The Rancho La Colonia, is also known by el Rancho Rio de Santa Clara. That name is easy to explain, it borders on Santa Clara River. It is a tract of land about 48,883 acres. The old San Miguel Rancho had its boundary on the northwest. The Kings Highway, now known as Highway 101 marked the eastern border. The lands extended from the highway to the ocean and all the lands in between. That includes the city of Oxnard Camarillo, Port Hueneme, all the way to the Point Mugu.
It was common practice to reward land for service to the King of Spain and later for service to Mexico. This happened to the grandfather of John Olivas, my stepdad. The Olivas Ranch (https://www.facebook.com/OlivasAdobe) was north of the river closer to Ventura.
The Rancho La Colonia was awarded to eight soldiers in the year 1837. The governor at that time was Governor Juan B. ALVARADO. The men along with their families were, Valentine Cota, Salvador Valenzuela, Leandro Gonzalez, Rafael Gonzalez, Vicente Pico, Rafael Valdez, Vincent Feliz, and Jose Maria.
This was the time that cattle was king in California. That is to say that the ranches here raised cattle, not for meat, but for their hides. There was a book that became very famous. It is called Two Years Before The Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr. He describes in one of his adventures how he and his mates would toss the dried hides off the cliff like Frisbees to be picked up and loaded on the ship below. The leather from the hides were processed and used for products in New England such as shoes.
It was their misfortune, those eight soldiers, to take over this land at the beginning of a drought. The cattle ranch was a dismal failure and in a short time the land was sold. The Gonzales family stayed in the area. They had their own place but it was nowhere as grand as it could’ve been.
Their descendants were friends and relatives of John Olivas. They had a big ranch house. The original house was made of adobe brick but it was knocked down when they built a new house made of wood.
I was still a boy when John and my mama would take me there for a visit. While the grown-ups talked and had a good time visiting, I went outside to explore the place. I mentioned visiting this family before in a post titled Chirula back in September. (https://jedwardnajera.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/chirula-by-carlos-najera/)
On the right side of the house was a big building. It was the barn. Inside they stored their grains such as barley and wheat, beans, and other things they grew.
Behind the barn was a corral. I went over there and visited the animals. They had horses and donkeys, mules, and the milk cow. Nearby was the stable where they housed the animals. They had another building where they kept their wagons and carriages.
On the other side of the house was an orchard, they also had a vegetable garden there. They also had an orchard of nopales, or prickly pear cactus. They grew to be very big. The young nopales are very tender and are quite edible. We had one in our own yard and my mama would cook them. Sometimes during a real bad year of no rain, when there’s hardly any grass for the cows to graze on, I have seen the farmers cut the nopales. They would burn off the thorns and feed them to the cattle.
They had chickens and roosters, ducks and turkeys, baby chicks. They were all running around free. It was always a wonder to watch them when the sun goes down. As soon as the sun went below the horizon, and it was still light, all of the birds would get in line and walk into their coop and settle down for the night.
In front of the house was a well. It was protected on all sides by a wooden wall. They brought up the water with a bucket. The bucket had a rope on it so they could drop it down all the way. The rope was attached to a long pole that pulled the water up.
That brings to mind, at that time the valley had many springs where Artesian water gushed out. They are gone now. When I was a boy I used to go to this one place with my cousins. It was in Hueneme. The place was called Bubbling Springs. The place is still there but I’m not sure if water bubbles out of it anymore. That wonderful sweet water from the ground was pumped out by the many farms that developed there. And being so close to the sea, the salt water mixed with the groundwater. It came out of the tap a cloudy white and tasted awful, so many people including my family had bottled water delivered to their homes.