Local Family Histories
'Working to preserve the rich heritage of the Temecula Valley'
Biography of Jose Maria Gonzalez
Research Compiled by Malcolm Barnett
   Jose Maria Gonzalez was born in Cadiz Spain and studied to become a priest. Instead of taking his vows for the priesthood, he went to Scotland and studied to become an accountant. While in Scotland, he worked for a shipping company.

    He arrived in San Francisco in the late 1860's, via Scotland, England, China, and the Philippines. He located in the San Joaquin Valley. There he met Juan Murrieta, who was also from the same Basque region in Spain. He joined in partnership with Juan Murrieta. At about that same time, Murrieta and his partners bought the Temecula and Pauba Ranchos consisting of 52,000 acres.

    When Jose came to the Temecula Rancho with Juan Murrieta in 1874, he kept the books and helped Murrieta manage the Temecula and Pauba Ranchos.

    When Charles Sumner brought his family from England and established his home on Rancho Laguna, he brought a governess for his children, to see that they were properly educated. Her name was Grace Street. When Sumner drove to Temecula, to learn from Jose Gonzalez, how to build a fireplace. The two men must have developed a friendship, and Gonzalez must have made numerous trips to the Sumner's. His interest was more in the governess, Grace Street. The Sumner's soon tired of life in the country and moved to Los Angeles. But Jose's Gonzalez, (who's first wife had died before reaching America) had fallen in love with Grace Street. On March 27, 1876 they were married at Juan Murrieta's Temecula Rancho (in Long Valley) in San Diego County.

    At first the Gonzalez's lived with Juan Murrieta (who also got married around the same time).

    When Jose came to the Temecula Rancho in 1874 with Juan Murrieta and bought 60 acres, part of the old land grant where he built his adobe home for his wife, Grace Street, and their two children, Ormiston and Ysabel. Their daughter, Ysabel, was always known as the first white girl born (April 25, 1879) and raised in the area. Four months after her birth, the family moved into the Old Adobe Home. Which still stands and is the namesake of Old Adobe Plaza, on Jefferson Street.

    Jose Gonzalez became on official citizen on 9-27-1881 in San Bernardino County. The document was stamped by County Clerk A.F.U. Henny. Gonzalez was the son of J.M. and Candelaria (Pery) Gonzalez, both natives of Spain. The father died in Spain, but the mother eventually came to the United States and reside in Nevada, where she died at the age of 92.

    Jose Gonzalez was considered one of the most prominent citizens of Temecula. He became the deputy assessor in 1884, when this area was San Diego County. He continued to be appointed to his county post until retirement. He also became Riverside County's first Tax Collector. Jose, also founded the first Temecula School District in 1888. He was one of its first trustees.

    In later years, a letter to Horace Parker (local historian), Ysabel recalled Mercedes Pujol made her first and only trip to Temecula in 1884. After Domingo Pujol died, she came here with her father and sister to settle the estate and my father helped her. They stayed with our family most of the time and I was about 5 years old. My mother drove them every day to the hot springs (Murrieta Hot Springs) to take baths.

    Note: Mercedes Pujol donated the site that the one room school was built on, known as the Pujol School.

    Ysabel said she attended that school, which was on the site of the Union School, which was built in 1915. (Now the location of the Temecula Museum). Before the 1888 school was built, Ysabel and others attended school in a room of the Temecula Hotel and also in a shoe-makers shop on front Street.

    Jose & Grace Gonzalez's daughter, Ysabel, later became Ysabel Barnett, affectionately called Aunt Bessie, was a real-life example of the perfect pioneer, maiden, wife, mother and community matriarch. Ysabel died on March 19, 1969.

    She was honored by the TVUSD by having a school named after her, called the Ysabel Barnett Elementary School. Dedicated on September 21, 2001.

    Jose. Grace, Ormiston, and Ysabel are buried in the Temecula Cemetery.