The Rancho Era 1836 - 1848
Mexico won independence from Spain and began to reward soldiers and prominent citizens with huge grants of land known as ranchos. This process of secularization gradually brought an end to the Mission Era and ushered in the Rancho Era. Governor Juan Alvarado appointed his friend, Jose de Jesus Vallejo, administrator of the secularized Mission San Jose in 1836. He arrived with orders to distribute the Mission property.
Our area was carved into four large tracts: Rancho del Agua Caliente (Warm Springs area), Rancho Arroyo de la Alameda (Niles - Decoto area), Rancho Potrero de los Cerritos (Newark - Alvarado area). The land surrounded by these three grants was known as Ex-Mission San Jose (Mission San Jose - Irvington - Newark) and was granted by Governor Pico just before the Mexican War.
The rancheros ran vast herds of cattle that provided for their needs. Life revolved around the herds and was enlivened by fiestas and feasts. They were skilled horsemen and rode everywhere. They traded hides for things they could not grow or make. They were religious, gracious, healthy, family-oriented people who enjoyed their simple, vigorous, outdoor life.
The Mission system that had dominated the lives of the Ohlone people was replaced by the Mexican government. Many Ohlones went to work on the Mexican ranchos, but some returned to their former way of life or joined local Indian communities.
The peaceful, pastoral life of the ranchos began to change with the arrival of American settlers. The Brooklyn brought a group of Mormons to San Francisco in 1846. Some of them stayed and became prominent settlers in the East Bay. Colonel John C. Fremont came through, foraging and recruiting as he pursued the Mexican forces. He liked Mission San Jose so much he tried to buy it.
The treaty at the end of the War with Mexico made California part of the United States. The discovery of gold brought a horde of miners, businessmen, adventurers, speculators, and settlers from around the world in search of land, wealth, and a new life. They took over the Rancho lands, squeezed out the landowners, and ended the Rancho Era.