Historic Yorba

Historic Yorba

by Amelia Davila

Santa Ana Weekly Blade 1 June 1893

In 1834 Bernardo Yorba was granted all that portion of land known as the Canada de Santa Ana, comprising in all about three leagues. It is situated in the northeastern part of Orange County, in the valley of the Santa Ana River, and is now known as Yorba, being named after Don Bernardo Yorba, who was the first to live here. Don Bernardo was the son of Antonio Yorba, one of Gafe’s original volunteers, who came in 1769, and of Maria Josefa, eldest daughter of Alferez Juan Pablo Grijalva. Grijalva had come to California in 1776 with Anza’s colony as a sergeant; his wife’s name was Dolores Valencia. His other daughter, Maria del Carmen, was married October 27th, 1873, to Pedro Peralta, then a soldier of San Francisco. Maria Josefa and Antonio Yorba were married May 17th, 1782, at San Francisco. Of this union nine children were born, four daughters and five sons. Bernardo, the subject of this sketch, was one of these. He was born August 20th, 1800. His childhood was passed in San Diego, and here also he was sent to a school kept by Franciscan Fathers; his father, meantime, had moved to Santa Ana (then known as Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana), which had been granted to him (Don Antonio) in 1810. Here, in 1819, Bernardo married Maria de Jesus Alvarado. Five children were born to them, only one of which is now living, and that is Mrs. Inez Y. de Cota, who resides in Rincon; of the other four, Ramona married B. D. Wilson and had a boy and a girl. The latter still lives, and is the wife of J. de Barth Shorb, of San Gabriel. Raymundo married first Francisca Dominguez, and after her death married Concepcion Serrano, who, with her family, now reside in Santa Ana. For a time they were residents of Tustin, where Raymundo died two years ago. The other two children of Don Bernardo died in their infancy. Six or seven years after his marriage Don Bernardo became a widower. His second marriage was with Miss Felipa Dominguez, about the year 1829. His second wife bore him fourteen children, six of whom are now living. The oldest, Maria Jesus, is now living near Rincon. She first married Anastasio Botiller, and after his death, Thomas J. Scully. Prudencio, first son of Donna Felipa, married Dolores Ontiveros, and she had three sons and nine daughters. The sons are all living. One of them, Prudencio, Jr., contracted matrimony with Miss Constance Vajar, of Pomona, four years ago. They have a cozy little home at Yorba Spur, two miles from Yorba Station. David Yorba, another of the sons of Don Prudencio, is the postmaster, ticket agent, etc. in Yorba. Of the daughters, Felipa is married to Pablo Dominguez, and their residence is on the east side. Adelina married Ramon Carrillo, and her home is in Rincon. Angelina contracted matrimony with Samuel Kraemer, of Placentia, and there they now reside. Ernest, the youngest son, and Misses Zoraida and Lolita, two very popular young ladies, are still at the home of their mother, Mrs. D. O. Yorba, who now resides near Prudencio Yorba’s (Jr.) place.

The third son of Don Bernardo and Donna Felipa, Marcos, married a cousin of his, Miss Ramona Yorba, but of the eight children born to them only two are living—Vicenta, now the wife of Jose Vejar, and Rosita a child 4 years old. Vejar is a citizen of Pomona, but since Mr. Marcos Yorba’s death, which occurred last September, they have been in Yorba with Mrs. Vejar’s mother, Mrs. R. de Yorba. It was in the year that Marcos was born, 1834, that Don Bernardo moved from the home of his father in Santa Ana, to Yorba (then known as San Antonio de Santa Ana, or De los Yorba’s), which had been granted to

him as before said, and where he had built a then palatial two-story residence of adobe—but of this more will be said later on in this article.

Jesus, the next son, married Soledad Lugo, of Los Angeles; they are both dead now, but many of their children live, and are now in Los Angeles. One of these, Jesusito, had been adopted by his uncle Vicente, but he died a year ago here in Yorba. He and all his children are dead, but his wife lives, and is at Temescal in Riverside county. Leonor, the second daughter, married John Rowland; she is now a widow, and has a home in Puente. Trinidad, another son, contracted matrimony with Jesus Lugo. She died, leaving two daughters. One of them, Frances, lives, and is married to F. C. Vejar of Pomona. Trinidad again entered the nuptial state with Josefa Palomares, and, after fourteen years of wedded life, both died, leaving six children, three boys and one girl now being at Pomona; the others all died. Zenobia, the third daughter of Da Felipa, was married to Thomas Rowland, of Puente, and there she died a year ago, having lived for over thirty years at that place, and leaving a husband and large family. Vicente, the eighth son of Don Bernardo, and sixth of Da Felipa, is very well, as he has large land interests both in Orange and Los Angeles counties. He married Erolinda Cota of Ballona, and they are living here in Yorba, a quarter of a mile from the station. They have had ten daughters and one son, but only four girls are living. Thomas lives on the East side. He was one of Don Bernardo’s brightest boys, but on account of sickness and a severe nervous shock he received when as a young man he lost his mind. Theodocio is well known in Tustin, where he lived for a good many years until a few months ago, when he moved to Puente. Six years ago his marriage took place with Miss Francisca Coronel of Los Angeles, and a boy has been born to them. Felipe was the last of Da Felipa’s children; in fact she died the day she was born. Felipe married Miss Felicidad Peralta, but she died three years ago, leaving two boys.

After the death of Da Felipa, Don Bernardo contracted marriage for the third time with Andrea Elizalde, of Los Angeles, who bore him four children, all boys, only one of whom is living, Francis Xavier, now in the City of Mexico. This one married Miss Victorine Carnaham, in Tucson, Arizona, and a daughter has been born to them. Of the others, two died in their infancy, and one lived in Los Angeles until four years ago, when he died, being then 33 years old. He was named after both his father and grandfather, Bernardo Antonio. He married Miss Julia Dryden, and he left a son, also named after him, and a daughter.

When, in 1834, Don Bernardo built his house here, he had it provided with everything in the trades line. Yorba being so far from Los Angeles, the nearest town then, Mr. Yorba very wisely proved against emergency, and for this, in his home, every trade was represented. His residence proper was a two story building of adobe (in those times all houses were made of adobe)—part of which is still extant—and contained, with the wings, thirty rooms, this not counting school rooms, harness and shoemaker rooms, which, together with all the rooms occupied by servants or dependents of Don B. made twenty more rooms. The trades and people working here were as follows: Four woolcombers, two tanners, one soapmaker, one butter and cheese man, who everyday milked (or servants under him) from fifty to sixty cows; one harnessmaker, two shoemakers, one jeweler, one plasterer, one carpenter, one blacksmith, two errand boys, one head sheepherder, one cook, one baker, two washerwomen, one woman to iron, four sewing women, one dressmaker, two gardeners, one schoolmaster, and the men that made the wine. Very fine Angelica, Port, and other wines were made; whiskey, brandy, etc., was also distilled here. Besides the men above mentioned, Mr. Yorba’s sons also worked at the trades they were suited to or had a liking for, so that they might learn. There were servants under all these men, but we have not space to enumerate them. All the provisions used were brought from San Francisco. Dates, dried fruits,

fancy crackers, candies, etc. were to be found here, and from many other ranches people came to buy things that, otherwise they would have been obliged to send to San Francisco for. There were two orchards, and here all the different varieties of fruits were to be found. Mr. Yorba’s chief occupation, and which mostly the source of his great wealth, was stock-raising. Thousands upon thousands of cattle and horses were to be seen on his ranches—Sierra, four square leagues, Rincon, one league, and here in Yorba, three leagues. Don Bernardo was juez de campo and auxiliary alcalde in 1833, 1836, 1840, and 1844. Auxiliary alcalde meant a deputy sheriff in those times. The deputies had greater power than those of the present day. Between Don Bernardo’s residence and the schoolrooms was a jail. This jail had a cellar—the dungeon, it was called—where fractious prisoners were placed. Juez de campo literally means “judge of the field.” It was the duty of every juez de campo to see that all the cattle of different owners that would at times get together—the ranches then not being fenced—were properly separated and given to their respective owners, who, on a certain day appointed by the juez, would hold a meeting, called “el rodeo,” when branding would take place and the cattle be sent home. Don Bernardo, after a good and useful life, died on the 20th of November, 1858, being then 58 years old. He was taken to Los Angeles for internment, and in the Catholic cemetery there he now rests. A man of exalted character he loved honor and integrity, and will always be remembered as such by those who knew him. Don Bernardo’s third and last wife, now Mrs. A de Davila, still lives in Yorba.

The climate of Yorba is of the best. During the months of November and March the far-famed Santa Ana winds come, but these, instead of being a detriment to our locality, serve it best, because they leave the atmosphere pure and wholesome, taking with them all disease germs that might be about, and which usually abound in localities so near to rivers and marshy lands as Yorba is; but don’t think for a moment that all the land in this locality marshy or swampy. Close to the river—which is the dividing line between Yorba and Peralta—in some places it may be swampy, but the ground is higher and higher as the river is left behind, until it gets quite hilly. The soil is a fruitful one, but different from that of its neighbor across the river, Peralta, which is more mixed with adobe, whilst on the west side, or Yorba, it is more sandy. On the east side, walnuts, apricots, oranges, quinces and other fruits abound. Wheat is grown here in great quantities also. On the hills on the east side a number of apiaries are kept, which every year yield large quantities of honey. The Peraltas of the east side are distant cousins of the Yorbas, and their ancestors consequently date back also as far as 1776 in the history of California. The Dominguez family intermarried with the Peraltas, and there are now on the east side members of both families holding large estates left them by the original Peralta. Don Rafael, the oldest of the Peralta family now living, has a very nice home, above the school house. It is of adobe, and is one of the landmarks of the place, being a wing of the original home (the first one on the east side), built by Don Juan Pablo Peralta, the other part of which not a vestige remains. Rosendo, a son of Don Rafael, and family have a pretty little home just above Peralta’s. Most of his land is planted in oranges. Loring W. Kirby has a most beautiful home further up, near what is called Upper Santa Ana. The orange grove that surrounds his home is heavily laden with fruit as any we have ever seen. Above Kirby’s, on the left-hand side, is the estate of Tomas Moreno and sons, one of them being G. P. Moreno. In this place there is one of the finest walnut groves to be found in that section, although it is comparatively young.

Upper Santa Ana is only a hamlet, and consists of two stores, one owned by Jose Rosas Marquez, and the other by John and Genaro Peralta in company, and a few houses around. The Board of School Trustees of the east side, the members of which are Messrs. Loring W. Kirby, Roseudo Peralta, and Roumaldo Marquez, with commendable zeal presented a petition to the Board of Supervisors, asking for

the erection of a new school house, the old one being entirely unfit to be used any more, both as to size and age, and in consequence bids are now out to have a $2,000 school house built on the same site as the old one, and which will be larger and more convenient. This is indeed good news, and Yorba rejoices now, as it always does, whenever anything that is good happens to its neighboring locality. Here is Yorba we have a school house that was built three months ago, and of which we are justly proud. Most of the classical and standard works are in the library of this school, so that a person can very well while away a pleasant hour or two with one’s favorite authors. An organ of the best make, for the musically inclined, completes this enjoyment. We have a Catholic church, most of the residents being Catholics, which is called St. Anthony’s Church. Its services are held once a month by the priest of the Anaheim parish church, Rev. P. Stoetters. On special occasions the ladies of the Sacred Heart League (the local center of which is in Los Angeles) teach Sunday School and read pious meditations. The church that we now have is a frame building, very nicely painted; the inside was painted by an Italian artist to resemble the fresco painting style. This new building is near the ruins of the old St. Anthony’s church that was building whilst Don Bernardo Yorba still lived. He gave $1,000, and the rest of the money needed for the completion of the church was given by members of his family, except his wife Dona Andrea, who gave the ornaments. These ornaments were brought from Paris, France, by Rt. Rev. Bishop Amat, of Los Angeles, and were made by the Sacre Couer college nuns. Out little church can boast of being free from debt, and there is at present $15 in the treasury besides. The cemetery is on the hill, across from the church on the west side of the railroad tracks; some neat and even handsome monuments mark the resting-place and last home of loved ones gone before.

The Yorba store runs under the firm name of D. Yorba & Co. Here are the post office and ticket office of the Southern California Railway Company, which runs through Yorba. Like the usual country stores, everything is to be found here. David also raises chickens by the dozen and hogs by the wholesale. In most every place in Yorba pigs and chickens are raised, and some one could turn the raising of either to great profit if they so chose. Most of the Mexican residents in Yorba grow corn and red peppers, or chiles, as they are called, and the cultivation of which had made Yorba famous. The blacksmith shop just below the store is at present closed, as Mr. J. Rios, the blacksmith, is sojourning in San Jacinto. Across from the store, on the west side of the railroad track, is the residence of Felipe Yorba, which has lately been remodeled, papered and painted, and presents a neat appearance. Alfalfa, cereals and vegetables are grown at this place.

Next comes the residence of Mrs. Ramona de Yorba. This is in the estate of the late Marcos Yorba, deceased and consists of one thousand acres, forty-two of which are in walnuts, but only nineteen acres are in bearing. These nineteen acres every year give an income from $900 to $1,000. Mr. and Mrs. J. Vejar and family reside here, Mrs. Vejar being a daughter of Don Marcos and Mrs. Yorba.

Below the store and adjoining the estate of Marcos Yorba is the estate of Trinidad Yorba heirs. This and other pieces of land scattered in Yorba make this estate amount to 1,800 acres.

Close to the hills, across from the store, is Vicente Yorba’s place. This gentleman has planted twenty-two thousand vines, mostly of the Mission variety, ten acres of walnuts, and the rest of his land is planted in oranges and deciduous fruits. Besides, on the east side, he has two hundred and thirty acres, part of which is in wheat, barley and alfalfa, and the rest is used as pasturage for his horses, cattle, etc. Near Vicente Yorba’s place is the home of Guadalupe Romero. He has part of his land—about ten acres—planted in walnuts, and the rest he has left for vegetable gardens. Above Romero’s is Mr. George C.

Stadtegger’s land, on which is grown deciduous fruits, cereals, and vegetables. Peanuts have been planted here and at Vicente Yorba’s place. Just above and adjoining Stadtegger’s is the residence of Mr. Joseph Barnes. This gentlemen came to Yorba from Whittier only three months ago, but since then he and a song of his have been busy at work on the place, and now their labors are well repaid, for a better kept place would be hard to find. They have olives, bananas and other fruits, a piece of land set out in vines, and all the land fronting on the lane has been planted in potatoes, except a part which has barley, and another back of this has alfalfa.

Below Berlin’s is Frank Butcher’s home. The fruit trees (of different varieties) and the vineyard at this place are in a thriving condition.

Next in order comes the Bayha place, which consists of sixty-nine acres, twenty-one of which are planted in vines of Zinfandel, Berger, Golden Chaslet, and Black Hamburg varieties, from the grapes of which he makes wine at the winery he build a few years ago close his house. Above Berlin’s place are the McGuffey and Sanchez-Colima estates. Both places are planted to a large variety of fruit trees, corn and vegetables.

David Yorba is planting vines, walnuts and other fruit trees on his land across from Mr. McGuffey’s. He has here one of the oldest and best producing olive groves to be found in Yorba, and under its pleasant shade many picnics have taken place. Mr. Melrose, a prominent lawyer of Anaheim, has considerable land interests here in Yorba, which he rents out to Mexican farmers, who seem to be doing very well.

Mrs. A. Encena’s place is a living illustration of that familiar Latin quotation, “multum in paravo,” for only two acres she has plums, pears, peaches, prunes, oranges, lemons, limes, walnuts, olives, apples, apricots, quinces, figs, China plums, almonds, cypress trees, and has space enough besides to plant, as she has now corn, barley, alfalfa, peas, onions, beans, watermelons, muskmelons, and squashes. I forgot to mention the nectarines, the most delicious a person could wish for. She also has three horses, a cow and its calf, pigs and several dozens of chickens, so that here she has milk, eggs, butter and cheese, she being especially proficient in making the latter. In her garden are some of the most beautiful varieties of roses and other flowers.

As will be seen from the above, anything and everything can be grown in Yorba, with a little help, of course, once in awhile, that of irrigation for one, as all the land in the locality has water rights, and is near the head gates, consequently we don’t have much trouble in getting our water. Nature favors our locality, and good fortune helps the work of nature. Being one of the towns on the kite-shaped track, and we have six passenger and four freight trains daily, both ways, not counting the nights and extras that may happen to pass, so we are brought closer to civilization than would be thought at first. Location and aspect are pleasant, the hills around vying with one another in greenness, flowers are at every step, fruits and berries grow wild; we have the sweetest singing birds, the brightest sunshine—what more could we wish for? If any, reading these lines, should wish to find out for themselves, let them come, and they will be gladly welcomed.

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