Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
Plat Map of Rancho Castac by E.F. Beale
Lebec-Tejon Area

Click image to enlarge

No sooner had Gen. Edward F. Beale drawn up this map of Jose Covarrubias' Rancho Castac (aka Castec, the Lebec-Fort Tejon area) in November 1862 than he turned around and bought the property in 1863 through an intermediary. That's the sort of thing that got Beale fired from his job as U.S. Surveyor-General for California and Nevada. Abraham Lincoln said he didn't want a surveyor who became "monarch of all he has surveyed." He just wanted someone who would do his job so patent applicants could perfect their claims in accordance with the Land Act of 1851, and so the government could figure out how much unclaimed land was left over to dole out in the form of 160-acre homesteads for settlers.

Rather than use latitude and longitude, Beale used oak trees and other natural features as boundary markers, which was customary for the time. The southern tip of the rancho is delineated by the "real" Castaic Lake, which it includes — and which is not to be confused with the manmade Castaic Reservoir of a century later. About halfway up on the left (northwest) is Fort Tejon; in between the lake and the fort are grapevines (uvas), hence the name, Grapevine — which has nothing to do with the windy Ridge Route road of the 20th Century. The ranch house toward the top would be the Covarrubias ranch house (misspelled Covarabias here).

Map reads:

Plat of the Rancho Castac finally confirmed to Jose Maria Covarabias / Surveyed under instructions from the U.S. Surveyor General by Geo. H. Thompson, Dep. Sec. / September 1862 / containing 22,178 acres.

The field notes of the Rancho Castac from which this plat has been made have been examined and approved and are on file in this office.

U.S. Surveyor
General's Office
San Francisco
November 8th 1862

Note: Notice of the approval of this plat and its retention in office for four weeks, subject to inspection, was published [missing] December, 1862 to the 29th of January 1863, [missing] of Congress of June 14th 1860.

/s/ E.F. Beale

Just as there are two Castaic Lakes (the natural one east of Lebec and the man-made reservoir that's part of the State Water Project), so were there two Castaics. The one most people know is the newer one. The original one was an 1843 Mexican land grant that stretched roughly from modern-day Lebec north to the bottom (north side) of the Grapevine. Rancho Castec, as it was called (also Castac, Castaic and several other spellings) was eventually absorbed into the Tejon Ranch. Both "Castaics" derive their name from the Chumash word, Kashtiq, meaning "like an eye" (see Johnson 1978) ... and the correct pronunciation, at least of the modern community of Castaic, is cas-STEAK.

The 22,178-acre Rancho Castec was granted to a politically connected schoolteacher named José Maria Covarrubias (alternately Covarubias or Covarabias) on Nov. 22, 1843, by Manuel Micheltorena, then-governor of Alta California. Covarrubias had emigrated from France in 1834 and became a naturalized Mexican citizen (only Mexican citizens could own land). He held various government positions in the state capitol of Monterey and in Santa Barbara, where he served as mayor. Along the way he was awarded additional land grants. Covarrubias was a member of the California Constitutional Convention in 1849, and under American rule, he served in the state Assembly from 1849 to 1862. He bought the island of Santa Catalina in 1850.

On Aug. 10, 1854, the U.S. Army garrisoned Fort Tejon on a section of the Rancho Castec property, in order to control Native Americans on the 75,000-acre Sebastian (aka Tejon) Indian Reservation — which Edward F. "Ned" Beale, then Superintendent of Indian Affairs for California and Nevada, was setting up 17 miles northeast on the original Rancho El Tejon — and to guard against raiding parties from other tribes. The fort lasted just 10 years, until Sept. 11, 1864, when the Army needed to save money to fight the South.

Meanwhile, like other landed citizens, José Covarrubias had to prove his formerly Mexican property ownership under the U.S. Land Act of 1851. He filed on Rancho Castec in 1853 and the U.S. Public Land Commission finally upheld his claim in 1866 — by which time he no longer owned it.

Chalk it up to Ned Beale.

After Covarrubias filed for the patent, Beale, now Lincoln's Surveyor General for California and Nevada, was instructed to survey the property and set the metes and bounds. In the course of doing so, Beale had his assistant, Samuel A. Bishop, buy the rancho from Covarrubias. It was Beale's modus operandi; Lincoln fired him in 1863 because the president didn't want a surveyor who became "monarch of all he has surveyed" — and also because Beale tended to spend more than Congress allotted, and for "accounting irregularities."

In what was probably a paper transaction to avoid scrutiny, Bishop flipped the property to Beale's partner, Robert Symington Baker, who sold it to Beale in 1866. Bishop had moved onto the property in 1864 to manage Beale's holdings on both sides of the Los Angeles-Kern County border, which now included the following: Rancho El Tejon, 97,612 acres (which he purchased from Juan Temple); Rancho Los Alamos, 26,626 acres; Rancho Castec, 22,178 acres; Rancho La Liebre, 48,799 acres; various railroad lands, 54,000 acres; and property purchased from settlers, 20,000 — for a whopping total of 269,215 acres (Thompson 1983:232).

In the 1880s, late in life, Beale wanted to sell the property to someone who would develop it into homes and farms for settlers, but he still owned it when he died in 1893. His heirs sold it to the principals of the Los Angeles Times, who took the combined holdings public as the Tejon Ranch Co. (NYSE: TRC).

More than a century later, it looks like Beale's dream of a community for settlers is finally starting to come to fruition.

— Leon Worden 2013

LW2580: 19200 dpi jpeg from July 1997 photograph by Leon Worden of hand-drawn map, probably an early traced copy of the original.
• Fort Tejon
• Rancho Castec
• Tejon Ranch
• Tejon Indians
• Tejon Indian Tribe
• Tejon Ranch Development (21st Century)


• Johnson: The Trail to Kashtiq


Map ~1842


Beale Map 1862


News Item 11-22-1915


Real Castaic Lake 1919x2


Real Castaic Lake 1920s


Snowman 1922


Legend of Indian Massacre, News Report 1927


Real Castaic Lake 1930s


Real Castac Lake ~1930s


Snowfall 10/1949 x2


Wines Richfield

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