The route ran right through the 36,000 acres on which Spanish
soldier Jose Maria Verdugo grazed his cattle. Verdugo had received
permission to use the land in 1784, but did not move onto the
property right away, possibly because a hunt was underway for a site
for another mission between San Gabriel and San Buenaventura.
The governor sent emissaries in 1795 to select such a site. They
traveled over Verdugo's land, finding great fields of watermelon,
sugar melons, corn and beans.
Although the land was obviously fertile, the officials did not
select the Verdugo land, possibly because there were no permanent
structures on the property, according to "Glendale Area History,"
edited by Carroll W. Parcher and E. Caswell.
Instead, the church took over a ranch in possession of Francisco
Reyes, a "squatter on land further to the northwest," part of the San
Gabriel Mission holdings.
With the mission question settled, Verdugo applied for permission
to retire as a corporal of the Spanish Army and move to his property.
He was 48 when he received his honorable discharge in 1799.
Once he was on his property, Parcher writes, Jose Maria took on
the role of a California don, welcoming guests passing through his
rancho and entertaining them lavishly.
Property boundaries were rather vague in those days and the
Verdugo family claimed ownership of the land almost all the way north
to the mission. In 1817, government officials traveled over the whole
San Fernando Valley, establishing a dividing line between the
mission's Cahuenga Rancho and the Corporal's Rancho San Rafael. That
border is where Universal City is located today.
The name of San Fernando Road wasn't formally recorded until 1871,
when Verdugo's huge estate was divided into 31 parcels in the "Great
Partition" court case.
At the same time, the court ordered that San Fernando Road remain
open for unrestricted travel "henceforth and forever."
Although the route stayed the same, by the turn of the century,
the old name fell out of use and for many years went by the less
romantic name of Second Street.
Fortunately, in 1918, Glendale restored the original name and it
remains in use today.
* KATHERINE YAMADA is a volunteer with the Special Collections
Room at the Glendale Central Library. Her column runs on Saturdays.
To reach her, leave a message at 637-3241. The Special Collections
Room is open from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays or by appointment. For
more information on Glendale's history, contact the reference desk at
the Central Library at 548-2027.