Early Settlers of LA Ballona (Machados/Talamantes)

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small_rancho_partition_map Rancho LA Ballona

Rancho Partition Map of La Ballona

Ballona Creek, originally, was a picturesque natural waterway fed by runoff. The creek collected the water from cienegas (swamps) and the rains. The banks of Ballona Creek were lined with trees, like sycamores, willows and tules, and even in the early part of the 1900s, many remember the watercress growing at its edge. 

José Manuel Machado married in Los Alamos, Mexico, to travel to Alta California with a wife. Machado, a poor muleteer looking for a better life, enlisted as a "soldado de cuera, " or leather jacket soldier. Muleteers had poor reputations, so he had to wait to marry María de la Luz Valenzuela Y Avilas until the church could determine that he had no other "intended" or wife. The Machados, married in 1780, traveled in Rivera's 1781 expedition to Alta California the following year. José Manuel Machado retired to the pueblo of Los Angeles in 1797 where his last child was born. After his death in 1810, two of his sons, José Agustín Antonio and José Ygnacio Antonio Machado, tried unsuccessfully for some time to get grazing rights on land near the pueblo. 

machado adobe first settlers
Early Machodo Adobe in what became Culver City 

In 1819, Agustín and Ygnacio Machado joined with Felipe Talamantes and his son, Tomás, to acquire grazing rights to 14,000 acres of land. The family lore relates that Agustín was chosen, by virtue of his skill as a horseman to ride his fastest steed, from dawn until dusk, beginning at the foot of the Playa del Rey hills to claim Rancho La Ballona, or Paso de las Carretas. It stretched to Pico Boulevard (abutting Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica) and to what we know as Ince Boulevard, where Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes began. 

Ballona is a word of questionable origin. Some postulate it was supposed to be ballena, meaning whale, (a common sight at the end of the creek?), or Bayona, España, a home of Talamantes ancestors. 

The Machados' first adobe home on Ballona washed away in flooding creekwaters. Agustín Machado rebuilt nearby, probably on Overland Avenue at Sawtelle or Jefferson. Initially, Agustín traveled from the pueblo to tend his herds of cattle, horses, and grapevines. By the late 1820s, Ygnacio Machado planted corn and 6,000 grapevines at Centinela Springs nearby. The Talamantes family lived east, on Policarpio Higuera's Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes. 

machado brand Rancho La Ballona
One of Agustín Machado's brands, used on Rancho La Ballona

Agustín Machado married in 1824, but his wife, María Petra Buelna, died while giving birth to their first child, Juan Bautista. In 1826, Ygnacio Machado married Estefana Palomares. The following year, Agustín Machado married Ramona Sepúlveda, who in turn gave him another 14 children. They were: María Josefa Delfina, Martina, Vicenta Ferrer, José Domingo, José Dolores, María Ascencion, Susana, José Franciso, Bernardino, Candelaria Onofre, José Ramón Tomás, Jose Juan Rafael, Andres Manuel, and José de la Luz de los Reyes

In 1834, Ygnacio Machado built the Centinela Adobe. Although Ygnacio Machado received clear rights to Centinela in 1844, he traded the land to Bruno Avila for a house in the pueblo and two barrels of brandy in 1849! The adobe is preserved and the Centinela Valley Historical Society maintains it today. Agustín Machado took charge of the undivided Rancho La Ballona for the partners. He was respected and well known, politically, and for his white wine 

He traveled to San Pedro to trade for luxury items from overseas. The Machados held their rancho and other land through three governments: Spanish, Mexican and the U.S. In 1873, years after Agustín Machado's death, Rancho La Ballona's title was finally clear. The James Machado family donated the last linen partition map for display at Loyola Marymount University, which reflects the effect of interest rates and land lost. Ygnacio Machado died in 1878. He and Estefana had seven children: Luisa, Versabe, María, José, Andres, Francisco and Rafael

In 1994, Culver City dedicated Machado Road, a connector road between Sepulveda and Jefferson Boulevards. Two new streets nearby include "Agustín" and "Ballona," in honor of the early settlers. Another of the streets is called Heritage Place, to honor the heritage of all people.