Ulpiano Yndart, Treasurer of Santa Barbara
(Hondarribia, Gipuzkoa, 1828 – Santa Barbara, California, 1902)
Ulpiano Yndart, treasurer of the city of Santa Barbara, was born in Hondarribia in 1828. Ulpiano’s father was Norberto Jose Yndart Vidarray and his mother was Maria Carmen Arburu Lazcanotegui. Ulpiano’s journey to the Americas began at the age of 16, when, after having completed his business studies, he was offered a business job in a Mexican company. The news of the discovery of gold in California reached Mexico in 1848, and he soon prepared to go to the promised land. He embarked the brig Keoneana, his uncle José Domingo’s ship, in 1849.
First, he settled in Los Angeles where he opened and ran a trading company for five years. Immediately after, Ulpiano bought Rancho Nojoqui in Santa Ynez Valley, today’s Santa Barbara County.
Owner of Rancho Nojoqui and Foreman of Rancho Los Cerritos
Because the robust economy of Santa Ynez Valley depended fundamentally on cattle, Yndart’s business prospered greatly, growing to over 1,000 head of cattle in a few years. In 1864, however, devastating droughts ravaged the Santa Ynez Valley pastures and killed entire herds of cattle. This event left Yndart and many other Californios no choice but to sell their estates to newly-arrived Anglo Americans.
Ulpiano was elected Treasurer of the town of Santa Barbara the very same year, but he resigned the office when John Temple offered him the foreman position at Rancho Los Cerritos in today’s Los Angeles County.
Treasurer of Santa Barbara
After John Temple died in 1866, Yndart moved permanently to Santa Barbara, serving in many important positions. In 1867, the Santa Barbara Town Council Board unanimously elected him Secretary and Treasurer. He was also City and County Tax Collector, and in 1869, he was appointed a Notary Public. He was one of the members of the board that supervised the creation of Ventura County in the beginning of the 1870s. Author Jesse D. Mason suggests that during that period of time, Yndart “[was] a consistent Democrat, prominent and active in his party, exerting a powerful influence over its members.”i
In 1856, Ulpiano Yndart married his cousin Feliciana Yndart, daughter of José Domingo Yndart, the sea captain and owner of Keoneana, the brig that brought Ulpiano to California. Captain Yndart sailed the sea route connecting the ports of Mexico, Acapulco, and Chile before California became part of the U.S. Ulpiano and Feliciana had one child, the beautiful Blanca Yndart Yndart. Some authors suggest that Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona was inspired by her life story.
Blanca Yndart: “The Human Document behind Ramona.”
According to Sarah Bixby Smith’s Adobe Daysii, at that time wagons had to follow a dangerous and rough route along the beach from Santa Barbara to Ventura. There was an accident once. Ulpiano Yndart had accepted the foreman position at John Temple’s Rancho Los Cerritos. When he was on his way from Santa Barbara to the ranch, Ulpiano and his family carried their valuables in their vehicle. When they drove around a promontory, a giant wave caught the vehicle and one of Captain Yndart’s treasure chests was washed into the sea.
When Mrs. Yndart later fell sick, she knew she would not live long, so she left left her 5-year-old daughter Blanca and a surviving chest under the care of Senator Del Valle’s mother. She kept the chest as a dowry for the girl. It contained the treasure her grandfather Captain José Domingo Yndart had amassed during his 40 years of seafaring: “a large cross of pearls, a rosary of pearls, and a single pearl, pear-shaped, of extraordinary dimensions, an East Indian shawl of texture so delicate that it could be drawn through an ordinary finger-ring….”
During the 1880s, writer Helen Hunt Jackson, an ardent activist for Native American rights, felt the need to capture their struggle in a book, noting, “If I could write a story that would do for the Indian one-hundredth part what Uncle Tom’s Cabin did for the Negro, I would be thankful the rest of my life.” To that end, Jackson traveled to southern California in 1881 and 1882 to interview a variety of people. She heard about Blanca Yndart’s story through the words of Mrs. Mariana Colonel. According to many who witnessed the trips Mrs. Colonel and Jackson took together “Blanca was the true human document behind Ramona.”iii
The Captain’s chest was well-kept until the day his granddaughter Blanca Yndart married James McGuire.
Bixby Smith, Sarah (1931). Adobe Days. University of Nebraska Press, page 49.
Davis, Carlyle Channing; Alderson, William A. (c.1914). The True Story of Ramona, Dodge Publishing Company, New York.
Hunt Jackson, Helen (2005). Ramona. The Modern Library, New York.
Mason, Jesse D. (1883). History of Santa Barbara County, California, with illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers. Thompson & West, Oakland, California.
iMason, page 233.
iiBixby Smith, page 49.
iiiDavis eta Alderson, page 35.
Ulpiano Yndart Photo: Mason, Jesse D.: History of Santa Barbara County.
Sheep shearers, Rancho Los Cerritos, Spring of 1872. http://www.rancholoscerritos.org/history.html
Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona.
Blanca Yndart. Photo: Davis, Carlyle Channing; Alderson, William A.: The True Story of Ramona.