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Governors of Mexican Alta California granted ranches to well-connected petitioners. One such piece of land near Elkhorn Slough was called Rancho Moro Cojo (Lame Moor Ranch), granted in 1825 by governor Argüello to María Antonia Pico de Castro. Later, it was only part of Rancho Bolsa Nueva y Moro Cojo (New Hollow and Lame Moor Ranch). On the diseño digitized at OAC appears the name "Bolsa del Cojo" (Hollow of the Lame One).

Bancroft mentions "the Negro Bob", a man of African descent left behind from a British ship and already living in central California at that time. There may have been a few more Black men in the province but I have no information identifying any of them as North African.

Was Bob the lame moor, or is it a Biblical or literary reference, or what?

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The book Historic Spots in California: Fifth Edition claims the term moro was used to indicate anything black, and

that tradition says that a lame black horse gave the name to this particular tract of land

The horse story is repeated in the Encyclopedia of California entry on Castroville, which also includes a possible reference to black soil of the area.


One other note, the last definition listed in the SpanishDictionary for moro:

  1. (animal) a. pinto

So the moro in Rancho Moro Cojo may have nothing to do with black, but translates directly to lame horse.


update

Trying to find more info on this 'lame horse' led to one more source on the moro designation in California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names By Erwin Gustav Gudde

This source lists moro as referring to a roan horse 'of bluish color', and then defines Moro Cojo Slough near Portola as meaning 'Lame Blue Roan'. So not exactly a black horse, but dark at least.

  • That last one triangulates it nicely. – Aaron Brick Oct 5 '17 at 17:40
  • As to the 'why' a lame horse, several recorded instances of horse problems that Argüello was involved in (his first meeting with Sola, the last trip with Sola and Payeras) could be involved, or it may have been a personal anecdote to Castro. – justCal Oct 5 '17 at 17:50

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