Biographical Notes
Robert Thomas Livermore

Although there has long been a question as to his exact birth date, available evidence appears to indicate that Robert Thomas Livermore was born in October 1799 in Springfield Village, Essex County, England, the son of Robert Livermore and Mary Cudworth. The family was caught up in the economic changes brought about by the industrial revolution and lived in various places in and around London during Robert's childhood. As a youth he was apprenticed to a mason, but in 1816 he went to sea.

Livermore's first ship was English but he subsequently served for a time aboard a United States Navy ship. In 1820 he was a member of Lord Cochrane's crew that captured two Spanish treasure ships and the Spanish frigate Esmeralda in the effort to free Peru from Spain. It is thought that Livermore was paid well for his service and that he buried his earnings somewhere in Peru intending to return later to recover it. (Because he never did return to Peru it may still be there.) After Peru he signed on with an English trading ship bound for California.

The exact date that Livermore arrived in California and his landing place are in question. (Sailors who jumped ship purposely confused information about these sorts of things in order to avoid adverse repercussions later.) The best indicators are that he landed in southern California in 1822 or 1823 and early on met John Gilroy, the first Anglo-European to settle in California. (Gilroy was a Scottish sailor who jumped ship in 1814 and changed his name from Cameron as part of his own misinformation campaign.) Gilroy's appreciation of life in California as compared to the hardships of the sea may have helped convince Livermore to settle down.

Livermore worked for a time for Padre Zalvidea at Mission San Gabriel and then moved north. On June 20, 1823 he was baptized into the Catholic faith at Mission Santa Clara and given the names Juan Bautista Roberto y Jose. At about the same time, in Monterey, he requested and was given permission by Governor Pablo Vicente de Sola to remain in California. In making this request he listed his trade as mason and indicated that he intended to marry and live and die in California. He was then working as the mayordomo (foreman) of Rancho Bolsa del Potrero near Monterey owned by Don Jose Joaquin de la Torre and Don Juan M. Mulligan.

In 1834 William Gulnac, a blacksmith who had arrived in California in 1819 from New York, applied for and received a land grant near Mission San Jose. In January 1837 Gulnac sold half of Rancho Las Positas to Livermore and half to Jose Noriega. On May 5, 1838, Livermore married Josefa Higuera Molina and they established their residence at Las Positas. Josefa's grandfather, Ygnacio A. Higuera had been a member of Portola's Expedition Sancta in 1769 and had accompanied Anza in his expedition of 1775-1776. The marriage gave Livermore family access to the existing nobility of California.

In April 1840 Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado, fearing foreign intervention, ordered the arrest of all Anglo-Europeans. (The Isaac Graham affair.) Livermore was arrested along with the others, but was released shortly thereafter. In the mid 1840s many foreign-born settlers became involved in local politics. There is no evidence that Livermore participated in any of the machinations that characterized the period. He appears to have totally identified himself with the Mexican community without giving offense to any of the other foreign-born settlers. Livermore's only participation in the events surrounding the conquest of California was to help carry word from Commodore Sloat to John Fremont at Sutter's Fort that Monterey had been occupied by American forces. (Part of his motivation in doing this might have been related to the fact that his partner, Jose Noriega, had been captured during the Bear Flag Revolt and was being held at Sutter's Fort.)

Following the discovery of gold at Coloma life in California changed forever. Livermore was not attracted to the gold fields. In 1847 he and Noriega had purchased Rancho Canada de los Vaqueros and added it to their holdings. Rancho Las Positas was doing very well and he made a conscious decision to do what he could to protect his holdings as best he could in the tumultuous times that followed the annexation of California by the United States. In 1850 he hired Joshua Neal as mayordomo of Las Positas. In 1852 the Federal Land Commission began its work in San Francisco and on February 27, 1852 Livermore filed his application to have his land grants approved. In September 1852 he deeded half of his land holdings to his wife and children so that they would be better protected in the event of his death. In 1854 he purchased Noriega's half of Las Positas and deeded his half of Rancho Canada de los Vaqueros to Noreiga.

When Alameda County was formed in 1853 Livermore was appointed supervisor of roads in the county. Lawlessness was rife in rural California at the time and bandits traveled through the countryside freely. It is thought that the Livermore family probably knew some of these desperados and out of necessity may even have succored them from time to time. One famous outlaw, Joaquin Murieta, was rumored to have used a cave on a remote part of Rancho Las Positas as a sanctuary. Livermore died on February 14, 1858.