This is a reprinting of a 1941 limited edition and is a faithful reproduction: unfortunately this means that errors in accentuation, outdated allusions, and imprecise translations of the original are still included.
Cast in romantic form with much speculative history, this book is a nostalgic essay without benefit of footnotes or bibliography, written by a newspaper man characterized as Orange County’s (California) “greatest antiquarian.” Attracted by the rather anachronistic character of one of southern California’s early rancheros, Stephenson pieced together bits of information, relying heavily on judicial proceedings. Though the title suggests a biography, most of the work is concerned with the legacy of Don Bernardo Yorba and his extensive holdings. Unique were the facts that Yorba was one of the few grantees who engaged in irrigated agriculture; that he complied strictly and literally with provisions of the Mexican Colonization Laws of 1824 and 1828; that he was one of the few to receive a virtually uncontested patent from the U. S. Commission to Settle Private Land Claims in California; and that he was able to maintain and even expand his land holdings up to his death despite arrival of the gringo.
Scion of one of the “typical” but virtually nonexistent “pure Spanish families” of early California, Bernardo’s father had come to California with the founding expedition commanded by Gaspar de Portolá. The family established roots in the Orange County soil as early as the 1790’s, with Bernardo’s Rancho Cañon de Santa Ana dating from 1834. Most clearly demonstrated in this brief work, though perhaps unintentionally, is the patriarchal character of Mexican California’s pastoral society.