The Valley of Heart's Delight



The interest which attaches to the biography of California pioneers is an expression of gratitude which their fellow-citizens feel towards those forerunners of civilization who have done so much to make both habitable and attractive this glorious section of the Far West. Not only as a pioneer of the state, but also as one of the early residents of San Jose and vicinity, Maria Antonia Careaga enjoys the respect and esteem of the citizens of Santa Clara County.

Mrs. Careaga's maiden name was Maria A. Bonevantur, a daughter of Monsieur Bernardo Bonevantur, who had come from France and married Albina Boronda, a charming member of one of the very early pure Castilian families of Monterey. Her father was a carpenter at San Juan Bautista, and passed away when our subject was only ten years old. Her mother reared the family as best she could, the only one now surviving being the subject of this sketch. Her maternal grandfather Boronda was a native Californian, but great-grandfather Boronda came from Spain.

Maria A. Bonevantur received her education in the San Juan convent, and her marriage to Ramon F. Careaga was solemnized amid all the festivities characteristic of the social life in a family of such ancient traditions. After their marriage at the old historical mission, she accompanied her husband to his ranch and was his able helpmate and counsellor, encouraging him in his ambitions, and success came to them above their greatest expectations.

For many generations the Careaga family has been distinguished in California not only for its participation in the gradual development of the state, but because it is one of the important historical links between Castilian Spain and the flourishing colonies which her prophetic vision and unbounded energy planted in the New World. The earliest Careaga of whom we have record as a direct forebear of this esteemed family, was Spanish nobleman born in medieval Castile and sent to Mexico as a military man by the King of Spain. A descendant was Colonel Satornino Careaga, also a soldier, who came from Mexico to Monterey, California, when he was but seventeen years old. He was a member of Captain Muñoz's command, and with all the chivalry ever characteristic of the Careagas, he risked his life and sacrificed his comfort to protect the dependent and exposed San Jose Mission. His son, Ramon F. Careaga, the husband of our subject, who died on February 7, 1914, was a handsome, splendidly preserved gentleman, who could look back to many stirring events in which he had participated, or of which his father, in the good old days when the Spanish Dons gathered their children about them, had told him as a part of the cherished family tradition. There were personal anecdotes about Governor Portola, and the expedition to Monterey; there were recollections of Pio Pico, Echeandia, Micheltorena, Castro, Flores, Juan Bandini, Abel Stearns, and finally of Fremont and Stockton, with all of whom and their contemporaries the Careagas had had much to do, first in fighting for Spain and then for Mexico, and ultimately in helping to build up your America on the Coast.

With a brother, Juan B. Careaga, also born in Monterey County, and Daniel Harris, Ramon bought about 18,000 acres of the old ranch belonging to the De la Guerras (early Spaniards who, with their wide territory, figured prominently in the state history); and later, in the division, Harris took some 7,500 acres, while the Careaga brothers held more than 10,000. In the final subdivision, Ramon received 6,970, and this property has become the center of the Santa Maria oil fields. More than that, it was on Ramon Careaga's historic land that oil was first discovered in the Santa Maria Valley. One day, while the Careagas were walking across their finely situated acres, one of the parties discovered, here and there, some outcroppings of asphalt--an intruder on the surface of the rich soil which would have been most unwelcome had not the experience of the intelligent observer recognized in the dark substance the coveted indications of rich oil deposits. It was not long before that which was assumed and hoped for to be true was proven a certainty. On March 14, 1900, the erection of the great rig for the first well was begun and they soon struck oil, but the well had to be abandoned on account of some obstacle. A similar experience was met in the attempt to sink well number 2; but nothing daunted, the riggers and drillers moved farther up the canyon and soon had, in well number 3, such a flow of oil that at last the precious liquid was obtained in paying quantities. The long waited-for event was duly celebrated by a big barbecue, for which the hospitable Careagas furnished four of their choicest beeves, the meat being partaken of by hundreds of visitors.

After her husband's death, Mrs. Careaga moved to San Jose, where she enjoys a quiet and comfortable life. They were the parents of eleven children: Luis S. is married and resides at Santa Barbara; Ramon A. married Miss Cora Riley and they have two children, Ramon F. and Alberto J. and reside in San Jose; he passed away in 1919; John T. married Miss Alberta Roe and they have one child, Adelbert; Eleanor M. became the wife of John Carr and the mother of two sons, John F. and Leland and they reside on the Careaga ranch; Bernardo F. married Miss Gussie Hawkins and they have two children, William B. and Eugene F.; he passed away in 1919; Antonio F. resides on the Careaga ranch and so does James F., who is a farmer and stockman; and Charles M. resides on the northwest oil lease of the Careaga ranch near Bicknell, and looks after the oil and gas interests of the estate. He married Miss J. Hawkins and they have one child, Durwind; Rita J. is the wife of Mr. Hawkins and they reside in San Jose. Evangeline is now Mrs. Dana, also on Careaga ranch, Santa Barbara County. Angela is Mrs. Suffert and makes her home in San Jose.

Mrs. Careaga had the comfort and pleasure of having her mother with her during her last days and enjoyed ministering to her comforts until she passed away at the age of seventy-seven. Mrs. Careaga has always been interested in educational affairs and during her husband's lifetime gave land for two school sites on their property. Mrs. Careaga resides in a comfortable residence on Sierra Avenue, San Jose, and enjoys dispensing the same old-time California hospitality that her husband and their forebears were so noted for.

transcribed byJoseph Kral, from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California, published by Historic Record Co. , 1922 -page 484