legal proceedings and fees in order to with prove his ownership of the land against hordes of American settlers, who soon started developing a commercial downtown on his land.  In 1852, Domingo was arrested for assaulting two squatters on his property and fined $700.  His sons also ran into trouble with the law, accused of stealing cattle, horses, and grain.

Domingo was soon selling off his land in order to raise money for legal fees and fines.  He also fell victim to the unscrupulous dealings of Horace Carpentier, who cheated Domingo out of his land by convincing him into sign misleading legal papers written in English.

By the mid-1850’s Domingo’s holdings were reduced from their original twelve thousand acres down to a mere thirty acres.  After  he died in 1865, his widow and all the family moved out of their frame house, and the garden and orchard were abandoned because they could no longer afford to maintain it.  The house was sold in 1876 and the buyer moved the it to his own land on the north side of Schoolhouse creek, a few hundred yards south of the original site.  In 1924 the building was sold to the University of California, and it served as a storeroom and toolshed until 1933, when the whole building was torn down.

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