This essay examines three classic Mexican land grants along Putah Creek in the lower Sacramento Valley--Rio de los Putos, Los Putos, and Laguna de Santos Callé. The first was confirmed rather routinely, the second was a "floating" claim, and the third was an out and out fraud. Analyzed together, these three grants complicate our understanding of the northern borderlands, a term rarely applied to the far reaches of Alta California. Anglo and Hispanic grantees fostered a corrupt land grant system and permitted it to persist because it ultimately benefited them--Anglos more than Hispanics, to be sure--but both nonetheless. As demonstrated in the case Brown v. Greene (1884), corruption became institutionalized to such a high degree that adjudication could become impossible. Reluctance to reform the system permeated the cultural borderlands of northern California and in the process left an imprint on the physical borderlands that is still visible today.

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