Historic Mariposa, CA
April 25, 26, 27, 2008

Las Mariposas Land Grant

JOHN CHARLES FREMONT
AND the
“Las Mariposas Grant”

 

by Tom Phillips

The Mariposa area was named by a Spanish Priest under the direction of explorer, Gabriel Moraga.  

Moraga was the leader of a 25-man troop that explored central California in 1806 to establish sites for missions in the interior of California.  When he and his expedition came upon a creek laced with thousands of yellow butterflies, they named the area “El Arroyo de Las Mariposas”. ccLas Mariposas is the Spanish word for the butterfly.


The Mariposa area was the home to the Southern Miwok Indians who lived here for untold generations before any Europeans arrived in the Americas.

Juan B. Alvarado, Mexican governor of California (1836-1842), was awarded the “Las Mariposas Grant”.  The “Las Mariposas Grant” was a
“floating” grant which meant that it had no fixed boundaries. It was ten square leagues (approx. 44,400 acres) located generally on the Mariposa Creek between the San Joaquin, Chowchilla, and Merced rivers and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
 



Alvarado was never able to establish the fixed boundaries of the grant due to the hostilities of the Indian population.

 

 

In 1846, John C. Fremont gave $3,280 to Thomas O. Larkin, the U.S. consul to the Territory of California, to buy the Santa Cruz Ranch in the San Jose area.  Instead, Larkin purchased a desolate old land grant in the middle of Indian country for Fremont called the “Las Mariposas Grant”.

Before Fremont could rectify this mistake, word came from Coloma that gold had been discovered along the American River.  Fremont immediately sent a group of Mexican miners, under the direction of Alex Godey, to the Grant area to determine if gold was also to be found.
 

They soon traced a large vein, a mile long, which they called the 
“Mother Lode”.


Before Fremont could solidify his grant boundaries and establish it through the legal establishment of the day, thousands of miners arrived on the scene.   Few of the miners acknowledged Fremont’s claim and Fremont was tossed into a legal battle that would take until 1856 to settle and 1859 to finalize.

The Las Mariposas Grant finally took shape along this wide vein that stretched from Mariposa Creek to the Merced River.

In 1855, the Democratic Party asked John Fremont to run for the presidential election. John Fremont was not pro slavery and when leaders of the Democratic Party told Fremont that he could not speak out against slavery as the Democratic candidate, he told them he would not run on their ticket.  

John Fremont helped found the Republican Party and was chosen as its first presidential candidate.

During the American Civil War, John C. Fremont was selected as a Major General and put in command at the Western Department in St. Louis.  In August of 1861, John Fremont declared that slaves owned by Confederates in Missouri were free.

President Lincoln felt that John Fremont’s actions would cause slave-owners in border states to join the Confederate forces. Lincoln removed Fremont from command of the Western Department and was given a new command under the orders of John Pope, but Fremont resigned and spent the rest of the war in New York

The Frank Long Ranch is located on the southern portion of the Las Mariposas Grant in an area called the Guadalupe Valley.  The area
surrounding this ranch are the historic towns of Bridgeport, Guadalupe, Agua Fria, Mariposa and Mormon Bar.  
 

The Long Ranch was selected to host the Las Mariposas Civil War Days because of its historic location as well as its similarity to Civil War battlefields.   The gentle rolling slopes and large grass meadows make it an excellent location for this event.