Chapter 2 - The Yorba Linda Family


Have you ever wondered where Yorba Linda got its name? The Yorba name came from the village and castle of Yorba in Spain. The name “Yorba” in Spanish is spelled “Jorba.”

José Antonio Yorba

The name Yorba was brought to California by José Antonio Yorba over 200 years ago. He was born in 1746 in the village of San Sadurni de Noya, Spain, which is near Barcelona.

As a young man he joined the Spanish army. He was a member of the Royal Catalán Volunteers, now known in the new world as “leatherjackets” because of their uniforms.

In 1767 the young soldier came to New Spain (now known as Mexico). Two years later he joined Gaspar de Portolás journey from San Diego to Monterey. It was during their travels that the group of men came through and explored the land that is today Orange County.

As a soldier, José Antonio Yorba became a sergeant and was stationed at several presidios and missions from San Francisco to San Diego. In 1810, after he retired, he and his nephew, Juan [7] Pablo Peralta, received 62,500 acres of land from his service to Spain. This land was called Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana. The land was located south of the Santa Ana River. It covered the area now known as Santa Ana, Orange, Tustin, El Modena, and Olive.

His main adobe home was built in what is now Olive in the city of Orange. He lived there with sixteen children from his two marriages. Both farming and cattle raising were done on his rancho.

José Antonio Yorba lived on the rancho until his death in 1825. He is buried at the San Juan Capistrano Mission.

Bernardo Yorba

Bernardo Yorba was the third son of José Antonio Yorba. He was born on August 4, 1801, in San Diego. As a young man, he lived on the family rancho in Olive, but as he grew [9] older, he wanted to have a rancho of his own. He requested land from the Mexican government, and in 1824 he received 13,328 ½ acres. He called it Rancho Cañon de Santa Ana. It was located north of the Santa Ana River and includes the present city of Yorba Linda.

He started building what was to become one of the largest adobe houses built during the “Golden Age of the California Ranchos.” He named his adobe San Antonio and it is said to have had fifty rooms.

Many people worked at the rancho. There were four wool combers, two tanners, a soap maker, two washerwomen, a blacksmith, a butter-and-cheese maker, several housekeepers, a wine maker, several gardeners, a dressmaker, a jeweler, a plasterer, a carpenter, and a baker.

There were thousands of cattle and other animals on the large rancho; grapes, fruit trees, corn, beans, and wheat were grown there.

In 1835, Bernardo Yorba became one of the first ranchers to irrigate his land. He built a large ditch to the Santa Ana River, which provided water for the crops.

The farming was done with oxen and plows. Hides and tallow were hauled by carts from the rancho to the ports on the coast, where they were traded for clothing ad furniture.

Bernardo Yorba was a successful rancher and businessman. He was married three times and had twenty-one children. The children were said to be very orderly and respectful. Each evening, after prayers were said, each one bowed to Bernardo and kissed his hand. In the morning they would again greet him as he sat quietly in his chair, wearing a skullcap, as he gave them their instructions for the day. [10]

With his large family of children, grandchildren, relatives, servants, and laborers all living on the rancho, it seemed like a small village.

Everyday life on the rancho meant getting up at dawn with a call to prayer, and then a simple breakfast of ground corn cereal served with milk and a cup of hot chocolate or coffee.

The cooks were asked to prepare three full meals and two snakes (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). Each meal had a tortilla, a flat pancake made of cornmeal. At the noon meal-and in the evening-the main dish was a hearty beef stew. The stew meat was put into copper kettles, seasoned with chilies and wild herbs, and then cooked for hours over an open fireplace. Several other foods the people ate were jerky, rice soup, and enchiladas. [11]

Schools were rare, but Bernardo Yorba had a teacher for his children and later built a school for the children in the area.

Bernardo Yorba died at his home on November 20, 1858, at the age of fifty-seven. His granddaughter remembered: “I watched the funeral start off to Los Angeles from my father's adobe on the hill. Hundreds of Indians followed behind the procession filling the air with their cries of sorrow.” In front of the procession was Bernardo's fine white riding horse, bridled and saddled, but riderless. Bernardo Yorba was buried in the old Calvary Cemetery in downtown Los Angeles.

It is said that the Indians left the rancho never to return after the passing of Bernardo Yorba. [12]

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