Santa Cruz County History - Places

Notes on the History of Williams Mill and Williams Landing in Bonny Doon, California
by Paul Tutwiler


The Rancho Arroyo de la Laguna
James Williams and his Rancho
Land Transactions Involving or Related to the Rancho Before the Death of James Williams
Land Uses and Transactions After the Death of James Williams
A Note on George Liddell
Appendix: Maps

Land Transactions Involving or Related to the Rancho Before the Death of James Williams

All the information in this section unless otherwise noted is from the Santa Cruz County Register of Deeds, volumes 1-3.


James Williams and Mary, his wife, sell for $7,500 to Isaac and Elizabeth Patterson (Mary's brother and her mother) that part of the Rancho contained in an area from the mouth of Laguna Creek 1/2 mile north on a line parallel with the coast 100 yards north of the creek

… immediately north of the house in which the said James Williams now resides the said creek generally known as the creek or gulch of the seals thence a Westerly direction on a paralel [sic] line with the said creek one half mile to the sea cost [sic] thence a southerly direction running with the said sea coast to the beginning.

It is not easy to interpret this description of the tract. Making allowances for the use of directions in this text (the "southerly direction running with the said sea coast," for instance is, in reality east by southeast), and remembering that the "gulch of the seals" of that time was later named "Liddell Creek," we interpret it to mean that the tract in question is roughly a square mile of land lying in the southeast quadrant of James’s Rancho, that is, a quadrangle of land extending from Laguna Creek to Liddell Creek and a half mile in from the coast.

In the same transaction James and Mary sell to Isaac and Elizabeth

… Also one tract or parcel of land described as follows to include or embrace a saw mill Builded [sic] or reared by the said James Williams embracing one mile in a Northwesterly direction from saw mill one mile in a Southwesterly direction one half mile in a southerly direction and one half mile in a Northeasterly direction from saw mill that is to say the saw tract or parcel of land is intended to embrace two miles in length running from North West to the South East and one mile in width from the North East to the South West so as to place the aforesaid Mill in the center of the said tract or parcel of land also extending Guaranteeing [sic] and securing to the aforesaid Isaac Patterson and Elizabeth Patterson the right Privilege and advantage of the road leading from said Mill to the present shipping point on the sea coast also grazing their stock...

This is clearly a two square mile tract lying along the northeast border of the Rancho and centered on the saw mill, which was, indeed, about a half mile upgrade from the ranch boundary. Although the mill had not yet been completed, the road running up along Liddell Creek from the landing to it was already in (private) use. The Santa Cruz County Deed Registers do not record the transaction by which James came into possession of this land, and although the tract is similar to the "mill tract" which James acquired in 1853 by a school land warrant and both tracts center on the mill, the school land warrant property is only 320 acres, one half of a square mile. See below for the school land warrants purchased by James alone or in partnership. A map of this school land warrant is appended.


On April 8 Isaac and Elizabeth Patterson sell to James Williams for $7,500 an undivided half part of the tracts they had bought from him and Mary in 1850.

On April 28 Isaac Williams, James’s brother, sells for $3,000 to James his interest in "the Rancho de la Lobo granted by the Mexican Government to Gil Sanchez." The description makes it clear that this is the Rancho Arroyo de la Laguna. Although James and Squire had acquired the land in their names, it can be seen from the letter of Isaac dated November 4, 1851, that he had put up a third of the purchase money. About this time Isaac and his family left Santa Cruz for the Yuba mining area. After spending a while there, they migrated to the Pajaro River Valley, where they took up residence. (For this information and the subsequent history of Isaac see Pokriots, p. 22)

On November 7 and 15: George R. Gluyas and Joseph C. Coult buy from James Williams the right to erect a steam saw mill "in the vicinity of the timberland owned and [text not clear]ed by said Williams" and to log for it. Each, including James, owns 1/3 of the mill. Gluyas and Coult have a right to build buildings and a railroad or railroads "from the mill to the Sea Coast" until the timber is exhausted. The "lumber in the ravines" separate from the tableland is excepted, and James retains the right to continue operating the present saw mill and to cut timber for wagon wheel spokes, fencing, and farming purposes. James keeps 1/10 of the lime production from the three quarries on the property and shares equally (1/3) in the rest of the production. The property in question went "back to a certain raing [sic] of Sand hills about north east from a saw mill erected by the said Williams... and from hence ranging with the said sand hills in about west to the said Blass [San Vicente] creek."

In addition to the above, James sells for $20,000 to Gluyas and Coult the right to log and ship lumber. The area involved includes nine school land warrants and 11/18 undivided interest in the Rancho proper. Nevertheless, "any of the Lands or timber along the valley through which the main or south branch of the creek runs that runs by said Williams house anywhere from its source to its outlet in the Bay shall be expressly reserved to said Williams...."

These school land warrants did not come legally into James's possession until the following January.

School land warrants were titles to tracts of land given by the Federal Government to the states so that the latter could sell them and apply the revenue to the founding and upkeep of public schools. By an act of 1852 the California legislature authorized the Governer to sell 500,000 acres in school land warrants. Warrant number 87 is one of the first in Santa Cruz County and one of very few there not to be described in terms of sections, towns, and ranges. The following information is from the register entitled School Land Warrrants of Santa Cruz County, which is kept in the County Recorder's office.

School land warrant number 87 was acquired in November, 1852 by Francis Kittridge and transferred from him to James Williams as surveyed and located on January 21, 1853 and recorded on February 25, 1853. The land consisted of 320 acres and was situated north of Williams’s Rancho, "being the mill tract of said Williams beginning at a stake by a blazed pine SE of the point where the Road leading from the Beach enters the Redwood."

A map accompanies the text. It is difficult to reconcile directions given on it with the points of the compass, but the landmarks shown on it are clearly recognizable. It shows the sawmill at the confluence of an unnamed creek [identified as Williams Mill Creek on the 1878 map in the Appendix; otherwise known simply as Mill Creek] and the tributary that enters it from the east at the point where Mill Creek changes direction from north-south to east-west. It shows other tributaries upstream, one of which originates in a "senega." This term appears to be a corruption of the Spanish cienega, "swamp." The accent of Cienega on the second syllable. See Diccionario de la Lengua Espanola cited above. Annotations on the map note that about 3/4 of the land is in redwood and oak, but some of the eastern part of it is "Prarie"[sic] in addition to the swamp. It shows the "Road from the mill," which, according to a U. S. Survey map of 1881, "Map of Fractional Township No 10 South, Range No 3 West, Mount Diablo Meridian", as, in its upper tract, closer to Mill Creek than the present road.

In 1853 James Williams, together with Gluyas and Coult, acquired 2,400 acres in school land warrants which were described in terms of the U.S. Land Survey. Some of this land appears to coincide with school land warrant 87, and the rest lies in the upper watershed of SanVicente Creek and its tributary (Williams) Mill Creek, except for one parcel, which is in the upper watershed of Laguna Creek. The parcels were close to one another, and some were contiguous with others. Almost all this land was in timber.

The 2,400 acres in school land warrants are all in Town 10 South, Range 3 West from the Mount Diablo Meridian, are numbered and described as:

633 the southeast quarter of section 27 160 acres
247 the south half of section 26 320 acres
629 the northeast quarter of section 26 160 acres
628 the southwest quarter of section 23 160 acres
637 the southeast quarter of section 22 160 acres
253 the south half of section 14 320 acres
254 the north half of section 14 320 acres
631 the southwest quarter of section 13 160 acres
630 the southwest quarter of section 12 160 acres
255 the east half of section 11 320
632 the southeast quarter of section 2 160
  Total 2,400 acres

The school land warrant lands changed hands legally between James and his partners more than once before his death in 1858, but at the time of his death all of them except number 87 were listed as James's assets to be sold in the Sheriff's sale. In 1861 Gluyas, apparently the only remaining party with an interest in them, "floated" all of them but number 247, which lay between the Rancho and the mill tract and which contained limestone quarries. (By "floating" them Gluyas relinquished title to them. Gluyas states that they had never been "sectionalized" and that others were laying claim to them.)


A certain Edward L. Williams sells his interest in the Rancho to James Williams for $900. According to information on the Williams family furnished by local historian Marion Dale Pokriots, Edward Williams was not a relative of James and his brothers.


In partnership with Tully R. Wise, James buys back from Gluyas an undivided part interest in the Rancho and 2,400 acres northeast of it in school land warrants. Coult is no longer involved, although it is not clear from the registry of deeds why this is so.


According to the tax rolls published in the Pacific Sentinel, Santa Cruz, December 19, 1857 Tully R. Wise and James Williams are responsible for taxes on

… a portion of the rancho de la Laguna, containing 1000 acres bounded as follows: commencing at Blass creek [San Vicente Creek], commencing at its mouth, running up said creek to the boundary line, far enough to include all the limestone quarries, thence running along the bluffs, far enough to include all the lime rock, to a natural break in a divide, about one mile north east of the dwelling house of said Williams, thence running to the township line, crossing the creek which leads by said William's house and high bluff west of the creek, thence in a south east direction to the head of a small ravine, thence south half east, leaving several small ravines on the w and s w until the line strikes the creek, leading by Williams' house at the beach, at the shipping point on the bay of Monterey, from thence following along the beach of said bay to Blass creek, the point of beginning and also school land warrant, located by Geo K. [sic] Gluyas & J. C. Coult, warrants No. 217 for 320 acres of land on a half of sec. 26, township 10 of first base line, range 3 w, first principal meridian and also n e 1/4th of sec. 27, township 2, range as above, No. 633 for 160 acres and also n e 1/4th of sec. 22, township and range as above, No. 637 for 160 acres and also on n e 1/4th of section 26, township and range as above, No. 629 for 160 acres and No. 630 for 160 acres on the s w quarter sec. 12 town and range as above and also 1/4th of sec. 2 of township and range as above, N. 632 for 160 acres, also school land warrant No. 27 for 320 acres of land lying n of of [sic] said Williams' rancho, being the mill tract of said Williams, in all 3400 acres of land.

The part of the Rancho involved in this seems to be all of it lying between San Vicente Creek and Liddell Creek, which is roughly a thousand acres. The seven school land warrants mentioned total 1,440 acres, although there were in fact 2,400 acres of land warrants owned by James and his partners, and the 2,400 are needed to justify the total of 3,400.

Note that James's school land warrant properties according to the tax rolls of 1857 do not entirely correspond to the ones given above. There are other uncertainties, also, such as, what happened to number 87? Some of these uncertainties seem to relate to the boundaries of the Rancho, which, as noted above, were not definitively fixed until 1878.


From the Pacific Sentinel. Santa Cruz, July 31, 1858:

Sheriff’s Sale.

By virtue of an execution issued out of the District Court, of the 3d Judicial District, in and for the county of Santa Cruz, State of California, and to me directed and delivered, for a judgment rendered in said Court on the 28th day of July A. D. 1858, in favor of Andrew Glassell, Plaintiff, and against James Williams, defendant, for the principal sum of nine thousand five hundred and eighty-five dollars ($9,585), with interest thereon at the rate of two and one-half per cent. per month from the 7th day of July, A. D. 1858, until paid; and for the further sum of twelve dollars and 20/100 costs of suit; also accruing costs -- I have levied upon the following described property to wit: All the right, title and interest of James Williams, the defendant in the suit of Andrew Glassell vs. James Williams -- That portion of the old ranch called “Williams Ranch,” situated being and lying in the county of Santa Cruz, in the State of California, discribed [sic] as follows, to wit: Commencing at Blass Creek at its mouth, where it empties into the Bay of of Monterey, and running up said creek to the northern boundary line, far enough to take in and include all the lime stone quarries, so far as now discovered on said Ranch; thence, running along the bluffs far enough south to include the lime rock to a natural creek in a divide about one mile north-east from the dwelling house of James Williams; thence, running to the Township corner, crossing the creek which leads by the said Williams’ house and a high bluff west of the creek; thence, in a south-easterly direction to the head of a small ravine; thence, south half-east; leaving several small ravines on the west and south-west, until the line strikes the said creek, leading by said Williams' house at the beach, including the said beach at the shipping point upon Monterey Bay; from thence, following along the beach and said Bay, to Blass Creek or the place of beginning. Also all that certain tract of timber and grazing land described as follows, to wit: Two thousand four hundred acres of land adjoining the said "Williams Ranch," and lying to the north-east of it, upon which School Land Warrants were located by James Williams George K. [sic] Gluyas and Joseph C. Coult, which said warrants were numbered and contained the following quantity of land as follows: Numbers 254, 253, 247, and 255 -- each for 320 acres of land. Also numbers 630, 637, 628, 631, 632, 629 and 633 -- each for 160 acres of land, which said warrants are located and recorded in the said county of Santa Cruz, together with all the premises and appertenances [sic] thereto belonging, or in any wise appertaining.

Notice is hereby given, that on Wednesday the 25th day of August, A. D. 1858 I will sell at public sale, at the door of the Court House, in the town and County of Santa Cruz, between the hours of 9 o'clock A. M. and 5 o'clock P. M., to the highest bidder for cash in hand to satisfy said execution.

Santa Cruz July 31st, A. D. 1858

JOHN T. PORTER, Sheriff.

October 9, death of James Williams.

Next: Land Uses and Transactions After the Death of James Williams

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Bonny Doon


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