Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

[I Knew the Real] Ramona.
As told by José Jesús López.

There was no "Ramona" such as Helen Hunt Jackson created in her book of that name. Before she wrote the book, Mrs. Jackson talked with me about the plot for her story and about the characters to use in it. I told her of the half-blood Indian girl who was born at the old Castaic headquarters of Rancho San Francisquito[1]. She had a rather tragic life, and Mrs. Jackson was very much interested in the possibilities of using her in the book. So I took Mrs. Jackson to see two of the Ynjinio brothers. They were first cousins of the Ramona I had known. Often I had heard them talk of Ramona and her many troubles. Ramón and Francisco Ynjinio then were working at La Liebre. I introduced Mrs. Jackson to them, and left them to answer the questions she wanted to ask.

I supposed that Mrs. Jackson wanted real historic persons to use in her book, which I supposed was to be a history. I surely was surprised when I obtained a copy of the book and read what she had written. It was almost entirely fiction.

The real Ramona was born at the Rancho San Francisquito headquarters on the hill across the Santa Clara River[2], and about one-half mile south of where Castaic Junction now is located. Her full name was Ramona Guadalupe Ridley. She was half Indian, and she was a very good looking girl, tall, and not very dark. I knew her very well. She was older than I, and used to do housework at the Del Valle headquarters near Castaic when I stopped there.

Ramona probably never lived at the Rancho Camulos adobe. I do not believe that the owner, Don Antonio del Valle, ever lived at Camulos. His headquarters and residence were at Castaic. Both of these places are on the same ranch. When his son, Ygnacio, married, Don Antonio turned the Camulos portion of the ranch over to him. That was when they built the adobe that now is standing at Camulos.[3]

I also knew Alejandro the husband of Ramona. Mrs. Jackson spelled his name Alessandro, which is not Spanish at all, but Italian. Alejandro was a sort of labor contractor among the Indians. He headed a band of Indian sheep shearers and used to contract to shear sheep.[4] He had his shearers shear for my father many times. Alejandro probably was part-blood Indian, but he looked as though he had mostly Spanish blood.

Webmaster's footnotes.

1. Otherwise known as the Rancho San Francisco, i.e., the western Santa Clarita Valley.

2. This is the former mission-era estancia.

3. The adobe was built in 1853 — coincidentally, the same year José Jesús López was born.

4. Note that Camulos was a sheep ranch during the Spanish mission period.

About José Jesús López, Majordomo of El Tejon

Excerpts from "Saga of Rancho El Tejon" by Frank F. Latta (Santa Cruz: Bear State Books 1976). The book is written in the voice of José Jesús López (1853-1939), "as told to" Latta in a series of interviews conducted between 1916 and the 1930s.

José Jesús López in 1874. (Latta 1976:xviii.) Click to enlarge.

Preface (by Latta), pg. xi.

José Jesús López was one of the most colorful pioneers ever to operate a stock ranch in California. He came from one of the oldest and most numerous California families. It is probable that ancestors of his parents came to Alta California in 1769 with Gaspar de Portola and Father Junipero Serra. Records show that on September 8, 1771, Juan Francisco López was in the soldier escort and guard at the founding of Mission San Gabriel.

In 1872, after his family had been in California more than one hundred years, Don José made a visit to the San Joaquin Valley and in 1873 he returned with a band of sheep, returned to stay. Not only did he have a good education; he was one of the most able and intelligent Californios of his time. So he was not destined to herd sheep for long. In 1874, Edward F. Beale, owner of El Tejon Ranchos, purchased part of the López sheep and employed him to handle all of the sheep on the ranchos. The sheep at one time totaled ninety-five thousand head, ranging more than 300,000 acres of land, four Mexican Land Grants, and included Ranchos El Tejon, La Liebre, Castaic [Castec] and Agua Caliente. Don José continued in charge of the sheep operation until 1885, after Beale had sold most of the sheep and stocked the ranchos with cattle. Beale then placed Don José in charge of the entire stock operation. He continued in the employ of Beale until Beale died and the ranchos were sold to a Los Angeles company by his son, Truxton Beale. He also continued with this company as active, and later as consulting cattle boss until the time of his death in 1939.

It was in 1916 that I first met and interviewed Don Jose. [...]

Chapter 1: From Old Spain (voice of López), pp. 1-3.

My López ancestors were from Old Spain, Province of Asturias. At one time some of them, not by the name of López, lived in Seville. But the old López grandparents claimed to be Castilianos, Castillians. They had some French and Arabian blood. Ygnacio López, born in Mexico, was the founder of the López family in Alta California. Some of our family say that Ygnacio and his sons, Juan and Juan Francisco, both born in Baja California, came to Alta California in 1769 [...]

Coming from Baja California, the López families went first to the state of Michoacan on the mainland and waited for an expedition to come north. They arrived in Michoacan just in time to help put down a revolution. Later, in recognition of this service, Juan and Claudio were given charge of the Indians building two of the missions, Claudio those at San Gabriel, and Juan those at San Fernando. Juan's son, Pedro, followed his father as Mayordomo over the Indians at San Fernando. This Pedro was my mother's father.

Our López family came from a long line of Spanish army officers, continuing back to the time of the Conquest of Mexico, when another Juan López served as a Conquistador under Hernán Cortés. Ygnacio López' wife was María Recunda de Mora de López. There is a family tradition that this López family was connected with the Duke de Medina through these Moras. However, I have never seen any records to prove this.

Claudio López was a brother of Juan and Juan Francisco. He was my great grandfather. He and his wife, María Luisa Cota de López, are buried inside the San Gabriel Mission Church.

On their way to Alta California, three of the López families stayed in the state of Michoacan for a number of years, waiting for an expedition to come to Alta California. Things moved slowly in those days and the expedition was years in being organized. At last, three of the families moved up into the state of Sonora and stopped near Ures. This move was made because they thought they would be able to come sooner if they were close at hand, for the outfitting posts were on the frontier. They were in Sonora two years before they were able to come to Alta California.

Both my father, Jerónimo, and my mother, Catalina, were named López. My mother was the daughter of Pedro López, and the granddaughter of Juan López and María Dolores Salgada de López. My father was the son of Esteban López and the grandson of Claudio López and María Luisa Cota de López. Claudio was Majordomo at San Gabriel Mission for more than forty years. [...]

For his long service at San Gabriel, Claudio was granted the use of Rancho Anita, which later was known as Rancho Santa Anita. He did not name the rancho for the Saint. He named it for beautiful Anita Cota. He expected to marry her, but she died and he later married her cousin, María Luisa Cota. [...] In 1826 he became Alcalde of Pueblo de Los Angeles.

From my parents and from the generation of my grandparents, I learned that in Spain our López family was very wealthy and belonged to the aristocracy of Castile. Of course I did not know the original Claudio or any of his brothers or sisters, but my grandfather, Pedro López, did. Both Chico and Pedro López told many stories about all of these original colonists. The original brothers, Claudio, Juan and Juan Francisco, had two sisters who came to California. One, María Francisca, married an Ortega and the other, María de la Encarnación, married a Verdugo. You see, through these early marriages, I am related to almost every person in Southern California who is descended from the early Spanish colonists. [...]


Edwin Carewe's 1928 Screen Adaptation


Camulos Visit,
SoCal Observations
(Odell 1939)


Portraits x2


Full Text


HHJ Gravesite 1912


I Knew Ramona, by Jose Jesus Lopez


Roberts Story 1886

Carter Story 1900/02


Antonio Coronel Bio, HSSC 1900


"Narrow Trail" by Wyeth 1939

Story: Ventura Museum 1998

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