Street named for actress and member of illustrious family

Del Valle Avenue, in the Verdugo Woodlands area of Glendale, is named for Lucretia del Valle, granddaughter of the owner of Rancho Camulos, one of the original land grants near what is now Piru. She was also an actress, which is what brought her to Glendale in 1917.

Del Valle’s family home, Rancho Camulos, provided one of the settings for Helen Hunt Jackson’s epic novel, “Ramona.” The incredibly popular story of Ramona, daughter of an Anglo and a Native American who was raised on the fictional Moreno Ranch, brought thousands of tourists here expressly to see the “home” of the fictional Ramona.

Many visited Camulos, where the del Valles lived until 1924.

The 48,000-acre land grant was awarded to Antonio del Valle in 1839. He died just two years later and when the land was divided, his oldest son, Ygnacio, received 1,800 acres near the old Indian village of Camulos. He created a prosperous ranch with thousands of head of cattle and acres of orange groves and vineyards. Many of the local Indians lived and worked there, according to the ranch’s website.

After Ygnacio del Valle lost his first wife in childbirth, he married a 15-year-old girl, Ysabel Varela. When he died in 1880, she took over the rancho, assisted by her sons. One was Reginaldo, a state senator and father of Lucretia. By 1882, the grounds included a winery, chapel and grape arbor. The fields were thick with crops such as oranges, almonds, walnuts, apricots, wheat and corn.

In January, 1882, writer Helen Hunt Jackson made a short visit to California. Jackson had been appalled by the plight of the American Indians, who were losing their grounds to the expanding movement west. She had written one article on the issue and decided to see for herself how the Indians were being displaced. She visited many locations, including Rancho Camulos.

Several places have claimed to be the inspiration for the Moreno Ranch, but Camulos had writer and historian Charles Fletcher Lummis behind its claim.

Four years after “Ramona” was published, Lummis visited the ranch and published a book “Home of Ramona,” with many photographs, including one of a room that he called Ramona’s bedroom.

But enough history. Here’s the Glendale connection: Lummis appeared at the formal opening of Verdugo Woodlands in June 1917. Appearing with him was Lucretia del Valle of the Rancho Camulos family and also the popular leading lady in the “Mission Play,” the story of the founding of the California Missions, written by John Steven McGroarty.

Lummis spoke grandly of the transformation of the “grim old West into the grand new West,” and how the new residential area combined the “luxuries of the plutocrat without much marring the things the pioneer loves,” reported the Glendale Evening News, June 11, 1917.

Lummis introduced del Valle as “the loveliest flower in California.” She spoke to the assembled crowd, charming them as she did all her audiences.

“She is an orator-poet of whom even the old Spanish Dons might well be proud,” concluded the Glendale Evening News writer.

Glendalians must have agreed, later naming a street after her, according to the Glendale News-Press, Feb. 13, 1975.

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To the Reader:

The novel “Ramona,” written by Helen Hunt Jackson and published in 1884, was hugely popular, selling 15,000 copies in the first year. The romantic story had a tremendous impact on Southern California, bringing waves of tourists from the East who wanted to see the places referenced in the novel.

Many locations proclaimed themselves “Ramona” sites and invited visitors.

Schools, streets and even towns were named after the novel’s heroine, according to the Rancho Camulos website. The book also inspired songs, a long-running pageant in Hemet and several movies. A silent film starring Mary Pickford as Ramona was filmed at Rancho Camulos in 1910. Rancho Camulos is still open to visitors. See their website for details www.ranchocamulos.org.

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