Legacy of Family With Deep California Roots Lives On

In California, we are reminded of our first Spanish settlers all the time, but not all are just antiquated reminders of our past.

Jonathan Lorenzo Yorba continues to honor his family's legacy to this day. He's dedicated to helping people in the very same communities his ancestors once called home as chief executive of the Community Foundation.

The Community Foundation, the oldest and largest community foundation in all of Riverside San Bernardino counties, is celebrating 75 years this month. Its mission is to strengthen inland Southern California through philanthropy.

The Yorba family roots in America date back to 1769, when much of the West Coast was controlled by the Spanish Empire. When Jose Antonio Yorba, one of the solider escorts to the king of Spain arrived, he was granted thousands upon thousands of acres for his services to the crown.

"There is a saying in my family: 'As far as you can see, this is Yorba land,'" Jonathan Lorenzo Yorba says.

He was told at one point "Yorba land" stretched from San Juan Capistrano to San Francisco. The Yorbas and other prominent families worked their properties until they prospered with livestock and agriculture.

By the mid-1800s, they were called ranchos, with names like San Joaquin, Palos Verdes, La Cienega, Los Cerritos and Santa Ana.


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In one photo, Juan Antonio Yorba could be seen posing with the Sepulveda brothers.

"People were at peace, they enjoyed one another's company," Jonathan Lorenzo Yorba says.

But in a new country, growing pains were inevitable.

"California ultimately became a republic, there was the Mexican-American War - all of that turmoil occurred, and my family was witness to that history," Yorba says.

When he was just boy, the patriarch of his family told him something he vowed never to forget.

"He would say, 'Remember, always remember, you are going to be somebody.' So to have that instilled in you at an early age I think has held me in a number of situations," Yorba says.

Though he wonders if the motto and the memories may fade, just look to the Community Foundation, where assistance is given to those who live on what was once Yorba land and where Yorba lessons still resonate each and every day.

"Whether you call it charity or philanthropy or helping somebody out, that comes from deep within me, and that comes from my family.

Yorba acknowledges the land the Yorbas' were given by the king of Spain centuries ago belonged to Native Americans. The Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations and Inland Southern California Tribes will be honored when the Community Foundation hosts its 75th anniversary gala on Oct. 15th in Riverside.

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