Historian To Make Presentation On 1846 Mexican-American War Battle Of Chino

Local historian Paul Spitzzeri next month will provide an account of the Battle of Chino, which took place in the southwesternmost corner of San Bernardino County 175 years ago this month. Spitzzeri will speak at a site not too distant from where the historical event occurred.
The Chino Hills Historical Society will host Spitzzeri’s lecture, which is to be given at 7 p.m. Monday, October 11 at the Chino Hills Community Center, 14250 Peyton Drive in Chino Hills.
The Chino Hills Community Center is roughly four-fifths of a mile from the battleground, which is located on what is today the campus of Boys Republic.
In June 1846, the Bear Flag Revolt, led by a group of Americans living in California, began. The rebels defied the continuation of rule by the Mexican government and proclaimed California an independent republic. By the summer of 1846, the United States had a military presence in Southern California. The U.S. Military imposed martial law over the civil population in the areas it occupied, and this included a curfew. Indigenous Mexican nationals, some of whom were indifferent to the authority of the government and were not particularly committed to sustaining Mexico’s hold on California, were nonetheless resentful of the imposition of martial law. They banded together and took back authority over Los Angeles.
The Battle of Chino took place some five months after the Mexican-American War began, on September 26–27, 1846.
Prior to the battle, 24 Americans led by Benjamin D. Wilson took refuge at the adobe house of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, then owned by Isaac Williams. Williams, originally from Pennsylvania, had become a Mexican citizen – a prerequisite for owning land – and married Maria de Jesus Lugo, daughter of Antonio Maria Lugo.
The Californios doubted the loyalty of Wilson’s men and set out to arrest them.
Serbulo Varela, Diego Sepulveda and Ramon Carrillo left Los Angeles with about fifty men, while José del Carmen Lugo with another fifteen to twenty men left from San Bernardino to converge upon Rancho del Chino.
On the night of September 26, 1846, the adobe ranch house was surrounded by the Californios. At dawn, the following day, gunfire was exchanged, resulting in one Californio, Carlos Ballesteros, son of the grantee of Rancho Rosa Castilla, being killed with two other Californios and three Americans wounded. When the Californios attempted to set fire to the roof of the house, Wilson surrendered to Varela.
This brief engagement became known as the Battle of Chino.
Wilson and his men were taken prisoner and marched to Paredon Blanco in what is now Boyle Heights, the main camp of the Californio forces. The prisoners were nearly executed in retaliation for the death of Carlos Ballesteros. But because many of the Americans were related by marriage to Mexican families, Varela and others intervened. The prisoners were taken to Rancho Los Cerritos, near present-day Long Beach, where they were detained and ultimately released.
The Bear Flag Republic was short-lived because soon after the Bear Flag was raised, the U.S. military began occupying California. In 1848, the U.S. Congress presumed to form a commission to look into the validity of the existing Spanish and Mexican land grants in California, and most of those were recognized and sustained.
Also in 1848, just after the United States took legal possession of California, Mormon soldiers who had garrisoned California during the Mexican War cleared a trail that could accommodate a wagon up the Cajon Pass. In 1849 the Califfornia Gold Rush began.
California came into the union in 1850. Shortly thereafter, Mormon Settlers arrived in Southern California,
The Mormon settlers, acting under the authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City, purchased the San Bernardino Rancho from the Lugo Family in September 1851 for an agreed-upon price of $77,500 based on a down payment of $7,000.

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