After the 1884 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo between Mexico and the United States transferred the possession of California to the U.S., all existing titles to land were recognized by the conquering Americans. However, due to conflicting claims of ownership, a Federal Lands Commission was established in 1851 by the first elected senators from the new state, John C. Fremont and William M. Gwin. This Commission held its hearings in San Francisco and the initial case decided for Santa Clara Counts property was that Rancho los Coche, a one-half square league lying southwest of The Alameda.
When the Mexicans had governed California, from 1822 to 1848, awards of land parcels were freely given to deserving Mexican citizens. These had been issued under a loose metes and bounds system that emphasized contemporary physical landmarks such as trees, rocks, hills and streams to establish boundaries. A hand-drawn map, a diseno, described the official borders of the parcel. However, these were sufficiently ill-defined to cause disputes. Subsequent to statehood, property was determined under a more rigorous public land survey system.
The area that is now Morgan Hill was first granted to Juan Maria Hernandez on August 4, 1835 by Governor Jose Figueroa. Hernandez was awarded two square leagues of land which was called Rancho Ojo de Agua de la Coche. The Spanish league was measured at 4,438 acres “poco mas o menos.” There has never been consensus about what the rancho’s name means. It has been variously translated as Slight of Water from the Coach, An Eye Full of Water, Spring of the Pig’s Eye and Pig’s Spring. Hernandez sold the property nine years later, in 1884 to Charles Weber who held it for Martin Murphy Sr.
The property boundaries follow Llagas Creek on the west to what is now Edmundson Avenue/Tennant Road on the south, to a straight line just west of Coyote Creek on the east (approximately the ridge line of the first foothills) to a straight line from the conjunction of today’s Hill Road and a phantom extension of Wright Avenue to Monterey Road, to a straight line north to Llagas Road and straight east to the headwaters of Llagas Creek.
After the Santa Clara Valley became a county in 1850 and assumed official jurisdiction over property transactions, the confirmed patents of 25 land grants within the county were formally published by the Santa Clara County Superior Court in an elaborate Inventory of Maps, Patent Book “A” dated July 28, 1866. With the information about the parcel, each grant was shown as a pen and ink sketch in colorful detail done by a local artist, Frank M. Goldstein, who was employed by the County in 1880.
A patent for Ojo de Agua de la Coche of 8,927.10 acres was issued to Martin J. G. Murphy (son Bernard, grandson of Martin Sr.) in 1860. To illustrate the scope of the Murphy influence in South County alone, it must be noted that two other patents were also issued to Martin J. G. Murphy by the same Commission in the same year. These include:
• The 11, 079.93 acre Rancho Las Uvas near Gilroy in 1860.
• The 4,166.78 acre Rancho La Polka near Gilroy in 1860.
• The 22,283.24acre Rancho san Francisco de las Llagas (the Asan Maringa res) was issued to Murphy sons, James and Martin Jr., in 1868.
• The 20,052.54 acre El Refugio de la Laguna Seca (Coyote Valley) was confirmed to Liberatat Cesena Bull et al in 1865. Liberta Cesena was the mother of Maria (Mary) Fisher who married Daniel Murphy. Daniel and Mary were the parents of Diana Murphy Hill, the wife of Hiram Morgan Hill.
• Finally, a patent for 8,787.80 acres of Rancho Canada de San Felipe y Las Animas (in the hills east of the Coyote Valley) was issued to Charles M. Weber, the husband of Helen (or Ellen) Murphy, one of the Murphy daughters, in 1866. Weber later founded Stockton, California.
• A little farther north, Martin Murphy Jr. was the sole claimant for the 4,894.35 acre Rancho Pastoria de las Borregas (now the city of Sunnyvale), in 1865
Arbuckle, Clyde and Roscoe D. Wyatt. Historic Names, Persons and Places in Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Board of Education, San Jose, CA 1948.
Cowan, Robert G. Ranchos of California: A List of Spanish Concessions, 1775-1822 and Mexican Grants, 1822-1846, Historical Society of Southern California, 1977.
Inventory of Maps, Patent Book “A”, County of Santa Clara, CA, 1866
Shumway, Burgess McK. Ranchos of California. Patented Private Land Grants Listed by County, Federal Writers Project, WPA, U.S. Government, 1940-41.
With the discovery of gold 1848 and statehood for California soon following (1850), migrants from around the world began flooding into California. The infrastructure to support this migration had to race to catch up. We will add photo of rancho map at a later date. rancho map.
As productivity of the gold mines diminished, pioneers began to look to cities and fertile land as a source of income. Cattle (and sheep) ranching was the primary economic activity in the South Valley until smaller farms began to spread throughout the valley, thus reducing grazing land. The staple agricultural product after the gold rush was wheat. At one point, the Santa Clara Valley was noted to be virtually an unbroken field of wheat. The introduction of other grain crops followed, primarily barley and oats.
During this time there was an increase of small developments in the South County. Because the distance to San Josè was too great to allow for frequent trips, these developments provided needed services and commodities in their respective vicinities. Along Monterey Road, improved in the 1850s, small way stations were established for travelers and stagecoach stops. These were named the Twelve-Mile House (Laguna House at Coyote), Fifteen-Mile House (Perry Station), Eighteen-Mile House (Madrone), and the Twenty-One Mile (Tennant Station). These hotels housed the services needed by travelers between San Josè and the South Valley.
In 1869, the Santa Clara & Pajaro Railroad line (paralleling Monterey Road and connecting San Josè with Gilroy) was completed through Southern Santa Clara Valley. This spurred development and changes due to the accessibility of new markets, creating more growth in the Valley. In 1870, Southern Pacific purchased this railroad line. With the railroad now carrying much of the traffic, the roadhouses became train stations, with a new one being added in Gilroy. Train stations were the shipping centers for grain, cattle and fruit products as well as passengers and freight.
In 1882, Diana, their daughter, secretly married Hiram Morgan Hill. When Daniel Murphy died, Diana inherited 4,500 acres of their original rancho in the shadow of El Toro. Diana and Hiram Morgan Hill built their country estate, Villa Mira Monte, between the railroad and Monterey Road in 1884.
In the 1890s, larger ranch owners began to subdivide their property thus creating smaller tracts to orchards, this marked a dramatic shift from grain production to horticulture. Daniel Murphy owned over 1,500,00 acres of land in California, Nevada and Mexico. When he died in 1882, his daughter Diana inherited portions of this land in the South County. In 1892, she sold her portion of Agua de la Coche to real estate developer Chauncy H. Philips of San Luis Obispo. Phillips subdivided the land into 5, 10 and 20-plus acre tracts and broadly promoted their sale. By 1896, Morgan Hill had a train depot, church, newspaper, church, school, water works, post express, telephone and telegraph offices.