Luís María Peralta (August 31, 1759 – August 26, 1851) was a Spanish settler and soldier who once owned much of the East Bay from San Leandro to Albany, known as Rancho San Antonio.

Peralta was born in 1759 in Sonora, Mexico, then part of New Spain. His parents, Gabriel Peralta and Francisca Valenzuela, brought Peralta and his siblings on the Anza expedition to colonize "Alta California" in 1775, arriving in 1776. He enlisted as a soldier at Monterey Presidio in 1781, then transferred to the San Francisco Presidio in 1783.

Peralta married 13 or 14 year old María Loreto Alviso (c.1771–1836) at Mission Santa Clara on February 23, 1784. They had 17 children, 9 of whom survived to adulthood:

  • Maria Teodora Peralta (1786–1850)
  • Maria Trinidad Peralta (1789–1872)
  • Hermenegildo Ignacio Peralta (1791–1874)
  • Maria Joséfa Peralta (1793–1862)
  • José Domingo Peralta (1795–1865)
  • Maria Guadalupe Peralta (1797)
  • Antonio Maria Peralta (1801–1879)
  • Maria Luisa Peralta (1810–1873)
  • José Vicente Peralta (1812–1871)

Peralta requested a land grant, and on August 3, 1820, the Crown of Spain gave Peralta the largest possible land grant (11 leagues, about 44,800 acres) for his 40 years of service as a soldier. Most famous was an incident that occurred when Peralta was a sergeant. After an attack on the priest and majordomo of Mission San José in 1805, Peralta "led the full garrison from the fort at San Francisco into the San Joaquin Valley in pursuit of the Indians." Surprising the Indians in their village and having superior weapons, Peralta won a swift victory. 1

The land grant was known as Rancho San Antonio. A crude structure of logs and dirt was built near Peralta Creek to house vaqueros (cowboys) and establish his claim to the land. Peralta never lived on the land, but divided it between his four sons when he was 83 years old. He warned his sons not to go to the gold mines, saying "the land is our gold." His daughters were given the adobe in San Jose and the cattle, but the lack of land would later become a sore point. 

Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1822, but confirmed Peralta's land grant in 1823.

When Peralta died in 1851 in San Jose, his estate was worth an estimated at $1,383,500 (at least $30 million in today's value.)

Revolutionary Che Guevara was Peralta's great-great-great-grandson.

Links and References

  1. Luis Maria Peralta on Wikipedia