California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
JOHN BATISTE LAFOURCADE owns and conducts one of the largest vineyards in Southern California controlled by an individual. The Lafourcade Packing House is three miles east of Cucamonga, on Foothill Boulevard, and his extensive vineyards are in the Etiwanda district. This brief article can barely suggest the superhuman energy, patience, courage and resourcefulness that enabled Mr. Lafourcade to achieve his place of preeminence among Southern California vineyardists.
He was born April 26, 1871, at Lahontan in Southern France, son of John and Jeanne (Minvelle) Lafourcade. His parents were natives of Southern France, his father born in 1840 and his mother in 1843, and his father was a grape grower and wine maker. John Batiste Lafourcade had the advantage of school only one year between the ages of nine and ten. He grew up in a vineyard, learned its work as rapidly as his strength developed, and he became well qualified in every branch of viticulture when a boy. When he left France to come to America he carried with him the highest credentials as to character and industry. He sailed from Bordeaux August 26, 1888, and after a tedious voyage landed at New Orleans and thence came direct to Pomona, California. For five years Mr. Lafourcade was at Puente as a .vaquero, teamster and in other forms of hard labor. This was followed by a year of employment in the Brookside winery near Redlands.
Out of this season of hard labor his thrift had enabled him to save about twelve hundred dollars, which he deposited in the American National Bank of Pomona. In the meantime the Nesbit Brothers had cleared land and planted a large acreage at Etiwanda to prunes, peaches and apricots. It was an enterprise that came to disaster and the firm failed, owing the bank at Pomona about twelve thousand dollars. The bank held the land as security, though this security was regarded as practically worthless.
It was at this juncture that Mr. Lafourcade investigated the proposition, and succeeded in making arrangements with the bank to attempt to restore the property to usefulness. The contract was that he was to receive no salary, and depend on results for his compensation. He moved into an old house, living among the Chinamen who were working on the land, and he himself worked like a slave for a year. In this time he had spent all his accumulated twelve hundred dollars of savings, and had to acknowledge that the orchard was hopeless. The only encouraging result of his year's labor was his discovery that the soil was much like that of his native Southern France, well adapted for vines. With this knowledge he went to the bank and after explaining how he had spent the savings of his years and could promise no results along the lines of the original proposition, he said if he could be given a contract of sale with the privilege of destroying the deciduous trees and planting grapes in their stead he could promise a thriving industry and one that would show profit in time. The president of the American National Bank of Pomona accepted the proposition. Mr. Lafourcade assumed the heavy obligation, used the old trees for fence posts, to wire the rabbits out of his vineyards, and he was also accorded the privilege of a checking account for bare expenses. This credit was granted wholly on his good name and the confidence inspired by him in the banking officials. Having this contract Mr. Lafourcade toiled long hours, fought the north winds and drifting sand, and for the first two years there was an unprecedented rainfall. There was no irrigation, and he even hauled domestic water the first two years. People thought him insane and ignorant when he planted grape cuttings in the bare desert sand without water. His first purchase contract covered a hundred and fifty acres, and for this he went in debt thirteen thousand dollars at five per cent, the understanding being that he was to be allowed fo draw checks if he was able to show satisfactory results. For sixteen years Mr. Lafourcade carried on the struggle involved in improving the land and getting his vineyard into bearing. On December 23, 1891, his loan was called. At that time the debt stood at twenty-one thousand dollars. In the meantime he had increased his holdings to three hundred acres. He insured his life for fifteen thousand dollars, and with this and his real estate was able to effect a loan of twenty-one thousand dollars to pay off the bank in full. He thus saved the institution a heavy loss and at last was on his feet financially. Since then prosperity has come with undiminished regularity and mounting in volume until he is one of the foremost individual grape growers in California, having 780 acres, with 110 acres in wine grapes and the rest in raisin and table grapes. In 1918 he constructed a modern dehydrating plant with modern raisin storage and packing house, and also has a complete winery with a capacity of forty-five thousand gallons annually. Mr. Lafourcade was the first in this district to sink a deep water well. This well is 630 feet deep and the water list is 360 feet. It has an ample flow to provide sufficient irrigation for his entire acreage, from 80 to 100 inches out of the well.
On June 2, 1902, Mr. Lafourcade married Miss Josephine Lastiry, who was born in Southern Spain, of pure Castilian stock, in June 24, 1881. She came to America a short time before her marriage and lived at West Riverside. Mr. and Mrs. Lafourcade have a fine family of seven children: Emma, born August 24, 1905; Francisco and John Batiste, twins, born August 8, 1908; Marie Louise, born November 6, 1909; Josephine, born December 16, 1910; Pierre, born September 4, 1914; and Marguerite, born May 18, 1919. The family are devout Catholics and Mr. Lafourcade is a republican voter.
The vineyards and manufacturing plant owned by Mr. Lafourcade speaks for themselves as one of California's prominent industries. But the chief factors in making these possible were the strenuous energy, the absolute honesty and integrity of Mr. Lafourcade himself.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011