Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Las Juntas Cemetery and The Pueblo de Las Juntas - Part Two

Continuing with the story...

1874 … our families had had enough!
They, along with so many of the other mixed families... Californio and Indian... moved out of the Pajaro Valley area, over the mountains now known as Pacheco Pass, and into the little town of Las Juntas.
They moved all their belongings and children, many very tiny babies. Some of the women were pregnant.
For the safety of the families they moved.
At any given moment mostly the men, but even the women were in danger of being killed by the “protection society”
… so our families moved.

and this is important to remember
...our families in Pajaro don't know and won't know until it's too late!!

1866 – 1871 in the San Joaquin Valley
During this time and due to John Bensley and the Miller & Lux company, the present day Central California Irrigation District was begun. In the early 1870s Henry Miller made a deal with Bensley's new corporation to purchase irrigation water for his vast holdings. In 1871 Miller subsidized the canal company for a discounted price on water for irrigation and his livestock. This would be the beginning of the first permanent dam which would have a huge impact on the flow of the San Joaquin River and the Fresno Slough.
and without knowing what has happened in the past, not knowing what might await them in their new home-town
… our families moved to the Pueblo de Las Juntas in the San Joaquin Valley!

So here's some background on this Pueblo de Las Juntas...

This rowdy town of Las Juntas was possibly the first white settlement in the San Joaquin Valley, having been occupied since before 1800.
The houses were still made of mud and brush walls with thatched roofs, similar to those of the Yokuts Indians who lived in the area years earlier, much like those of the village of Pajaro where our families had lived.
Pueblo de Las Juntas was located about three miles northeast of present day Mendota, on the west bank of the San Joaquin River where the river and the Fresno Slough met.

According to one of the long time residents of Las Juntas, Theodora Arredondo, she and her first husband Gregorio Ynigo made the trip between Sonora Mexico and Las Juntas several times on the El Camino Viejo, the old highway.
She said their trips began as early as 1847.

While her husband packed for Joaquin Murrieta when in Las Juntas and rode with the gang for about 3 years, Teodora was with him on many trips. In 1857, just after their only child, Matilda, was born Gregorio Ynigo was killed in an argument over the ownership of some horses the gang had.
Teodora quickly remarried... she had an infant to support
... and just as quickly she left with new husband Jose Arredondo on horseback clutching her two month old baby as they rode once again all the way to the Pueblo de Las Juntas.
Baby Matilda (Ma-dthee-uh) was raised in Las Juntas from her arrival with her mother and stepfather in 1857. She lived in Las Juntas until her marriage in 1874 to Ambrosio Urias.
… until she was forced to leave with the other residents.
What? Forced to leave, you ask??
...hang on, you'll know why very soon!

And then there were the rowdies in and out of the town
... it was reported that gambling, horseracing, drinking, murder happened almost daily
... just as it had been in Pajaro Valley.

The active gangs of the area, including both the Vasquez gang and Joaquin Murrieta's gang were able to get their supplies in Las Juntas with little or no worries about lawmen. This town was so bad that the American lawmen rarely went there. Many of the regular banditos of the Pajaro Valley area used Las Juntas for the same purpose.
The families who lived in Las Juntas were either directly related to or related by marriage to many of these bad guys
... and probably because of these close ties, they survived!

It was along about this same time that Henry Miller, with his vast holdings had been forced to fence his land to comply with the new “No-Fence Law” of the State. This was the law that helped end the terrible battles between the farmer and the ranchers.
Ranchers finally had to fence IN their cattle and no longer allow them to run free, but fencing was a major expense!
This is when barbed wire made it's successful appearance.

Miller felt the townsfolk of Las Juntas were on his land, this land he had just started fencing and they were stealing too much of his livestock
... and he wanted them gone
... he referred to them as “... those Mexicans and half-breed Indians”.
… and with his interest in the newly formed Canal Company, he wanted them GONE!

And then something interesting happened...

Various pieces of local property began changing ownership beginning with a ferry by a man named McIntyre. He sold it to Andrew Firebaugh (who called it Firebaugh's Ferry)
... who later sold to a man named Hoffman.
Mr Hoffman and a man named Turner also owned the store, the hotel business, well, actually, the entire town site of Firebaugh!
Hoffman and Turner sold everything to Jacob Meyer.

Yes, this same Jacob Meyer who had allowed the families of Las Juntas credit tabs for groceries and other supplies from his store in Las Juntas. He realized that if Miller had his way, and the townsfolk were all evicted, scattered around the county, Meyer would lose all the money owed to him.

Being the shrewd businessman he was, Meyer offered FREE lots in Firebaugh to any of the people who owed him money if they would simply move into Firebaugh
... and of course they accepted and moved into Firebaugh, Meyer's town.
...and now they were solid, property owning, upstanding citizens!

Needless to say, Henry Miller was furious but could do nothing at the time.
Eventually most of the same people became his employees for years!

Many of these early families of Firebaugh were also descendants of the earliest Hispanic families in California. They helped keep the old traditional lifestyle alive in the western part of the San Joaquin Valley much longer than other parts of California.
Many of the families of Pueblo de Las Juntas and then later in Firebaugh held onto their culture and traditions
... from the language of the Californios
… and the “sarsa”
… and old style tamales tied on the ends, often sold to pay the bills!
And we still do!!!

Some sources claim Firebaugh jumped from 50 to 250 residents almost overnight. Ralph Milliken's “One Man Show” says only about 12 – 15 of the 30 families residing in Las Juntas moved to Firebaugh. Knowing many of the families had 10 or more kids, the numbers could add up quickly. We know that the families of Juana Bojorques totaled over 50 when they moved out of Las Juntas!

Milliken states that the families were Mexicans who intermarried with the Indians and that Miller probably didn't have the right to evict them
… and that's probably true
… but that was the way of life in the late 1870s.

Remember... Mexicans and Indians had no rights, or so it was thought.

From Fresno County~The Pioneer Years, Charles W Clough & William B Secrest, Jr wrote about Firebaugh:
"By 1875 ... stages and mail service ran daily to the town (population 25), since it was on the Gilroy-Berenda route. There were two homes, two saloons operated by Jesus Bernal and Joaquin Cabrera, and a private school operated by a Mr Hadsell. Francisco Dubalos [sic Dobales] was justice of the peace and Jeremiah Noonan constable.
For a town of twenty-five, it had an impressive array of services!"
[Francisco Dobales married Julia Enriques three years later. Julia was the daughter of Juana Bojorques and Manuel Enriques.]

"Firebaugh experienced a sudden population jump in 1879. The San Joaquin and Kings River Canal Company had previously purchased the Las Juntas town-site, and it ordered the residents to vacate. Firebaugh merchant [Jacob] Meyer began offering lots in his town for one dollar, which attracted almost all the people from Las Juntas.
They swelled Firebaugh's population from (approximately) 50 to 250"
By 1885 "...Most of the Las Juntas refugees, who made up the bulk of the town's population, were Miller and Lux employees." 

And they were property owners!

Nearly every male descendant of of my great, great grandmother
Juana Bojorques was in some way connected to the sheep-shearing business in Firebaugh from the 1880s to well into the 1950s. Even though the pages of the books claim Firebaugh was a rough and almost lawless town, Juana's families - MY family survived, and have thrived!

From “Fresno County ~ The Pioneer Years” by Charles E. Clough & William B. Secrest, Jr, page 43:
It is unfortunate that the majority of details of the Californianos or Hispanics is about the outlaw element, as they were outnumbered many times over by constructive settlers who made a positive contribution to the development of the county. It is hoped that additional information about their work is to be found somewhere in written form and that it will eventually be made available to future generations.”

And this is exactly what I am doing
… and have been doing for years!!

Recently I was contacted by someone wanting to “rewrite” the history of Pueblo de Las Juntas. I asked why, what's wrong with the history of the town?
I was told it should be about the vaqueros, the cooks, the farmers, etc, etc and not about the outlaws.

These people of the Pueblo de Las Juntas, our families of the Pueblo de Las Juntas
... were hardworking, never give up people.
They were creative
… they were innovative!

They believed in God, they taught their children honor and respect
... and they lived it.
Hospitality was the code of ethics
... and in so many of the current families it still is.

Family meals, small or huge, are still the most enjoyable Gatherings!

Re-write? I don't think so
... the history, OUR history is exactly that
... it's OUR history!

Please read Part Three...

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff! I've been researching the San Joaquin Valley and can find very little about the native americans whom lived here before the mid-1800s. I enjoy this story. Thank you for your work. LJA.