Domingo Bastanchury was a French Basque rancher, born in the little town of Altubes, in the heart of the Pyrenees mountains, in March, 1838. In 1859 he sailed around South America’s Cape Horn to the present Orange county and became a sheep and cattle herder.
Beginning in 1885 he began purchasing large tracts of land, first for his herds, then for citrus cultivation, and finally for oil drilling. At one time, the Bastanchury family owned over 4,000 acres of land in Fullerton and surrounding areas. In the early 20th century, the Bastanchury Ranch (later re-named Sunny Hills Ranch) was the largest orange grove in the world.
The first laborers on the Bastanchury Ranch were Native Americans. As the United States policy toward Native Americans became more restrictive, Native Americans were replaced by Chinese labor (Until the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1904), followed by Japanese labor (Until the Alien Land Law of 1913), and finally Mexican labor.
Mexican laborers on the Bastanchury Ranch lived in “citrus towns” that were segregated from the dominant/Anglo community. One was called Mexicali and the other was called Tiajuana. During the Great Depression, whole citrus towns were evacuated and deported back to Mexico, so as to provide unemployed Anglos with jobs. This historical reality is described at length in the book Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s by Francisco E. Balderrama and Raymond Rodriguez. According to scholar Gilbert Gonzales, author of Labor and Community: Mexican Citrus Worker Villages in a Southern California County, 1900-1950, these "citrus towns" were pervasive throughout Orange County in the 20th century, and they evolved into the present-day “barrios”.
"He 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."
--Juanita Ferraris, granddaughter of Domingo and Marie Bastanchury, from a 1968 CSUF Oral History Program interview
"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."
--Juanita Ferraris, recalling her grandmother’s view of Native Americans and “colored” people
"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."
--Juanita Ferraris, on the Bastanchury Ranch “citrus towns”
Another Pioneer is Laid to Rest: Domingo Bastanchury Dies at Ripe Age. Los Angeles Herald, Volume 36, Number 297, 25 July 1909, Page 7, Column D.
Balderrama, Francisco E. and Raymond Rodriguez. Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s, Revised Ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006.
Ferraris, Juanita (Domingo's granddaughter) in a 1968 interview for the CSUF Oral History Program.
Gonzales, Gilbert. Labor and Community: Mexican Citrus Worker Villages in a Southern California County, 1900-1950. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994.
Photo Courtesy of the Launer Local History Room of the Fullerton Public Library