Corporal Jose Maria Verdugo was head of the guards stationed at Mission San Gabriel. In 1785, he headed off a plot to murder the mission's two padres. He captured ten renegade Indians inside the mission walls without firing a shot. Filmmaker John Newcombe, whose documentary is called "Rancho La Cañada," says Verdugo cashed in on Spain's version of a pension for retiring soldiers. He got a grant for 36,000 acres of grazing land.
"All the way from Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Burbank, portions of Pasadena, the Crescenta/Cañada Valley, all the way to Sun Valley, he was given all of that land by the Spanish government."
Unfortunately for Verdugo's heirs, the Mexican revolution took California away from Spain. A new survey declared much of their land "unoccupied and unused." But their name still remains on local street signs: Verdugo Road.
(Airdate for this story: 1/19/08)