The featured box belonged to Edna P. Johnston’s grandmother, Maria Josefa Castro Davidson who was the daughter of Mariano de la Cruz Castro and Maria Trinidad Peralta de Castro, descendants of early Spanish settlers in California.
Maria Trinidad Peralta was the daughter of Don Luis Maria Peralta, who brought his family to Alta California with Juan Bautista de Anza on the 1776 expedition that founded the Presidio of San Francisco, Mission Santa Clara, and the Pueblo San Jose. He married Maria Loreto Alviso in 1784. A soldier in the military of the King of Spain, he transferred from Monterey to San Francisco where he served with the Escolta (guards) stationed at various missions. In 1805, after an attack on the priest and majordomo of Mission San Jose, he led a garrison to the fort at San Francisco and into the San Joaquin Valley in pursuit of the Native American perpetrators. The resultant victory won him an appointment as commisionado in charge of Pueblo San Jose in 1807, the highest military and/or civilian title. Then, in 1820, he was awarded one of the largest Spanish land grants, Rancho San Antonio, a 44,800-acre plot that encompassed most of the East Bay Area. In 1842 he split the rancho among his four sons: Hermenegildo Ignacio, Jose Domingo, Antonio Maria, and Jose Vicente. He left his five daughters his cattle, his adobe, and the land on which it sat upon his death in San Jose in 1851.
Maria Trinidad Peralta, born between 1789 and 1791 at Mission Dolores in San Francisco, was Don Luis Maria Peralta's second oldest daughter. In November of 1810, she married Mariano de la Cruz Castro, the son of Ignacio Clemente de Castro and Maria Barbara Pacheco—descendents of Joaquin Isidro de Castro, who also brought his family to Alta California with the 1776 Anza expedition. Multiple members of the Castro family served in the Spanish Army and were stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco at the time of its establishment. In the 1830s, Mariano and his uncle, Bartolome Pacheco, were granted over 8,000 acres of land by the Mexican government, which included all of Danville and Alamo as well as parts of San Ramon and Mountain View.
Their daughter, Maria Josefa Castro, married Captain Peter Davidson and the couple owned a large portion of the Castro land grant, a 400-acre estate in Mountain View between Whisman Road and Stevens Creek which extended from El Camino Real to what is now Highway 101. In 1850, after California was accepted into the union, Spanish and Mexican families in possession of large government land grants were harassed by American homesteaders who squatted on and consequently claimed ownership to their land. In addition, others besieged them with offers to buy their land, particularly those representing railroad interests eager to expand into the newly opened western frontier.In 1853, the Castro-Davidson ranch was sold to John Sullivan, an early California pioneer who had traversed the Sierra Nevada with other men who also purchased large tracts of the Castro land grant, one of which is now Sunnyvale.