Born in 1801, Bernardo Yorba petitioned Mexican Governor Figueroa for 13,000 acres of land on the northern side of the banks of the Santa Ana River in 1834. He was granted the land and named it Rancho Cañon de Santa Ana, the Canyon of Saint Anne. Bernardo continued to develop and perfect irrigation systems tapping into the waters of the Santa Ana River, establishing fruit orchards, vegetable gardens, vineyards and a grist mill in addition to his cattle operations. Bernardo also constructed a two-story adobe home on a bluff overlooking the river with approximately 50 rooms.
In his will dated two weeks before his death in 1858, Bernardo Yorba deeded to the Bishop of the Catholic Church a plot of land to the west of his home containing an adobe chapel already under construction, and 100 feet square of land for the establishment of a cemetery. This later land, called the La Mesita, was a gently sloping hill with some corrals located on it. The corrals would be removed and transformed in to the Yorba Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Orange County predated only by the Mission Cemetery in Capistrano.
The cemetery closed in 1939, and would fall victim of vandals who defaced and stole many of the rustic markers and marble headstones. As part of their dedication to the preservation of Orange County's cultural history, the Board of Supervisors in 1967 accepted the deed of the cemetery from the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The Yorba Cemetery exists today as a reminder of the pioneer families of Orange County’s rancho era.
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