CASTILLERO, Andres

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CASTILLERO, Andres (fl. 1830s-50s), native of Spain and captain in the Mexican military, Castillero was the first private owner of Santa Cruz Island, granted to him by Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado on May 22, 1839. It was the first of three islands to be granted to private individuals.

“Like many men who left the capital [Mexico City] of the republic in search of great adventure or to work in distant places, Castillero arrived in Alta California during Mariano Chico’s tenure in office [April-July, 1836]. He made use of his limited knowledge of medicine to secure a position caring for the troops. When Governor Chico left, Castillero left the territory as well and appeared later…” [Antonio Maria Osio’s The History of Alta California, translated by Rose Marie Beebe and Robert Senkewicz, 1996]

Castillero had gone from Alta California to Mexico for Alvarado with political messages, sailing aboard the California September 1837 and returning to Monterey with responses November 1838. In favor with Governor Alvarado, Andres Castillero was thereby granted his island of choice. In the 1840s, Castillero became President of Mexico Jose Joaquin de Herrera’s Commissioner in California. In 1845 Castillero, a graduate of the College of Mines in Mexico trained in geology, chemistry and metallurgy, discovered large cinnabar deposits—the ore of mercury, near San José, California. He formed the New Almaden Company.

As the political climate changed in Alta California, Castillero saw what was going on about him as he watched his friends and countrymen robbed blind of their land in courts, both state and federal. In 1847 Andres Castillero directed his attorney in Alta California, Antonio Aguirre, to transfer his interests to Alexander Forbes of Barron, Forbes and Company, behind which stood the integrity and legal know-how of the British Empire. Between 1847 and 1849, there were various transfers of shares, until by 1850 the Barron and Forbes group had acquired the entire mine ownership. The principal participants were Alexander Forbes, Eustace Barron, William Forbes, Eustace W. Barron, Juan B. Jecker, Isidoro de la Torre, Martin la Piedra, Francisco Maria Ortez, James Forbes, Robert Walkinshaw and John Parrott.

Barron, Forbes and Company took title to Castillero’s New Almaden Company, and by 1850 Castillero felt this gave him the protection he needed to keep his land titles in the changed political climate of Alta California. In April of 1852, Castillero filed a petition with the U.S. Land Commission which upheld his island grant in July of 1855. The decision was appealed and went to the Supreme Court which ultimately confirmed Castillero’s title in 1860. In the meantime, Castillero had sold Santa Cruz Island.


On June 21, 1857, by deed from Andres Castillero, Santa Cruz Island passed to William Eustace Barron.


Former Governor Alvarado said Castillero did not return to the area [Santa Barbara] from Mexico after 1847. The trail to Castillero’s life becomes cold after 1861, and in all likelihood, he remained Mexico.



In the News~

» Tays, G. Captain Andres Castillero, diplomat, an account from unpublished sources of his services to Mexico in the Alvarado Revolution of 1836-1838 in California Historical Society Quarterly 14(3):230-268 September 1935;

Cases Argued and Decided in the Supreme Court of the United States, December 1858-1860. Book 16. 1901 (498-500). The United States, Appt., v. Andres Castillero (see S. C. 23 How. 464-469).


December 5, 1846 [Letter from Andres Castillero to Alexander Forbes delivered by Francisco Martinez Negrete]: “Señor Castillero places much value on the Island of Santa Cruz that is his property. He says it is thirty-two leagues in circumference, with a good harbor, timber, and fresh water. He is disposed to sell it rather than have it taken from him by the Yankees. It is distant four leagues from the port of Santa Barbara, and he considers that it would be of much importance to England, should the United States take possession of the Californias. If you are inclined to purchase, you can inform yourself of all this leisurely.”


December 16, 1846 [Letter from Andres Castillero to Francisco Martinez Negrete]: “Esteemed and Respected Sir: I would thank you much if you would recommend to Señor Alexandro Forbes, that on taking possession of the quicksilver mine, my island of Santa Cruz, situated in front of Santa Barbara, may also appear as an English possession. Being distant only four leagues from the coast, it is a very important possession on account of the abundance of water and timber, and its good harbor. To English vessels, and even to the company, it may be of service for the absolute independence in which it is of all the country. Excuse me for repeating my request, and I remain always your most obedient servant.”


January 14, 1847 [Letter from Andres Castillero to Alexander Forbes]: “Esteemed Sir: The Señor Don Francisco Martinez Negrete has informed me of your willingness to place my island of Santa Cruz under protection of H. B. Majesty’s Government. I thank you as well as Mr. Negrete for this favor, and to that end I enclose a letter for Señor Don Antonio Aguirre, a citizen of California, who holds my power of attorney and a document which proves my property.” [United States District Court vs. Andres Castillero on Cross Appeal, Claim for the Mine and Lands of New Almaden, Argument of Hon. J. P. Benjamin, San Francisco, 1860, p. 57, 63, 82]


July 21, 1855 [Los Angeles Star]: “Claims confirmed. No. 176.—Andres Castillero, for the Island of Santa Cruz, opposite the roadstead of Santa Barbara; claiming from Alvarado, 1839. Opinion by Farwell.”


1856 [Patents Book A (1874-1890) Clerk and Recorder, Santa Barbara County]: “Patent of Island Santa Cruz. The United States of America, to all to whom these presents shall come, Greeting: Whereas , it appears from a duly authenticated transcript filed in the General Land Office of the United States, that pursuant to provisions of the Act of Congress approved the third day of March, 1851 entitled An Act to ascertain and settle Private Land Claims in the State of California, Andres Castillero as claimant filed his petition on the 13th day of April, 1852 with the commissioners to ascertain and settle the Private Land Claims in the State of California, sitting as a Board in the City of San Francisco, in which petition he claimed the confirmation of his title to a tract of land called the Island of Santa Cruz… said claim being founded on a Mexican grant to the petitioner made on the 22nd day of May 1839 by Juan B. Alvarado, then Governor ad interim of the Department of Mexico, dated July 20th, 1838; and whereas, the Board of Land Commissioners aforesaid, on the 3rd day of July 1855, rendered a decree of confirmation in favor of the claimant for the Island of Santa Cruz in the County of Santa Barbara, having for its boundaries the waters edge: and whereas it appears from a duly certified transcript on file in the General Land Office that the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of California at the December Term, 1856, rendered the following decree: The United States, appellant, No. 340 vs. Andres Castillero, appellee…”


June 2, 1860 [Los Angeles Star]: “The Island of Santa Cruz has been finally confirmed by the Supreme Court to Andres Castillero; he discovered and opened the New Almaden quicksilver mine.”


June 2, 1860 [SDU]: “The Island of Santa Cruz. As is well known, the United States Supreme Court recently confirmed the claim of Andres Castillero to the island of Santa Cruz. Of this island the Alta says: ‘It is the largest of the islands belonging to this State, lying about 25 miles south of the shore of Santa Barbara County, which there runs nearly east and west for a distance of about 40 miles. The island is about 20 [sic] square miles or 75,000 acres. It contains no special wealth of soil, timber, grass or minerals, but so large a body of land must possess value for many purposes. The island was once a great resort for seal and sea otter, but most of them have been driven away now. Andres Castillero, the claimant, is the same person who discovered and opened the New Almaden quicksilver mine.”


July 30, 1860 [NYT]: “Colonel Fremont was sworn as a witness in the case of the claim of Andres Castillero to New Almaden, before the United States Commissioner…”


February 14, 1861 [NYT]: “In the case of Andres Castillero vs. the United States for the island of Santa Cruz, the claimant relied on a dispatch of the Minister of the Interior… It is contended that the President of Mexico had no authority to make the order for a grant contained in Lanza’s dispatch. But it is apparent, both from the action of the Supreme Government in this case, as well as in that of the island on the coast, that it exercised the power… In the Santa Cruz Island case, the Supreme Court held that ‘the dispatch of the Government operated to adjudicate the title.’…”


April 4, 1864 [LAN]: “U.S. Land Surveys. To whom all it may concern. In compliance with the first section of an Act of Congress, approved June 14, 1860, regulating surveys of private land claims, notice is hereby given, that the plats of the following land claims, surveyed in pursuance of the thirteenth section of an Act entitled ‘An Act to ascertain and settle Private Land Claims in the State of California,’ approved March 3, 1851, have been examined and approved by me: …Island Santa Cruz, Andres Castillero…E. F. Beale, U.S. Surveyor General.”


February 6, 1869 [Los Angeles Star] confirms account of sale.


January 2, 1925 [ODC]: “…In the introduction to the report Santa Cruz Island is described as very rugged, 25 miles long and an average of eight miles wide. It is stated that the title was established by a decision of the United States supreme court in the suit of United States vs. Andres Castillero. The coast of the island which the surveyors ran a line with great difficulty is a little over 70 miles long. The survey includes descriptions of the quality of the land and the partitioning, the report states was done with respect to the ‘quantity and quality of the land and the respective rights’ of the persons involved.”