COVARRUBIAS, Jose Maria

From Islapedia

COVARRUBIAS, José María (c. 1809-1870), born in France, he became one of the most powerful men of "Old California." In 1838, Covarrubias married the daughter Dominguez Carrillo, Maria del Espiritu Santo Dominga Carrillo (1814-1876), and for more than 50 years they lived in the adobe now located at 715 Santa Barbara St., Santa Barbara, CA. Rancho San Carlos de Jonata, west of Mission Santa Ynez [Santa Barbara County], was a Mexican Land Grant given to Covarrubias and Joaquin Carrillo by Governor Pio Pico in 1845. Covarrubias was acting Secretary of State for the Department of California at the time Pio Pico was in office.

In 1850 Covarrubias bought Santa Catalina Island for $10,000 from Thomas Robbins, who had received the island as a land grant from Governor Pio Pico. In 1853, Covarrubias sold the island to to Albert Packard of San Francisco, after which the island went through a complex series of ownership changes. By 1867, the island's ownership was reunited under James Lick.

For years Santa Catalina Island was the property of José María Covarrubias, one of the most affluent of the old Spanish rancheros. In 1838 he married a daughter of Domingo Carrillo. Jose Maria Covarrubias and his wife had eight children:

  • 1. Nicolas Antonio (1839-1924)
  • 2. Onesemio Miguel (1841-1930)
  • 3. Maria Dolores Delfina (1844-1860)
  • 4. Amelia (1846-1930)
  • 5. Camilo Juan Pedro (1849-1928)
  • 6. Maria Luisa Clara (1851-1870)
  • 7. Pasculina (1853-1860)
  • 8. George Washington (1866-1919)

Jose Maria Covarrubias died at age 62 on April 1, 1870 in Santa Barbara.

  • Thomas M. Robbns received Santa Catalina Island from Gov. Pio Pico in 1846
  • José María Covarrubias in 1850. Sold to:
  • Albert Packard of Santa Barbara in 1853.



In the News~

February 18, 1854 Los Angeles Star:

February 18, 1854 Los Angeles Star

NOTE: J. R. Creal was murdered in Los Angeles in 1855:

September 1, 1955 Los Angeles Star: “Serious Afray— We learn from a resident in the Monte, that a serious affray occurred there a few days since, between Dr. Creal and Mr. Bullard, and which resulted in the latter shooting Dr. Creal in the head and neck with a charge of buck shot. Doctor C. we are informed is so dangerously wounded, it is not expected he can live. The difficulty occurred on account of some land in the Monte. Bullard made his escape, and although a number of [unintelligible in the paper] he has not yet been arrested.”
September 29, 1955 Los Angeles Star: “Bullard, who killed Dr. Creal in the Monte, has gone to Lower California. It is reported that he passed through San Diego some two or three weeks ago. It is also stated that the two men who were in pursuit of him, stopped in San Diego, deeming it useless to follow him and further.”


February 22, 1855 Los Angeles Star:

February 22, 1855 Los Angeles Star


October 6, 1855 [Los Angeles Star]: “Claims confirmed...No 547—Jose Maria Covarrubias for the Island of Santa Catalina. Opinion by Thompson.”


June 18, 1864 [LAStar]: “Santa Catalina — We have heard a rumor of a sale of Santa Catalina having taken place, a company of capitalists being the purchasers, for mining purposes, it is supposed. The Island is claimed by Don. J. M. Covarrubias of Santa Barbara, and has been confirmed to him by the U.S. Supreme Court. The purchase money is said to be $90,000.”


September 24, 1889 [SBDI]: “Suit will be brought in the United States Court at Los Angeles to set aside the U.S. patent for the island of Catalina, issued to Mr. Covarrubias.”


April 23, 1894 [LAT]: “There is a bit of unwritten history in connection with the title to the island of Catalina, which has been received only recently, attention being called to it through the reported claim which Mexico has intended to set up to the property. Associated with this history are also a number of reminiscences which date back for their origin far into the balmy days of Pio Pico and other Californian, who flourished in those primitive times. Among the records of the county today may be found on file a patent from the United States, giving the title of Catalina to José María Covarrubias. Covarrubias came to California from Mexico before the United States acquired the coast territory, and to him was granted the island in sole proprietorship. Then when the United States made the purchase of California Covarrubias’ right was recognized as valid and he was issued the patent to the island. The date of the patent is April 10, 1867. Covarrubias settled in Santa Barbara afterwards, and later sold Catalina to Abadie brothers, merchants of that place. The purchase price was $10,000 and Covarrubias went to San Francisco to receive the money. He completed the sale satisfactorily and, after celebrating the event in a suitable manner with his friends, prepared to return home. At that time there was no railroad in the South, all coast traveling being done by steamers. Covarrubias had his money packed in a gripsack, and, after being out on the water for about a day, he discovered that he had forgotten to take the bag out of the hack, which he had hired to convey him to the wharf in San Francisco. He was much dismayed at the revelation, but nothing remained for him to do but take the steamer back on her return trip, which he did. Fortunately there were a few honest hack men in those days, and the man who had driven Covarrubias to the wharf was one of these. He had found the money and returned it to the hotel where it was placed in the safe to await the arrival of its owner. Covarrubias presented the hack man with $500 for his honesty, and after again celebrating his good luck, returned to Santa Barbara in safety, without further mishap. The subsequent ownership of Catalina Island is familiar with the public today, but old General Covarrubias, as he was familiarly called, was the original holder under both governments…”