A Crooked History of Land Rights in the West

Limantour Beach

Something that probably hasn’t crossed your mind when you walk your dog or watch the migrating whales on Limantour Beach is the unsavory past of the place’s namesake. In fact, about 175 years ago you might have seen the name Limantour in many other locations around the Bay Area. A French-born trader, Joseph Yves Limantour was living in Mexico City when he first landed — literally: he beached his vessel — on the Point Reyes Peninsula. The merchant continued to make frequent trips to and from San Francisco and resolved to own land in the area — and he did. Capitalizing on the lax laws of the Wild West, Limantour filed claims to more than 17,000 acres in Tiburon, the Farallones and beyond. The ploy didn’t stand for long and in 1858 the trader was found guilty of massive land fraud; the name of the larger estero was changed from Limantour to Drakes.

This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “False Claim”.