Friday, September 3, 2010

Guirado Park, Whittier, Cal.

At Orange Drive and Pioneer Boulevard is a very clean park.  It is across the street from homes backed up against the 605 San Gabriel River Freeway, but the sound wall does a good job in keeping the traffic noise away.

(Click on image to zoom in)

What is the significance of the park name?.  At least one Guirado family played prominently in early Southern California:  Rafael Guirado was a Spaniard who came to Los Angeles by way of Mexico in 1833.  He may have been a merchant in the city of Los Angeles around the year 1838.  He married Vicenta Urquides, a native of Los Angeles.  They had a handful of children, including Maria Jesus, Juan Francisco, and Bernardino.  (Update June 12, 2016:  Rafael may have eloped with his first cousin, a Botello, from their hometown Alamos, Sonora.  She died around January, 1834 in Los Angeles.  Rafael soon remarried to Maria Vicenta, a local girl. [Source:  Narciso Botello's Annals of Southern California 1833-1847 by Brent C. Dickerson, 2014]).

Maria Jesus Guirado married an Irishman named John Gately Downey in 1852, not long after he settled locally.  He was a successful businessman and landowner; he became Governor during the Civil War years; and he is the namesake for the city of Downey.  Sadly, he lost his wife Maria to a tragic train accident at Tehachapi in 1883.

Juan Francisco Guirado, a younger brother, was a California native.  He had a strong military relationship with his brother-in-law, Governor Downey.  Among his tours of duty included the rank of 1st Lieutenant Company B 1st Cavalry California Volunteers, 1861.  In another tour he served as 1st Lieutenant Company L 11th Cavalry Missouri Volunteers, 1865.

Bernardino Guirado, the youngest, was born near the Los Angeles Plaza in May, 1845.  He was educated at Santa Ynez College at Santa Barbara.  He settled in Los Nietos in 1864, completing nearly four decades there until his death in 1903.  He was the merchant for the Pioneer Store at today's Los Nietos Road and Norwalk Boulevard.  He was also credited with early walnut ranching in the area, founding the Los Nietos Water Company, and serving as a trustee of the Los Nietos school district.  In the bits of information found about his life, he was considered a kind, respected man who valued education.  He lost his first wife, Eduarda Poyorena, after she gave birth to their son; he remarried Luz Sanchez and completed their family with the birth of a daughter, Margarita.  He was described as a self-made man; he had oil interests in Santa Fe Springs and Rancho LaBrea that later sustained his family following his death.  

Update May 27, 2016:  Suggested by T. Herzog, I am posting an image that is available from Calisphere of the Luz Guirado house once at 11512 Los Nietos Road in what is now Santa Fe Springs.  T. Herzog informed me that the structure burned down in the mid 1970s. 


Courtesy of Calisphere/Santa Fe Springs Historical Photograph Collection

Another Bernardino Guirado?

The Guirado family history does not answer the question about Guirado Park's name.  The park's proximity by a few block north of Pio Pico's former home is a clue.  When California transitioned to the new American government following Mexico's defeat in the war with the U.S. in 1848, landownership had to be proven.  Pio Pico, Juan Perez, Joaquina Sepulveda and Bernardino Guirado filed claims for Rancho Paso de Bartolo in 1852.  While Pico and Perez were confirmed with the bulk of the land, Sepulveda and Guirado also received their share. Guirado received 875 acres.  Perhaps the park sits on some of those acres.  However, this Guirado is not the same Bernardino, and this can be explained by the dates:  in 1852, the Bernardino Guirado first mentioned above would have been only 7 years old.  The land petitioner was probably another individual, perhaps an uncle with the same name, residing in Los Nietos.

Park Named After a County Supervisor?

The other mystery is that the Los Angeles County's website describes Bernardino Guirado to have been a County Supervisor from 1859 to 1860.  If the County's facts are correct, the time frame would attribute this person to be the much older land petitioner.  (However, merchant Bernardino was also described to have "at the age of 16 years began clerking for his brother-in-law, Gov. Downey, at Los Nietos, in this county.")

(Update:  Virginia Mahoney's book, Whittier Revisited, explains that the main road through here before the 605 San Gabriel River Freeway took it out, was Guirado Road.  The park was dedicated on March 18, 1980 after the freeway was completed.  The guest of honor on that day was Judge Edward Guirado, retired from the Municipal Court in Whittier and Superior Court of Norwalk.  He was there to represent the Bernardino Guirado family.  E.Uyeda, 8/28/2011)

History of the Californios

The Guirado name is indicative of some of the regional history and the struggles of the Californio period:  the Los Nietos corner of today's Santa Fe Springs was just a fraction of the expansive 1784 Spanish land grant to soldier Manuel Nieto.  The rancho was later divided into smaller ranchos, including Santa Gertrudes (acquired by John Downey).  One or more Guirado's were likely in the middle of the competition for water, too, thus the Los Nietos Water Company was one remedy.  Water rights were also impacted in the mid 1860s, when the Rio San Gabriel changed course, shifting itself a few miles east.

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