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Jan Siegel By Jan Siegel

As the story continues, while Pablo Pryor was trying to draw up more maps, Henry Charles acquired 160 acres worth of “Valentine Script.” According to Phil Brigandi, “Thomas Valentine had owned a rancho in Northern California, lost it, but finally secured 13,000 acres worth of land script in return, which gave him the right to claim an equal amount of government land anywhere in the United States. Henry Charles now used his share to claim San Juan Capistrano, forcing a lawsuit to determine the status of the various titles to land in the Capistrano Valley. There were a host of claimants all anxious to have their holding confirmed.  

“Out of this lawsuit came an unusual idea. Federal law allowed existing communities to claim the land where they sat. If the community was unincorporated, the land would be granted to a judge, who in turn would deed the lots to their occupants and owners. It was a law that had never been used in Southern California, but it fit San Juan Capistrano perfectly.

“In 1874, Los Angeles County Judge H.K.S. O’Melveny began the process of securing a grant to 640 acres. He appointed three commissioners to supervise a survey of the town site. The three commissioners were Jonathan Bacon, Frank Riverin, and of course, Fr. Joseph Mut. The survey was finalized in December 1875, and in 1876 Judge O’Melveny began issuing deeds to the residents of what was now an officially recognized town.” 

Fr. Mut finally had had enough. Since the land grab incident and his stabbing, he was afraid and nervous.  He asked to be transferred to another parish. After 20 years in San Juan Capistrano, he was finally assigned to Mission San Miguel in 1886, where he spent the rest of his life. He died in 1889 and is buried at San Miguel. 

But the story continues. Although much has been written about bandits such as Joaquin Murietta and Tiburcio Vasquez, the one outlaw who murdered more people has escaped with very little local notoriety. His name was Sylvestro Morales. His crime sprees resulted in prison terms in San Quentin and Folsom. The year was 1889. On July 23, Morales stopped a man on horseback and demanded his money. The man handed over his money, horse and a gold watch. As Morales started to ride off, he turned back and shot the man he had just robbed, but only wounded him. The man was able to give Marshal Keno Wilson of Oceanside a good description of his assailant. It was Morales, who had just been paroled from Folsom on April 12. He was released after seven years of a 10-year sentence for good behavior. 

Editor’s note: Part 1 and Part 2 ran in previous issues. Part 4 will run in the Feb. 26 issue of The Capistrano Dispatch.

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