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Biographies Unit Biographies

Maria Ontiveros Yorba 1833-1894

Maria Ontiveros Yorba belonged to two of the oldest Mexican families in California. She was born into the Ontiveros family. She later married into the Yorba family. Both families owned enormous ranchos.

Her husband's family got their rancho in a grant from the King of Spain. José Yorba was a soldier with the Gaspar de Portolá expedition in 1769. He was rewarded for his military service with a grant of 62,000 acres. It became Rancho Santiago de Santa Anna.

The Ontiveros family received their rancho from the Mexican government. The first Ontiveros in Alta California had been a Mexican soldier. In 1837, his son received a grant of 36,000 acres.

In the 1850s, the old ranchero families began selling off parcels of land to settlers and businessmen. By the time Maria Ontiveros Yorba died, towns were springing up where cattle once grazed. Today, many cities and towns sit on land that was once owned by the Ontiveros and Yorba families.

Comprehension Check

Why did Maria Ontiveros Yorba have so much land?

Critical Thinking

What changes to the land did Maria Ontiveros Yorba see in her lifetime?