I have begun to remember that I really did use to enjoy history class. Perhaps its why I have recently found enjoyment in the stories of Oakland’s history. I often joke that I did not get the teaching gene that runs through branches of my family; yet maybe a branch of that gene does exist. As I have spent time becoming more aware of names I often see on signs and street posts, Peralta keeps making repeat appearances. A sunny afternoon visit to the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park left me with a stack of brochures and a series of questions, most prominent in my mind being “What will the history books say about you?” The veins of the Peralta family history run much like the creeks of the vast Rancho San Antonio, winding, twisting, and many in number. Their homestead, stretching from the eastern shores of the bay up into the hills, is the birthplace of our town; Oakland’s Momma. While today marks the official 164th birthday of Oakland, the date it was incorporated in 1852, it was the ranchero that brought the diverse culture and community to the land that Oakland now stands upon.
There are so many facets to this early part of Oakland’s history, to really cover them in depth would require me in front of a chalkboard and you with a pen & paper. It takes us back to early California history, to the time of Spanish colonization in what was known as Alta California, a state of New Spain, and later that of Mexico from 1822-1848. It starts with Luis Maria Peralta who arrived in what is now California in 1776, and was later given more than 44,000 acres in the East Bay in 1820 in a land grant awarded to him by the Crown of Spain as recognition for his 40 years of military service.
The land was known as Rancho San Antonio and it encompassed the modern day cities of Oakland, San Leandro, Alameda, Emeryville, Piedmont, Berkeley and Albany. Luis Peralta himself never lived on the land. However since he was required to built a home on the land within one year of the grant being awarded, one of his four sons, Antonio, built the 1st adobe home on the expansive property in 1821. This home stood on the site of the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park in the Fruitvale District of Oakland, but no longer stands. It is believed that this original home was likely the 1st non-Native American dwelling built in present-day Oakland.
Antonio Peralta brought his first wife, Maria Dolores Galindo, to the home sometime around 1828. As their home filled with offspring they quickly outgrew the original adobe and then built a second home nearby in 1840. Maria died around 1850, and Antonio married his second wife, Maria Dolores Archuleta, in 1852. She then died in 1868. Also in 1868, a large earthquake along the Hayward Fault destroyed the home, as well as many other structures across the rancho. In 1870 the two-story Italianate home was built, and still stands. The only other remaining structure from Rancho San Antonio is the brick <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peralta_Home”>Peralta Home</a> built by Antonio’s brother Ignacio in 1860, located in modern day San Leandro.
Ranchero life boomed in the earlier days, as the Peralta family worked their land, raising thousands of heads of cattle and horses. Community was built around 16 homes that spanned all of Rancho San Antonio, as each of the Peralta sons established their portion of their father’s holding, which he officially divided amongst them in 1842. They created the first Spanish-speaking communities in the area. The Native Americans who had been banished from their land to the Spanish missions returned to help tend to the land and care for the livestock. Annual rodeos, round-ups, and horse racing were held on the land. The rancho was a popular stop along the Camino Real, the historic road that connected the missions, pueblos, and presidios of Alta California.
The history of this time is full of significance as the land now known as California shifted from government to government, ultimately becoming part of the United States at the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848. The ranchero life that was led by the Peralta family began to decline as internal family dispute, expensive litigation over their right to the land after the Land Act of 1851, the influx of settlers due to the Gold Rush, as well as a rash of squatting, led to a significant decline in ownership of the property. At the time of his death in 1879, Antonio Peralta had only 23 acres left of the original 16,000+ he had been given by his father.
On the site today stands not only the historic home and museum, but native plant gardens, historically themed play structures, historical exhibits on the areas where the two original adobes once stood, and outdoor nature areas that extend down the hill to the Peralta Creek. Community is being built and sustained through wonderful programs, summer camps, field trips, and more.
I enjoyed taking a step back to learn about Oakland’s roots in ranchero life. This small pocket of the Fruitvale District is certainly not small in terms of historical significance. It is the origin of settled life in the East Bay. While that raises its own questions to think about in terms of the Native Americans that were driven from the land, the people behind the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park are working to bring all facets of the lands history to the forefront, and integrating its significance with today’s diverse culture within the community.
The Peralta Hacienda Historical Park and Museum are located at:
2465 34th Avenue
Oakland, CA 94601
For more information about the programs at the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, as well as much more about its history, please visit www.peraltahacienda.org.
Unfortunately the museum was closed during my visit due to a board meeting, but normal hours are Wed-Sat from 2:30 pm – 5:30pm.
The Peraltas and Rancho San Antonio, www.sfbaytimetraveler.com
Antonio Peralta and Rancho San Antonio, www.sfbaytimetraveler.com
Peralta Family History, www.peraltahacienda.org
Map Image of Rancho San Antonio, www.sanantonioparkoaklandca.wordpress.com
Image of Antonio Peralta and Family on Porch, courtesy of the Friends of Peralta Hacienda Historical Park
All other photos by Adrienne Schell