Yorba Linda History

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close this bookYorba Linda - Its History
View the documentDedication
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentPreface
View the documentChapter 1 - The Indians
View the documentChapter 2 - The Hacienda Era
View the documentChapter 3 - Carlton
View the documentChapter 4 - The Pioneers
View the documentChapter 5 - The Business District "Down Town”
View the documentChapter 6 - Recreation and Celebrations
View the documentChapter 7 - Water
View the documentChapter 8 - The School Story
View the documentChapter 9 - The Library
View the documentChapter 10 - The Churches
View the documentChapter 11 - Organizations
View the documentChapter 12 - Incorporation
View the documentChapter 13 - Richard M. Nixon
View the documentChapter 14 - Famous Citizens
View the documentChapter 15 - A Forward Look
View the documentChapter 16 - Yorba Linda - What Now?

Chapter 1 - The Indians

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At about the time that the first white settlements on the Atlantic coast were getting a rather precarious foothold, there was a tribe of Indians who happened on the scene of the area now occupied by the town of Yorba Linda. We shall tell their story as it might have happened.

These Indians were an extremely friendly and hospitable people, much given to singing and dancing. When Cabrillo, a Portuguese, sailing under the flag of Spain, came exploring they gave him a hearty welcome and entertained him and his companions with gifts of food and singing and dancing. Portola was welcomed in the same way. An historian, traveling with the Spaniards said of these Indians, "They are friendly, frank, handsome, of good stature and extraordinary strength. The women are virtuous and beautiful, the children are fair and blond and very merry."

The tribe we are telling of was of the Hahamonga, a branch of the Tongva Indians living in the area that is now Los Angeles County. They spoke a dialect of the Shoshonean tongue. They kept pretty much to one place, wandering only to kill game and gather acorns or wild fruit and medicinal herbs or to dig for edible roots. [1]

It was the fall of the year and a group of these Indians came east from their homes near the coast to hunt for acorns in the canyons known to us as Brea Canyon and Carbon Canyon. Oaks grew there in profusion and the women and children wandered through the canyons filling their baskets, woven of the tough grass that grew along the streams.

They were working southward, as they wished to spend some time encamped near the river known to us as the Santa Ana River. Fine tules grew there and they needed to mend their worn baskets and gather grasses for new ones.

While in Carbon Canyon they filled all their sack-like baskets and every woman bore a heavy basket of acorns strapped across her shoulders and every boy and girl of suitable age had a smaller load to carry. The men had spread out in search of desert quail, doves, rabbits, snakes and other small game that would supply meat for their party. They must stop soon for they would have to dress their game and dry it in the sun so that it would keep. And so, toward evening of this day they stopped to rest and spend the night in the cool lower reaches of the canyon. The men and older boys arrived by ones or twos, scarcely weary from a full day of wandering the hills for game for they were proud of their great strength and endurance on foot.

As the women were preparing the evening meal of acorn bread and fresh rattlesnake meat, roasted over a bed of coals of oak, the fleet Uskti, he of the swift and silent feet, was sent to the top of the highest hill in the area, where his white brothers many years later would build a tower from which to spot brush and forest fires. There he would locate the river known to be somewhere to the south and plot a course by which to reach it. Upon reaching the crest of the hill Uskti spied the distant line of trees, signifying a stream a short day's trek from their present location. His trained eye scanned the rolling hills and gullies and fastened the map picture in his mind so that he could lead the band by the shortest and easiest route. [2]

When Uskti returned to camp he found his people sleeping ... all except Oe, who was standing guard over the camp. Coyotes, smelling the freshly killed meat, were slinking along the Canyon rim, watching the camp below and occasionally sitting with nose turned skyward and howling a shrill, staccato cadenza in defiance and frustration at the wakeful guard. Uskti quickly swallowed a meal from the food left and lay down in a deep pile of leaves and slept.

At the first light of dawn the tribe awoke and set out on the trail after Uskti, their voices still quiet from sleep. Each carried his load and moved swiftly, for the sooner they reached a suitable camp site the sooner they could eat again and get at their various tasks. And then would come the fun of singing, of story telling, of the dance.

They had traveled about three hours when they came upon a pleasant spot of low, rolling terrain, but the men were glancing piercingly to the east, heads thrown back and nostrils distended. There was an unevenness in the air currents, a smell of warm dust, occasional gusts that quickly died down and a brownish cloud close to the horizon in the east.

Yes. There could be no mistake. It was the Devil Breath that came from the east with the strength of many demons, hot, pushing, filling the food with grit unpleasant to the teeth, palate, eyes and body.

A short consultation was held and it was decided to stop by a natural arroyo so that they could take refuge in the lee of the east bank and protect themselves and their meat. Quickly, with the oak staves, wide and flat on one end which they carried as camp equipment, each family began to build a ki, a round dwelling of earth and grass, partially hollowed from the arroyo bank, with room enough inside to crowd together and rest if the Devil Breath became too ugly to face in the open. Smaller kis were built and the meat laid on weeds and grass so that air could circulate around it. It could thus keep for three days, the probable length of the storm. [3]

Not until then did they prepare food and satisfy their hunger after a twenty-four hour fast. The air was still, with occasional flutters, and dry weeds would skitter along the bottom of the arroyo. But at midnight there was a sudden rush of warm wind and from then on for three days the gale swept over the land like a giant, unseen force, at times screeching, pushing, howling. The Indians, huddled at their shelter, were quiet and reverent, for didn't they know that this terrible, invisible force was the millions of spirits of the dead, rushing to satisfy their need for fluid in the mighty expanse of that huge water to the west?

When the noise died to a low moan and then to silence, the little band emerged from their covert, looking for their leader, Cwi to direct them.

Cwi stepped out on a level strip of ground and the tribe arranged themselves in a circle. Cwi began his oration — in slow and solemn voice, "Now we have been delivered from the wrath of the dead. We must prepare ourselves and give thanks. We shall go toward the south and cleanse ourselves in the stream and then return to the ki and hold a session of song and sacred dance."

This was welcome direction for Cwi's people who immediately shouldered their baskets of acorns and metates (grinding stones) and, falling in behind Uskti, started southward at a dog trot, a form of travel they could maintain for hours covering a great deal of ground.

Reaching the river there were excited and pleased exclamations at what they found. There was water in a wide, shallow stream, with a bottom of fine, pure sand. There were strong and lengthy grasses of great value to them and some wide flat stones for making acorn flour, willow branches for drying their meat.

They plunged into the water and gleefully reveled in it, splashing and laughing. After a half hour of this, Cwi called them together and they prostrated themselves, chanting their age old hymn of thanks for the good life and for deliverance from evil. [4]

After a brief meal they began the preparation of acorns. If you have ever tasted an acorn you have wondered how anyone could eat them for they are bitter. This is because of the large amount of tannic acid in them. The California Indians knew how to prepare them so that they could make bread from the meal of this nut.

They dug a round, shallow depression in the sand and patted the floor of it smooth and hard. With the metates and flat stones they pounded the shelled acorns into a coarse flour. This they spread evenly on the pounded sand. Then they carried water which they poured over the flour carefully. The water leached the tannic acid from the flour. When the meal was dry enough it was scraped from the sand and placed into tightly woven baskets and kept for making the bread which they liked so much.

Some of the women had been making new baskets from the river grasses. These would hold the meal for awhile until they became dry and shrank apart. The men had been gathering willow branches and limbs which they took back to the ki and built drying racks for the meat. They maintained a slow smoky fire under the meat to keep the insects from "blowing", laying their eggs in it.

And so the days passed until the acorn meal was dry and packed away, the meat smoked and dry and stored. In the evenings there was singing accompanied with much merriment. They danced until they fell exhausted and then called for a story from Oom, the great storyteller. These people had a fine store of myths and folklore, handed down for centuries, for they were products of an ancient culture which went back for possibly several thousand years. Historians differ on exact eras of time. One historian says ten thousand years, another says from 500 B. C. All agree that the mild climate of California and the abundance of food — fish in the coastal regions and rivers, with wild game, fruits and roots, were such that their life was one of comfort and security, if not progress, for many centuries. [5]

It took the civilized white man to enslave, mistreat and mass murder them until they had reduced them from an approximate 100,000 souls when the first Spaniards arrived, to a mere 15,000 at the beginning of the 20th century. Shortly after the turn of the century the last known representative of the Tongva Indians died.

One day our little band of Hahamongas, who had lived on in the area where we now live, were startled to welcome a small group of Tongva Indians from the west and north. These people were badly frightened and worn sick with sorrow and "bad medicine".

They told of the white-faced people who had come from the South in big ships, or overland astride giant beasts they had enslaved and taught to carry them. The Tongva had welcomed them and shared food with them. They had helped these white people to make stones, square stones of mud and straw and had then piled them into giant "kis." Suddenly the white ones had overpowered them, locking them up nights in their great house they called a "mission". They put heavy chains on their ankles that could not be broken. The Indians were forced to work from dawn to dark and were beaten if they tried to run away. Their women were treated in the same manner.

This kind of life was unbearable to the Indian and he died in great numbers. This little band of Tongva had managed to free themselves and run to the east, but they were filled with horror and fear of being caught. Our group accepted these fugitives, feeding them and sharing their comforts with them. They organized a guard and lookouts, who watched for pursuers. None came and gradually they were able to relax their guard.

It is told that the people of the mission at San Juan Capistrano treated the Indians better than those of the missions farther north and the two races of people worked and lived together, even intermarrying in a few instances. Members of the Yorba Hacienda, later to become established on land just north of the Santa Ana River, reported finding Indians living along the river when they arrived. It is related that in the heyday of the great [6]Rancho there were a hundred Indians living and working at the Hacienda.

But the end of the life of the Indian was near. They could not endure the well regulated and laborious life of the white man. There were fewer and fewer Indian births. The discovery of gold in the northern part of California ushered into the State a class of people who cared little for the Indian and his ways. They plied him with a drink having a heavy alcoholic content and a corrosive substance that drove the Indian into frenzies of debauchery and poisoned his system so that he soon died. Many students of Indian culture have lamented this senseless destruction of an entire strain of the Red People. They feel that there may have been many facets of their culture that could have been valuable to us. But there are none left of this people who may have been one of the oldest human cultures in the world and perhaps the merriest. [7]

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