This gentleman deserves so much more than a simple grave marker saying, "Father - Joseph J. Lopez - 1852 - 1939". The man's true name was José Jesús Lopez (or J. J.). Among other things he was in charge of all of the animals on Rancho El Tejón for almost 60 years. He was hired by General Edward F. Beale in 1874 to manage his 95,000 sheep, then in 1885 they switched to cattle. J. J. retired as Majordomo in 1933 but stayed on the ranch as a valued advisor until his death in 1939. Several years prior to his death, J.J. was interviewed by local historian Mr. Frank Latta. With J.J.'s help, Frank wrote and published the book, "Saga of Rancho El Tejón". Every word was reviewed and approved by J.J.
· First, according to J.J. his last name in not pronounced Lo - Pez. It is pronounced as Lopes. In his own words, "A horse does not gallop, he lopes, and that is how my name is pronounce."
· His roots were from Spain, and possibly came to Mexico with Cortéz. Records show there were nine soldiers with the name of Lopez when Cortéz came to explore Mexico in 1540.
· His Great-Great-Grandfather, Ygnacio Lopez was born in Mexico in 1716 and was buried at mission San Juan Capistrano in 1781. Ygnacio's wife, Maria Recunda de Mora de Lopez was of noble birth and was related to the Duke de Medina of Spain.
· Ygnacio's two sons, Juan Francisco and Claudio helped to put down a revolution in Mexico, and in return were placed in charge of the thousands of Indians while the church was building the Missions in California. Claudio was later named Alcaldé (mayor) of the Pueblo of Los Angeles. When they died, Claudio and his wife were buried at Mission San Gabriel. Juan Francisco was buried at Mission San Fernando.
· His Grandfather, Esteban Lopez was a successful businessman, a freighter (ox drawn carts) in Los Angeles and near Mission San Fernando. Esteban's brother was Pedro Lopes.
· J.J.'s father and mother, Jerónimo (son of Esteban), and Catalina (daughter of Pedro) also add some interesting history.
› Jerónimo was proprietor of a local state stop, appropriately called Lopez Station (now under Lake Van Orman).
› He was also the very first postmaster in San Fernando, and he organized the first public school there.
› He was also the young messenger who carried the white flag of truce for the troops of Don Pio Pico when he surrendered to John C. Fremont at the battle of Cahuenga.
› J.J.'s mother, Catalina, had some good and some not-so-good members in her family. The good one? Francisco Lopez, the man who found gold in Placerita Canyon in 1842 (six years before James Marshall's 1848 discovery.) The not-so-good one? Tiburcio Vasquez (the outlaw) was a cousin of hers.
It would take many pages to enlighten everyone to all of the accomplishments of Don José Jesús Lopez, but here are a couple that really stand out.
· In May 1879 J.J. and his Vaqueros drove a herd of 16,000 sheep from Rancho El Tejón all the way to Cheyenne, Wyoming —- it took 6 months!
· What type of man was J.J.? Well, how much of a man would it take to be standing at the train station in Tehachapi when a nurse opened the door of the train and asked "Would anyone like a little girl" (her parents were recently killed in a Typhoid epidemic back East.) J.J. and his wife Mary (Winter) Lopez took in Margaret Pearl and raised her as their own.
Now you can see why the simple grave marker is just not enough for this great man? This memorial is being placed here with the permission of J.J.'s family and the Historic Union Cemetery. Developed/donated by Susan Jayne Hotchkiss-Price & Alan Price, Nov. 3, 2014