Thank you - Staff of San Diego Historical Society, Lynn Wilson, guest authors, and submitters.

CAVE J. COUTS It may seem that we are emphasizing "Old Cave", but he is just so notorious or is it infamous in California History, there is always something more interesting to add to the newsletter. TO TRIAL FOR TRYING TO STEAL COURTHOUSE ~ YESTERDAY IN THE WEST, BY Coyer, a free-lance writer living in San Diego Nov. 17, 1985 ~ materials submitted by Lucy Leon Next, Bean decided to bring an accomplice in on the scheme. He called upon the aid of an Army officer with whom he had recently become friendly: Lt. Cave Johnston (sic) Couts of the 1st U.S. Dragoons. Lt. Couts seemed like a good choice as partner since at this time he was already in legal trouble with the Army. Before his arrival in San Diego, he had been stationed in Los Angeles and while on duty there operated a "gambling den" with two civilians. The Army discovered this operation and charged the lieutenant with "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentle man." Since officers were at a premium in California, the Army decided to delay Couts' trial until more troops arrived in the area. (Couts finally faced a court martial on Dec. 27, 1850, and was cleared of the charge.) To make Couts a partner in the courthouse deal, Bean sold him part of the property for $2.50. All this wheeling-and dealing took place on June 15, the very day Bean was elected mayor. He had to carry out his plan fast while he still had the powers of an alcalde. Believing he now had full ownership of the building and property, Bean then began to bully the council members. His first act was to take over the room used by the clerk and throw out all of the papers and documents stored there. When the council members demanded an explanation for his actions, Bean informed them that he now owned the building and would do with it as he pleased. He and Couts then proceeded to take possession of the other officers for their own use and, at the same time, Couts began construction on a two-story frame structure immediately next door. Bean intimated to the council members that if they did not accept his authority, he would evict them all by December. The council immediately began an investigation into Bean's ownership of the courthouse. They questioned Senora Amador and fund that although she had sold the deed to Bean, she thought he was acting on behalf of the city. If she had known he was buying the land for his personal use, she would never have sold it. The council then began checking the past ownership of the lots and made a surprising discovery - Senora Amador did not have a legal claim to the property. When Alcalde Alvarado sold the deed to her husband, he failed to attach an official seal to the document and did not use stamped paper. He also neglected to record the price of the property on the deed, another infraction of regulations. Besides all this, Amador never had occupied or improved the land. All this added up to the widow's ownership of the tract being null and void. Armed with this information, the councilmen wrote up the results of their investigation and on Aug. 20 submitted them to court. Ironically, the document lists the plaintiffs as the "Mayor and Common Council of the City of San Diego" even though the mayor, Joshua Bean, was one of the defendants. After reading the accusations, Bean acknowledged that he knew Amador's ownership of the land was null and void, but pointed out that in that case the lots reverted back to the city, and as mayor, Bean could dispose of the property as he saw fit. But Bean must have believed Amador's claim was a valid one, otherwise why bother to buy the deed from his widow? Next came a strange series twists an turns in the legal battle. On Oct. 1, the council decided to recognize Bean and Couts' claim to the property, drop their lawsuit against the two men, and that both parties would pay their own legal costs. But nine days later, Bean and Couts suddenly changed their minds and were willing to sign the deed to the courthouse over to the city council. The matter finally came to trial on Jan. 7, 1851. Judge Olivers S. Witherby decided in favor of the city council. Bean and Couts not only had to relinquish their claim to the property, but also pay all court cost as well. Couts was allowed to keep the building he had constructed next door, which he turned into a successful hotel know as the Colorado House. The town hall/courthouse continued to serve the growing community of San Diego until its destruction by fire on April 20, 1872. although the site of may court cases dealing with theft, never again would the building itself be the object of such a case.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO AND SAN DIEGO COUNTY THE BIRTH PLACE OF CALIFORNIA BY Clarence Alan McGrew, 1922, Vol 1. Sumitted by: Bill Mclaren Colonel Cave J. Couts Page 491 was a lieutenant in the one of the first expeditions of American soldiers into the Southwest, and after leaving the army was one of the most enterprising and distinguished citizens of San Diego County. His family has been one of prominence in this section of the state for many years. Colonel Couts was born near Springfield, Tennessee, November 11, 1821, and in that locality his parent also spent their lives. His early education was supervised by his uncle, Cave Johnson, who was a member of President Polk's cabinet as post master general. At the age of seventeen he was appointed a cadet in West Point Military Academy and graduated in 1843, being commissioned a brevet second lieutenant of the regiment of Mounted Rifles. He was on frontier duty at Fort Jessup, Indiana, and in 1845 was sent with a detachment of recruits to Fort Washita in Indian Territory. In the meantime he was commissioned second lieutenant of the First Dragoons, and did frontier duty at Evansville, Arkansas, and Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, until February 1847. He was then mad first lieutenant of the First Dragoons, and during the war with Mexico was on duty along the frontier, passing through Mexico and Arizona to California, crossing the Colorado River on Sunday, November 26, 1848, it taking him three days to cross his regiment. After confronting many obstacles and enduring much hardship crossing the desert between Colorado and the mountains, he reached Los Angeles, with his command on Sunday, January 9, 1849. Colonel Couts served about San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Luis Rey to 1851. In 1849, he conducted an expedition to the Gila River and was in charge of the Boundary Survey between the United States and Mexico, stationed at the junction of Colorado and Gila Rivers or "Camp Calhoun." While on duty there he was complimented by his superior officers in dealing with the Indians and assisting the emigrants. On August 1, 1849, he was elected a delegate from San Diego in accordance with proclamation of Brevet Brigadier General B. Riley, governor of California, to form a state constitution or plan for a territorial government. Until thirty years of age his life was that of a soldier, but on April 5, 1851, he married Miss Ysidora Bandini, daughter of Don Juan Bandini of San Diego. Colonel Couts was fortunate in finding a companion and wife with many of the noblest traits of her sex and her race. Ysidora Bandini continued to live on the old homestead at Guajome after the death of her husband until she passed away in the spring of 1897, and showed marvelous skill in managing the property through the trying years of her early widowhood. She came of a family renowned for physical and mental strength and beauty, and at the time of her marriage she was regarded as the most beautiful young woman in Southern California. He father, Don Juan Bandini, was a prominent official under the Mexican government, living at San Diego, where Mrs. Couts was born. He was highly educated and early foresaw the results of the war with Mexico and was one of the first Southern Californians to ally themselves with the Americans. Three of his daughters, one of them Mrs. Couts, made the first American flag hoisted at San Diego. Mrs. Couts's grandfather, Don Jose Bandini, was a native of old Spain and an admiral in the Spanish Navy, being stationed on the Pacific Coast, and was in command in Peru when Don Juan, father of Mrs. Couts was born. The Bandini family were originally Italian. The October following his marriage Colonel Couts resigned his commission as a first lieutenant in the regular army, but soon afterward was appointed colonel and aide de camp on the staff of Governor Bigler, accounting for the military title with which his friends honored him. Colonel Couts has been described as a man of com manding figure, a little over six feet tall, straight, willowy and active, a perfect horseman, making a splendid ap pearance as a cavalry officer, and with the natural instincts of a gentleman supplemented by a thorough education. He was devoted to his family and in every transaction betrayed a strict integrity, though he was also a congenial companion, found of music and dancing, and a popular figure in all social circles. The most interesting part of his story is that which relates to the development he instituted in San Diego County. He was one of the first to discover that the climate and soil of that county were adapted to all kinds of agriculture and horticulture. He was the first to plant an orchard on a large scale with the improved varieties of fruits, and for years his was the only orange grove in San Diego County. About two years after leaving the army he lived at old San Diego, where he served a term as County Judge. In 1853, he and his family, consisting of his wife and two children, moved to Guajome. Guajome was an Indian grant containing 2,219 acres made by the Mexican Government to Andres, an Indian, and to his two sisters. It was bought by Mrs. Don Abel Stearns of Los Angeles and by her presented to Mrs. Couts as a wedding present. In the Indian language the word means "Home of the frog." When Colonel Couts took possession of it in 1852, there was not a sign of a tree, and it was his initiative and enterprise that later covered the tract with orchards, among them several of the tropical fruits, and as the "Chicomoya: or "Anona", "Marego," : Auguacate" (alligator plant) and several others, also vineyards and other groves. He put up a camp on the land, made some willow poles and a few boards taken from San Diego, and that served him while he was building more commodious structures. As there was no running water on the land he dug a hole with a spade, and later enlarged that hole to a pone one hundred feet in diameter and seven feet deep, which had a constant flow of water, much of it used for irrigation purposes. Colonel Couts was special Indian agent, resigning on August 10, 1856, after having made a full report to the Honorable Commissioner of Indian Affairs and calling attention to the condition of the "poor Indian," and making suggestions that, had they been exercised, the Indians would not have been wronged or, as might be said, practically exterminated by the invasion of the white man. He also had the supervision of a large number of Indians in and around San Luis Rey, who loved and feared him. He commanded their services and labors, and from the labor of three hundred Indians constructed an immense adobe house built in a square, containing twenty rooms, with a courtyard filled with orange and lemon trees and varieties of flowers. The same labor erected barns, stables, sheds, and corrals and also servants' quarters, and finally a neat chapel was dedicated to the worship of God. Perhaps due to his military training, he had an almost infallible ability in managing and controlling Indians. He instituted system and order everywhere and visitors frequently knew without being told that "Don Cuevas" as he was generally called, was a military man. He also accumulated thousands of cattle, hundreds of horses and mules and many sheep, and purchased the San Marcos, Buena Vista and La Joha ranches, besides about eight hundred acres of government land adjoining his homestead. Altogether his estate aggregated about twenty thousand acres. He was prospering until the passage of the "no fence law," which practically ruined him financially and he was compelled to sell his livestock at a tremendous sacrifice. He was just beginning to recover from this disaster when death came to him while at the Horton House in San Diego, July 10, 1874. The tragedy of his useful career was that he was not permitted to enjoy the fruits of his toil and the expenditure of thousands of dollars in developing what might properly be considered a paradise. Colonel Couts was one of twelve children, his wife was one of ten, and their own family consisted of ten sons and daughters, namely: Abel Stearns Couts, who died in 1855, when nearly four years of age; Maria Antonia, widow of Colonel Chalmers Scott, of Los Angeles; William B., manager of the Baker Estate Realty Company, of Los Angeles, Cave J. Jr., a civil engineer by profession, living at Gujome in San Diego County; Nancy Dolores, who died 1868, at the age of eleven; Ysidore Forster Fuller, widow of the late Judge Fuller, of Los Angeles, where she resides; Elena, Mrs. Parker Dear, of Alhambra; Robert Lee, of Los Angeles, who died March 18, 1920; John Forester, of San Diego , and wife Caroline, wife of J.B. Winston, of Los Angeles.
CATTLE RANCHING, CATTLE BRANDS, AND RANCHO GUAJOME, (excerpts), By Rancho Guajome and other County Parks Staff, from the office of: Alex A. Martinis, Director Dept. of Parks and Recreation in San Diego, Ca; cattle brand impressions were donated by Gregory J. Smith, Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk; Submitted by: Lynn and Barbara Wilson ...The Rancho Period Cc ( Cave Couts's Brand CC shaped like horseshoes one large one small) During the Rancho period, circa 1825 to 1860, thousands of cattle roamed freely over the hills and valleys of San Diego County. Cattle provided some meat and leather for local use, but more importantly made possible a steady supply of hides and tallow (fat). These were the currency used in lieu of cash to trade with merchants on ships along the coast. In this way rancheros were able to purchase household necessities and luxuries that were unobtainable in the pueblos, or Indian settlements.... On July 19, 1845, Governor Pio Pico granted Rancho Guajome to Luisenao brothers Andres and Jose Manuel, former neophytes at Mission San Luis Rey. Soon after, the brothers sold the 2,219.4 acres (one-league) rancho to Abel Stearns. Stearns was a wealthy Los Angeles rancher and merchant who during the 1830's established San Pedro the principal clearinghouse in Southern California for the hide and tallow trade. In 1851, Stearns gave Rancho Guajome to his sister-in- law Ysidora Bandini as a wedding present. Ysidora was the daughter of Juan Bandini, a distinguished social and political leader of San Diego. She had lived with Stearns' family and run their household for several years. Within two years, Cave Couts, Ysidora's husband, began construction of their residence at the ranch. Cave and Ysidora resided in Old Town after their marriage in 1851 until they moved to Guajome in 1853. The Boom Couts was a graduate of West Point Academy, Class of 1843, and a shrewd businessman who would become an important community leader in San Diego. His investment in livestock paid him huge profits in his early years as a ranchero. The cattle boom began in 1849, spurred on by the Gold Rush and the forty-niners enormous demand for beef. As a result of this demand, raising cattle became the principal activity at Rancho Guajome and the other ranchos throughout the state.... The Rancho Guajome brand was registered to Ysidora Couts on February, 1854. Like all rancheros, Cave Couts had to contend with a number of threats to the Guajome herd. In his business journal he recounted a number of calves and cows that periodically died for reasons that were not explained. Other deaths were explained. For example, as noted on Monday, April 14, 1856, Couts had to cope with cattle rustlers: "Found killed - Stolen - 2 Vaquilla [small cow]." There were also naturally hazards. For example, on Monday, June 18, 1855, he wrote, "Died - Vaca [cow] - Disease of head." One Saturday, March 3, 1855, his entry red, "Died - Novillo [small bull] - Bite of Snake." An entry made Saturday, October 18, 1856, recorded another loss, "Bear Killed Cow of Soto in Canada [small canyon] de los Alisoy"... The Bust The boom continued for seven years before several factors caused its demise...imports of sheep and eastern cattle, brought down the market; a two-year drought; the flood of 1862, and after 1872, rancheros were required to fence their herds. Couts met the financial setbacks of these years by selling a portion of his San Diego property. he avoided a complete financial catastrophe during the lean years by turning to agriculture. though his cattle and horses he added 2,000 head of sheep. He supplemented these industries with orange groves and vineyards. Diversification of his various industries enabled Couts to recover his losses of earlier years and acquire vast acreage in the County; cattle ranching was no longer the primary activity at Rancho Guajome. In his last years Cave Couts suffered the discomfort of an aneurysm of the aorta. A final attack caused his death on June 10, 1874, at 53 years of age.
THE MAN FROM TENNESSEE By William Glum Opinionated, obstinate, egotistical, combative, cocky, arrogant, these were just some of the adjective used to describe one of San Diego's more colorful personalities in the last half of the 19th century. This American that was to leave a lasting mark on San Diego was Lieutenant Cave J. Couts of the First Dragoons. Born in Tennessee in 1821 and a graduate of West Point in 1843 he fought in the Mexican-American war as a dragoon (horse mounted infantry). At the end of the Mexican-American War he was assigned to a unit of the United States Army, known as Graham's Battalion, composed of four companies of the First and Second Dragoons. The Battalion marched all the way from Monterey in north central Mexico to California by way of Tucson. There were 275 soldiers, 160 wagons, 205 teamsters and other workmen for a total of 500 men in all. One of the young lieutenants of the First Dragoons was Cave J. Couts who kept a diary of their travels. Couts' diary relates the story of the Battalion's difficult and disorganized march. They followed the Gila Trail and crossed the Colorado River in late November 1848. All along the way they were passed by adventurers headed for the gold fields. He wrote in his diary, "This is all we can hear, The Mines!". Climbing up San Felipe grade in deep snow the battalion arrived at Warner Ranch on December 29, one month after leaving Yuma Crossing. Typical of Couts reputation, he has little to say that is complimentary. He blames many of the problems on the incompetence of Major Graham, who had brought along a large comfortable tent, a willing mistress, and a goodly supply of liquor. He calls Warner a rascal, famed for his abilityto tell lies. After leaving Warner's Ranch he accused him of stealing his favorite stallion. In June of 1849 the United States Boundary Commission arrived in San Diego to survey the international border between United States and Mexico. With the commission was W.H. Emory, a survivor of the Battle of San Pasqual and now a major in the Topographical Engineers. He was assigned to the commission as astronomer and commander of troops. Waiting in San Diego to accompany and protect the commission was Company A of the First Dragoons, commanded by Lt. Couts. The commission, composed of civilians as well as military personnel, with conflicting instructions and antagonistic personalities, accomplished its mission under extreme difficulties. Major Emory's records tell of a fight between a major and a lieutenant over the honor of a senorita. Lt. Amiel Weeks Whipple, accompanied by Lt. Couts, was to established the exact point of the confluence of the Gila and ColoradoRivers. Disputes arose between Whipple and Couts. Andrew B. Gray, a civilian engineer, left the survey party to lead the Collier party of immigrants to San Diego. In the desert hills Couts noted indications of gold, "and certainly metal of some kind abounds" . All along the desert route they encountered immigrants, many begging for food and in all states of despair. So many were from southern states that Couts was led to comment that, "if any are left in Arkansas, it is more numerously populated than I had anticipated.". GENTLEMAN-RANCHER While a member of the boundary commission, Couts was a frequent guest at the Casa de Bandini, where he fell in love with Juan Bandini's daughter Ysidora. They were married in 1851. Ysidora's sister was married to Able Stearns, a wealthy Los Angeles rancher and merchant. As a wedding present he gave them Rancho Guajome. From that day on Couts considered himself to be one of the Silver Dons. He resigned from the army and set out to make the rancho a show place of San Diego County. An engineer, Couts quickly took charge of his rancho, designing the buildings to incorporate both traditional Spanish-Mexican and American features. Construction was of adobe brick and redwood. Labor was supplied by mission Indians. In typical hacienda style, the living quarters surrounded an enclosed courtyard. American features included sash windows and fireplaces. The first three rooms were completed by 1853 and the family moved in while work continued on the remainder of the house until 1855. When finished, the building contained 20 rooms in four wings around a central patio, 80 x 90. There was a central fountain and in one of the adjoining buildings was a small chapel. RANCHO GUAJOME Consisting of only 2,219 acres, the rancho was small compared to the typical Mexican land grants. Originally granted to two Indians from the San Luis Rey Mission in 1845, it had long been used as an Indian campground. The dominant feature is a valley with a small pond, fed by a seep in the upper end of the valley. Guajome has been variously translated as "frog pond", "little frogs" and "tadpoles". Couts soon acquired adjoining Buena Vista Rancho to the north and Los Vallecitos de San Marcos on his south, expanding his holdings to about 20,000 acres. Couts, like many Southerners who had come to California, had exchanged cotton for cattle and Negroes for Indians. Cattle ranching was the main use of the ranch, but drought, flood, and a smallpox outbreak forced him to find other sources of income. Using cheap Indian labor he turned to agriculture, planting grapes, vegetables and fruit trees. He had one of the first commercial orange groves in San Diego County. Judge Hay described Guajome as a paradise. "In the summer especially, when all the country is dry, one feels that Guajome is like an oasis in the desert. The twenty miles leading to it from Temecula, present no cultivation at all...through the thirty-eight miles toward the town of San Diego, there are two small vineyards -Buena Vista and Encinitas- nothing more. All is to the eye a dreary waste save where nature has sown the grass and wild oak and chance flower." Ysidora loved to play the grand lady and gracious hostess. Famous guests included William Seward (Lincoln's Secretary of State), historian Hubert H. Bancroft, and author Helen Hunt Jackson. Rancho Guajome, Ysidora and Cave Jr. are often considered to be the model for the rancho and family characters in Jackson's famous novel "Romona". Legend has it that Dona Couts became so upset with Mrs. Jackson's defense of Indian rights she locked her in her room over night and ordered her to leave the next day. CAVE COUTS AND THE LAW Cave Couts name appears frequently in the records of court actions in San Diego County, on both sides of the bench. After the Indian uprising in the fall of 1851, when Chief Garra's followers attacked Warner Ranch and Warner Hot Springs killing several Americans, Couts was named a Captain in the volunteer company to defend the city. Following Garra's capture he was taken to San Diego, where he was tried before a militia court martial on charges of treason. (How could an Indian who was not in the military, was not considered a citizen, be tried in a military court for treason took a little stretching of he law.) Lt. Sweeny, commanding officer of the regular army unit in San Diego refused to sit on the court martial and would not let his soldiers carry out the execution. Cave Couts served as judge advocate at the trial. Garra was convicted and executed. Another luckless troublemaker was James Robinson, known as "Yankee Jim." He was accused of stealing a rowboat. Though it was found abandoned a short time later, Yankee Jim was taken before a grand jury, with Cave Couts as foreman. The jury pronounced the theft a capital crime, and the Court of Sessions, after a trial, returned a verdict, sentenced him to death by hanging. [Editor's note: Mr. Robinson's ghost is said to visit the house built over his hanging spot, because he said he was innocent.] J Cave Couts, himself was indicted by the grand jury twice in 185l on charges of beating two Indians with a rawhide riata. One of them was a boy and in his case Couts was acquitted of a charge of assault. In the other case the Indian died as result of the beating and Couts was charged with manslaughter. Couts' attorney, O.S. Witherby, won a dismissal on the contention that one of the grand jurors was an alien. In 1865 Cave Couts was indicted on a charge of murder. Couts' attorney (Witherby again) was successful once more in having the indictment dismissed, this time on the grounds the district attorney had not posted his bond of office. Another indictment of Couts came in 1866. He was tried and acquitted on a charge of murdering his majordomo, Juan Mendoza. Couts defense was that he had discharged Mendoza, who then threatened to kill him. For months Couts stayed away from San Diego while Mendoza, armed with a six-shooter and a knife sent challenges to Couts from the town bars. After several months Couts checked into the Colorado House on business. Mendoza confronted him on the Plaza. Couts, who had been wearing a serape, dropped it to reveal a double-barreled shotgun. Mendoza turned to flee but was cut down with a blast from both barrels. Couts frequently filed lawsuits on his own, generally in disputes over land titles. Once in 1870, after Sheriff McCoy had occasion to arrest him for assault; Couts promptly filed a civil suit against McCoy, but lost in court. Cave Couts died of an aneurysm in 1874 leaving the Rancho in the hands of his widow Ysidora and son, Cave Couts Jr., who managed the property for his mother. Ysidora remained in the house until her death in 1897.
CAVE COUTS By James Armstrong William Couts married the daughter of the Honorable Cave Johnson, Postmaster General under President James K. Polk. Through the influences of Mr. Johnson, the second son of William and Nancy was appointed to attend West Point. he graduated the Point in 1848 and was assigned by the War Department to serve on the Mexican border. Before the end of 1848, Lieutenant Couts received orders to move his company of soldiers to a pot near the Village of San Diego, California. While on duty near that village he met the daughter of Don Juan Bandini, Upsidora (sic -Ysidora). The Bandini's trace their ancestry to a line of Spanish and Florentine Princes. It was here, at least according to legend that Cave's destiny literally fell into his lap. Perched on the roof of the father's home, Upsidora leaned over the edge of the roof to gain a better view of the marching soldiers, suddenly plummeted earthward. Cave noting her distress caught the girl just in time to prevent a fatal injury. After the eventful meeting, Cave spent a great deal of time in the Bandini home. April 5, 1851, Cave and the lovely Upsidora were married in the home of her parents. For a wedding present the family gave them a 2,200 acre ranch. Cave continued to serve in the army until his enlistment expired two years later. Now free from e duties of the army, he was able to devote full time ranching and building a new home. They named the ranch and new home Rancho Guajoma". Today, it is owned by San Diego Count and plans are to restore it to its original state of beauty. Their home was often a favorite overnight stopping place for friendly travelers. U.S. Grant, a former classmate at West Point, stationed there before the Civil War, another notable friend General Lew Wallace, author of Ben Hur" visited often and it's reported he wrote much of his famous novel while a guest. General Lew Wallace was a Major General in the Union Army during the Civil War. Before the war, he practiced law. He was selected by the army to serve on the court martial that tried the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln. He also presided over the court that convicted the superintendent of Anderson Prison for cruelty to Union soldiers under his care. Helen Hunt Jackson was a welcome guest and spent much time horseback riding on the ranch. It was here she found local color for her famous novel, Ramona. Many western movies have been filmed on this ranch, the most noteworthy was Duel In the Sun.
Cave Johnson Couts Jr. The National Geographic Magazine Feb. 1942 Unique link with the Spanish past in San Diego County is Senor Cave J. Couts. His West Point father, Lieut. Cave Johnson Couts, marched here with the 1 st Dragoons in 1848, mapped the line of march, and married into the Spanish Bandini family, which had build the rambling Guajome (Place of the Frogs) ranch house, best surviving example of a hacienda home from the days of the dons. The house was given to his wife as a wedding present from her father. This Guajome ranch house plainly tells the story of colonial life. With its own saddle and blacksmith shops, shearing shed, private chapel, and outdoor oven that can bake 100 loaves at once, this house also has a semitropical patio choked with fruits and flowers, and musical with singing fountains. Built for Indian defense, its thick adobe walls have high "airholes" instead of windows, and its ancient tiles were made long, long ago at near-by mission San Luis Rey. "In the great drought of 1863," said Senor Couts, "we drove both cattle and half-wild horses into the sea and drowned them-rather than see them die of thirst....Hunting in my youth was our best fun.... We rode wild horses and shot everything from geese to mountain lions...." "Look at the big scar on my left hand. A lion did that. When I was hunting, as a boy of ten, a lion grabbed my dog. I shot the big yellow cat. As he rolled over, I tried to pull my dying dog away from him - and he grabbed my hand. Still in use here is the first iron safe ever seen in California. Made by hand, and locked with a giant key, it was brought here from Peru by Jose Bandini, once Spanish Admiral at Lima. His son Juan founded the California Bandini family.
The People vs. Cave J. Couts--a chapter from Stranger Than Fiction Vignettes of San Diego History…by Richard W. Crawford (San Diego Historical Society, 1995). Mr. Crawford's book "Stranger Than Fiction" has the Couts family is mentioned in several chapters. You can order a copy through the San Diego Historical Society web site or via
Early Monday morning on February 6, 1865, Colonel Cave Johnson Couts prominent rancher, judge, and politician, from San Luis Rey, stood inside George Tebbetts' butcher shop in Old Town. While talking with Tebbetts he noticed a former employee of his, Juan Mendoza, stroll across the plaza and enter the Franklin House. Minutes later, Couts watched again as walked out of Franklin's and into the street. "That man has threatened my life on sight!" he exclaimed as he picked up his double-barreled shotgun and strode out to confront Mendoza. "Don't shoot him!" Tebbetts yelled, but Couts raised his gun and fired. The shot flew wide and Mendoza ran for his life. From thirty yards away Couts fired again and Mendoza fell, killed instantly by a round of large shot. The shooting of Juan Mendoza stunned the people of San Diego. Couts was a respected man and popular with the community's elite. But the act of killing an unarmed man in broad daylight, in front of several witnesses, could not be ignored. The local justice of the peace, John Compton, ordered Couts jailed. By Thursday, however, friends had posted $15,000 bail and Couts was released. Months passed. Finally in June, 1866, the Grand Jury indicted Couts for murder. In October, trial began in District Court. Old Town San Diego in 1874 Testimony revealed what many had known all along: Mendoza was no innocent victim. Weeks before the shooting he had been dismissed by Couts after a dispute over wages. Afterwards, Mendoza swore publicly that he would kill the rancher at the first opportunity. Mendoza's past deeds suggested that the threat was not an idle one. Forty-six years old at the time of his death, Mendoza had led a violent career, mostly in his native Mexico. As the corrupt alcalde of a mining district in Baja California, he was infamous for extorting money from the population--"particularly Americans". Later, as the leader of a band of revolutioniaries, he allegedly murdered nearly a dozen people after robbing them of goods and property. When it became too hot for Mendoza below the border he came to San Diego, where his wife, "an estimable and useful woman," found employment with Mrs. Couts at Rancho Guajome. Mendoza was hired as Couts' mayordomo. Trial witness Eugenio Morillo, a long-time acquaintance of Mendoza, recalled that he was a violent man with "the face of an assassin." When asked Mendoza was the kind of man to carry out a murder threat, Morillo replied: "he was, certainly, he would be apt to get you before you got him." Based upon the testimony of Mendoza's character and probable intentions, the jury accepted the shooting as a pre-emptive act of self-defense. Newspaper reporter Rufus K. Porter recounted the trial's outcome in correspondence to the San Francisco Bulletin: The General [Volney E. Howard] made a very eloquent appeal to the jury, and reviewed the testimony very ably. The discharge of Col. Couts was received with much applause and the verdict of "not guilty" pronounced righteous.
DEATH OF COL. CAVE COUTS a Clarksville, TN Newspaper Died, in San Louis Rey, Cal. on the evening of June 10th, 1874, Col. Cave J. Couts, in the 53rd year of his age. Mr. Couts was the brother of our esteemed townsman, John F. Couts. We copy the following biographical sketch from a California paper: "Colonel Cave Johnson Couts was born in Springfield Tennessee, in the year 1821. He sprung from one of the oldest and must respected families of the South. he was a nephew of Cave Johnson Postmaster General under President Polk's Administration. Col. Couts graduated at West Point Military Academy in the class of 1841. Among his classmates were General grant, General Alexander and others who have since distinguished themselves in the United States army. After leaving West Point Lieut. Couts was assigned to the famous old Second Dragoons, which at that time and up to the time of the breaking out of the civil war was considered the model regiment of the army. His first duty in the service was at Fort Jessup, and net we hear of his taking an active part in the Mexican war. As soon as the difficulty with Mexico was settled, he was assigned to command an escort detachment to the United States Boundary Commission. Most of the members of the Commission arrived here via the Isthmus, but Lieut. Couts' command marched overland, arriving on this Coast in 1848. he was then stationed respectively at Los Angeles, San Luis Rey and San Diego. He obtained the title of Colonel by reason of holing a commission, with rank of Lieutenant Colonel, on the staff of the First Brigade, California Militia, in 1856. Whilst stationed at Oldtown he me and wooed Ysidora, daughter of Don Jose Bandini. Shortly after his marriage to this lady he resigned his commission and located at Guajome in this county, where he at once commenced building his house. colonel Couts, with his young bride, devoted his time and energy to the improvement of their new home, and to-day it is perhaps the most beautiful country seat in Southern California, certainly in San Diego county, surrounded with its orange groves and other varieties of semi-tropical trees. About six months ago it was discovered that he was suffering from aneurysm of the aorta and enlargement of the heart, which disease steadily progressed until his recent return from San Francisco when the tumor rapidly increased, and for the past week he has been suffering fearfully from congestion of the lungs which reduced his strength up to the moment of his death. For the past few weeks he had been fully aware of his condition, and knew he could not survive long, but he bore his sufferings with the courage of a soldier, and breathed his last with calmness and resignation. Colonel Couts was a man possessed of all the traits of character which go to makeup the gentleman of the old school; True, he was impulsive but his extreme generosity and unbounded hospitality balanced that to more insignificance. He was quick to resent an offense and would as quickly forgive an enemy. No one entitled to the slightest consideration, ever passed Guajome without, being solicited to partake of the royal hospitality of his mansion. He leaves a widow and eight children, and a large circle of friends, who loved him dearly, to mourn his early demise." 1 John (Franklin???) Couts, +wife Leah Stark 2 William H. (Henry) Couts, +wife Nancy Johnson 3 Cave Johnson Sr. Couts +Ysidora Bandini 4 Abel Stearns Couts 4 Maria Antonia Couts +Scott Chambers 5 Arcadia Bandini Scott +John Jerome Brennan 6 [11] Marta Antonia Brennan +Alfred Bandini Johnson Sr. 7 [12] Alfred Scott Bandini Johnson Jr. (McLaren) 7 Carlita Maria Johnson *2nd Husband of [11] Marta Antonia Brennan: +William Fleming McLaren 7 [12] Alfred Scott Bandini Johnson Jr. (McLaren) 7 William F. Jr. McLaren 6 John Jerome Brennan 4 William Bandini Couts +Christina Estudillo 4 Cave Johnson Jr. Couts +Lilly Clemens 4 Nancy Dolores Couts 4 [13] Ysidora Forster Couts +George Judge Fuller *2nd Husband of [13] Ysidora Forster Couts: +William Gray 4 Elena Helen Couts +Parker Dear 4 Robert Lee Couts +Sue V. Thompson 4 John Forster Couts +Susan Martin Gurnett 4 Maria Carolina "Caroline" Couts +John Bandini Winston 3 William "Willie" Blount Johnson Couts +Maria Refugia Concepcion Arguello 4 Catherine Johnson Couts +Josiah Elmer Shaffer 5 Louis H. (Wylie) Shaffer Shaffer 5 Maria Delia Shaffer +Marshall 5 [18] Maria Antonia Eugenia Shaffer +Percy Beggs *2nd Husband of [18] Maria Antonia Eugenia Shaffer: +John H. Harrigan 4 Albert Henry Couts +Lydia Ida Citerly 4 George Allan Couts +Adela Francisca Arguello 4 James Couts 4 Charles Thomas Couts +Charlotte Marie Patterson 4 Thomas Henry Couts 4 William Bandini Couts 4 Cave Couts 4 Maria Antonia Couts +Alejandro Devars
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