Community » History of Charter Oak

History of Charter Oak


In the days when the Spanish Ranchos were still thriving institutions, an incident occurred which is romantically tied to the history of the Charter Oak area. It seems that a certain Spanish nobleman named Don Antonio found himself in difficulty with the officials of the then small village of Pueblo de Los Angeles. He, therefore, decided to leave the Pueblo in haste and taking with him a large quantity of gold and a small band of horsemen, he started out on a journey to Mexico. The small band of horsemen and Don Antonio rode eastward, pausing long enough for a drink of water at the thriving San Gabriel Mission and, urging their horses straight to the east, continued into the area now known as Charter Oak just as night fell.

The party of horsemen decided to camp for the night under the large oak tree in the area and soon had their horses tethered and their campfires readied. Don Antonio, being a prudent man, and knowing that roving bands of American horsemen were in the area, before retiring, decided to bury this gold, as a precaution, at the foot of the oak tree.

Don Antonio’s wisdom was proved during the night when shouts were heard and a band of American militia rode up and attacked the sleeping party. Don Antonio’s men jumped from their blankets and rode off into the distance to escape the attack. Don Antonio, being a prudent man, chose another method of escape and climbed high into the leafy branched oak tree where he remained securely hidden until the American horsemen rode off.

When all the attackers had left, he climbed down out of the oak tree and was able to find a loose horse and made his escape, reaching Mexico several days later. In his haste, he failed to dig up the treasure in gold which he had buried. When he was in the tree he overhead the Captain of the American troops state: “Verily this oak tree is like the Charter Oak,” referring to an historical oak tree in Connecticut. This is how Charter Oak received its name.

An interesting sequel to this story is told by many of the early settlers in the area. It was not at all unusual for these people to hear the sound of picks and shovels digging in the night, and upon looking out in the morning, noticing holes dug around the base of the oak trees in their yards. In fact, rumor has it that one of these early settlers found imprints of the three-legged pot at the bottom of a hole of mud. It has been rumored that Don Antonio’s gold had been buried in such a pot.