Santa Teresa Ranch and Springs, California

Bernal-Gulnac-Joice Ranch

One of my early adventures first recorded in my journal was the dusk hike at the Bernal-Gulnac-Joice Ranch. My other town travels during the summer in Philippines are not yet written, and I am quite sad about that.

To preserve the memories of my travels, I finally decided to keep a journal, and my writing began in the month of December. A few days after Christmas, I developed a slight fever that I had to skip work but I did went to church that morning and that afternoon, my sister Abby forced me to go hiking with her.

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Entrance to the Ranch

She knows that I enjoy history as much as she likes traveling and going on adventures. On that day, near our home, we set out to the Ranch that we usually passed by but never really paid attention until now. It was almost 4 or 5pm when we arrived at the park and it was dark and empty. The ranch houses were closed but the trail was opened so we went in. In the trail, you can see signs and information about the Ranch.

Originally named Rancho Santa Teresa, this and neighboring properties were part of nearly 10,000 acres of land granted to Jose Joaquin Bernal by the Mexican government in 1834. Bernal descendants have continuously owned and lived on portions of the original rancho since 1826. Built in the mid 1800s this ranch was occupied by descendants of the Bernal and Gulnac families and maintained as a family-operated cattle ranch until 1980 when it was sold to IBM. The buildings are now restored to reflect what life was like here during the late 1800s and early 1900s.”

Bernal Hacienda at Rancho Santa Teresa

This sketch depicts what the Bernal Hacienda may have looked like in the 1820s. Visible are several adobe buildings, pens and corrals loacated in the area below the Santa Teresa Spring. With the an economy based on hides and tallow, a rancho family’s wealth revolved around the number of cattle it owned. Jose Joaquin Bernal processed about 5,000 hides, called leatherbacks, every year. Hides were traded for goods that the early Californios could not make, such as windows, watches, guns and fine clothing. By the time of his death in 1837, Jose Joaquin’s 13 children and extended family of 78 dependents occupied the rancho property.”

Ygnacio Bernal

There are also information about Cattle Ranching changing to Farming as stated, “During the later 1800s, the developing Santa Clara Valley demanded an increase in farm products. California settlements needed wheat and produce to feed growing Gold Rush populations. When the Transcontinental Railroad of 1869 linked the valley to the national markets, fruit became Santa Clara County’s leading products. To keep up with the local economic markets, Rancho Santa Teresa lands transitioned from cattle to farming. Ygnacio Bernal wisely planted orchards, hay and other crops on his inherited 395 acres.”

The Santa Teresa Springs

Afterwards, we went up the wooden stairs to the Santa Teresa Springs where we learned about the history and legends behind it.

The native Ohlone Indians lived here because of the spring’s never-ending flow. A retired Spanish soldier, Jose Joaquin Bernal, settled here and built his rancho to take advantage of the life-giving water in an often drought-ridden country. For the following 150 years, Jose Joaquin’s descendants continually occupied the land adjacent to the Santa Teresa Spring, drawing on its endless supply of fresh water to provide for herds of cattle, hayfields, vineyards, orchards and family needs.

The Santa Teresa Spring water sustained family and business through the changing times. During the rancho period, Bernal Hacienda adobe buildings were supplied with spring water using a tile-lined water ditch system. Ygnacio Bernal later created a 35,000 gallon reservoir to store water for the family’s farming and orchard operations. This reservoir is also noted as the first man made swimming pool in the Santa Clara valley.

The Folklore, Santa Teresa Statue and Dona Jesusita Bernal

Then there were folktales about the sacredness of the Spring, oral stories were passed down generations to generations until it was finally written in the 1930s.  “The local Indians became deathly sick, possibly from painting their bodies with red (mercury containing) cinnabar. After a failed attempt to placate the Great Spirit, Ohlone Chief Umunhum gathered everyone at their meeting place of the gigantic rock. Umunhum shot an arrow with a feather tied to into the sky as finally request for help. A woman in flowing black robe appeared and touched the rock with a silver cross. Water gushed from the rock and the woman motioned the Indians to drunk and bathe in the stream. The sick were cured.

In 1925, Fathers Seraphina and Ricarti of the Holy Family Church came to the Rancho and presented Dona Jesusita Bernal with a medallion blessed by the Pope and a statue of Santa Teresa brought from Rome. In 1928, to honor his deceased mother, Pedro Bernal built a shrine next to the spring and placed the medallion and statue inside.

This concludes our first adventure together.  It got dark too quickly and the wind was so cold that we headed to our car and went home. The history of the Bernal Ranch helped us to understand more of the Santa Teresa area and the roads they were named after. Behind those commercial establishments, residential areas, Kaiser Permanente, and apartment complexes, there is a piece of the past left behind. Situated in a corner by the hills was where it all started. As we drove home, I knew it was only the beginning of our new adventures of locating interesting, historical places. In fact, I was right about that. Also, if you are curious, I finally felt better the following day, probably due to the changing weather.

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