Estrella Family

Joaquina and Manuel Estrella came from Sonora, Mexico to Arizona in the early 1900s. They lived and farmed near the Estrella Mountains (named in the 1800s), until the Salt River flooded and they moved into Phoenix. The Estrella family finally settled in Chandler around 1912. Manuel worked on the San Marcos Hotel, and tended ostriches at a local ranch owned by Dr. Chandler. He eventually became a greens keeper at the San Marcos Hotel. The Estrella children included Ralph, Mary, Ray, Marian, Manuel, Arnulfo, Isabel, Joaquina, Reynaldo, Louis, Jose, Lily, Amelia, and Dora.

The Estrella family built a wood frame home on south Colorado Street, and raised thirteen children there. The second to the youngest child, Amelia, was born in 1923. She remembers that their home had no running water, and they got water from a horse trough at nearby stables. Manuel died in 1925, and his sons began working in the fields, baling hay, and some as caddies at the San Marcos golf course. Amelia later married and worked as a housekeeper for the hotel for 21 years.

The family struggled to make ends meet, and Joaquina raised chickens, pigeons, pigs, and planted a garden. Even though times were tough, the children enjoyed a few moments of fun. Amelia recalled the silent movies they played at the Rowena Theater: “We only paid a dime to go in to the movies back then, and they had a concession stand right before you would go in, and you’d get a pop for a nickel, an ice cream cone for a nickel.”  Other families who lived on Colorado Street included the Adrade, Delci, Carreaga, Granillo, Carrillo, Rodriguez, Navoa, and Munoz families.

Several of the Estrella brothers went into the hay baling business and worked throughout Chandler in the 1940s. In 1948, Louis Estrella purchased a farm near McQueen and Willis Roads, where he raised cattle and chickens. His brother, Arnulfo, married Francis Andrade and helped run the Francis Café in the 1940s. Ray, Louis, and Arnulfo Estrella sponsored the popular Haybalers baseball team in the early 1950s, which included well-known locals like “Lefty” Soto. They played teams from other towns.

Ray Estrella, the second oldest son, purchased property in Hightown in 1928. He built the Estrella Market on the corner of McClintock Road and Chandler Boulevard. The little adobe store had living quarters in the back, where the family lived. The Estrella Market was a general store that sold meat, groceries, and dry goods. His daughter, Stella, remembered how the hot dogs came in cheesecloth and were hung in the cooler. She also recalls,   “A lot of families there at Hightown charged their groceries during the week, and then when they got paid at the end of the week, they’d come in and pay. He had us girls help him on Fridays.”  The store also had gas pumps in the front. Customers included local ranchers, sheepherders, people at Hightown, and laborers who lived and worked at the ranches. The closest stores at that time were in Guadalupe and Kyrene. American Indians came from the reservation in their wagons on Saturdays with wood, which they traded for supplies. By 1939, the family decided to rent out the store and move into town. Ray leased his store to various individuals, until the Espinoza family came to run the old market in 1967.  Many members of the large Estrella family still live in Chandler and the Valley.

Joaquina Estrella in front of her home on Colorado Street, 1962
Chandler Museum Collection, 2005.38.96


Ralph Estrella family
Chandler Museum Collection, 2005.38.97