Rancho Olompali

On this date—

Rancho Olompali is the only Mexican land grant awarded to a California Native American. The story is an interesting one, and I have to thank the Sacramento History Museum for bringing this date in history to my attention.

On October 22, 1843, the Governor of Alta California, Manuel Micheltorena, deeded Rancho Olompali to Camilo Ynitia, the Hoipu (headman) of the Coast Miwok people living at Olompali. The name Olompali comes from the Coast Miwok language and means “Southern Village,” or “Southern People.”

olompali diseno

Diseño for Rancho Olompali

General Mariano Vallejo aided Camilo with his land grant application. He was given (if that is the right word) two Spanish leagues (8,877 acres) of his ancestral lands. The land grant was later confirmed by the U.S. Land Commission, which is somewhat surprising, since the commission denied as many claims as they confirmed. Given the widespread animosity to California Indians, it wouldn’t have been surprising if they had denied Camilo Ynitia’s claim. But they didn’t.

During the Bear Flag Revolt, in June 1846, this rancho was the site of the Battle of Olompali, a small conflict that is the only battle to take place as part of the Bear Flag Revolt (as distinct from the Mexican War.) 

A group of less than twenty Bear Flaggers, led by Lt. Henry Ford, were looking for William Todd and an unnamed companion who had been captured by Mexican forces and were being held at the Olompali adobe.

(Todd, by the way, was not only the nephew of Mary Todd Lincoln, but also the man who painted the Bear Flag.)

Ford’s men positioned themselves in a grove of trees and opened fire as the Mexican force charged on horseback. One Mexican soldier was killed. During the ensuing long-range battle, William Todd and his companion escaped from the house and ran to the Bears. The longer range rifles of the Americans gave them an advantage over the muskets of the Mexicans. Eventually they were able to disengage and return with Todd to San Rafael.

 Camilo Ynitia sold most of Rancho Olompali in 1852 and it later changed hands several times. In 1977, Olompali was purchased by the State of California and it is now a state park. I have never visited it, but now I want to! Olompali State Historic Park is in Marin County, 2.5 miles north of Novato on Highway 101. The remains of Camilo Ynitia’s adobe home still exist, encased within the later two homes built by the Burdell family.


About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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