South Gate -The Early Years
In the summer of 1769, a group of Spanish explorers set out from the coast of San Diego to explore the uncharted territory between San Diego and the Bay of Monterey. With them was Father Juan Crespi, considered by historians to be one of the great diarists of the new world explorations. His daily entries were remarkably revealing of the country through which the caravan passed. They proceeded in the general direction of the San Gabriel Valley, across the Los Angeles River, which Crespi named "Porciuncula" on August 2, 1769.
There would be no history of South Gate without including the story of the Lugo Spanish Land Grant. That grant encompassed a great part of what is now the City of South Gate and is a vital and colorful part of this area's history.
Francisco Lugo was a cavalry corporal for the King of Spain and an important figure among the early Spanish settlers of the region. In 1810 the King of Spain granted eleven square leagues to Francisco's son, Don Antonio Maria Lugo, in appreciation for his father's service to the crown. This vast estate was known as the Rancho San Antonio land grant. It extended from the low range of hills which separated it from the San Gabriel Valley to the old Dominguez Ranch at its south, and from the eastern boundary of the pueblo of Los Angeles to the San Gabriel River.
A little more than 100 years after the establishment of the Lugo Land Grant, the area at the south gate of the ranch became the City of South Gate. As Don Lugo's family grew, he obtained San Bernardino Rancho and other grants in his children's names.
At various times, Don Antonio Maria Lugo was the Alcalde (Mayor) of Los Angeles, Juex del Campo (Judge of the Plains) and a member of the Pueblo Council. In 1846, at the age of 71, he rode 400 miles on horseback from his ranch to Monterey.
The future South Gate site and adjacent mesas presented a colorful spectacle when countless heads of cattle and horses were herded from all directions to a common point for the annual great spring rodeo. Lugo would direct the proceedings and settle disputes regarding ownership of contested animals as well as adjudicate agricultural disputes. In his saddle, he was the court and the plains his courtroom.
The Land Grant was handed down from generation to generation, dividing among offspring and eventually parceled and sold to people outside the Lugo family.
Don Antonio's son Vincente (1820-1889) built his adobe dwelling in the 1850's on five and one half acres. It is known as Lugo Ranch, and is situated on modern day Gage Avenue in the City of Bell Gardens.
Before the end of the 1870's, much of the original land grant had been replaced by 40 acre tracts. By 1880, cattle raising had been replaced by agriculture as the most important local industry. During the years between 1910 and 1940, most of the agricultural land was replaced by homes and factories. Today, with the land divided by freeways, it is not easy to imagine it as a vast plain stretching from the mountains to the sea as it was in those early years.
The Tweedy family, headed by R.D. Tweedy, has played an important part in South Gate's history. Mr. Tweedy was born in 1812 in Illinois, and came to California by ox-drawn cart in 1852. Mrs. Tweedy rode across the prairies perched on her rocking chair in the ox cart. The family was large, and several generations have lived in this city. The family members bought some 2,000 acres of the land on which much of South Gate was built. The "downtown business district" in South Gate was named after the family and is known as the Tweedy Mile.