One of the most prominent citizens of the West Side of the San Joaquin Valley, now a resident near the city of Los Banos, is J. Miguel Arburua, who is living retired after many years of useful activity. He was born in the Basque Province of Etchlar, in the Pyrenees, Spain, on November 24, 1844, and received a limited education, so practically what he received was obtained from contact with the world. He came to the United States and California, via Cape Horn in 1866, taking six months to complete the journey. He had no money and his only assets were his indomitable courage and a willingness to work. His uncle, Miguel Aguirre, had settled in San Francisco in an early day, and when the nephew arrived in San Francisco he obtained a job for him in Butchertown at twenty dollars per month and the young man held down that job for four years, saving his money and paying back the amount advanced him for his fare to the new world. He had no knowledge of English and that made it harder for him, but he stuck to his job and in time mastered enough of the English language to enable him to transact business — and in time there was no shrewder business man and financier than J. M. Arburua.
The first venture our subject tackled was in partnership with J. Lugea. They carried on a sheep business for four years and made it a success, though suffering severe losses in 1877 on account of the drought, when he took his sheep to Nevada. In 1886 Mr. Arburua located on the Carrizalito grant in Merced County, purchasing the property of 22,000 acres for $42,000 from the man who had previously bought it for $65,000 and failed to make good and was willing to turn over the huge indebtedness to Mr. Arburua for $2000 and he to assume the mortgage. He had no money, but he bought the land, having as his only assets about 7000 head of sheep. He made money from the start and in time added by purchase from various settlers in his vicinity 6500 more acres. On this large tract of land he engaged in the cattle and sheep business until 1915, being assisted by his entire family to attain their independence. In the year mentioned he divided his large acreage among his children and turned over the management of its affairs, bought sixty-five acres near Los Banos, known as Rouse ranch, and settled down to farming on a small scale and is now living retired on this ranch with his wife. He is known as one of the most honorable men of his day and age, public spirited, generous and at eighty is hale and hearty and enjoys life to its full. He has always been a hard worker and expected his sons to do their share, which each of them has done and all are worthy representatives of their honored parent.
The marriage of J. Miguel Arburua occurred on November 24, 1882, when he was united with Josefa Lavayn, daughter of Baptiste and Michaela Lavayn. She was born in the same province, in 1860, as her husband and came to America when fourteen, receiving her education in California. To this wonderful woman Mr. Arburua gives great credit for his success as she helped in the management of their affairs. They had the following children: Carmen, single; Helen M., married I. B. Cornett and lives in Los Banos; Frank J., married Helena Harms and resides on the home ranch; Louis P., married Marie M. Chotro, has two children, Lucille and Josephine, and is the proprietor of the City Market in Los Banos, besides largely interested in ranching; Joseph M. is a veterinary surgeon in San Francisco and married to Eleanor Kehoe and has a son John Joseph. He was a first lieutenant and saw service on the Mexican border and in France with the Eighth Division. Mr. Arburua was a director of the First National Bank, now the Bank of Italy, in Los Banos. He has always been prominent in educational affairs and donated land for two school buildings and served as a trustee for many years. He believes in doing good wherever he can and has always been a liberal giver to churches and church work, regardless of denomination. His great outstanding characteristic has been his ability to get results from those he has employed and at the same time cement a friendship that lasts while either party lives. He has worked unceasingly himself and attributes his good health to that activity. With his good wife he is enjoying the fruits of their labors and their friends are legion.
Source: Outcalt, John. A history of Merced County, California : with a biographical review of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; Los Angeles, Calif. : Historic Record Company, 1925.