Museum Lobby

Old Salt Lake | Virtual Museum

Report by Galen Hunter

Historic Boundary Rock

A project to create replicas.

[ Page updated - April 17, 2019 ]

There was a stone boundary marker with an intriguing history in the City of Redondo Beach. This stone or rock, goes back to 1815, and is apparently no longer where it was - at least as recorded in 1854. For decades various people have wondered about the rock and not found it. Also, not found are any historical photographs of it. The last known account identifying the rock in place was an Los Angeles County Surveyor in 1942. So, the idea now is to create one or two replicas of this boundary rock based on the known historical documents describing it.

The rock was originally put on top of a hill here by Spanish authorities as early as 1815 to be a fixed orientation point. The purpose of the point was to establish an artificial line to connect with the adjacent orientation point to the west, the salt lake ("Salinas" as it was called then), in order to establish the boundary between the two major ranchos occupying this area at the time. However, the rock itself may (or may not) have been moved by the Americans (?) sometime around 1853 over a scheme to gain legal possession of the salt works at the salt lake. The salt lake is now gone. However the artificial line established between the rock and the salt lake is still there having persisted through Spanish, Mexican and American rule. Today, this same artificial line is the northern coastal land use jurisdictional boundary between the cities of Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach.

There is historical documentation describing where the rock was in 1854 because of the records still in existence indicating the back story of the incorporation of the Pacific Salt Works Company at the salt lake and its sale to the Americans in 1854 by Manuel Dominguez, the owner of Rancho San Pedro. Also, importantly, there is the testimony and depositions of the 1855-56 U.S. Land Claims Court case about whether the rock was moved or not. Documents from this case include descriptions of the size and shape of this rock, although these descriptions are not precise. However, the location of where the rock was in 1854 is well documented and is iterated through time. For instance, the rock is mentioned in the original and official map of the "Townsite of Redondo Beach" submitted to the Los Angeles County Recorder in 1889. The rock is also mentioned in the written official territorial boundary of the City of Redondo Beach submitted to the Los Angeles County Recorder in 1892. Indeed, the 1892 City of Redondo Beach territorial definition actually refers to the rock as "west 3.44 chains to a rock which is station 10 of the official survey of the Rancho San Pedro". This same rock being previously referred to in the official Patent of the Rancho San Pedro (1858) and the Plat of Rancho Sausal Redondo (1875) as a point of the boundary line between the two.

What is significant about (the context of) this boundary rock? The answer is - just 10 years before the rock was first installed by the Spanish on the hill, prehistoric people were living there. The history of this rock is a microcosm of Spanish, Mexican and American culture. The context is, at the very least, a fascinating case study of American corporate culture in the Far West. So, creating a replica or two of the historic boundary rock seems to be a reasonable endeavor given the impact corporate culture has had and is still having "upon a once-undifferentiated natural environment".

What is the purpose of a boundary marker?

From Wikipedia:

According to Josiah Ober [American historian and professor of classics and political science, at Stanford University], boundary markers are "a way of imposing human, cultural, social meanings upon a once-undifferentiated natural environment." Boundary markers are linked to social hierarchies, since they derive their meaning from the authority of a person or group to declare the limits of a given space of land for political, social or religious reasons. Ober notes that "determining who can use parcels of arable land and for what purpose, has immediate and obvious economic implications."

Many borders were drawn along invisible lines of latitude or longitude, which often created a need to mark these borders on the ground, as accurately as possible, using the technology of the day. Advances in GPS technology have shown that there are many borders inaccurately marked on the ground.

Boundary markers have often been used to mark critical points on political boundaries, i.e. those between countries, states or local administrations, but have also been used to mark out the limits of private landholdings, especially in areas where fences or walls are impractical or unnecessary. In developed countries the use of markers for land ownership has in many places been replaced by maps and land ownership registration. Boundary markers are not legal markers in Western countries and may have troublesome legal effects. However, boundary markers have legal meaning in Japan, and are generally installed across the country. Markers are still used extensively for marking international borders, which are traditionally classified into two categories: natural boundaries, correlating to topographical features such as rivers or mountain ranges, and artificial boundaries, which have no obvious relation to topography. The latter category includes borders defined by boundary markers such as stones and walls. International boundary markers are placed and can be maintained by mutual agreement of the bordering countries.

Figure 1 is a general overview of the region - showing rain Catchment Areas, Rectangular Survey Township grid lines and the approximate the boundary line of the Rancho San Pedro. Note the markup indicating the approximate location of the boundary rock on the northwest boundary line of Rancho San Pedro - the boundary line cuts through the middle of rain catchment area of the salt lake. The groundwater from this catchment once fed the salt lake and helped replenish the underlying fresh water aquifers. The point being the catchment area, the lake, and the fresh water aquifers have been devastated by American corporate culture - beginning with Spanish and Mexican culture.

[Figure 1]

Screenshot of "City Boundaries for Los Angeles County" website showing current City of Redondo Beach boundaries with markup added indicating location where the historic boundary rock was on the northwest portion of the boundary line of Rancho San Pedro per the 1858 Patent and original City of Redondo Beach northern boundary line.

[Figure 2 - Underlying map from -]

Rancho Boundary Patent Maps

Detail of 1858 "Map of the Rancho San Pedro", P01-119, Download Full Map (PDF, 809 KB). Note upper middle of figure - "Sta.10", "Road", "Stake" - "Road" is a typo. It should read "Rock".

[Figure 3]

Detail of 1875 "Plat of the Rancho Sausal Redondo", P01-507, Download Full Map (PDF, 553 KB). Note middle of figure - "Large Rock on Round Hill". Also, note the rock is located just west of the corner of "Sec.31", "Sec.32", "Sec.6", and "Sec.1" - "Sec.1" is a typo. It should read "Sec.5".

[Figure 4]

City of Redondo Beach - Original Boundary Map and Description

Detail of page 5 of 1889 "Townsite of Redondo Beach, Los Angeles County, California", "Drawn under the direction of Geo. Tod, Jr. Civil Engineer" Download Full Map (PDF, 2.8 MB). "Original Recorded [with County Recorder] April 27, 1889 at request of Redondo Beach Co". Note: upper right of figure "Old Post at Large Sandstone".

[Figure 5]

1912, "Los Angeles County Official Boundaries of Incorporated Cities", detail page 479, "City of Redondo Beach". Note "west 3.44 chains to a rock which is station 10 of the official survey of the Rancho San Pedro".

[Figure 6]

1942, Los Angeles County Surveyor, CEFB0961, page 62, see upper left notes "Sta #10 - Ro. San Pedro Fd. L&T in Sandstone rock". Also see in the middle "Flagler Lane"

[Figure 7]

List of Selected Eyewitness and Official Descriptions of the Boundary Rock

  1. 1853 October 28 - U.S. Survey by Henry Hancock:
    [ field notes, CS 9326, 1853 Oct 28, page 3 ]
    "a rock embedded in earth"

  2. 1854 November 25 - Joseph Lancaster Brent letter to George Hansen:
    "commencing at a large stone, on top of a hill"

  3. 1855 - George Hansen field book survey of Rancho San Pedro:
    "to a rock on top of hill which having the Black Spot ..."

  4. 1855 December 22 - Deposition of Jose Mariz Abila:
    "The was a "Mosonero" a Land Mark."
    "The monument consisted of a pile of stones."
    "One of them is not in the same place where it formerly was."

  5. 1856 December - Testimony of Jose Mariz Abila:
    "It is one stone."
    "I do not know anthing of any pile of stones."

  6. 1856 December - Deposition of Jose Maria Cota:
    "I know all the land marks on the northern line and the last land mark described in the question is a white stone, the same being a large stone that could scarcely be raised by 4 persons. It is one stone alone."

  7. 1856 December - Testimony of Ignacio Machado:
    "The Head Mark being a large stone appeared to me to point southward. There were monuments on the line coming toward the Sycamore tree - the Head Stone is a very large stone in the shape of a Hoy and the other monuments are of the same kind as these stone are up here in the mill dam."
    "It has been 22 years since I have seen this large stone in the shape of an hoy. I do not know who made it."

  8. 1856 December - Testimony of Fernando Sepulveda:
    "it is a large stone"

  9. 1856 December 13 - Deposition of Tomas Talamantes:
    "From that live tree on to a stone which stone was marked with a letter and which line divides the Salt Lakes in half."
    "There is a point away out in the plains at a great distance from which this Rock can be seen because it is upon a high place."
    "It is a stone very large and wide with letters upon it. It has no other particular mark. It was one single stone."

  10. 1856 December 13 - Deposition of Francisco Villa:
    "composed of small and large stones. It was something less than a yard in length - and could be easily seen from the distance."

  11. 1856 December 15 - Depostion of Henry Hancock:
    "It was a cone embedded in earth and projecting out of the ground some 18 inches or two feet. And so conspicuous an object appeared as on worthy of notice."

  12. 1889 - Map "Townsite of Redondo Beach", Drawn under the direction of Geo. Tod. Jr., Civil Engineer:
    "Old Post at Large Sandstone"

  13. 1902 - Ocean Beach Subdivision:
    "large rock partly embedded in earth on top of round hill"

  14. 1931 - Los Angeles County Survey, Track No. 10019, Sheet 4:
    "Fd. Stone monument with Lead and tack, as per Map of Tr. 2825, M. B. 30, 56."

  15. 1929 to 1932 - Inglewood - Redondo Blvd Los Angeles County Survey F.B. 422, page 96:
    "Station #10-Rcho San Pedro. Fd. L & T in Old Sandstone Rock about 10"x 14" Orig. Mon. San Pedro Ro. See Redondo Villa Tr & F.B. 101-51 Used for line and proportion"

Recent Google Earth Screenshots of the Boundary Rock Site with Markup

[Figure 8]

[Figure 9]


Figure 10 is a photograph of the first model replica of the monument stone. The photograph was taken right after it was created around noon on April 17, 2019. The material used was "Crayola Air-Dry Clay" which is actually not clay, but paper, resin, and glue. The model was made in 1:8 scale - and was created rather quickly and not supposed to be perfect or canonical. The purpose of this model is just to see what we are dealing with.

[Figure 10]

Figure 11 is the diagram created to make the above 1:8 scale model. Importantly, the diagram also includes the numbers we are working with at this point for what was the full scale dimensions of this boundary monument. This first diagram and then first model replica are historic in themselves and/or at least key milestones in the ongoing project to create one or two - authentic as possible - full size replicas of the stone boundary marker by synthesizing the various known historical descriptions of it - which are listed above in this report.

[Figure 11]