Over the course of claiming this land, the Spanish enslave thousands of natives, including Tongva people, at nearby California missions.


In 1830, John Temple married Rafaela Cota, the granddaughter of Manuel Nieto and one of the heirs of Rancho Los Cerritos. Temple was one of many “Yankees” who traveled west and was determined to become a wealthy merchant. He was fascinated by and quickly adopted Mexican culture, and become baptized by the Catholic church. He even changed his name to Juan (or Don Juan) Temple.

In 1833, the land which had belonged to Manuel Nieto was divided into five ranchos: Rancho Las Bolsa, Rancho Los Cerritos, Rancho Los Coyotes, Rancho Santa Gertrudes and Rancho Los Alamitos. Rancho Los Cerritos and Rancho Los Alamitos remain today in the city, and you can visit them and their historic sites to learn more about first peoples and the Nieto, Temple, Stearns, and Bixby families who played an important role in developing Long Beach.

Shortly after this time, Abel Stearns came to Long Beach and purchased Rancho Los Alamitos. He was a wealthy landowner who had moved west from Massachusetts. He would eventually lose his fortune, but during the peak of his business dealings he created a large market for shepherding and played a critical role in Southern California’s economy and politics, especially in the Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

In 1843, Don Juan Temple and his wife Rafaela became the sole owners of Rancho Los Cerritos after paying the other heirs for their territory. Temple raised thousands of cattle, horses, and sheep, which played a role in the Temple Market Store, which he owned and operated in Downtown Los Angeles. Today, Temple Streets in Los Angeles and Long Beach are named for him.

Important Note: Throughout history, written records and photographs have been taken by individuals with wealth and formal education. These individuals, through their own lens of what “matters’ have decided what to document and what to ignore. Due to the fact that those with wealth in our region in this period were white or Spanish, the existence, everyday life, and structures of the Tongva people and other first peoples were largely undocumented and erased from history. The photographs here, which depict others from this story, are displayed because they are available and help to illustrate this history. The lack of documentation of first peoples in this photo set is not a reflection of their importance in this period.

Image Captions:

  1. Rafaela Cota, Sketch about 1850, Long Beach Public Library Photo Collection.

  2. Los Cerritos Ranch House, photo about 1890. Huntington Digital Library.

  3. Photograph of John (Don Juan) Temple, late 19th century, Huntington Digital Library.

  4. Jotham Bixby riding his horse at Rancho Los Cerritos. Huntington Digital Library.


Sources we used and further reading on this era of Long Beach:

  • Krythe, Maymie R. The Day Fortune Favored Don Juan Temple. Special Collection. Rancho Los Cerritos Collection Vol 4. Long Beach Public Library.

  • Strawther, A Brief History of Los Alamitos & Rossmoor, 19.

  • Larry Strawther, A Brief History of Los Alamitos & Rossmoor (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012), 19-24.

  • Krythe, Maymie R. The Day Fortune Favored Don Juan Temple. Special Collection. Rancho Los Cerritos Collection Vol 4. Long Beach Public Library, 50-52.