Den, Bell, and Luton Families Papers
The papers are focused largely on land ownership by brothers Nicholas and Richard Den, early settlers of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, and their heirs. They highlight the transition in land tenure during the Mexican period and early years of California statehood as well as the inner operations of land and oil development in Santa Barbara County during the first part of the twentieth century.
The types of materials contained in these papers include: correspondence; land titles, deeds, and leases; legal documents including opinions, powers of attorney, and depositions; diaries, photographs, and printed materials. Many of the deeds to various parcels and ranchos are scarce handwritten copies of the originals. Many are accompanied by certifications of authenticity by local officials or by the U.S. Surveyor General.
- 1784 - 1974
- Den, Richard S. (Person)
Language of Materials
Materials in Spanish and English.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open to researchers.
Conditions Governing Use
All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Archivist and Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation Research Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
2.2 Linear Feet (2 record storage boxes)
The papers of the Den, Bell, and Luton Families are focused largely on land ownership by brothers Nicholas and Richard Den, early settlers of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, and their heirs. They highlight the transition in land tenure during the Mexican period and early years of California statehood as well as the inner operations of land and oil development in Santa Barbara County during the first part of the twentieth century.
Biographical / Historical
Nicholas August Den (1812–1862), son of Emanuel Den and Katherine O’Shea, came to California, by way of Nova Scotia, from Waterford, Ireland. Den had studied to become a medical doctor in Dublin, and although there is no record of his having graduated, he became the first medical doctor in the Santa Barbara area, moving there in 1836. He later served as mayor of Santa Barbara. He married Rosa A. Hill, a daughter of Daniel A. Hill in 1843 and died in 1862, leaving ten children.
Richard Somerset Den (1821–1895) also studied medicine in Ireland. Afterwards, he sailed to Australia and then Mexico, landing in Mazatlan, before arriving in Santa Barbara in the fall of 1843 where his brother lived. Richard Den was given a certified medical license in 1844 by Governor Micheltorena to practice medicine in Mexico, and he treated wounded Californios and American prisoners during the Mexican-American war. Den also practiced medicine in Los Angeles where he resided for much of his life. He never married.
Over the course of his life, Nicholas Den acquired several Mexican ranchos in Santa Barbara County, starting with Rancho Dos Pueblos in 1842. In 1845 Den and Daniel Hill became lessees of the Mission Santa Barbara lands which were granted to his brother Richard in 1846 by Governor Pio Pico. Richard acquired Rancho Los Prietos in 1857 and Rancho Tequepis in 1858. The brothers also owned the Rancho San Marcos which Richard managed for a number of years.
Nicholas Den’s daughter Catarina Maria Den, who grew up on Rancho Dos Pueblos, married John Stewart Bell in 1842. Bell was born in Tahiti where he father had a sugar plantation. They lived in Santa Barbara and had five children: Katherine Maria Den Bell, Charles Den Bell, Caroline Alexandra Bell, Rosa Margaret Antonia Bell and Mary E. Bell. Katherine M. Bell married Seth Cheney and in 1931 she compiled a history of her mother Catarina’s life entitled Swinging the Censer: Reminiscences of Old Santa Barbara.
Caroline "Carrie" Bell married George Roscoe Luton. They had one son, William and lived in Montecito, California.
The papers of the Den, Bell, and Luton Families are arranged in four series:
Series 1 - Documents
Series 2 - Miscellaneous Family Materials
Series 3 - Photographs
Series 4 - Printed Matter
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Nancy Luton Jackson.
Two books removed and added to library collection.
Bell, Katherine M. Swinging the Censer: Reminiscences of Old Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara, CA: Finlay Press, 1931.
Collection guide updated by Chris S. Ervin CA 2020-03-18.
- Bell, John Stewart
- Bell, Katherine M., 1844-1926
- Church lands
- Den, Nicholas Augustus
- Den, Richard S.
- Hill, Daniel A.
- Inventories of decedents’ estates
- Land tenure
- Luton, Caroline
- Luton, George Roscoe, 1880-1947
- Oil and gas leases
- Rancho Dos Pueblos (Calif.)
- Rancho Las Armas (Calif.)
- Rancho Los Prietos (Calif.)
- Rancho San Marcos (Calif.)
- Rancho Tequepis (Calif.)
- Santa Barbara Mission
- Guide to the Den, Bell, and Luton Families Papers
- Updated by Chris S. Ervin CA
- Description rules
- Language of description