The Old Spanish and Mexican Ranchos

In the Cheviot Hills neighborhood, the  Cheviot Hills and Monte Mar Vista tracts are within the Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes area, while Country Club Highlands occupies parts of both  Rancho Rincon de los Bueyes and Rancho Ballona.  Manning Avenue is, for the most part, the dividing line between them. 
The Spanish Crown granted Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes in what was then  New Spain ; the Mexican government granted Rancho La Ballona after the area became  Alta California

When the Spaniards arrived, the land was home to the Tongvan people, who are said to have migrated here about 3500 years ago, replacing the previous inhabitants Wikipedia  summarizes: 
"Initial Spanish exploration of the Los Angeles area occurred in 1542, but sustained contact with the Tongva came only after Mission San Gabriel Arcángel was constructed in 1771.  This marked the beginning of an era of forced relocation and exposure to Old World diseases, leading to the rapid collapse of the Tongva population.  At times the Tongva violently resisted Spanish rule, such as the 1785 rebellion led by the female chief Toypurina.  In 1821, Mexico gained its independence from Spain and the government sold mission lands to ranchers, forcing the Tongva to culturally assimilate.  Three decades later, California was ceded to the United States following the Mexican-American War.  The US government signed treaties with the Tongva, promising 8.5 million acres (3,400,000 ha) of land for reservations, but these treaties were never ratified.  By the turn of the 20th century, the Island Tongva had disappeared and the mainland communities were also nearing extinction."
Los Angeles itself was not a rancho, but a pueblo.  The apocryphal story of its founding is that, on September 4, 1781, 11 men, 11 women, and 22 children left Mission San Gabriel, accompanied by the governor of Alta California, Felipe de Neve (1727-1784), soldiers, mission priests, and a few Native Americans a to settle a site along the Los Angeles River.  With a speech by Governor de Neve, a blessing and prayers from the mission fathers, El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula (The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angeles of Porciuncula) was established.

The truth is a bit more complicated, and it is well told by Nathan Masters in Happy Birthday, Los Angeles!  But is the Story of the City's Founding a Myth?  

Decades after the Pueblo's founding, its sovereigns – Spain then Mexico – granted ranchos Rincón de los Bueyes and La Ballona to the pueblo's residents or their families.  Pursuant to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (ending the Mexican-American war) the United States honored the grants.  Unfortuantely for the Californianos, the ranchos' ownership and boundaries – informal at best by modern American standards – had to be proven.  During the process, many grantees lost their land to legal fees and/or sharp dealing.  So prevalant was the perception of unfairness, that a United States Senate subcommittee was charged with investigating whether Mexican Land Grants in California were "corruptly and fraudulently turned over to ... private interests."  In its report, the Senate committee commented on the will of José Bartolomé Tapia, the grantee of the the  Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit  (including today's Malibu) which had gone to Irishman Matthew Keller, rather than Tapia:  "This will [Tapia's] shows the simple honesty of these old native Californians.  It is too bad that they fell easy victims to the American settlers."  ( Subcommittee of the Commmittee on Public Lands and Surveys of the Unitied States Senate, 1929-1930, p. 114 .) 
 Official 1888 Los Angeles County Map shows ranchos.
​Historian W.W. Robinson summarized the claims process concerning Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes and Rancho La Ballona:

"In October of 1852 the families owning La Ballona and El Rincón filed their claims with the Commission which had been established the year before to settle all land claims.

"The Machados and Talamantes had smooth sailing.  The Board gave them its approval on February 14, 1854, and the United States District Court upheld the decision on appeal.

"The Higueras were not so lucky.  They were turned down at first.  Not until the end of 1869 was their claim upheld in the District Court.
  
    "When the United States finally issued its patent covering Rancho La Ballona, on December 8, 1873, it confirmed the title to nearly 14,000 acres.  The patentees were the original four claimants.  The patent covering Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes, issued on August 27, 1872, confirmed title to 3100 acres, the patentees being Francisco and Secundino Higuera."

(From W. W. Robinson, "Culver City, California:  A Calendar of Events:  in which is Included, Also, the Story of Palms and Playa Del Rey Together with Rancho La Ballona and Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes (Title Guarantee and Trust Company, 1941)." 
Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes
On December 5, 1821, Bernardo Higuera (1790–1837) and Cornelio Lopez (b. 1792) petitioned military commander José de la Guerra y Noriega (1779-1858) to grant them Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes.  Bernardo’s father, Joaquin Higuera, had been alcalde (mayor and chief judicial official) of the Pueblo in 1800.  
The petition read (translated from Spanish):
To the Snr. CapN
Bernardo Higuera and Cornelio Lopez, citizens of the Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles, and under the command of our honor, with the greatest respect and submission before your Excellency, appear and say that, possessing at the present time a number of cattle and not having any place so as properly to be able to keep them with a grazing ground of sufficient extent . . . . Therefore ask and beseech your extreme clemency to be pleased to grant to them the tract within this vicinity called Corral Viejo del Rincon so as that they may be able to place a corral for herding the said cattle unless it does some injury to the neighboring residents — a favor they expect from your extreme goodness and for which they will recognize themselves very grateful.  May God preserve you many years.
Two days later Noriega made an entry on the margin of the petition:  “Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles. Dec. 7, 1821.  It is granted if no prejudice result to the community.  (Signed) Noriega.”

 Two days later Noriega made an entry on the margin of the petition:  “Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles. Dec. 7, 1821.  It is granted if no prejudice result to the community.  (Signed) Noriega.”  
(From Romance of a Rancho , The Beverly Hills Citizen, Volume XVII – No. 2, June 23, 1939, pages 9, 12, which credits  Prexcedes Arnaz de Lavigne, W. W. Robinson, and Nellie Van de Grift Sanchez, whose translation of a document by Don Jose de Arnaz appeared in “Touring Topics” in 1928.)  In 1843, Spain's grant of the 3,127-acre Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes to Higuera and Lopez was confirmed by Mexican Governor Manuel Micheltorena.  
​The name of this rancho, "Rincón de los Bueyes," means "Corner of the Oxen."  It became known as such due to a large ravine at the south corner of the grant, which served as a natural corral.  Today, La Cienega Boulevard courses through this ravine.  (From John R. Kielbasa, Historic Adobes of Los Angeles.)
In March 1871, this "Plat of the Rancio Rincon de los Bueyes" was "Finally Confirmed to Francisco Higuera et al."  The United States General Land Office, approved it on August 22, 1872. 
Rancho La Ballona
  In about 1819, Augustin and Ygnacio Machado and Felipe and Tomas Talamantes “moved in, under a permit from the military commander José de la Guerra y Noriega” to what would, in 1839, be granted to them as the nearly 14,000-acre Rancho Ballona.  During those twenty years the Machado and Talamantes families, or their representatives, had stocked the ranch with “large cattle and horses and small cattle” and had improved it “with vineyards and houses and sowing grounds.” 
(From W. W. Robinson, Culver City, California:  A Calendar of Events:  in which is Included, Also, the Story of Palms and Playa Del Rey Together with Rancho La Ballona and Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes (Title Guarantee and Trust Company, 1941).
On December 8, 1873, the U.S. Government "finally confirmed" this Plat of the Ballona Rancho to Agustín Machado (1794-1865).
Maps from W. W. Robinson, Culver City, California:  A Calendar of Events:  in which is Included, Also, the Story of Palms and Playa Del Rey Together with Rancho La Ballona and Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes (Title Guarantee and Trust Company, 1941)