Death Takes Last of the Vaqueros
Death yesterday claimed Leonardo Chavaria, 93, one of the last surviving vaqueros of the Old West, who in early days, was known as one of the great riders and ropers of Kern County. The aged native of Bakersfield, and second generation Californian, died in Bakersfield hospital after a brief illness incurred as the result of an injury he received in a fall at his home last Friday.
Until his death, Mr. Chavaria was in remarkably good physical condition for a man of his years with good vision, hearing, and memory, according to members of his family.
He was born on Nov. 17, 1869 on the old Miller and Lux Ranch on Panama Lane and Stine Road. He was the son of the late Joaquin Chavaria and the former Lola Castro Chavaria. Both parents' families were among the oldest residents of California.
At the age of 12, the young Chavaria became a sheepherder for the Tevis family and later he was a vaquero for the Tejon Ranch on what was known as "The Ostrich Farm" but which has been converted to cattle grazing.
He was also employed by the Kern County Land Company as a vaquero and he was a ranch superintendent for the late R.L. Stockton family.
Mr. Chavaria took part in many of the Old West riding and roping contests before rodeos became generally popular as sporting events. He won many of the top prizes which were then gold nuggets and gold pieces.
Wins First Prize
He took part in the Old Homecoming for Pioneers in 1914 at the old Kern County Fairgrounds and won first prize for roping.
He was a familiar figure in Pioneer Day parades riding his spotted pinto, known as the "Pinto". He retired in 1935.
He was a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and had many friends in the Spanish-speaking colony and among the pioneer residents. He resided at 805 South Kern Street.
Rosary will be said Sunday at 8 p.m. in the Payne and Son Funeral Home and a Requiem Mass will be offered Monday at 9 a.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 601 East California Avenue.
Mr. Chavaria is survived by two sons, Toby and Steve Chavaria, both of Bakersfield, a daughter Madeline Bracamonte, of Sacramento; by sister Lupe Necochea, of Norwalk; by a nephew, Tony Araujo, and four nieces, Sally Contreras, Lois Morales, Dolores Bernal, and Hortensia Garcia, all of Bakersfield; and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
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