Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Bastanchury Ranch

The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In: A History of Fullerton.

The names of city streets often have stories to tell. Bastanchury Road, which runs east-west through Fullerton and into Placntia is named for Domingo Bastanchury, a Basque rancher who, at one time, owned over 4,000 acres of land in this area. In the early 20th Century, the Bastanchury Ranch was the largest orange grove in the world.

The first laborers on the ranch were Native Americans. Domingo's granddaughter recalls in a 1968 interview for the CSUF Oral History Program, "Grandmother used to say that they didn't have many neighbors. They were the only white people but that had an awful lot of Indians. Awful lot."

While Domingo liked the Indians (they provided cheap labor and liked to drink as much as he did), his wife was afraid of them: "She said that she was scared to death because she came from a country (Spain) that she had never saw a colored person. And so when she landed in San Francisco, she saw these dark people and didn't know who they were because [she was] not educated as to who were dark and where they were from. And then when she came to Southern California as a bride, why that was just too much for her because the Indians were entirely different from the colored. They were more in the savage."

Domingo, on the other hand, "was very fond of the Indians and the Indians were fond of him because he was a great one to feed them…wining, dancing…They'd do all these war hoops and Grandma couldn't understand…she would hide."

The social structure of the ranch was much like the plantations of the South. The white people were foremen/overseers and the dark people were the laborers. "Of course they had the Indians to do the laborious type of work," Ferraris said.

As the United States policy toward Native Americans became more restrictive, the Indians were replaced by Chinese Labor for a while, followed by Japanese labor, and finally Mexican labor. The Mexicans on the Bastanchury Ranch lived in "a city of their own," Ferraris recalls, "One was called Mexicali and the other was called Tiajuana…it was just a neat little city…and they housed 500 families in both spots."

According to scholar Glibert Gonzales, author of Labor and Community, these "citrus towns" were pervasive throughout Orange County in the 20th century, and they evolved into the present-day barrios. They were not necessarily "neat little cities" but more like shantytowns of a minority group who were treated as second-class citizens…Mexicans. The legacy of housing and education segregation represented by these "neat little cities" exists even today.


  1. My father was born on the Bastanchury Ranch in 1924 and was sent to Mexico in 1931 with his family under the Mexican Deportation Act of 1931. He had to live in a boxcar and sell fruit to stay alive and lost 3 years of his education. He made it back to the U.S. later in the mid 30's, served in WWII, worked as a teamster and bought a home in Anaheim in the 1940's. He and his brothers and sister all bought homes in OC and, of course, prospered from their humble beginnings.

  2. Thank you for posting this. My great grandfather is Domingo.