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Cave Johnson Couts Papers: Finding Aid
mssCT 1-2613  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical note on Cave J. Couts (1821-1874)
  • Biographical note on Cave J. Couts (1856-1943)
  • Scope and Content
  • Indians of California indexing
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Cave Johnson Couts Papers
    Dates (inclusive): 1832-1951
    Collection Number: mssCT 1-2613
    Creator: Couts, Cave Johnson, 1821-1874.
    Extent: Approximately 16,000 pieces in 92 boxes; 171 volumes; 250 maps; and 1 roll
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2129
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection consists of the personal, family, and business papers of San Diego, California, rancher, businessman, and politician Cave Johnson Couts (1821-1874) and his son Cave Johnson Couts, Jr. (1856-1943). There is material concerning land and development in San Diego County and in greater Southern California, as well as significant amount of materials related to Native Americans in San Diego County.
    Language: English.

    Access

    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Cave Johnson Couts Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Provenance

    Purchased from Ida Richardson in 1958.

    Biographical note on Cave J. Couts (1821-1874)

    Cave J. Couts (1821-1874) was born near Springfield, Tennessee, in November 1821. He was recommended by Rep. James K. Polk to the United States Military Academy, which he attended from 1838 to 1843. For four years, Couts served at posts in Louisiana and what is now Oklahoma, during which time he rose from second lieutenant of Riflemen to first lieutenant of First Dragoons.
    In November 1847, in the closing moments of the Mexican-American War, Couts was sent to Monterrey, Mexico, too late to take part in any real confrontation with the enemy. In June 1848, after uneventful months of occupation duty, Couts' company began a six-month march to California from Monterrey during which Couts kept a journal chronicling the hardships the company faced.
    Upon reaching California, Couts was stationed at Los Angeles and San Diego for several months, and in late 1849, he headed up the escort for the United States Boundary Commission survey team, which was mapping the U.S. border from San Diego to the Colorado-Gila River junction.
    In 1851, after several more months of occupation duty in San Diego, Couts married Isidora Bandini, daughter of the very prominent Californiano Juan Bandini. Shortly thereafter, in October 1851, Couts resigned his Army commission and took over the operation of the San Diego County ranch Guajome, a wedding present of the bride's brother-in-law Abel Stearns.
    In late 1851, Couts was second-in-command of the volunteer force which brought under control the San Diego County Indian uprising known as the Garra Revolt. In January 1852, he was the presiding judge at the court martial of the man who instigated that revolt, Antonio Garra. Couts was further involved with San Diego Indians as sub-agent for the county from 1853 to 1855.
    As Couts turned his attentions toward setting up his ranch, he put his primary efforts into raising cattle, with the help of Abel Stearns. He proved quite successful as a cattleman, and acquired great wealth. He was later able to add the nearby ranches Buena Vista and Los Vallecitos de San Marcos to his land holdings. He was also a very well-respected man throughout California. A staunch Democrat, he was very active in county and state politics. He was several times a delegate to the state Democratic Convention, and he held numerous county positions, including that of Justice of the Peace (which he held from 1853 to 1863).
    With the passing of the No-fence Law in Sacramento in 1872, Couts received a financial blow from which he never recovered. California laws had always favored the rancher and open-range methods of cattle raising. This new law, which Couts fought, placed on the cattlemen the responsibility for any damage to farmers' crops caused by free-roaming cattle. Thus, rather than farmers having to enclose their fields, ranchers had to enclose their cattle, or sell. Couts was forced to sell his herds at ruinous prices. Two years later, in June 1874, Couts died of aneurism at San Diego.

    Biographical note on Cave J. Couts (1856-1943)

    Cave J. Couts (1856-1943), fourth child of Cave J. Couts (1821-1874), was born at Rancho Guajome in San Diego County, California, in 1856. He received his schooling at St. Vincent's Academy in Los Angeles and at Stewart College in Clarksville, Tennessee (now Southwestern Presbyterian University).
    Couts became a civil engineer, and in 1883 he and his brother-in-law, Chalmers Scott, went to Guatemala and El Salvador to work on the Central American Pacific Railroad. After his return in 1884 Couts was appointed Deputy Surveyor for San Diego County, and he actively surveyed the public lands for more than twenty-five years.
    In February 1887, Couts married Elizabeth B. Clemens, niece of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Their only child, Cave Johnson Couts, was born late that same year. In June 1897, Couts and his wife were divorced. She later remarried, to Dr. Charles Schrader.
    Couts' great pride, Rancho Guajome, was gradually acquired as a whole by him from other members of his family. The ranch had been divided up among the family following the death of the senior Couts. In times of financial reverses the family turned to Cave J. Couts Jr. for assistance, and in this way the land came into his hands. In 1927 he had the house and outbuildings completely restored. Couts' sense of history also led him to buy and renovate the Casa de Bandini in San Diego, home of his famous grandfather, Juan Bandini. Following its restoration in 1930 the house was opened as a hotel.
    Couts owned or administered large parcels of land, a few of which gave him much worry and trouble. A heated battle over the Rancho Buena Vista caused Couts, as administrator of his father's estate, years of litigation (1889-1907). His problems were first centered around a dispute with the government over the final survey of the land, and later were focussed on an effort to buy the lands of the original ranch excluded from the final survey. There was also a great deal of family disagreement over the proper handling of the matter.
    Another problem for Couts was the Ranchito Mine, a gold mine in the Julian District that he purchased in 1895. This was generally regarded as the richest mine in the Julian area, but it proved to be a great disappointment to Couts; he tried for many years to dispose of it, unsuccessfully.
    In 1917 Couts nearly lost Rancho Guajome. In 1896, he had received a loan of a considerable sum from Richard O'Neill, Sr., manager of neighboring Rancho Santa Margarita y las Flores. At that time he had signed a note that amounted to a mortgage, although there was an unwritten understanding between the two friends that the note did not constitute a mortgage. At O'Neill's death in 1910 Richard O'Neill, Jr. inherited the Guajome note and insisted upon a literal interpretation of it. In 1917, the issue came to a head in a bitter legal battle.
    Couts was involved in civic projects in San Diego city and county, including assuming the chairmanship of the committee which succeeded in establishing the famous Palomar Observatory. Couts was also quite active in the southern California business world. He took part in many ventures in San Diego and Los Angeles. The death of one of these figures, Arcadia (Bandini) Stearns Baker (Couts' aunt), involved a multi-million-dollar estate, including vast holdings of Los Angeles County land. Couts, as an heir, was caught up in the partition suits, which dragged on for more than nine years after the 1912 death of Mrs. Baker. Couts was a successful businessman, and he was a wealthy man most of his life. His business activity remained brisk until shortly before his death at the age of 87 in 1943.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of the personal, family and business papers of Cave Johnson Couts (1821-1874) and his son Cave Johnson Couts, Jr. (1856-1943). There is personal and business correspondence, army papers of Cave J. Couts (1837-1855), accounts, land papers, legal papers, survey correspondence and field notes of Cave J. Couts, Jr., family papers, photographs, ephemera, and 250 maps.
    In this collection, the father, son, and grandson are distinguished as "a", "b" and "c":
    • Cave Johnson Couts a (1821-1874)
    • Cave Johnson Couts b (1856-1943)
    • Cave Johnson Couts c (born 1887)
    Of note in the collection is a journal kept by Cave Johnson Couts (1821-1874) which documents his company's six-month march from Monterrey, Mexico, to California in 1848. Other military papers in the collection include the army papers (1852-1861) of Aaron B. Hardcastle, and correspondence between Couts and his siblings in Tennessee about the U.S. Civil War. Couts's letters give an informative view of the rigors of war in that state; Couts was a strong Confederate supporter.
    The collection also contains a significant amount of materials related to Native Americans in San Diego County. Of note are papers about the 1851 San Diego County Indian uprising known as the Garra Revolt (led by Antonio Garra), and the involvement of Cave Johnson Couts (1821-1874) with the Indians as a sub-agent for the county from 1853-1855.
    There is also material concerning land in San Diego County and in greater Southern California. It includes information on various ranchos, including Buena Vista, Guajome, among others, and the growth and development of various cities, including San Diego, Los Angeles, and Oceanside. There is also information about the San Luis Rey Mission, the creation of the Palomar Observatory (1930-38) and the activities of the Ranchito Mine in the Julian District purchased by Cave J. Couts, Jr. in 1895 (1895-1941). The land papers also contain materials regarding different estates, including the estate of Arcadia Bandini Stearns Baker, which included vast holdings of Los Angeles County land. Family papers in the collection include baptismal records, wedding announcements, biographical materials, etc. related to the Couts and Bandini families.
    Additional correspondents represented in the collection include: John Forster, John S. Griffin, Benjamin I. Hayes, Charles Robinson Johnson, Ephraim W. Morse, George Allan Pendleton, Alfred Robinson, Abel Stearns, and Jonathan Trumbull Warner.
    Note: Cave J. Couts b kept many papers together in groups by subject matter. These original groups have been kept together to preserve their relationships. For this reason the papers are not strictly alphabetical.

    Arrangement

    Arranged in the following series:
    • Correspondence, 1832-1941
    • Business correspondence of Cave J. Couts b., 1882-1943
    • Army papers of Cave J. Couts a., 1837-1855
    • Army papers of Aaron B. Hardcastle., 1852-1861
    • Accounts
    • Land papers
    • Legal papers
    • Survey correspondence of Cave J. Couts b
    • Field notes of Cave J. Couts b
    • Family papers
    • Photographs
    • Ephemera
    • Envelopes
    • Volumes
    • Maps

    Indians of California indexing

    Indexes

    Indian Affairs - California

    • CT 83. Beale, Edward Fitzgerald. To General Tomás. 1854, Feb. 16
    • CT 145-146. Burton, Henry Stanton. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1854-1857
    • CT 297. Couts, Cave Johnson a. To Manuel Cota. 1853, Sep. 1
    • CT 308. Couts, Cave Johnson a. To Thomas Jefferson Henley. 1856, Feb. 29
    • CT 936. Godey, Alexis. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1863, Jan. 2
    • CT 1066. Henley, George W. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1856, Mar. 26
    • CT 1067-1073. Henley, Thomas Jefferson. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1855-1856
    • CT 1268. Johnson, Charles Robinson. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1865, Apr. 13
    • CT 1544. Lawson, S S. To Chalmers Scott. 1881, Jan. 27
    • CT 1563. Lovett, William Edward. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1866, Jan. 17
    • CT 1634. Maltby, Charles. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1866, Apr. 5
    • CT 2118. Stanley, John Quincy Adams. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1865, Dec. 22
    • CT 2119. Stanley, John Quincy Adams. To Willie Blount Couts. 1867, Dec. 8
    • CT 2389-2390. Whiting, Billington Crum. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1871-1872
    • CT 2406. Wilson, Benjamin Davis. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1854, May. 15

    Indians of California

    • CT 53. Bandini, José María. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1861, Apr. 6
    • CT 56 (1-2). Bandini, José María. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1865
    • CT 83. Beale, Edward Fitzgerald. To General Tomás. 1854, Feb. 16
    • CT 133 (1-6). Brown, W. Haney. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1871
    • CT 145-146. Burton, Henry Stanton. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1854-1857
    • CT 193 (1-57). California. San Diego County. Justice of the Peace. Documents and related papers of legal cases brought before Cave Johnson Couts a, Justice of the Peace, regarding Indians of California. 1854-1862
    • CT 199 (1-11). California. San Diego County. Justice of the Peace. Documents and related papers regarding José Antonio Serrano, Blas Aguilar, and Juan Avila vs. Indians of Pauma, legal case brought before Cave Johnson Couts a, Justice of the Peace. 1859-1861
    • CT 204. California. San Diego County. Justice of the Peace. Judgement rendered by William Caswell Ferrell, Justice of the Peace, in case of Cave Johnson Couts a vs. Francisco, an Indian boy. 1858, May 6
    • CT 205. California. San Diego County. Justice of the Peace. Deposition made by Antonio Nieblas and José María Castillo regarding some stolen hides belonging to Cave Johnson Couts a. 1865, Dec. 16
    • CT 207. California. San Diego County. Justice of the Peace. Indenture wherein Indian woman, Jacinto, binds over her son to Isidora (Bandini) Couts. 1866, Aug. 13
    • CT 272-274. COTA, Manuel. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1855-1858
    • CT 276-278. COTA, Manuel. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1860-1863
    • CT 280. COTA, Manuel. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1864?
    • CT 294. Couts, Cave Johnson a. To John Judson Ames. 1855, June 13
    • CT 297. Couts, Cave Johnson a. To Manuel Cota. 1853, Sep. 1
    • CT 309. Couts, Cave Johnson a. To Don A. Hollister. 1861, Jan. 10
    • CT 2543 (1-45). Couts, Cave Johnson a. Account books containing records of Indian servants. 1851-1874
    • CT 2614. Couts, Cave Johnson a. To James William Denver. 1857, Oct. 7
    • CT 2545 (2). Couts, Cave Johnson b. Letter book. 1894-1904
    • CT 2547 (30). Couts, Cave Johnson b. Survey field book re Sycuan Indian Reservation. 1894
    • CT 2547 (31). Couts, Cave Johnson b. Survey field book re Sycuan, Campo, La Posta, Manzanita, Cuyapipe, and Laguna Indian Reservations. 1894
    • CT 2547 (32). Couts, Cave Johnson b. Survey field book re Sycuan Indian Reservation. 1894
    • CT 2547 (38). Couts, Cave Johnson b. Survey field book re Capitan Grande Indian Reservation. 1894-1895
    • CT 2547 (47). Couts, Cave Johnson b. Survey field book re Campo, La Posta, Manzanita, and Pauma Indian Reservations. 1906
    • CT 2547 (50). Couts, Cave Johnson b. Survey field book re Campo, La Posta, Manzanita, Cuyapipe, and Laguna Indian Reservations 1908
    • CT 511 (1-5). Curtis, James Freeman. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1864
    • CT 546. Decker, John E. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1863, Sep. 20
    • CT 627. Ensworth, Augustus S. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1863, May 9
    • CT 629. Ensworth, Augustus S. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1863, May 18
    • CT 896. Forster, John b. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1871, June 8
    • CT 900. Forster, John b. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1871, Aug. 4
    • CT 684. Forster, Isidora (Pico). To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1855, July 11
    • CT 686. Forster, Marcos Antonio. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1862, Aug. 12
    • CT 936. Godey, Alexis. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1863, Jan. 2
    • CT 938-939. Gomez, Silvestre. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1864-1865
    • CT 1015. Hayes, Benjamin Ignatius. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1862, Nov. 26
    • CT 1017-1018. Hayes, Benjamin Ignatius. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1862, Nov. 30-Dec. 3
    • CT 1020. Hayes, Benjamin Ignatius. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1862, Dec. 10
    • CT 1022-1024. Hayes, Benjamin Ignatius. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1863, Jan. 12-15
    • CT 1083 (1-7). Hollister, Don A. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1862
    • CT 1268. Johnson, Charles Robinson. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1865, Apr. 13
    • CT 1483. Kendrick, J. J. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1859, Dec. 18
    • CT 1563. Lovett, William Edward. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1866, Jan. 17
    • CT 1585 (1-3). McCoy, James. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1864
    • CT 1625-1627. Magla, Francisco. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1862-1864
    • CT 1634. Maltby, Charles. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1866 Apr. 5
    • CT 1664 (1-16). Mendoza, Juan. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1863
    • CT 1684 (1-2). Moreno, José de Jesús. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1862
    • CT 1750. Parsons, Ben[jamin Franklin?]. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1862, Mar. 12
    • CT 1956. Rouen, Louis A. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1857, Aug. 18
    • CT 1969. Sanchez, Tomás A. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1862, Mar. 4
    • CT 2011. Scott, Chalmers. Recommendation of D. C. Collier as Commissioner to arrange settlement with Mission Indians. 1891?, after Jan. 19
    • CT 2075. Sexton, M. M. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1854, Sep. 14
    • CT 2118. Stanley, John Quincy Adams. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1865, Dec. 22
    • CT 2119. Stanley, John Quincy Adams. To Willie Blount Couts. 1867, Dec. 8
    • CT 2142-2143. Stearns, Abel. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1853, Dec. 15-1854, Jan. 11
    • CT 2145. Stearns, Abel. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1854, Apr. 4
    • CT 2153. Stearns, Abel. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1855, July 6
    • CT 2199. Stearns, Abel. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1861, Oct. 30
    • CT 2203. Stearns, Abel. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1862, Apr. 14
    • CT 2389-2390. Whiting, Billington Crum. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1871-1872
    • CT 2405 (1-3). Williston, Edward Bancroft. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1866
    • CT 2406. Wilson, Benjamin Davis. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1854, May 15
    • CT 2443. Wolf, Louis. To W Haney Brown. 1871, Aug. 31
    • CT 2605. Survey maps of Indian reservations in San Diego County. 1857-1908

    Indians of California - Garra uprising

    • CT 85. Bean, Joshua H. To Cave Johnson Couts a. 1851, Dec. 14
    • CT 104. Bird, Ira W. To Edward Harold Fitzgerald. 1851, Dec. 15
    • CT 118. Brinley, Charles Henry. To Juan María Marrón. 1851, Dec. 1
    • CT 290. Couts, Cave Johnson a. List of San Diego Fitzgerald Volunteers. Approximately 1851, Dec. 1
    • CT 291. Couts, Cave Johnson a. List of positions held by members of the San Diego Fitzgerald Volunteers. 1852, Jan. 17?
    • CT 310. Couts, Cave Johnson a. To Lewis Irving. 1852, Jan. 17
    • CT 519. Davis, George Henry. List of subscriptions towards defraying the expenses of the prisoners, and for purchasing some clothes and provisions for those Indians who have shown themselves friendly.... 1851, Dec. 14
    • CT 723. Garra, Antonio. To José Antonio Estudillo. 1851, Nov. 21
    • CT 1511. Kurtz, Daniel Brown. To the officers and members of the San Diego Fitzgerald Volunteers. 1851, Dec. 10
    • CT 1522-1523. Kurtz, Daniel Brown. To Edward Harold Fitzgerald. 1851, Nov. 30-Dec. 4
    • CT 1628. Magruder, John Bankhead. To Edward Harold Fitzgerald. 1851, Dec. 4
    • CT 1755. Patterson, Francis Engle. To Edward Harold Fitzgerald. 1851, Nov. 30
    • CT 1973. San Diego Fitzgerald Volunteers. Documents dealing with the court martial of William Marshall and others by members of the San Diego Fitzgerald Volunteers for the crime of treason against the State of California and the murder of four American citizens. 1851, Dec. 9-12
    • CT 1974. San Diego Fitzgerald Volunteers. Court martial of Antonio Garra, Indian chief of the Cupeños. 1852, Jan. 10-17
    • CT 2321. Tule, Domingo. To Manuel Cota? 1851, Nov. 30
    In the survey correspondence of Cave Johnson Couts b (Boxes 85-855) there is material re surveys of Indian lands in San Diego County and Indian reservations:

    San Diego County

    • CT Box 85, Folder 5-6 (1877-1893)
    • CT Box 86, Folder 1-4 (1894)
    • CT Box 86, Folder 5 (1895)
    • CT Box 86, Folder 7 (1906-1908)
    • CT Box 86, Folder 8 (1909, 1911, 1916, 1930, 1940)

    Indian Reservations

    • CT Box 87, Folder 8 Campo (1856-1858)
    • CT Box 87, Folder 9 Capitan Grande (1856-1876)
    • CT Box 87, Folder 10 Iñaja (1875)
    • CT Box 87, Folder 11 Manzanita (1856)
    • CT Box 87, Folder 12 Mesa Grande (1856)
    • CT Box 87, Folder 13 Santa Ysabel (1876)
    • CT Box 88, Folder 8

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  

    Subjects

    Bandini, Arcadia, 1825-1912 -- Estate.
    Couts, Cave Johnson, 1821-1874.
    Couts, Cave Johnson, 1821-1874 -- Family.
    Couts, Cave Johnson, 1856-1943.
    Garra, Antonio, active 1851.
    Hardcastle, Aaron B., active 1852-1861.
    United States. Army -- Officers.
    Palomar Observatory.
    San Luis Rey Mission (Calif.)
    Cattle trade -- California.
    Cities and towns -- California -- San Diego County.
    Cities and towns -- California -- Los Angeles County.
    Civil engineers -- California -- San Diego County.
    Indians of North America -- California -- San Diego County.
    Indian reservations -- California -- San Diego County.
    Land tenure -- California -- Los Angeles County.
    Land tenure -- California -- San Diego County.
    Ranches -- California -- San Diego County.
    Ranchers -- California -- San Diego County.
    Real property -- California -- Los Angeles County.
    Real property -- California -- San Diego County.
    Surveyors -- California -- San Diego County.
    California, Southern -- History -- Sources.
    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- History -- Sources.
    Oceanside (Calif.) -- History -- Sources.
    Rancho Buena Vista (Calif.)
    Rancho Guajome (Calif.)
    San Diego (Calif.) -- History -- Sources.
    San Diego County (Calif.) -- History -- Sources.
    San Diego County (Calif.) -- Politics and government.
    San Diego County (Calif.) -- Surveys.

    Forms/Genres

    Accounts -- California.
    Legal documents -- California.
    Family papers -- California.
    Letters (correspondence) -- California.
    Maps -- California.
    Military records -- California.
    Personal papers -- California.

    Alternate Authors

    Bandini (Family)
    Couts, Cave Johnson, 1856-1943.
    Couts (Family)
    Forster, John, 1814-1882.
    Griffin, John S. (John Strother), 1816-1898.
    Hayes, Benjamin, 1815-1877.
    Johnson, Charles Robinson.
    Morse, Ephraim W., 1823-1906.
    Pendleton, George Allan.
    Robinson, Alfred, 1806-1895.
    Stearns, Abel, 1798-1871.
    Warner, Jonathan Trumbull.