Jose Antonio showed me the power of honesty and integrity
My great great grandfather Jose Antonio Perez taught me about honor and integrity. Even though I never met him, I learned he possessed those virtues though the stories of his life.
Jose Antonio Perez was born at “La Mission Vieja”, the Old San Gabriel Mission in 1839. As a young boy he and his father traveled to San Lorenzo Rancho near Willows, California. His father took the position as head vaquero. Jose Antonio became one of the most skillful vaqueros in that part of the state and a great asset to the rancho for his ability to ride 30 wild horses in a day. When he was 21 years old, he missed his family, so his father gave up his position and they returned home. His father returned to San Lorenzo Rancho leaving behind a $250 debt to Ramon Vejar at Rancho San Jose. Jose Antonio went to work off the debt owed to Ramon Vejar in what is now the Pomona Valley. San Lorenzo Rancho’s landowner traveled down to entice Jose Antonio into returning up north and offered to pay off the debt. Jose Antonio even replied “No” to $500 in gold. It was a matter of honor for him to serve out the time that his father had contracted with Ramon Vejar. He could not go back on his word.
Jose Antonio Perez next went to work for Louis Phillips where he became the ranch foreman at the Phillips Ranch near Spadra. He stayed with Phillips for the rest of his working life not only as ranch foreman but as his friend. Buyers sought him out due to his knowledge of cattle and sheep and for pointers he would give. They relied on his honesty and opinions. Known for his large stature and broad smile he always made a favorable impression.
For over 50 years Jose Antonio Perez “rode the range” in the Pomona Valley, herded thousands of sheep, superintended Great Shearing Days, bought and sold cattle by the hundreds, rode wild horses which other vaqueros would not dare to mount and in all these rough pioneer days earned the admiration and respect of his friends. Jose Antonio Perez passed away in 1922.