California, Pre-America

Cooper Adobe Garden
I toured the gardens of the Cooper-Molera family Adobe in downtown Monterey last weekend. It’s always neat to me to think of the pre-American past of California. The Coopers, despite their Anglo name, were half Californios from Mexico/of Spanish descent. Cooper was a captain who married Vallejo’s daughter in former capital of California, Monterey. Cooper owned huge lands from Marin to Big Sur, including some smaller East Bay and San Francisco properties. He successfully negotiated the American land grant fiasco– where most Californio land grants were shrunk to a 10th of their size due to poor documentation (& translation). I don’t doubt his British roots benefitted in those negotiations. this rather sparse museum notes that for about 10 years he was bankrupt while negotiating the land grants with Americans, combined with inflation and keeping the rancheros going, as well as disputing the surveys and claims in court. Ironically Larkin, of SF street fame, was his brother-in-law (there’s an adobe nearby but didn’t have time). Still, holding onto the land meant a long line of wealth for his 100-member descendents (neatly drawn in a family tree in the hallway of the gift shop), as well as this extended farm buildings, vineyards, artichoke farms in Salinas, and adobe historical property in downtown Monterey. His oldest daughter & granddaughter kept the adobe with a caretaker retaining the original buildings. Cooper writes a letter, which they have preserved, about meeting his Californio fiance in Monterey, in some years, perhaps 1810 or so, and how she was a “long planked girl.” From that, they follow a few of their children and their marriages, deaths and their children, up and down the coast from Marin to Monterey, on farms and in schools, sitting on boards and living in San Francisco. It’s a *very small* museum but communicates an era of history that pretty much we all ignore.

One of my favorite things about checking out old historical sites in California, especially those that date pre-America, are the roses. Since it was so hot the rose smell hung in the air all the while we were there, and there was a full variety of different types, but mainly old styles. The rosarian’s a friend of my father’s. He was saying that some roses were from the Missions down south, carried up from Mexico.