Sonoma Cattle Rustling


The cattlelands of western Sonoma were established as a series of Mexican land grants in the mid-1800s.  The original ranchos are long since dissolved but the cattle are still ripe for the picking.  Ride through the  patchwork of Mexican Land Grants and rustle up some cattle!
69 MI
+ 6085 / – 6091 FT
Insertion Point: Petaluma Adobe

Map of Sonoma Cattle Rustling

Google Map


In 1845, Mexico maintains a tenuous hold on its territory known as Alta California. For the first half of the 1800s, the Russians had pressured Mexican control of the region from the north, with its focal point at Fort Ross. Only recently have the Russians ceded their stance in Alta California. But in doing so, they sold their holdings to John Sutter, a Swiss with his own aspirations of sovereignty. Recently, settlers from Mexico’s expansive eastern neighbor, the United States, pose yet another threat to the region.
To solidify power through the sparsely populated territory of Alta California, first the Spanish and then their Mexican successors granted land, “Ranchos”, to elite military families and handpicked agricultural developers.

Without question, General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, officially the, “Military Commander and Director of Colonization of the Northern Frontier,” is Mexico’s most powerful and influential of such landholders in northern California. Among his holdings is Rancho Petaluma, the prize of lands north of Yerba Buena. Serving as the region’s administrative and socio-economic center, is the Petaluma Adobe.
The Petaluma Adobe employs 2,000 (mostly native American) workers, boasts 12,000 head of cattle and 3,000 sheep, and produces dozens of manufactured products from tanned hides to finished leather goods.

By 1845, Vallejo has held control of Rancho Petaluma for over 10 years. Only recently has the Mexican government granted the surrounding lands, and it did so to Vallejo’s former subordinates. These Ranchos are new and agriculturally undeveloped.


Starting at the Petaluma Adobe, round up Vallejo’s far ranging cattle. They’ve roamed throughout Rancho Petaluma and strayed into the surrounding, underdeveloped Ranchos. Visit each Rancho and drive the cattle home.

Rancho Petaluma

From Rancho Petaluma, ride around the perimeter of modern day Petaluma and head west.

Rancho Cotate

Having served under Vallejo, Captain Juan Castaneda received this grant in 1844. It takes its name from a Miwok village of the same name (Kotati) and (in 1845) remains woefully underdeveloped.

Rancho Roblar de la Miseria

Riding northwest, trace the Petaluma River through Rancho Roblar de la Miseria (granted in 1845) and cross into Llano de Santa Rosa.

Rancho Llano de Santa rosa

Vallejo helped Joaquin Victor Carrillo II (his brother-in-law) obtain the Llano de Santa Rosa land grant in 1844. Joaquin founded the Analy township (near present day Sebastapol).

Rancho Canada de Jonive

James Black was a member of the trio that Vallejo sent to establish a northern bulwark against Russian expansion (centered at Fort Ross). Black’s Rancho (centered on modern day Freestone) is brand new in 1845, having received it for his service under Vallejo.

Rancho Estero Americano

Along with James Black, Edward McIntosh and James Dawson formed the trio of Anglos that Vallejo sent north in response to the Russian presence. They jointly earned the prized Rancho Estro Americano, but parted ways when Dawson was excluded from the official grant in 1839. Regardless, all three men were more interested in logging than ranching, in 1845 nothing remotely like the operation at Petaluma existed at Rancho Estero Americano.

Rancho Canada de Pogolimi

The Mexican government granted finally granted James Dawson’s own rancho posthumously (to his wife) in 1844. (It’s located near present day Valley Ford, CA.)

Rancho Blucher

Made permanent in 1844 by Governor Manuel Micheltorena, the Swiss Jean Jacques Vioget has operated Rancho Blucher on a provisional basis since 1842. The grant spans the coast from Estero Americano in the north to Estero de San Antonio to the south.

Rancho Laguna de San Antonio

Granted in 1845 by Governor Pío Pico to Bartolomé Bojorquez, a soldier at the San Francico Presidio and descendent of the De anza expedition, Rancho Laguna de San Antonio surrounds Laguna Lake.


1845 stood on the eve of change in California. The very next year, the Bear Flag Revolt erupted in Sonoma, temporarily depriving Vallejo of his liberty and permanently divesting him of his wealth, charter, and legacy. What the Bear Flag Revolt left intact, the Mexican-American War further undermined and California Gold Rush, in the form of swarms of settlers and prospectors from across the globe, completely obliterated.

Visit Vallejo at his family home, Lachryma Montis, in Sonoma California. It somehow survived the Bear Flag Revolt and everything that followed. And, while in Sonoma, you may as well try a glass of wine.