The Yorba Family Ranchos, circa 1850: (1) Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana, (2) Rancho Cañon de Santa Ana, (3) Rancho Lomas de Santiago, (4) Rancho La Sierra, (5) Rancho El Rincon, (6) Rancho Las Bolsas.

The Yorba Family Ranchos, circa 1850: (1) Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana, (2) Rancho Cañon de Santa Ana, (3) Rancho Lomas de Santiago, (4) Rancho La Sierra, (5) Rancho El Rincon, (6) Rancho Las Bolsas.

The Yorba Family Ranchos

The Yorba family were among the most extensive landowners in Southern California in the 1840s and ‘50s. Their six adjoining ranchos stretched from what is now the edge of Riverside to Newport Beach, and took in more than 185,000 acres.

José Antonio Yorba (1746-1825) was the first of the family to settle in Alta California. Bancroft says he came as a soldier with the first Spanish expedition under Portolá in 1769, though modern research shows he did not arrive until 1771.

 Paraje de Santiago

Yorba’s father-in-law, Juan Pablo Grijalva, was the first of the family to run cattle in what is now Orange County. He had come north with the Anza Expedition in 1775, serving as one of Anza’s chief lieutenants. After his retirement in 1796, he was given a concession to run cattle at Las Flores, on what is now Camp Pendleton. (Spanish law held that all lands belonged to the King, so there were no true land grants until after Mexican rule began in 1821.) But in 1798, the Mission San Luis Rey was founded, and Las Flores became part of the mission lands.  Not long after that, Grijalva moved his herds north to the Santa Ana Valley. In 1801, he received a provisional concession to the lands south and east of the Santa Ana River. While his permanent residence remained in San Diego, Grijalva built an adobe ranchhouse on a hill overlooking the Santiago Creek.

 Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana

Grijalva never seems to have received a regular concession to the Paraje de Santiago, and the lands were not mentioned in his will when he died in 1806. But in 1809, his son-in-law, José Antonio Yorba, and his grandson, Juan Pablo Peralta, petitioned for their own concession. It was approved on July 1, 1810. The original boundaries were described as the lands south and east of the Santa Ana River to a line from the top of Red Hill to the edge of the Back Bay in Newport – some 70,000 acres. That odd, diagonal line from hill to bay can still be seen in the alignment of Red Hill Avenue today.

Originally the ranch headquarters was centered around the hill at Olive, at the mouth of the Santa Ana Canyon. But as the family grew, they took up residence on different portions of the rancho. The Peraltas lived on the south side of the Santa Ana Canyon. At least one of their adobes, the 1871 Ramona Peralta Adobe, still survives. José Antonio Yorba II moved downstream and lived in what is now the northwest part of Orange. His brother, Tomás Yorba, stayed in Olive – or Santa Ana, as it was known as the time.

When the United States Land Commission reviewed the validity and the exact boundaries of the California ranchos in the 1850s, the Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana was surveyed at 62,500 acres.

Rancho Cañon de Santa Ana

Bernardo Yorba (1801-1858), a son of José Antonio, received his own grant on August 1, 1834 for 13,300 acres north of the Santa Ana River. Something of Bernardo’s character can be seen in the fact that the Land Commission found his was one of the few grants that was technically perfect, following the exact letter of the Mexican laws. The rancho was partitioned in 1874, and the City of Yorba Linda now occupies a portion of it. The site of Bernardo’s two-story adobe along Esperanza Road is now a California State Historic Landmark, and the old Yorba Cemetery above has been preserved by the County of Orange.

Rancho Lomas de Santiago

José Antonio’s youngest son, Teodocio Yorba (1805-1863), received his own grant on May 26, 1846 to the hills and canyons east of his family’s rancho known as the Lomas de Santiago. Teodocio’s ranch headquarters was located where Irvine Lake is today. The U.S. Land Commission set the size of the rancho at 47,200 acres. It was eventually acquired by James Irvine.

Rancho La Sierra

In 1845, Bernardo Yorba petitioned for a second grant in what is now Riverside County, which became known as the Rancho La Sierra. Bernardo and his late brother, Tomás had been running cattle there for 20 years before requesting a formal grant. Tomás Yorba’s widow, Vicenta, insisted she and his children also receive a share, and the grant was made in both their names on June 15, 1846. When the land was later divided, Bernardo received the western half, adjoining his rancho, and Tomás Yorba’s family received the eastern half – a total of 35,560 acres. The two ranchos were patented separately in the mid-1870s.

The City of Corona now stands on Bernardo’s portion, while Norco and the western end of the City of Riverside are on his sister-in-law’s half.

Rancho El Rincon

In 1849, Bernardo Yorba purchased the 4,431-acre Rancho El Rincon. It had originally been granted to Juan Bandini in 1839 as an extension of his Rancho Jurupa. The area was situated between Bernardo’s other two ranchos, in what is now part of the Prado Basin, in both Riverside and San Bernardino counties. In the early 1850s, his son, Raimundo, built what is now known as the Yorba-Slaughter adobe there, which still stands. Slaughter in this case is a noun, and not a verb – in 1868 the adobe was sold to Fenton Slaughter.

And More

The Rancho Las Bolsas, on the west side of the Santa Ana River, was originally part of the Nieto concession of 1784, and later granted to his daughter-in-law, Catarina Ruiz, in 1834. Ramon Yorba and his siblings (grandchildren on José Antonio Yorba I) bought a half-interest in the rancho in 1849. Their share was equivalent to about 24,000 acres. It was acquired by Abel Stearns in 1861.