Courreges is named after Roch Courreges, the son of wealthy Basque landowners. He set off alone for California in 1867, when he was just 16.
After an unsuccessful attempt to strike it rich in the gold mines of Northern California, Roch Courreges established a sheep ranch in 1878 on an 80-acre site known as "The Bluffs."
He married Magdalena Mogart in 1880 and together they expanded the sheep ranch into a farming operation. They also founded several local businesses, including a bank, vegetable cannery, and a phone company, but none of them exist today.
The original farmhouse, built in 1908, burned down when a spark from the fireplace ignited the roof. But Roch Courreges built another, which still stands next to the original pump house. The structures are on a two-acre property near the intersection of Talbert Avenue and Newland Street, the remaining family-owned portion of the original ranch. They are a pleasant sight among the condos and tract homes.
"We started selling off parts of it when taxes got too high," Courreges said. She has lived on the ranch since 1941 when she married Joseph Courreges Jr., who took over the farming operation from his parents. They grew sugar beets, corn, and potatoes.
As the new proprietors, Courreges, her husband, and their four children ran a roadside produce stand that quickly became a favorite neighborhood gathering spot. "It was never a very profitable operation, but my husband enjoyed talking with all the people who stopped," she said. "He loved to tell stories about how it was in the early days when he could stand on the bluff top and watch his father returning all the way from Anaheim in his horse and buggy," she recalled.
With its neatly painted signs still in place, the empty produce stand appears to be waiting for the next crop to ripen. But it closed in 1986, when Courreges' husband, a former Fountain Valley planning commissioner and city councilman, became ill. He died in 1987.
Pictures show that the old farmhouse looks remarkably as it did when the operation was in full swing, but the atmosphere, obviously, is just not the same. A favorite cat was killed on the busy street out front and now only wild feline inhabitants are left. They dart away from people to hide among old fruit boxes. "And just a few months ago," says Courreges, "A dog killed the rooster."
But Courreges keeps busy with her nine grandchildren and is active in the local historical society. And even though her farmhouse has been surrounded by subdivisions for decades, she maintains rituals of the rural lifestyle. She grows her own fruits and vegetables, and every year her home canning takes first prize at the Orange County Fair.
On land once owned by Roch Courreges stand housing tracts--Stardust, Greenbrook, Shadow Lane--built between 1963 and 1987. Nearly 700 children attend Roch Courreges Elementary School, and a street and park in the area also bear the Courreges name.
Most homes in the neighborhood are large and elegant, selling for $600,000 to $800,000. The many boats, campers, and motor homes parked in the driveways and street signs saying, "Watch Out for Children" reveal an active, family-oriented lifestyle.