Limantour, Joseph-Yves (1812-1885)
Yves Limantour also known in California as José Limantour war born
in Lorient, France in 1812 and died in Mexico City in 1885. He is the
father of José Limantour who became the finance minister of Porfirio
Diaz and is well known for having solved Mexico huge national
the father, was a Breton trader and navy captain who traded all along
the Pacific coast from Valparaiso to California. He was based since
1836 in Mexico City but arrived in Vera Cruz in 1831 at the age of 19
beach in California, the Limantour Beach bears his name because he
wrecked his schooner, the Ayacucho, on Point Reyes in October 1841.
[California Place Names, University of California Press
goes that after the wreck, Limantour crossed the land over to
Sausalito, was helped by Richardson (an English settler who is
recognized as both the founder of Sausalito and Yerba Buena, the
pueblo that became San Francisco). He was able to fret another
ship to rescue his cargo, mostly supplies aimed at colons , and sell
it in Yerba Buena.
on, Limantour continues trading and shipping goods from the lower part
of Mexico to Alta California. Up to the war of 1846 between Mexico and
the US. This is during this time, that the Mexican governor General Micheltorena, desperate for help, seems to have paid for arms shipment
to the Californios fighting the US., with land grants. The
properties were mostly land that had been confiscated from the
Franciscans Missions during the Mexican War of Independence two
decades earlier. Limantour got his fair share, in exchange for
services he did for the Mexican government and apparently a big part
of the land where San Francisco was to be built. It was few years
before the gold rush and nobody had any idea that these rocks and
marshes were to become the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world.
By the Treaty of
Guadalupe-Hidalgo signed in February 1848, the young
Mexican Republic abandoned Alta California to the United States. One
important clause of the treaty was that the US government accepted to
recognize and respect the ownership rights of all Mexicans established
in Alta California. It did not, although a Land Commission was created
by the federal government to examine the claims.
February 5 1853, Joseph-Yves Limantour presented to the US Land
commission a claim for 47 square leagues of land. The claim included
Cape Mendocino, Tiburon peninsula, the Farallones, Alcatraz, and four
square leagues of San Francisco, all the land south of California
Street. The whole thing signed by the last Mexican governor himself, General Jose Manuel Micheltorena.
years of deliberations, the San Francisco claim and the
islands claims were validated [California Historical Society
Quarterly, Volume XXI, December 1942]. This land, South of
California street was estimated at several millions dollar or 100
millions in today dollar.
Joseph-Yves went ahead and collected the Limantour
Tax, which was 10% of the value of the property from bewildered and
angry San Franciscan. He grew rich enough to pursue the matter in
courts from 1853 to 1858 since the federal government did appeal the
land commission decision. He hired General Wilson as his
lawyer, one of the best layer in town. . The stakes were
high. The US District Court finally rejected all
Limantour's claims on count of forgery, but to this day the decision
Limantour friends and employees turned against him and did
damaging depositions accusing Limantour of forgery. Limantour had many
witnesses but unfortunately their were, excepted for Richardson, all Mexican
government officials. The suspicion is that the grants were
real, on true stamped and dated official paper, but fabricated in Mexico in 1852 with the help of
Micheltorena himself and Castanares,
the former custom manager of Monterrey.
The government accusations were infamous, serious and not
surprising considering what was at stake. They had to prove it since
witnesses were in contradiction. Somebody was lying. They needed some
Unfortunately all the proofs were based on not
verifiable assertions on the signatures, the seals, the paper, the
handwriting, nothing that could not be manipulated. So the mystery
was closed but is not solved.
was thrown in jail in December 1857. He posted bail, went back
to Mexico and never came back North.
any case, it is said that he had collected at least $100,000—enough
to continue a flourishing business and finish his life quietly in Mexico. He died in 1885 in Mexico City.