Maria Inocenta Pico

By Karley Pinkerton

Maria Inocenta Pico was born in Alta California in 1810. She is a member of the prominent Pico family, one of the original families to settle in California prior to the American conquest. She married Miguel Antonio Nicolás Ávila in 1826 and eventually had two children José and Juan Ávila. The family lived in an adobe on the ranch owned by Miguel. This ranch was located in what is now Avila Bay in California. Maria Pico was in charge of keeping the house and raising the children. Due to her birth parents, as well as her husband, Maria was a part of two prominent California families.

Marriage and Family

Maria Inocenta Pico, a member of the prominent Pico family, was born in Alta California to José Dolores Pico and Maria Isabel de la Asencion Cota. José Dolores Pico is the first born son of Santiago de La Cruz Pico and Maria Jacinta de la Bastida. The Pico family was a part of the Californios, individuals of Spanish or Mexican heritage that lived in California prior to the American conquest. Maria is one of ten siblings born to José and Maria Isabel. She was the fourth born in the family. Her father had been married prior to Maria Isabel though they did not bear any children prior to the wife’s death in 1800. In the California census of 1790 Santiago de La Cruz Pico’s “casta” or lineage is labeled as mestizo. This implies he is of both Spanish and indigenous descent. Maria Jacinta de La Bastida, Maria’s grandmother, is labeled as a “mulata,” which is a person of mixed European and African descent. Therefore, she was of Spanish, indigenous, and African descent.

Maria Inocenta Pico married Miguel Antonio Nicolas Ávila on September 9, 1826 at Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Alta California. Together they had two sons José Antonio Ávila and Juan de los Lagos Ávila. Miguel and Maria lived at Rancho San Miguelito in California. They were married until Miguel’s death in 1874. Maria wrote an account of her life on the ranch in Cosas de California. She dictated the book to Thomas Savage in 1878. In her book, she details schooling for young women in Monterey, a meeting with Agustin Fernandez, as well as her friendships with José Castro and Juan Bautista Alvarado. José Castro was a politician and military general in Alta California during the 1830s and 1840s. Alvarado was the governor of Alta California from 1836 to 1842. He was also the first governor to grant Miguel Ávila the land that would later be Rancho San Miguelito. Maria was therefore well connected among the elite of Mexican California. Miguel and Maria’s children inherited the land following their father's death in 1874. There is no known date of Maria’s death.

Rancho San Miguelito

Rancho San Miguelito was located in what is now Avila Bay, California. The original grant for the land was first petitioned by Miguel Ávila on March 1, 1839. There was no formal land grant for the ranch until May 10, 1842. The land encompassed a total of 22,135 acres. Governor Pio Pico then extended the land grant in 1846 as a way to reward his supporter, Miguel Ávila. There were fears of the Ávila Family gaining too much power over the seaport, though the grant was still rewarded with slight provisions. This may have been due to his marriage to the Pico family through Maria Inocenta. The ranch had two adobe houses; one located on the beach and the other in the hills of the ranch. This is where the family resided for most of their lives. Miguel Ávila died on February 28, 1874, at the age of 73. His two sons inherited the land alongside their mother, though following a massive drought in 1867, they parceled off the land and sold what was Rancho San Miguelito.

Further Readings

“Death of Don Miguel Ávila.” San Luis Obispo Tribune. February 28, 1874.

“Ego's Baptismal Data.” Baptismal data. Accessed May 31, 2022.

Gehring, Frank. “Dreams of the Past.” SLO Daily Telegram. April 18, 1929.

“Marriage Register Data.” Marriage data. Accessed May 31, 2022.

Mason, William Marvin. The Census of 1790: A Demographic History of Colonial California. Menlo Park, CA: Ballena Press, 1998.

“Patent for San Miguelito.” San Luis Obispo Tribune. March 17, 1877.

Pico Ávila María Inocenta, Thomas Savage, Mary Triplett Ayers, and Donald T. Garate. Cosas De California = Things of California. San Diego: Los Californianos, 2002.

“Pico, Maria Encarnacion ‘Inocenta.’” PICO, Maria Encarnacion "Inocenta" b. 28 Dec 1810 Monterey, Alta California: Schwald Family Genealogy, November 18, 2017.

Tyler, Helen. “The Family of Pico.” The Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly 35, no. 3 (1953): 221–38.