I've run into Capt. Cornelius Boy Jensen before.

Well, in fact, I've only been in his proximity. I have visited his grave. It is at the Agua Mansa Cemetery in Colton, and it has a fence around it, in keeping with the Captain's lofty status.

He originally came from the Frisian Islands, which are in a long archipelago that runs from the coast of Holland up into the western approaches of Denmark.

"He was a Danish citizen, however," said Nancy Wenzel, the Interpretive Services supervisor for Riverside County. "He came to San Francisco in 1848, and then his crew deserted his ship to join the Gold Rush."

Without a crew, Capt. Jensen decided to follow along, but soon found out that gold was not exactly lying on the ground, and he decided the life was not for him.

"He realized he could do well selling items to the mining community and that is where he began to make his money," Wenzel said.

He eventually came down south and settled in the Agua Mansa area.

During his time the big flood of 1863 arrived and taught the captain a valuable lesson: Adobe bricks don't survive a serious soaking; they dissolve.

When it came time for him to build a house he selected traditional bricks and today the Jensen-Alvarado Ranch in the Rubidoux area of Riverside is the oldest brick building in the area.

The captain at 40 years of age had plenty of money, but no social position. Mercedes Alvarado at 16, however, had plenty


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of social position but was a little lacking in funds - a perfect match, and so they were married.

Obviously the partnership must have been successful as they produced 12 children and 10 of them survived into adulthood.

Inside the ranch, there is a large photograph of Mercedes surrounded by her adult children. They look a stern bunch, but then life back then did not lend itself to too much frivolity.

There is only one closet in the entire house, as back then people did not have that many clothes to store.

"We have lots of school groups that visit us here," said Wenzel. "The children are always fascinated by the dresses, as we often wear costumes for their visits."

Wenzel admits that she doesn't actually wear a bustle, but even without that odd contraption, just walking around in a long dress is quite a chore.

The Jensens grew wheat and also raised sheep on their 400-acre ranch, and they had another 400 acres in Temecula. But Cornelius also found the land lent itself to the growing of wine grapes. It was not long before he was producing wine.

The new city of Riverside was rather a prim and proper place. In fact it was founded as a temperance community - no booze!

But Cornelius, living on the "wrong" side of the river, managed to sell 2,000 galloons of his wine every year. "He must have been selling it to someone," Wenzel said with a smile.

In 1886, when Cornelius died, he was the richest man in the area, and to some extent his house shows how wealthy he was, as the rooms are very large for the time. They also have very high ceilings.

Riverside also was very wealthy, because of its vast orchard holdings during the Citrus Boom of the time. "In 1880, it was the richest city (per capita) in the entire United States," Wenzel stated.

More than 9,000 children visit this interesting house each year. One of the attractions is old-fashioned, homemade ice cream, so you know it's a visit they enjoy.


IF YOU GO

What: Jensen-Alvarado Ranch

Where: 4307 Briggs St., Riverside

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $2 adult, $1 children

Call: 961-369-6055