San Diego sea captain Henry Delano Fitch had married Josefa
Carrillo, which made him the brother-in-law of General Mariano
Guadalupe Vallejo (who was married to Josefa's sister Francisca
Benicia Carrillo). General Vallejo was a critical factor in
obtaining the Rancho Sotoyome grant.
Fitch hired Cyrus Alexander as ranch manager under a four year
agreement, after which Alexander was to receive two square leagues
of land and part of the ranch stock. Fitch petitioned for his
grant in 1840, and was officially granted the eight square leagues
(approximately 35,000 acres (142 km2)) by Governor Juan Alvarado
in 1841. In 1844, Fitch received a three square league addition
from Governor Manuel Micheltorena.
Alexander's contract ended in 1845, Mose Carson, brother of
Kit Carson, took over as manager of Rancho Sotoyome. Alexander
settled on his tract in what is now Alexander Valley.
Fitch continued trading up and down the coast, with Rancho Sotoyome
as one of the many business enterprises directed from his San
Diego base. After the discovery of gold, Fitch planned to move
his family north to Rancho Sotoyome, but had not done so before
he died in 1849. Following his death, his widow Josefa and their
children moved to Rancho Sotoyome.Their third son, Guillermo
(William) married Clara Piña, whose relatives owned the
adjacent Rancho Tzabaco.
claim for Rancho Sotoyome was filed with the Public Land Commission
in 1852 and the grant was patented to Josefa Carrillo de Fitch
in 1858. Alexander filed a claim in 1853 for his 2 square leagues
(part of the 1841 grant by Governor Alvarado to Fitch), but
it was rejected by the Land Commission.
1856, Josefa Carrillo de Fitch auctioned part of the Rancho
to pay taxes. Harmon Heald, an Ohio businessman who had been
squatting on Rancho Sotoyome since 1850, purchased 100 acres.
Heald’s small town of Healdsburg was incorporated in 1867.