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Orange County









            Among the valuable agricultural properties in Orange County is the Esperanza Ranch at Yorba, owned by Mrs. Zoraida B. Travis, the widow of J. Coleman Travis and a member of an aristocratic Spanish family whose name is inseparably associated with the early history of California.  Mrs. Travis’ great-grandfather, Don Antonio Yorba, was the founder of the family in California.  A Catalonian, he was born in the Pueblo de San Saturnino, and as a young man served as a corporal in the Spanish Army.  He was with the expedition that landed at San Diego Mission in 1769, and after serving his time settled at San Gabriel Mission.  Of an adventurous nature, he explored nearly all of Southern California lying south of Yerba Buena and was particularly pleased with the section which is now included within the boundaries of Orange and Riverside counties.  In 1801 he received from the king of Spain a grant of one hundred eighty thousand acres, embracing land from the present site of Riverside to the Pacific Ocean.  This ranch was legally known as El Canon de San Antonio de Santa Ana de los Yorba, which remained in possession of Antonio Yorba until his death, when the title to the property passed to his son, Bernardo Yorba, whose mother, Senora Josefa (Grijalva) Yorba, was much loved by reason of her many acts of kindness and charity.  She was selected as one of the leading characters in the Mission Play, written by John S. McGroarty, the well known historian.

            Bernardo Yorba, the grandfather of Mrs. Travis, improved the ranch and thereon built a ninety-room adobe house, which was the scene of many brilliant social functions.  The walls of this two-story structure were twenty-six inches thick and were finished in white plaster.  It had a large ball room with a polished floor where fandangos were greatly enjoyed by the young people.  Rancho Yorba became one of the richest as well as one of the most celebrated Spanish grants in Southern California.  On this large estate Bernardo Yorba continued to make his home until his death at the age of fifty-eight years, engaging extensively in the breeding of cattle.

            His son, Prudencio Yorba, the father of Mrs. Travis, was born in 1832, at the old homestead, and after obtaining an education at San Pedro returned home to take up the pursuits of farming and stockraising.  He married Dolores Ontiveros, who was born on the Coyote Ranch in La Habra Valley, August 4, 1833, a daughter of Juan P. and Martina (Ozuna) Ontiveros, the former a native of what is now Orange County, while the latter was born in San Diego, both representatives of old and prominent Spanish families of California.  Juan P. Ontiveros followed farming in Orange County for many years prior to his removal to Santa Maria, Santa Barbara County, where he continued to engage in the same line of work during the remainder of his life.  The death of Prudencio Yorba occurred July 3, 1885, and that of his wife on November 24, 1894.  They were the parents of eleven children:  Mrs. Felipa Dominguez, the widow of Pablo Dominguez; Mrs. Adelina Carrillo, who passed away in March, 1933; David J., born August 22, 1855, and died March 7, 1925; Mrs. Angelia Kraemer, the wife of Samuel Kraemer, of Placentia, California, represented on another page of this work; Prudencio S., whose sketch also appears elsewhere in this work; Zoraida, widow of J. Coleman Travis; Ernesto, a rancher at Yorba; Mrs. Dolores Ruiz, of Santa Maria, California, and three died in childhood.

            The ninth child of the family, Zoraida Yorba, was born on her father’s ranch at Yorba, March 22, 1869, and attended St. Catherine’s Convent at San Bernardino.  At her home she was married October 20, 1898 to J. Coleman Travis, who was born at Gainesville, near Mobile, Alabama, August 8, 1853.  He was a son of Amos and Eliza (Coleman) Travis, natives of Georgia and Alabama respectively and both members of prominent southern families.  The Travis family came to California via the Isthmus of Panama and arrived in Los Angeles on Washington’s Birthday, 1869, going at once to the home of a daughter, Mrs. A. S. Van de Graaffe, a widow with two children.  In that city Amos Travis was engaged in orange culture on Eighth Street, between San Pedro and Alameda streets until 1871, when he removed with his family to Santa Ana, and a short distance north of the present site of Orange developed a ranch along the Santa Ana River.

            For a number of years J. Coleman Travis was superintendent of the Santa Ana Valley Irrigation Company and in that capacity he was an important factor in the upbuilding of the plant and the construction of its canals and ditches.  He was also the owner of a ranch of sixty acres on Tustin Street, near Orange, where he planted an orange grove, experiencing discouraging days when the fruit was ruined by insect pests, which experts were later able to exterminate.  Subsequently Mr. Travis sold the greater portion of that place and purchased the Esperanza Ranch of about two hundred forty acres, a part of the estate of Prudencio Yorba, and then owned by David J. Yorba, who erected the residence.  Mrs. Travis’ father named the ranch Esperanza for a daughter who had died just before his removal from the old home to this property.  However, prior to coming here Mr. Travis located at Santa Monica, where he resided until 1917, when he began the development of the Esperanza Ranch, which he operated until his death on June 19, 1919, at the age of sixty-five years, and was laid to rest in Fairhaven Cemetery at Orange.  Besides his widow he is survived by four children:  J. Coleman, Jr., Kate, Zoraida and Amos Travis.

            For recreation Mr. Travis turned to outdoor sports and took keen enjoyment in hunting and fishing.  He belonged to the Orange County Fox Hunting Club and excelled as a rider and marksman.  Everything that touched the upbuilding and progress of Orange County was to him a matter of deep and vital concern.  He was deputy assessor of this district when it was still Los Angeles County and he took a prominent part in the county division and the organization of Orange County in 1889.  He gave liberally of his time and means to all projects for the improvement of the county and the betterment of its people and was respected and honored for his generosity, his public spirit, his fidelity to the ties of home and friendship, and his high standards of life.  Cultured and refined, Mrs. Travis has the tact and charm of manner which make her a leader in the social life of her community and dispenses old-time California hospitality at her home on the Esperanza Ranch.




Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: California of the South Vol. IV, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 289-292, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis.  1933.

© 2012  V. Gerald Iaquinta.