THE SPANISH SETTLERS

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Posted by Drew Mashburn on March 31, 2017

The following article is from the book “Portrait of a Community –– Ojai: Yesterdays and Todays” by Ellen Malino James.  It is reprinted here with the permission of the publisher, Ojai Valley News.

THE SPANISH SETTLERS
By Ellen Malino James

For services performed in the Buenaventura Mission, Fernando Tico obtained Rancho Ojay in 1837 as a land grant from the Mexican government which had only a few years before secularized the missions and all the lands held by the church. Tico was born in San Francisco where his father, a native Catalonia, had come as a volunteer soldier for the King of Spain. In 1853, shortly after California was admitted to the Union, Tico sold his entire holdings in Ojai, some 18,000 acres, to speculators for a few thousand dollars.

Don Fernando Tico circa 1840, a decade after he settled in Ojai. (photo courtesy of Juanita Rodriguez Callendar, who is a direct descendant of the Tico family, and OVM)

Don Fernando Tico circa 1840, a decade after he settled in Ojai. (photo courtesy of Juanita Rodriguez Callendar, who is a direct descendant of the Tico family, and OVM)

 

One of Don Fernando Tico's sons, Edward. (photo courtesy of Juanita Rodriguez Callendar and OVM)

One of Don Fernando Tico’s sons, Edward. (photo courtesy of Juanita Rodriguez Callendar and OVM)

 

One of Don Fernando Tico's sons, Fernando. (photo courtesy of Juanita Rodriguez Callendar and OVM)

One of Don Fernando Tico’s sons, Fernando. (photo courtesy of Juanita Rodriguez Callendar and OVM)

 

Eldefrida Tico married William Elwell of Ventura. (photo courtesy of Juanita Rodriguez Callendar and OVM)

Eldefrida Tico married William Elwell of Ventura. (photo courtesy of Juanita Rodriguez Callendar and OVM)

 

Jose Ignacio Rodriguez, grandson of Don Fernando Tico. (photo courtesy of Juanita Rodriquez Callendar and OVM)

Jose Ignacio Rodriguez, grandson of Don Fernando Tico. (photo courtesy of Juanita Rodriquez Callendar and OVM)

The Spanish, who first came to this coast in the sixteenth century, discovered in Alta California a climate much like that of the Mediterranean, the land heavy with the grapevine and other fruit, flowers, and honey. Even after Mexico established a separate republic from Spain in the 1820s, the Spanish at Ventura continued to identify with the Californio, not the Mexico, experience. With Tico’s arrival in Ojai, this valley became a Spanish town, part of the California regional expression of rancho life. When the United States acquired California by war with Mexico in 1848, the Spanish character of the region remained unchanged until several years after the American Civil War in the 1860s when the first Anglo-Americans began to arrive in the territory in search of oil, land and other riches. Only then did the peoples who lived here for centuries before, find themselves cast as a minority.

Rancho Ojay took its name from a Chumash village which, if it can be translated into English at all, probably means month or lunar cycle, according to Ojai Art Center Director Cary Sterling who has studied Indian lore. Berkeley scholar James D. Hart, in A Companion to California (1978) accepts the view of virtually all experts that Ojai to the Chumash meant “moon.” Arthur E. Woolman in The Ojai Valley: Gateway to Health and Happiness (1956) calls Ojai the “Valley of the Moon,” but then suggests that Ojai means “nest.” Travel writers, boosters, and the town’s newspaper continued to use the words “moon” and “nest” interchangeably but, as time went on, preferred the metaphor of the nest. Commenting on this controversy, which never fails to arouse the interest of old-timers, departing school superintendent Albert Marley and his wife Jacque said recently: “Regardless of what the historians and other scholars may say about the meaning of the word ‘Ojai,’ we still like the notion that it means ‘Nest.’ We feel safe in ‘the nest’.”

Spanish settlers reported a pink glow lighting the surrounding mountains to the east. This “pink moment” is a reflection of the setting sun and remains one of the valley’s prime attractions.

The Reyes family circa 1897. (Howard Bald collection, courtesy of OVM). Jacinto Damien Reyes, (third row, second from left) retired in Ojai in the 1930s after three decades as a forest ranger, explorer, and trail-maker in the Sespe wilderness. Reyes Peak, rising 8400 feet in the Cuyama, is named fro him. A hero in the great Matilija-Wheeler Canyon fire of 1917, Reyes also did much to redeem the reputation of the "badlands" along the old Maricopa road from the legendary bandido gangs. The son of Don Rafael Reyes and Dona Maria Ortega (pictured here, second row) Jacinto Reyes grew up on a ranch in Cuyama, now part of the Los Padres National Forest. Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt visited the Reyes Ranch in 1901 and 1905. The family is descended from Francisco Reyes, original holder of the San Fernando Valley land grant in the 1780s, and the equally illustrious Ortegas of Ventura County.

The Reyes family circa 1897. (Howard Bald collection, courtesy of OVM). Jacinto Damien Reyes, (third row, second from left) retired in Ojai in the 1930s after three decades as a forest ranger, explorer, and trail-maker in the Sespe wilderness. Reyes Peak, rising 8400 feet in the Cuyama, is named for him. A hero in the great Matilija-Wheeler Canyon fire of 1917, Reyes also did much to redeem the reputation of the “badlands” along the old Maricopa road from the legendary bandido gangs. The son of Don Rafael Reyes and Dona Maria Ortega (pictured here, second row) Jacinto Reyes grew up on a ranch in Cuyama, now part of the Los Padres National Forest. Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt visited the Reyes Ranch in 1901 and 1905. The family is descended from Francisco Reyes, original holder of the San Fernando Valley land grant in the 1780s, and the equally illustrious Ortegas of Ventura County.

 

Jose Jesus (Chino) Lopez and Ramona Esquivel Lopez, 1890s. (photo courtesy of OVM) The Lopez family owned land stretching from Foothill Road to Matilija Canyon Road. The old adobe at the mouth of Matilija Canyon was once part of the original Ayala land grant from the King of Spain to Francisco Lopez. The son of Chino and Ramona, Francisco, and his wife Matilda raised a family in Ojai. Many Lopez descendants still live here.

Jose Jesus (Chino) Lopez and Ramona Esquivel Lopez, 1890s.  The Lopez family owned land stretching from Foothill Road to Matilija Canyon Road. The old adobe at the mouth of Matilija Canyon was once part of the original Ayala land grant from the King of Spain to Francisco Lopez. The son of Chino and Ramona, Francisco and his wife Matilda raised a family in Ojai. Many Lopez descendants still live here. (photo courtesy of OVM)

 

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