The Spanish connection: expeditions and missions

Carlsbad’s history is a combination of many separate influences. As each new group of people immigrated to the area, they added to the richly woven tapestry of Carlsbad’s history. Written historical documentation of Carlsbad can be traced to Spain's 1769 Sacred Expedition led by the Franciscan Father Junipero Serra and Spanish Military Commander Gaspar de Portola. This was the first time that Spain authorized exploration of the California interior. Spain's colonization of the Americas began in 1492 with Columbus discovering the West Indies. In 1493, Pope Alexander VI’s papal bull "Inter cetera divina” divided the new world discoveries between Spain and Portugal. One must remember that this was a pre- reformation period and therefore European nations abided by Papal decisions. Pope Alexander VI's decision gave Spain permission to embark on 300 years of exploration, conquest and colonization in the Americas. The only contact between California and Spain during this time occurred when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo led a brief exploratory mission in 1542. He landed in San Diego as well as a few other sites. Spain for all practical purposes forgot California for over 200 years, concentrating on their more lucrative holdings in Mexico and Peru. The silver and gold mine yield from both of those countries occupied Spain's interest and boosted their economy while causing hyper inflation throughout the rest of Europe. After the reformation, a few European nations gradually challenged Spain's hold on their outlying American territories. After 1620, England began serious colonization of the Eastern Americas, in what are now New England and Virginia. By 1769, England was more willing to challenge Spain and ventured into the Caribbean and as far as the California coast. Russian interest in the Pacific northwest of the Americas combined with English attention to the area, spurred Spain into launching the Sacred Expedition to claim ownership of this vast unknown territory.

Spain's preferred method of colonization always entailed using the combined forces of church and military. They believed that it was their obligation to convert all unbaptised heathens to Catholicism as repayment for God's grace in allowing them to defeat the Moors in 1492 and finally ending Arab occupation of Spain. Because of Spanish beliefs, the military and the church led all Sacred Expeditions equally, each concerned with their own area of expertise. The primary objective of this 1769 Sacred Expedition was to map geographic areas and discover appropriate establishment sites for towns and Missions based on the locations and quantities of natives. Once the expedition arrived in the San Diego Region, Father Serra decided to remain there for a time, leaving Father Crespi to accompany Portola overland. From their journals we find the first written accounts of Carlsbad. Their journals describe traveling over a good road that would later become the genesis of El Camino Real, and of meeting up with various native peoples who lived around the lagoons. The soldiers who accompanied the expedition named the lagoon Agua Hedionda, meaning stinky water. However, Father Crespi recorded it as San Simeon Lipmaca, and he listed Buena Vista lagoon as Santa Sinforosa.

In 1798 Father Lausen established the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. At this time the Carlsbad area, which was part of the Mission land holdings, fully felt the impact of Spain's domination and control. Establishment of a mission involved more than building a church. Missions were self-sufficient entities that combined religious conversion of the native peoples along with development of cattle ranches, orchards and water systems. They were very much like small towns. The religious leaders who ran the Missions were responsible for the physical as well as the spiritual well being of the natives under their control.

Though relatively short lived, lasting only about 30 years in the Carlsbad area, the Mission San Luis Reys' impact was significant; displacing natives from their homes and changing their cultural, social and religious practices. The Mission also introduced new agricultural methods as well as non-native plant materials and, most importantly, originated the concept of private land ownership.

Each Mission had specific boundaries within which the Mission Fathers made and enforced all decisions based on the needs of those living under their jurisdiction.

The Mexican influence and Rancho Agua Hedionda

By 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain, and the Mission period soon ended. Division and secularization of the rich Mission lands occurred throughout California. By 1834, Mexican Governor Alvarado was issuing the first private land grants from the partitioned Mission lands. Mission San Luis Rey was divided into five separate land grants: Aqua Hedionda, Buena Vista, Encinitas, Guajome and Los Vallecitos de San Marcos. It must be remembered that not all the former Mission lands were included in land grants; some was left vacant, providing free range between the private land holdings.

Side Bar- Land Grants Rancho Agua Hedionda originally called Rancho San Francisco was a 13,000-acre grant issued to Juan Maria Romouldo Marron of San Diego in 1842 by Governor Juan Batista Alvarado. It is this block of land that eventually provided the foundation of present day Carlsbad. A small section of the land grant, Rancho Los Encinitas issued in 1842 to Don Andrés Ybarra, also became part of Carlsbad. The remnants of Don Ybarra's adobe ranch house are located at Stagecoach Park in Carlsbad's southeast quadrant.


In 1846, America fulfilled its America's Manifest Destiny when it entered into a war with Mexico known as the Mexican American war. By 1848, the war had ended with Mexico losing almost one half of its total territory to the United States. After a brief twenty-one year period, Mexican rule over California ended. In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed by the United States and Mexico 1848, the same rights were guaranteed to Mexican citizens living in the newly acquired US territories as if they were already United States citizens.

While recognition of property ownership was assured in the treaty, it was sometimes difficult to maintain. A variety of reasons were at fault; one difference was as simple as legal property description. When Mission land was partitioned and Mexican land grants were issued, property descriptions were based on the location of natural features such as trees, streams or hills. Diseños or drawings depicting these features were considered adequate as property descriptions. The United States based property titles on accurate surveys. In fact one of the first things the United States government did at the conclusion of the Mexican American war was to send out Survey teams that documented accurate boundary lines and grids throughout the Southwest. Additional problems encountered in retaining property title were debts and how they were paid off. Under Mexican practice, a gentleman's agreement was reached and negotiated and hands were shaken: the deal was done. United States law had papers signed, liens issued and property confiscated if loans were not repaid.

Immediately after the war a flood of Americans arrived in California, mainly heading for the northern California gold fields. Those that came and settled in Southern California did so for ranching and farming. Settling on the ranches with their families, they intended to live there year round, unlike their Californio counterparts who lived in town as well as on their ranchos.

Juan Maria Romouldo Marron died in 1853 while California was undergoing drastic changes. In his will the grantee, Juan Maria Romouldo Marron, left 362 acres on the northern border of his Rancho Agua Hedionda, the area known as Rinconada de Buena Vista y El Salto, to his younger brother and godson Sylvester Marron, along with grazing rights on the entire Rancho property. The remaining 12,000 acres of Rancho Agua Hedionda and a second Ranch in Baja California, Rancho Los Cuervos de Vernado, were left to his wife Felipa and four surviving children: Maria de la Luz, Jose Cayetano, Juan Nepomuceno and Ignacio de Jesus (Carron, October 2001). In the years immediately after Juan Maria Romouldos death, his family entered into a series of leases on Rancho Agua Hedionda. In 1860 Felipa Marron entered into an agreement with Francis J. Hinton, exchanging money for use of Rancho Agua Hedionda. Five years later in 1865 property title was transferred to Hinton.

The Kelly’s and other early settlers

Francis Hinton hired Robert Kelly, an émigré from the Isle of Mann, to oversee operations on Rancho Agua Hedionda. Kelly, who moved into an Adobe home built originally by the Marron family near the Agua Hedionda Creek, was well suited for the job. He had previously co-owned and run a ranch in Jamacha, owned and operated a mercantile in San Diego, and served in the United States Army post war Survey Commission. By 1868 Robert's older brother Matthew arrived in the area with his wife and family to establish a 10,000-acre homestead, named "Los Kiotes", southeast of the Rancho Agua Hedionda's southern most border. Francis Hinton's death in 1870 left Robert Kelly as sole inheritor and owner of Rancho Agua Hedionda. A succession of lawsuits from long lost Hinton relatives and Marron family members raised objections to Kelly's inheritance. When all legal issues were resolved, Kelly retained title to Rancho Agua Hedionda, Hinton relatives inherited property in other locations, and the Sylvester Marron family accepted ownership of the 362 acres known as Rinconada de Buena Vista, located on the northern fringe of the Rancho land grant.

In 1880, Robert Kelly granted a coastal right of way to the Southern California railway, providing the connection between San Diego and points north. The connection of rail lines spurred development of previously never owned or developed coastal land. One rail stop was just north west of Rancho Agua Hedionda and would shortly become known as Frazier's Station. The other stop, southwest of the land grant, was known as Stewart's Station. The Hayes and Hicks Inland Mail and Stage Company, a flourishing stagecoach business, ran daily stages between the inland towns of Escondido, San Marcos (or Barnham) and Fallbrook and the coastal rail lines.

John Frazier and family were among the first to arrive by train in 1883 and they settled on 160 acres close to the ocean west of the rail lines, just south of Buena Vista Lagoon. Frazier's various occupations, such as mining, farming and life on board a ship prepared him for the difficulties in this new settlement. Lack of potable water was a major hindrance to any farming efforts. The land was rather worthless if it did not have a water source. Most farmers in the area tried digging wells since the nearby lagoons usually dried up during the summers. To guarantee clean fresh water, families collected rain that ran off roofs into cisterns or brought water by horse and wagon from the closest fresh water source, the El Salto Falls at Marron Gorge, about 4 miles away. Considering that horse and wagon undertook this trek, water was a very precious commodity, and not used lightly. Frazier decided that there had to be a better and easier way to provide water for his family and his farm. Frazier contracted the Mull Brothers, expert well borers, to dig a well. The Oceanside newspaper "The Wavelets," reported that John Frazier agreed to pay $3.00 per drilled foot, not to exceed 600 feet, to find water. One can imagine his relief in 1885, when water was discovered at 245 feet. Eventually both mineral and artesian water were discovered and excitedly reported in the local newspapers. Overnight the discovery of water so near the coastline increased the value of land by 50 percent. Frazier built a platform near the rail line and began offering train passengers water. His fame grew and the area near his home and wells was known as Frazier's Station.

By the 1880s the American populace had recovered from the devastation of the Civil War and was looking for new opportunities. Completion of the transcontinental railroad, rail lines running throughout California, and cheap train fares from the Midwest to the Pacific all contributed to a population in motion. A land boom was underway and many had just one destination in mind, the West.