Great Value for Montebello Landlords
Before the arrival of the Spaniards in the area known today as Montebello, the land along the Rio Hondo River was populated by the Tongva (Gabrielino) portion of the Uto-Aztecan family of Native Americans. The Tongva occupied much of the Los Angeles basin and the southern Channel Islands - Santa Catalina, San Nicolas, San Clemente and Santa Barbara; when Spanish explorer Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo arrived off the shores of Santa Catalina in 1542, he was met by the Tongva people. Because the language of the Tongva was different from the neighboring tribes it was called "Gabrielino" by the Spanish. As more non-natives arrived and settlements were established, illness and disease came with them. By 1870, the area had few remaining indigenous inhabitants as disease brought by the Europeans killed many of the Tongva.
Father Angel Somera and Father Pedro Cambon, both Franciscan missionaries, founded the original Mission San Gabriel Arcangel on September 8, 1771; the location is today near the intersection of San Gabriel Boulevard and the Rio Hondo River. The establishment of the mission marked the beginning of the Los Angeles region's settlement by Spaniards and the fourth of twenty-one missions ultimately established along California's El Camino Real. The mission did well initially as a farm and cattle ranch. Six years after its founding, however, a destructive flood led the mission fathers to relocate the establishment farther north, to its current location in what is the present day city of San Gabriel. The original mission site is now memorialized as California Historical Landmark #158.
During the early years of the mission's existence, the region operated under a "Rancho" land grant system. The current city of Montebello consists of land from Rancho San Antonio, Rancho La Merced, and Rancho Paso de Bartolo. The Juan Matias Sanchez Adobe, built in 1844, still stands at the center of old Rancho la Merced in East Montebello. Recently restored, Rancho la Merced is the city's oldest standing structure.
On January 8, 1847, the Battle of Rio San Gabriel took place in what are today parts of the cities of Whittier, Pico Rivera and Montebello. The battle was a decisive victory for the U.S. Army, giving control of Los Angeles and Alta California to the United States, and is viewed by historians as a critical juncture in the Mexican-American war. Today the site is California State Historical Landmark #385; and there are two cannons and a plaque commemorating the battle that overlook the river on Bluff Road and Washington Boulevard.
Following the American Civil War, some 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) of the East Los Angeles area was owned by Alessandro Repetto, an Italian immigrant settler from Genoa, Italy. Following Repetto's death in 1885, his brother sold his rancho to a consortium of five Los Angeles businessmen including banker Isaias Hellman and wholesale grocer/historian Harris Newmark for $60,000, approximately $12 per acre. The land was later divided among the partners, one large parcel of approximately 2,000 acres (810 ha) going to a partnership of Newmark and his nephew, banker Kaspare Cohn. It was out of the Newmark and Cohn share of 1,200 acres (490 ha) that city Montebello had its beginnings in May 1899. After receiving the advice of hydraulic engineer William Mulholland for the drafting and building of the town's water system, the land was subdivided. In 1900 the completed water system was incorporated as the Montebello Land and Water Company.