Crockett vs. Martinez

By The Honorable A. F. Bray
Contra Costa County, California Broadcast Station
KLX, Oakland, California Number 214
Broadcast October 7, 1940

Here is a case in which the Court held that when a person deeded to another certain land describing it in part, as land upon which the Town of Martinez is situated, the grantor didn't really mean that, but meant land upon which the town was not situated. The case also shows what huge quantities of land the early settlers dealt with.

In 1841 Alvarado, the then Mexican Governor of California, granted to Teodora Soto a sobrante of the Rancho del Hambre y las Bolsas. A "sobrante" meant an overplus, or the remainder after the ranchos of Welch and Pinole had first been taken out. In this instance, it was estimated that the Sobrante would contain three square leagues of land. A little later, Teodora Soto conveyed this sobrante to a man named Piper and in 1860 Piper sold it to Crockett and Page. Crockett, incidentally, was an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court, and was the man after whom the town of Crockett was named. In the deed from Piper to Crockett and Page the land is described as the land known as the Ranch Canada del Hambre y las Bolsas, and being the tract of land upon which the Town of Martinez is situated, and being the land confirmed to Teodora Soto by the United States District Court and surveyed by the United States Surveyor General in March 1860, containing 13,312 acres if land. (How would you like to own 13,312 acres of land today in Contra Costa County?)

Later Crockett and Page sold to a man named True a portion of this large acreage, including the lands occupied by the Town of Martinez. In 1868, Piper brought suit against True, to get him off the lands occupied by, and in the vicinity of, the Town of Martinez on the ground that the deed Piper had originally made to Crockett and Page did not actually cover these particular lands. At the trial it developed that the lands which the United States District Court had confirmed as being the sobrante originally granted to Soto did not cover the land near the Town of Martinez. Therefore, the Court held that all Crockett got in his deed and all that could be conveyed to True, was that portion of the sobrante which the United States Court had confirmed, and as the Town of Martinez lands were not included in that, neither Crockett nor True had any claim to Martinez and vicinity.

It is interesting that in those days it took Court decisions to find out who owned a particular town or city.


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