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 2 - The Hacienda Era

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The era of Splendor! Days of Magnificence! How can we describe it? Those were the days of the Spanish haciendas . . . when life was uncrowded, when the virgin land stretched for miles and was in the hands of the dons whose title came either from the king of Spain or from the ruler of Mexico, depending on what nation then claimed this part of our land.

The dons were men of remarkable virility, acumen and ability. Each established his hacienda and ruled his domain from this impressive abode.

The front of the hacienda consisted of the main and more ornate part which might have from twenty to fifty rooms. These rooms were occupied by the family, dependent relatives and guests. They were furnished with the finest of furnishings and carpets from Spain, as well as furniture made in the carpenter shops at the hacienda.

The table was supplied with beef and lamb from the rancho herds and by vegetables from the home garden. Bread was made from grains grown and milled on home ground.

Beside the family quarters there were many other rooms for the hired hands. There were the harness shop, blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, bakery, canning kitchen, saddlery, serving rooms and rooms for all the activities needed to supply a pattern of cultured living for a discriminating people in a new land. [8]

For amusement there were the fiestas to which all were invited and usually attended, even though it might mean from twenty to several hundred miles of travel by horseback or light wagons, camping overnight on the way, if necessary. Such occasions as christenings, weddings, funerals and religious holidays gave reason to hold the fiesta which usually lasted several days.

There was horse racing at which a great amount of money was apt to change hands. Each Don had his stable of fine horses on which he was willing to wager considerable at the race track.

There was feasting . . . and such feasting! Meats, fowl, fish, breads, cakes and fruits. There were liquors . . . distilled at the hacienda distillery and wines made by the Don's own vintner.

The nights were lively with music and dancing. This entertainment would keep going until the guests departed of necessity to attend their work at home, where they resumed their usual round of occupation until the next fiesta.

But how did all this get started?

On July 14, 1769, Portola, who was named the first governor of California before he had even seen the land, started from San Diego as head of an expedition to locate the Bay of Monterey, discovered many years earlier by explorers traveling by sea. It was Portola's second attempt to locate the port, having passed through it the first time unknowingly because he was unable to recognize the landmarks on his chart. This venture was authorized by the Spanish government, claimant of all of California at the tune.

In the company of the expedition was Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan friar, whose aim was to convert the Indians to Christianity and to choose sites on which to establish missions for this purpose.

Father Serra was a most remarkable man. He had great courage and an indomitable will to carry out his plan. He was born on the Island of Majorca, November 24, 1713, and joined the order of St. Francis before he was eighteen years of age. He was a great scholar, having held the Duns Scotus chair of philosophy at the Lullian University in Spain for fifteen years. Stories of his [9] adventures in California make the most entertaining reading. The reader of this book, if interested, will find much more about Father Serra in Corle's The Royal Highway, Cleland's From Wilderness to Empire, and Pathfinders, also by Cleland, all of which are on the Yorba Linda Library shelves.

Traveling in this crusade was a plain leather jacket soldier, Jose Antonio Yorba, born in Sadurni, Spain, near Barcelona in 1746. Jose had no formal schooling and at the time of his death, signed his final bequests with an X. But such were his personal qualities that he left a dramatic imprint on the soil and life of the land we, in this area, call home.

Jose Yorba was one of the soldier escorts who accompanied Fr. Junipero Serra at the time of his founding the Franciscan Missions, one of which was the Mission of San Juan Capistrano. Jose was active in the support of this mission and was especially interested in the welfare and activities of the priesthood established there.

This patriarch of the Yorba family received his discharge from the Spanish Army in California in 1797 and was retired as an invalid sergeant. He married Maria Josefa Grijalva on May 17, 1782, when he was thirty-six years of age. Maria Grijalva, the daughter of a Spanish soldier, was born in Terenate, Sonora, Mexico, in 1767. She came to California at the age of nine with the Anza Expedition, of which her father was one of the leaders.

Jose Yorba and his wife Maria Josefa probably came to Southern California before the year 1800. Jose received a huge land grant from the King of Spain as a reward for his services to that country. This grant was the only Spanish grant given in Orange County, the other grants being given by the Mexican Government. In this way California land was given to many of the Spaniards who had served Spain in the new country. This accounts for the great number of haciendas scattered throughout California in those golden days of the dons.

Some of the larger grants in Orange County were Rancho La Habra, in the northwest corner of the county, Rancho Las Bolsas [10] in the southwest, Rancho Niguel on Aliso Creek and Rancho Bolsa Chica, near Huntington Beach.

The Yorba grant, made in 1810, consisted of 80,000 acres (reports vary as to size of grant; some have reported it as high as 225,000 acres) lying south and east of the Santa Ana River. Jose and Maria Josefa established their hacienda on that part of their land where the town of Olive now is. This was known as the Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana. The Santa Ana River was given its name, honoring Saint Ann, the Mother of Mary, Mother of Jesus. The river was first named "The River of the Sweet Name of Jesus of the Earthquakes" by Fr. Juan Crespi, a friar and friend of Fr. Serra, because "We experienced here a horrifying earthquake which was repeated four tunes during the day." The name Santa Ana, however, was the one which remained with the river. (Aren't you glad?)

Don Jose and Maria Josefa were the parents of ten children, five sons and five daughters. The boys were Jose Antonio, Tornas, Teodosio, Bernardo and Francisco. The daughters were Francisca, Maria Andrea, Isabel, Presentacion and Raymunda.

Shortly before his death in 1825, Don Jose executed his will, dividing his vast holdings, which covered much of Orange County, among his four sons, one son, Francisco, having preceded him in death.

Don Jose Antonio Yorba had asked to be buried in the San Juan Capistrano Mission cemetery, an honor given to few lay persons. Recently a Memorial Mass was said for the patriarch of the Yorba family in the Chapel of the Mission. Members of the family assisted in erecting and dedicating a memorial headstone, the first of its type to be placed in the Mission cemetery.

To Teodosio was given Lomas de Santiago which encompassed over 47,000 acres. Teodosio was the great grandfather of Mildred Yorba McArthur Serrano, whom I feel privileged to call my friend.

Mrs. Serrano is a brilliant and accomplished woman who bears the stamp of her patrician forebears in her carriage and [11] handsome features. She is a free lance writer and author of many short stories and two books, California Spanish Proverbs and Anaheim, The Mother Colony. I am indebted to her for much of my information about the Yorba family. She has told of the young aunts, residing at the hacienda, praying to their favorite saint for favors. If the favor was not granted as soon as expected the aunt would turn the saint's picture, face to the wall. Occasionally, when desperate for a favorable answer to prayer they might suspend the picture in the well.

Teodosio, an avid horse racing fan, was a close friend of Pio Pico, who owned a fine horse, Sarco. In a famous race, Sarco was pitted against Jose Sepulveda's Black Swan. Sarco didn't run quite fast enough and Don Teodosio was reported to have lost several thousand acres of land, besides a hundred head of cattle. In these days when California land is at such premium prices, Don Teodosio's heirs wish he had been more cautious or that Sarco had run faster.

Bernardo Yorba was the third son of Jose Antonio I. He was born at San Diego in 1801 and was taught to read and write by the Franciscan padres at the Mission there. Bernardo was different in temperament from his brothers, in that he did not care for the exciting life of riding, racing, gambling and participating in high social functions. He was a conservative all his life, loving his home and children and working to provide for them.

He was at heart a farmer, grower of good livestock and adept at making the soil produce. It is possible that he was the first in Southern California to irrigate farm land by gravity flow.

From the Mexican government he received a grant of approximately 14,000 acres, known as the Canon de Santa Ana. Much of this land was south of the Santa Ana River. Bernardo acquired more land on the north side of the river and there on the north bank he built his hacienda. This later acquired piece of land, containing 10,668 acres, was granted to Bernardo by Governor Jose Figueroa of Mexico on August 1, 1834. [12]

Reports vary as to the boundaries of this land, but it is reasonable to suppose that the east boundary extended as far as Corona, and possibly, Riverside. Also the site of present Yorba Linda was included.

Bernardo called his hacienda, built about 1834 while he was acquiring the land, Rancho San Antonio for his favorite and patron Saint. An image of Saint Antonio was given by the padres of Capistrano Mission to Bernardo. It is said that prayers offered at the feet of this Saint Anthony have caused a number of healings from various illnesses.

Don Bernardo was a religious man and heedful of those entrusted to his care. He recited the rosary daily as a part of the religious training he gave his children. He furnished the land and built a church so that those in the area might have a place to worship. He established a cemetery where members of the family as well as workers at the hacienda and others lacking a burial place could be buried.

The hacienda stood on the north side of Esperanza Road, the easterly extension of the present Orangethorpe Road, and now called Placentia-Yorba Road. Its site is about three miles from Yorba Linda's Main Street.

There have been some extravagant reports as to the size of the hacienda. Some have said there were two hundred rooms, but after searching through reports of interviews with members of the family I feel sure that the following description is the most nearly correct. "His (Don Bernardo's) residence proper was a two story building of adobe, part of which is still extant, and contained, with wings, thirty rooms, this not counting schoolrooms, harness and shoemakers rooms, which with all the rooms occupied by servants or dependents of Don Bernardo made twenty rooms more."

Brea, the Spanish word for tar, was hauled from Brea Canyon and used for roofing, and in some of the rooms for flooring and for fuel.

The following list of workers at the hacienda was recorded by Miss Davila Yorba, daughter of Andrea Elisalde, third wife of [13] Bernardo: "four woolcombers, two tanners, one soap maker, one butter and cheese man, who everyday with the help of servant milked from fifty to sixty cows; one harness maker, two shoemakers, one jeweler, one plasterer, one carpenter, one blacksmith, one major domo, two errand boys, one head sheep herder, one cook, one baker, two washer women, one woman to iron, four serving women, one dressmaker, two gardeners, one schoolmaster, one vinter and distiller. Fine Angelica, Port and other wines were made, and whiskey and brandy were also distilled here."

This gives us an idea of the varied activities being carried on at the Rancho. The crops that were grown under irrigation were corn, oats, wheat, beans, grapes and fruit trees as well as garden vegetables. Farming was done in a rather primitive fashion as contrasted with today's type of agriculture. Plowing was done with oxen or horses pulling old fashioned Mexican plows.

Bernardo's cattle ranged from near present Riverside to Newport Bay. Once a year or sometimes every two years, a rodeo was held. Vaqueros from neighboring ranches gathered at the hacienda for the great round-up. Other ranchers and their families were invited to come and remain until all cattle had been rounded up from the vast grazing land and divided according to the brands on them. They had a system for determining the ownership of unbranded calves and yearlings, and branding was done at this time.

The vaqueros, corresponding to our American cowboys, would have their campfires in the evenings, spreading their blankets on the ground and sleeping there. There were dice and other games of chance, often played on a spread blanket surrounded by the players.

At the hacienda, when the men gathered after combing sections of the grazing land, there would be music and dancing. Imagine the color and gaiety of those nights!

The Rancho had a store room in which was kept stocks of at least a hundred patterns of fine cloth from Spain for the daughters' trousseaus and evening dresses as well as everyday clothes. There were delicate laces, brilliant shawls, intricately [14] embroidered, dainty shoes, beautiful jewelry, combs and mantillas. There are some of these elegant shawls at the Bowers museum in Santa Ana, said to be two hundered years old and still lovely.

The tables were heaped with the favorite foods of the time and servants were kept busy waiting upon the family and guests.

And so the rodeos were one of the favorite times for all. For all except, perhaps, the servants. It is said there were about one hundred Indians at the Rancho who acted as servants both at the hacienda and in the fields and other work areas. They were paid three dollars per month and keep.

Bernardo was said to have been very conscientious in his treatment of the Indians, as were also the padres at Capistrano. The story is told of the time when there was a great drought and Indians at the mission were in danger of starving, Bernardo took a herd of approximately one hundred cattle to the mission so that the padres could use them for food to keep the Indians alive.

The wedding of Leonor Yorba, daughter of Bernardo, was an especially grand affair accompanied by a long remembered fiesta at Rincon. She was married to Juan B. Roland on February fifth, 1853. Mr. Roland later became quite prominent in California affairs.

Another wedding of note was the one of Dona Maria de Jesus Yorba, Bemardo's daughter, married to Thomas J. Scully. Mr. Scully was the first schoolteacher in Orange County. He served in this capacity for twelve years, from 1855 to 1867 on a three month schedule, first at the Yorba School (probably at the hacienda) and then at San Juan Capistrano School. He received a seventy-five dollars monthly salary.

The second school in Orange County was a small building near the Yorba hacienda, but on the south side of the river and just west of the present bridge. It was first called the Santa Ana School, but in 1879 its name was changed to Yorba School to avoid confusion with the new city of Santa Ana. It was abandoned in 1888, but in 1929 a monument was erected by the D. A. R. to mark the site. [15]

The old hacienda is no more. It is now merely "California Registered landmark No. 266," begun in 1834, razed in 1926. It is remembered as the finest residence in Southern California under Mexican rule. The Indians called it Huterknu.

Mr. Samuel Kraemer, the last owner, offered it as a gift to the County together with one acre of ground. The place had become a nuisance and a hazard to the Kraemer family because, being unoccupied, it suffered from vandalism and occasional digging at the site for treasure reputed to have been buried there. The County officials demanded more acreage to accompany the gift. Mr. Kraemer did not feel justified in giving it, nor was he willing to assume the responsibility of maintaining an "attractive but dangerous nuisance." He cannot be blamed. He had it demolished.

What a treasure it would be to Orange County if it could have been kept and maintained as Sutler's Fort in Sacramento, quite similar, has been.

The old cemetery still lies, basking in the sun, often choked by weeds, its tombstones occasionally toppled by vandals, bearing mute evidence to the fact that its former owners have passed on and there are few left to care or to dream of the glorious days of a departed era.

In a prominent spot in the cemetery stands a large tombstone marking the grave of Bernardo Yorba, father of twenty children, four by his wife, Maria de Jesus Alvarado, twelve by his second wife, Felipa Dominguez and four by his third wife, Andrea Elisalde. These children, as they matured and married left a great number of descendants of this remarkable man and have acquitted themselves well in their various communities.

And so ends our brief story of this enchanting era of a past century. If the mute rolling hills of the old Rancho could speak, what stories they might tell of proud horses and skillful, daredevil riders, of romances and beautiful women, of feasts and dancing ... but those voices are stilled and the wind through the wild grass sings a dry, hushed song of what was and can never be again. [16]

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