History Podcasts

On the trail of the Father Crespi Collection – Part I

On the trail of the Father Crespi Collection – Part I

A desperately poor clergyman tends to a small South-American community. He teaches the children, and procures the schoolbooks for them. The people are poor and cannot afford medical assistance; therefore, the padre organizes aid as well as he can. Pious phrases are of no help to the children, the clergyman is well aware of it, but regular school meals are. The native population cannot pay their padre with money, but they give him gifts: to thank him they bring clay objects from ancient times, metal plates with peculiar inscriptions and drawings. They trust him and in this manner express their gratitude. The Indians give to the padre what archaeologists often search for in vain. And so comes into being a fantastic collection of archaeological objects—not in the hallowed halls of noble museums, but in the pathetic courtyard of a church in Ecuador!

Photo of artifact from Crespi Collection

Padre Carlo Crespi (1891-1982) came to Ecuador in 1923. He attempted to convey his religion to the people in the eastern part of the country. However, the poverty of the Indians deeply affected him, and he tried to alleviate their misery. Instead of hypocritically preaching charity—he lived it. In 1935 he opened a school in Cuenca. In the courtyard of the church of ‘Maria Auxiliadora’, the ‘helpful Mother of God’, he built a small private museum. Luc Bürgin, in his book Lexikon der verbotenen Archäologie ( Lexicon of forbidden archaeology ) writes: “There, he displayed the exhibits of the indigenous cultures, which he received from the friendly natives: ritualistic objects, ceramics, figurines of gods made from stone and wood, many other cult-related objects as well as items used in the daily life of the Indian tribes of Ecuador.”

Photograph of Father Crespi with some local children. Crespi Museum in the Universidad Politécnica Salesiana.

Archaeological Outsider

Swiss best-selling author, Erich von Däniken, became world-famous in 1968 with his book Erinnerungen an die Zukunft ( Chariots of the Gods? ). In 1969 followed Zurück zu den Sternen (Return to the Stars ). During his travels, von Däniken made the acquaintance of venerable Padre Crespi. In 1972 he introduced the padre’s collection in his book Aussaat und Kosmos ( The Gold of the Gods ).

Photo of artifact from Crespi Collection

Overnight, Crespi’s collection of artifacts was thrust into the spotlight of international publicity. The academic world reacted and its members unanimously declared their outrage! Padre Crespi, a modestly dressed, poor clergyman was supposed to have collected valuable archaeological objects? That was simply not true. Thus, the countless objects in the courtyard of the ‘helpful Mother of God’ were declared worthless junk, cheap forgeries without value.

  • The Truth About Father Crespi and His Missing Artifacts Finally Revealed
  • Father Crespi Mystery Deepens: Ancient Origins Urged to Drop Further Investigations

Were the scientists gifted with supernatural powers? Obviously! What other explanation could there have been for their ability to evaluate the objects in Crespi’s collection without having travelled even near Cuenca in Ecuador? From thousands of kilometers away the scientists had delivered their crushing verdict.

Photo of artifact from Crespi Collection

Twenty years later, I travelled to Ecuador. I spoke about the clergyman to the people in the market of Cuenca—he had passed away ten years earlier. Without exception, the people expressed their admiration of him, and spoke with loving reverence about the man who had lived among them, and had shared their poverty. They venerated him like a saint, and in prayer asked for his assistance. They still placed flowers at his resting place. Repeatedly, I heard the mention of Padre Crespi’s many precious archaeological artifacts from ancient times.

Did the collection really exist? Was it valuable? Or did it in truth consist merely of worthless junk the poor Indians had palmed off onto unsuspecting Crespi? My research informed me that Padre Crespi had held the position of director at the gold museum in Cuenca for several years. Would he have collected worthless rubbish? That seemed very unlikely to me. Consequently, I went on a search for Padre Crespi’s collection. And I found it.

Finding the Collection

According to some rumors, the ‘Banco Central’ of Cuenca had bought Crespi’s collection. Critical voices were doubtful. During my preparations for the trip, I was told that a respectable bank would not purchase a worthless collection! Esteban Salazar, an employee of the ‘Banco Central’ explained this to me: It is true! The bank acquired a significant portion of the Crespi collection for US$433,000 after the clergyman had passed on!

Photo of artifact from Crespi Collection

Esteban Salazar led our small group of four travelers into the cellar of the ‘Banco Central’. Down there, we were simply astonished at the thousands of artifacts. We admired the ceramic objects diligently sorted on orderly shelves. I asked: “And these objects all came from Padre Crespi’s collection?” Esteban Salazar replied in the affirmative. The people of the bank had sorted the items according to shape and size: small dishes, bowls, and vases. I enquired: “Are these items old?” “Many are merely a few hundred years old, but others up to three thousand years!”

Obviously, the scientific distance-critics had prematurely dismissed Crespi’s collection as ‘worthless junk’. Padre Crespi had clearly owned thousands of genuine archaeological objects, which truly belonged in a museum. In 1982, Estefan Salazar hoped that at least some of these artifacts would ‘soon’ be displayed to the public in an exhibition. That has not happened to this day.

  • Father Crespi and the missing golden artifacts
  • Expedition to Tayos Caves: Never Before Seen Photographs Shed Light on Mysterious Underground Network

Harvard professor, Barry Fell, (6 June 1917 - 21 April 1994) distinguished himself by deciphering ancient texts. Prof. Fell, founder of the ‘Epigraphic Society’, intensively studied one object from the Crespi collection. The triangular tablet contains three rows of peculiar lettering. Above it, one can see an elephant-like animal. At the apex shines the depiction of the sun.

Prof. Fell came to an astonishing realization: The letters on the tablet are not at all nonsensical scribbles. They belong to a known writing, and are best compared to that used in the third century BC in Thougga, Tunisia. The writing was discovered, for example, on a monument for King Masinissa. Would forgers in Ecuador have played with an ancient script? Prof. Bell dismissed the notion. He succeeded in translating the short text: “The elephant that supports the Earth upon the waters and causes it to quake.”

Missing Artifacts

My summary on location: Padre Crespi’s collection contains thousands of artifacts that are unequivocally genuine. The ‘Banco Central’ acquired these valuable finds for a small fortune; they are stored in the cellar of the respectable financial institution.

Almost thirty years have passed since Padre Crespi’s death. Officially, the archaeological treasures have neither been catalogued, nor publicly exhibited to date! Why not?

Hundreds of figurines from Father Crespi’s collection.

In 1972, Erich von Däniken triggered an international discussion about the Crespi collection. Metal objects, metal plates with mysterious images and inscriptions caused a sensation. Erich von Däniken had photographed many of the plates, and featured them in his book Aussaat und Kosmos . Twenty years later I went on my search. What happened to those plates after Crespi’s death?

[Read Part II]

Walter J. Langbein is author of some 60 non-fiction books on mysteries of the world, many of which have become bestsellers in Europe.

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On the trail of the Father Crespi Collection – Part I - History

Among the Plains Indians, art is found in the actual form of the object as well as in its decorative value. The Indian artist is concerned with the technology or function of an object more than with the purely artistic merits of what he produces.

Plainsmen were the hunters, warriors and religious leaders of their tribes, therefore, their crafts were related to these occupations. Both men and women were artists and craftsmen traditionally, each producing articles for everyday use as well as for ceremonial purposes. Usually, quilling and beading were done by women and carving was done by the men.

It is as difficult to separate art from the Indian's daily life as it is to separate his religion from his daily life. All are tightly interwoven. There is one Indian reservation in Wyoming, the Wind River Reservation, with headquarters at Fort Washakie. The reservation is the home of some 2,357 Shoshone and 3,501 Arapaho Indians. The total acreage of the reservation is 1,888,334, exclusive of lands owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and other patented lands within the exterior boundaries.

The Shoshone occupy the south central, western and northern portions of the reservation, with settlements at Fort Washakie, Wind River and Crowheart. The Arapaho live mainly in the southeastern part in settlements at Ethete, Arapahoe and St. Stephens.

Sacajawea, a female Shoshone guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, is buried west of Fort Washakie and the grave of Chief Washakie is located in the old military cemetery in town. The popular chief lived on the reservation until his death in 1900 at the age of 102. He was buried with military honors – the first ever given an Indian chief.

discovered a region of steaming geysers and towering water falls so unusual that his written reports nicknamed the area "Colter's Hell." The same area, in 1872, was set aside forever as a place to be enjoyed by everyone. It became known as Yellowstone, the world's first National Park.

Wyoming owes its early settlement in part to the gentlemen of Europe. Their fondness of beaver top hats sent early-day trappers to the Rocky Mountains in search of the prized pelts. Famous mountain men such as Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, Davey Jackson and Jedediah Smith were among the trappers, explorers and traders to first roam the Wyoming territory.

Gold in California and the lure of rich land in Oregon brought increasing numbers of pioneer wagon trains rolling over the Oregon Trails through Wyoming. Pony soldiers came to protect the wagon trains from hostile Indians, and the soldiers established forts along the trails.

The most important of the western military posts was Ft. Laramie in southeastern Wyoming. Ft. Laramie became a haven for gold seekers and weary emigrants. It was also an important station for the Pony Express and the Overland stagecoaches, and it served as a vital military post in the wars with the Plains Indians. Ft. Laramie witnessed the growth of the open range cattle industry, the coming of homesteaders and the building of towns which marked the final closing of the wild, western frontier in 1890.

Wyoming was the scene of the end of the great Indian battles. Ft. Phil Kearny in northern Wyoming had the bloodiest history of any fort in the West. Thousands of well organized Indians from the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux tribes fought battle after battle with the U.S. Cavalry. A famous battle took place in 1866 when 81 soldiers set out from Ft. Kearny and were drawn into a classic military ambush by Indians led by Crazy Horse and Red Cloud. None of the "blue coats" survived.

Great herds of buffalo once grazed on the rolling hills of Wyoming, giving rise to one of the state's best known citizens, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody. Today in the town he founded, Cody, near Yellowstone National Park, is an enormous museum dedicated to Buffalo Bill and the West he loved and helped settle. Near the turn of the century, Buffalo Bill took his Wild West Show to Great Britain and the European continent to give audiences a brief glimpse of the cowboys, Indians and other characters who lived in America's west during Wyoming's early days.

Wyoming is also known as the "Equality State" because of the rights women have traditionally enjoyed here. Wyoming women were the first in the nation to vote, serve on juries and hold public office.

In 1869, Wyoming's territorial legislature became the first government in the world to grant "female suffrage" by enacting a bill granting Wyoming women the right to vote. The act was signed into law on December 10 of that year by Governor A.J. Campbell.

Less than three months after the signing of that act, on February 17, 1870, the "Mother of Women Suffrage in Wyoming"-Ester Hobart Morris of South Pass City-became the first woman ever to be appointed a justice of the peace. Laramie was also the site for the first equal suffrage vote cast in the nation by a woman-Mrs. Louisa Swain on September 6, 1870.

In 1894, Estelle Reel (Mrs. Cort F. Meyer) became one of the first women in the United States elected to a state office, that of Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In 1924, Mrs. Nellie Tayloe Ross was the first elected woman governor to take office in the United States. She took office on January 5, 1925, 20 days before "Ma" Ferguson of Texas (elected on the same day) took office. Mrs. Ross went on to become the first woman to be appointed Director of the United States Mint-a position she held for 20 years, from 1933 to 1953. In 1991, women held three of the state's five top elective positions and a total of 23 women hold seats in the Wyoming Legislature, three in the Senate and 20 in the House.

Talk of statehood for Wyoming began as early as 1869 after the organization of Wyoming Territory in that year. The road to statehood, however, did not begin until 1888 when the Territorial Assembly sent Congress a petition for admission into the Union. Bills were introduced in both houses of Congress, but did not pass.

Though no legislation passed Congress enabling Wyoming to follow the steps that lead to statehood, Governor Francis E. Warren and others decided to continue as if an "enabling act" had passed. On July 8, 1889, Wyoming Territory held an election of delegates to Wyoming's one and only Constitutional Convention. Forty-nine men gathered in Cheyenne during September, 1889, and wrote the constitution. The voters approved the document November 5, 1889, by a vote of 6,272 to 1,923.


Origin of the Iditarod: How did it all begin?

*There’s a big myth and it’s time to bust it! You can help!

Myth: Iditarod is run each year to commemorate the Serum Run.

Truth: Although that event is an extremely important event in the history of Alaska, the fact is, the founders of the race did not take the Serum Run into account when creating the race.

For Joe Redington, Sr., often remembered as the “Father of the Iditarod” and his two closest founder partners, Tom Johnson and Gleo Huyck. both mushers and teachers, there were two most important reasons for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. He is quoted in Nan Elliot’s book, I’d Swap my Old Skidoo for You, “When I went out to the villages (in the 1950’s) where there were beautiful dogs once, a snow machine was sitting in front of a house and no dogs. It wasn’t good. I didn’t like that I’ve seen snow machines break down and fellows freeze to death out there in the wilderness. But dogs will always keep you warm and they’ll always get you there.” He was determined to bring back the sled dog to Alaska and to get the Iditarod Trail declared as a National Historic Trail.

  1. Keep the sled dogs a part of the culture of the state of Alaska
  2. Get the Iditarod declared as a National Historic Trail

Those two reasons were realized and stand today as a testimony to the origin of the race.

Providing this very important information to students is key to correcting false information about the Iditarod.

More information and a great resource for you to use:

By Katie Mangelsdorf – Author of Champion of Alaskan Huskies, Joe Redington Sr.’s biography

Because the Serum Run mushers were honored in the formative years of the Iditarod, misinformed articles Anchorage Times about the reasons for starting the Iditarod Race were written, and also an Iditarod Race Marshall not familiar with Alaska’s history made unfortunate statements about the reasons for starting the race. Every attempt Joe Redington Sr. made to correct this misinformation were not heeded, we have ended up with a big “myth” about the Iditarod Race. Let’s set history straight and learn the real reason Joe Redington Sr. started the Iditarod Race to Nome.

Joe said to me a number of times that he would like people to know the real reason why he started the Iditarod Race. He wanted to preserve the Iditarod Trail, the old freight and mail trail from Seward to Nome that brought gold out of the interior of Alaska. He also wanted to save the Alaskan husky and the sled dog culture that had always been such an important part of Alaska’s history. He said he tried and tried for years to get it straight with the media, but was never successful—mainly because the Diphtheria Epidemic and Serum Run was such a dramatic event and a real attention getter. Maybe, Joe said, this book you are writing will help clear up history.

The 1967 Centennial Race was a race held over two days with two 28-mile heats running along nine miles of the original Iditarod Trail. “They also were going to honor Leonhard Seppala, known as one of the world’s greatest dog mushers and a man Joe and Vi greatly admired.” (Champion of Alaskan Huskies, p. 152) Seppala passed away before the Centennial Race, but his wife, Connie, came with Seppala’s ashes. They were spread along the Iditarod Trail near Redington’s property.

“It’s been said that Seppala represented all mushers and this Centennial Race was patterned after the All-Alaska Sweepstakes he raced in Nome in the early 1900’s. To honor Seppala’s memory and his achievements, the race was to be called the Iditarod Trail Seppala Memorial Centennial Race. “ (Ibid, p. 153)

“Seppala was also a champion dog musher. He won forty-three silver trophies and bowls, and eight gold medals. For three years between 1915 and 1917, he won the All-Alaska Sweepstakes between Nome and Candle. Seppala lived in Alaska for forty-seven years, and the records show that he had mushed his dogs about 250,000 miles.” (ibid, p. 153)

After the Centennial sprint race in 1967, two more races were held along that route but then the race died. However, Joe Redington was always thinking BIG. His commitment from the 1950’s to get the Iditarod Trail recognized nationally, in addition to becoming increasingly concerned about the decline in dog mushing in the villages, was dreaming up a new and bigger idea for a race to bring to the attention of the public the historic Iditarod Trail. The idea was first to race to Iditarod. However, no one knew where Iditarod was. Then Nome came into the conversation. Everyone knew of Nome—the gold rush, the All-alaska Sweepstakes Races, and its famous dog mushers, like Leonhard Seppala. The result of Joe’s dream to bring attention to the Iditarod Trail and preserve the Alaskan husky and dog mushing came true in 1973.

“The number one sled was an honorary position set aside in remembrance of Leonhard Seppala’s achievements as a dog musher.” (Ibid, p. 173) For seven years they would honor Seppala and identify him as one of the men who in 1925 raced to Nome with the diphtheria serum. (Seppala mushed his dogs 340 miles, 220 of those just getting to the serum. Togo was his leader, whose instincts took Seppala’s team through stormy weather and a 30 miles short cut across Norton Sound. The ice broke up soon after they got back on the land heading back to Nome. Then Gunnar Kaasan, using 13 of Seppala’s “rejected dogs” including Balto, brought in the serum.)

The route the Serum Run took was over a centuries old northern route across Alaska, which was used by the indigenous people, and later trappers and gold seekers. The Alaska Railroad took the serum to Nenana where it was then transferred to dog team to travel up the Tanana River to the Yukon River Trail [the Yukon River] to Kaltag, across the Kaltag Portage to Unalakleet, and along the Coastal Trail to Nome.

Joe Redington live along the Iditarod Trail in South Central Alaska. This was the historic trail Joe worked so hard to preserve. It connected up to the old northern trail system on the Yukon River. In 1978, after 20 years of writing letters and talking to everyone and any one who would listen, the Iditarod Trail finally received national recognition as part of the National Historic Trails Registry. This trail began in Seward and headed north through Knik, over the Alaska Range through Rainy Pass to McGrath, then to Ophir. Here it spilt off to the different gold strikes in Interior Alaska, some going north and hooking up again to the Yukon River Trail in Ruby and heading west or to Anvik on the lower Yukon, heading north to Kaltag. At this point both trails met following the Kaltag Portage and the Coastal Trail to Nome.

Champion of Alaskan Huskies Joe Redington Sr., Father of the Iditarod by Katie Mangelsdorf

Trail Breakers Pioneering Alaska’s Iditarod Vol. 1 by Rod Perry

Important Resources for teachers to use to teach about the origin of the race and history of this nearly 50 year old event are:

Champion of Alaskan Huskie – Joe Redington Sr. Father of the Iditarod by Katie Mangelsdorf (Click here to order)

Iditarod: The First Ten Years by the Old Iditarod Gang (Click here to order.)


Ghost Hunting Theories


As I have in recent years been focusing a good deal on research of ancient giants, I tend to gather a lot of various information from sources around the globe and as I do, I begin to notice odd correlations.

Working with researcher Dennis Guern, we have found
some unusual characteristics we will share now -

Let me jump now to the legend by the Paiutes of the Hav-Musuvs in the present-day Death Valley area -

Quote from legend (told by elder) "’When the world was young, and this valley which is now dry, parched desert, was a lush, hidden harbor of a blue water- sea which stretched from half way up those mountains to the Gulf of California, it is said that the Hav-musuvs came here in huge rowing-ships. They found great caverns in the Panamints, and in them they built one of their cities. At that time California was the island which the Indians of that state told the Spanish it was, and which they marked so on their maps.

"’Living in their hidden city, the Hav-musuvs ruled the sea with their fast rowing-ships, trading with far-away peoples and bringing strange goods to the great quays said still to exist in the caverns."

"’Then as untold centuries rolled past, the climate began to change. The water in the lake went down until there was no longer a way to the sea. First the way was broken only by the southern mountains, over the tops of which goods could be carried. But as time went by, the water continued to shrink, until the day came when only a dry crust was all that remained of the great blue lake. Then the desert came, and the Fire-God began to walk across Tomesha, The Flaming-Land.

"’When the Hav-musuvs could no longer use their great rowing-ships, they began to think of other means to reach the world beyond. I suppose that is how it happened. We know that they began to use flying canoes. At first they were not large, these silvery ships with wings. They moved with a slight whirring sound, and a dipping movement, like an eagle. "

"’They are a beautiful people. Their skin is a golden tint, and a head band holds back their long dark hair. They dress always in a white fine-spun garment which wraps around them and is draped upon one shoulder. Pale sandals are worn upon their feet...’

Sometimes they were seen in the distance, in their flying ships or riding on the snowy-white animals which took them from ledge to ledge up the cliffs. We have never seen these strange animals at any other place. To these people the passing centuries brought only larger and larger ships, moving always more silently.’


* Trabuco Adobe Ruins (Arroyo Trabuco)

Trabuco Creek was initially considered as a location for a Spanish mission, but San Juan Capistrano was chosen instead, and the Trabuco area became one of its ranches. Cattle, sheep, and horses were grazed on the Trabuco Mesa and perhaps as early as 1806, an adobe outpost was built here. The two-room adobe had a tile floor and tile roof. One small room was probably home to the mission’s majordomo the larger room was probably used for storage. A third room was added around 1840, enlarging the building to approximately 70 x 25 feet.

With the demise of the missions, the adobe became the headquarters for the Rancho Trabuco. In the late 19th century the rancho was generally leased to Basque ranchers for grazing sheep. The adobe was occupied by them until about 1900 when it was destroyed in a fire. The last remains were covered in the 1960s and later boxed-in. An entrance gate near the southern end of Arroyo Vista in Rancho Santa Margarita provides easy access to the site.

The Trabuco Adobe ruins, circa 1930 (courtesy the First American Corp.).


A Natural History Lesson in Morro Bay

Morro Bay State Park is one of the most developed on the Central Coast: a large campground and picnic area, an 18-hole golf course and a marina with a cafe and kayak rentals. But the park’s undeveloped east side--former ranchland gone wild--beckons hikers with grassy swales, scrub-covered hills and coastal live oaks.

A well-signed trail system provides lots of options, including “mini morros” (some unnamed) that offer fine views from easy-to-climb promontories. For a panorama of Morro Bay, Morro Rock and the estuary, hike up volcanic Portola Hill. I like starting on the Park Ridge Trail simply because few hikers use this trail head.

Just remember that parking is limited to half a dozen cars, and no facilities are available. (The main eastern trail head, which has plenty of parking, is a short distance north along South Bay Boulevard.)

To learn more about the bay’s ecology, visit the state park’s Museum of Natural History. It closed in November to install 26 new exhibits, which will make it the largest natural history museum in the state park system.

The $3-million modernization project is nearly complete, and the grand reopening is scheduled for Aug. 4.

“We’re telling the story of the natural history of California’s Central Coast in a whole new and interactive way,” curator Nancy Dreher said. “The fabulous coastal view, the new exhibits and a new nature hike program add up to a great experience for the visitor.”

Museum docents will lead “Half-Hour, Half-Mile Hikes” that explore the bay shore and estuary. If the hikes are popular, they will be offered regularly.

Our hike this week, however, focuses on a different route: a loop from Park Ridge Trail to Quarry Trail and the point atop Portola Hill.

Directions to the trail head: From U.S. 101 south of San Luis Obispo, exit at Los Osos Valley Road and drive 9 1/2 miles. Turn right onto South Bay Boulevard and go 2 1/4 miles to the Park Ridge Trail parking area on the right. (If needed, you can find a larger parking lot about a quarter-mile farther up the road.)

The hike: From the Park Ridge Trail head, follow the path to signed junctions with Live Oak Trail on the left and Crespi Trail on the right. The latter, named for Father Juan Crespi (diarist for the 1769 Gaspar de Portola expedition along California’s coast), is a loop that meanders through grassland and offers fine views of Morro Bay Estuary. This side trip will add two miles to your hike.

Back on Park Ridge Trail, you’ll see a tiny, unnamed morro before descending toward Quarry Trail. Head west a short distance on Quarry, then swing south on Live Oak Trail.

From here, a signed summit trail less than half a mile long rises up Portola Hill to the best views of Morro Bay.

Retrace your steps to Live Oak Trail, where you will turn south among handsome oaks. Rejoin Park Ridge Trail, head west and soon you will be back at the trail head.


Contents

Topography and early settlement Edit

Before the flood control measures of the 20th century, the location of human settlements in the San Fernando Valley was constrained by two forces: the necessity of avoiding winter floods and need for year-round water sources to sustain communities through the dry summer and fall months. In winter, torrential downpours over the western-draining watershed of the San Gabriel Mountains entered the northeast Valley through Big Tujunga Canyon, Little Tujunga Canyon, and Pacoima Canyon. These waters spread over the Valley floor in a series of braided washes that was seven miles wide as late as the 1890s, [1] periodically cutting new channels and reusing old ones, before sinking into the gravelly subterranean reservoir below the eastern Valley and continuing their southward journey underground. Only when the waters encountered the rocky roots of the Santa Monica Mountains were they pushed to the surface where they fed a series of tule marshes, sloughs, and the sluggish stream that is now the Los Angeles River. [2]

By the time the Spanish conquest of Mexico reached Alta California in 1769, successive groups of indigenous peoples, or Native Americans, had inhabited the area for at least 7,000 years. [3] These peoples tended to settle on well-watered and wooded areas at the Valley's margins. The Tongva, who spoke the Tongva language, a Uto-Aztecan or Shoshonean language, had a series of villages in the southern Valley along or near the river, including Totongna (near modern-day Calabasas), Siutcanga (near Encino means "place of the oak" in Fernandeño) and Kawengna (which the Spanish would write as Cahuenga it means "place of the mountain"). In the north-central Valley was an apparently permanent village called Pasakngna (Fernandeño: Paséknga, of unclear etymology), in the lower foothills of the mountains near natural springs and a tule marsh. Other characteristic place-names of Tongva origin in the Valley include Tujunga (Fernandeño: tuxunga, which means "place of the old woman") and Topanga (in Tongva, Topaa’nga, and in Fernandeño, Tupá’nga, with a root topaa’-/tupá’- that likely comes from Ventureño). [4] The Tataviam were established in the valleys to the north Pacoima (Fernandeño: pakoinga or pakɨynga) is believed to be of Tataviam-Fernandeño people's Tataviam language origin and means the entrance in the Fernandeño dialect. [3] [5] [6] [7]

The Hokan-speaking Chumash people inhabited Malibu, the Santa Monica Mountains, and the Simi Hills in the western area of the Valley, and much of the coastal areas to the northwest. At Bell Creek below the rocky outcropping called Escorpión Peak (Castle Peak), Chumash pictographs and other artifacts have been identified by archeologists at a site, Hu'wam, which is thought to have been a meeting place and trading center for the Tongva-Fernandeño and Chumash-Venturaño. [8] [9] [10] In the Simi Hills the Burro Flats Painted Cave pictographs are located on Rocketdyne's Santa Susana Field Laboratory property, inaccessible but well protected. The Tataviam-Fernandeño people inhabited the foothills of the Santa Susana Mountains in the Valley (and north in the Santa Clara River area). [10] The Tongva-Fernandeño inhabited the Valley, along the tributaries to the Los Angeles River. [10]

Exploration Edit

In 1769, the expedition led by explorer Gaspar de Portolà reached the Los Angeles area of California overland from Baja California. Accompanying him were two Franciscan Padres, Junípero Serra and Juan Crespí, who recorded the expedition and identified locations for a proposed network of missions, along which the royal highway (El Camino Real) was eventually built.

After camping at and naming the location that would become the Pueblo de Los Angeles, the expedition proceeded westward before turning north through the Sepulveda Pass over the Santa Monica Mountains on the feast day of Saint Catherine of Bologna. [11]

We saw a very pleasant and spacious valley. We descended to it and stopped close to a watering place, which is a large pool. Near it we found a village of heathen, very friendly and docile. We gave to this plain the name of Santa Catalina de Bononia de Los Encinos. It has on its hills and its valleys many live oak and walnuts.

The watering place was a pool fed by a perennial spring at what is now Encino, near the village of Siutangna. The name El Valle de Santa Catalina de Bononia de los Encinos [13] refers to the encinos or evergreen Coast Live Oaks that studded the area. The expedition proceeded northward, camping at a site in the northern Valley before crossing over the mountains into the Santa Clarita Valley.

Father Crespí had identified a location along the Los Angeles River that would be perfect for a settlement, possibly a mission, but in 1781, King Charles III of Spain ordered that a pueblo be built on the site, which would be the second town in Alta California after San José de Guadalupe, founded in 1777. By royal edict, all of the waters of the river and its tributaries were reserved for the Pueblo de Los Angeles, a condition which would have a profound impact on development of the Valley. [14]

Mission San Fernando Edit

By the end of the century, Spain had issued two grazing concessions north of the pueblo that included the southeastern corner of the Valley, Rancho San Rafael and Rancho Portesuelo. Francisco Reyes, alcalde or mayor of Los Angeles from 1793–1795, had set up a grazing operation which he called Rancho Encino located in what is now Mission Hills near the village of Pasakngna. Reyes's property had a substantial water supply from artesian wells and limestone for building, and was situated a day's walk from the existing missions San Gabriel and San Buenaventura. [11] In or shortly before 1797 he was persuaded to cede this land to the Franciscans to be the site of a new mission, receiving in exchange a square league (4,460 acres (18 km 2 )) of land in the southern valley by the perennial spring where the Portola Expedition had first entered the Valley. This property he also called Rancho Encino (also recorded as El Encino and Los Encinos). [15]

Mission San Fernando Rey de España was founded at Reyes's original rancho site on September 8, 1797 by Father Fermín Lasuén. The mission's grazing lands extended over the flatlands of the valley, and it also claimed jurisdiction over several smaller valleys to the north and west. From this time, the valley began to be called after the mission. [11]

The fathers were charged with "civilizing" the native peoples, which they named according to the mission which had jurisdiction over them. The native peoples associated with Mission San Fernando were called Fernandeños regardless of tribal affiliation or language, [16] as those associated with Mission San Gabriel were called Gabrielinos. As the 19th century dawned, 541 Indians did the heavy work of the Mission San Fernando, tending the livestock and working the farmlands watered by irrigation from the mission's wells. The mission was famed for its red wine, and also grew pomegranates, figs and olives. By 1826, 56,000 longhorn cattle and 1,500 horses grazed on the mission lands of the valley floor. [11]

Ranchos Edit

In 1821, Mexico achieved its independence from Spain, and California came under control of the Mexican government. The 1824 Mexican Colony Law established rules for petitioning for land grants to individuals in California. Regulations enacted in 1828 attempted to break the monopoly of the missions and also made land grants easier to obtain. The procedure included a diseño - a hand drawn sketch map. [17] The Mexican Governors of Alta California gained the power to grant state lands, and many of the earlier Spanish grazing concessions were subsequently patented under Mexican law.

Many Californios in the Los Angeles area wanted the mission's rich grazing lands to be made available to private citizens, while those in the north, including Mexican governor General Manuel Victoria, preferred to keep the mission system intact. Late in 1831, the Californios rose in armed rebellion against the governor, who led a party of soldiers to the Valley to put down the rebellion. The southern ranchers rode into the Valley via the Cahuenga Pass and the two armies faced off in a skirmish (Battle of Cahuenga Pass) that left one man dead on either side. Although the rebels retreated to the pueblo, they were victorious in defeat the wounded governor resigned and returned to Mexico. Popular pressure increased on the government to disestablish the missions, and laws were passed to secularize the missions on August 17, 1833. [18] [19]

In 1843, Don Vicente de la Osa (or del la Ossa) was granted one league of land along the Los Angeles River at the southeast corner of the Valley which he named Rancho Providencia. [20] The nearby Battle of Providencia of February 20, 1845, was another face-off between Californios and an unpopular Mexican governor, Manuel Micheltorena, who proposed to return the mission lands to the control of the church. The only reported fatalities in the day-long cannon battle along the river were two horses and a mule, but Governor Micheltorena was captured and summarily shipped back to Mexico. He was replaced by Pío Pico, a native Californio, who would become the last Mexican governor of California. [21] [22]

Mexican–American War Edit

California was "land rich but poor in every other way, lacking cash, gunpowder, and support from Mexico." [23] Governor Pico prepared for the inevitable war with the United States, and in 1845 began dispersing the vast mission lands. A square of land at the west end of the Valley near the historic Chumash village Hu'wam was granted to three of the mission Indians under the name Rancho El Escorpión. The majority of the mission's grazing lands and mission buildings were leased to the governor's brother Andrés Pico. After the United States declared war on Mexico on May 13, 1846, Pico sold the mission property outright to Eulogio de Celis for much-needed cash Celis graciously extended the terms of his friend Andrés Pico's lease. [24] From this time the property was known as Rancho Ex-Mission San Fernando.

On June 18, 1846 a small group of Yankees raised the California Bear Flag and declared independence from Mexico. United States troops quickly took control of the presidios at Monterey and San Francisco and proclaimed the Conquest complete. In Southern California, the Mexicans, for a time, resisted American troops, but when defeat became inevitable, Pío Pico fled to Mexico. Don Andrés Pico arranged the peaceful surrender of Los Angeles to American forces under Lieutenant-Colonel John C. Frémont. The Treaty of Cahuenga ending the hostilities in California was signed at an adobe owned by the Verdugo Family at Campo de Cahuenga near the mouth of the Cahuenga Pass, at the southeast corner of the Valley, on January 13, 1847. [25]

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on February 2, 1848, ended the war and ceded California to the United States, paving the way for California statehood in 1850.

Cattle boom Edit

The California Gold Rush of 1849 created a near-insatiable demand for beef, which was raised on the ranchos of southern California, including those in the San Fernando Valley, and driven on the hoof to northern markets serving the gold fields. In the southern Valley, de la Osa sold Rancho La Providencia to David W. Alexander and acquired the Rancho Encino, successfully raising cattle on the property. [26] De la Osa took formal title to the Rancho under California law in 1851. [27] Andrés Pico returned to his rancho in the Valley and made the former mission into "one of the most celebrated homes in the new California." [28] After California became a state on September 9, 1850, Pico served as a state assemblyman and senator, and became a brigadier general in the state militia. [28] In 1854, Andrés Pico's nine-year lease on the Rancho Ex-Mission San Fernando expired, and he purchased a half-interest in the property. [29]

Stage stops and the overland mail Edit

In 1851 the Los Angeles Court of Sessions recognized two rights of way through the Cahuenga Pass that connected Los Angeles with the Valley. One followed the old El Camino Real to Santa Barbara via Rancho Encino. The other, Tulare Road, joined El Camino Viejo ("the old road") north via Mission San Fernando, over the San Fernando Pass (now the Newhall Pass) to the Santa Clarita Valley, and through the Old Tejon Pass to the Central Valley and the gold fields beyond. [29] In 1854, the Army established Fort Tejon in the Grapevine Canyon (La Cañada de las Uvas) near Fort Tejon Pass. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors authorized funds to construct a 30-foot (9.1 m) deep cut to make the steep route north over the San Fernando Pass easier for stagecoach traffic, and a group of businessmen raised funds by subscription to complete the work. Young entrepreneur Phineas Banning's staging and shipping partnership with County Supervisor David W. Alexander acquired the contract to supply Fort Tejon, and Banning drove the first stage run over the new cut in December 1854. [30] Also the U. S. Army Pacific Railroad Surveys found the Fort Tejon Pass a much easier route for wagons than the old Tejon Pass, and this route became the Stockton - Los Angeles Road, the new wagon route to the southern goldfields on the Kern River and northward on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley to Stockton.

The Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach route between St. Louis, Missouri and San Francisco, California via Fort Yuma and Los Angeles made its first run in the fall of 1858. [31] The original route entered the Valley through Cahuenga Pass and traveled northwest to the San Fernando Pass with a stage stop at Lopez Station north of the mission. [31]

In 1859, the California Legislature appropriated $15,000 (with additional funding provided by Los Angeles and Santa Barbara Counties) towards improving the old Santa Susana Pass wagon road into a new stagecoach road, now known as the Old Santa Susana Stage Road. [32] [33] [34] The road ran over the Simi Hills between Santa Susana (now Chatsworth) and the Simi Valley. The precipitous portion of the route down from the summit on the San Fernando Valley side was called the Devil's Slide horses were usually blindfolded and chains were used to augment brakes on the steep descent. Passengers debarked and walked. [32]

Southern California's boom market in beef had begun to decline as early as 1855 as it became profitable to drive cattle and sheep to California from the Midwest and Texas, and a drought in 1856 increased the pressure on the ranchos. [35] By 1859, with the cattle market in collapse and besieged by mounting debts, De la Osa converted his house at Rancho Encino into a roadside inn and began to charge patrons for his legendary Californio hospitality. [36]

The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 disrupted mail service to California from the east via the old southerly "oxbow route". That year, Butterfield obtained a new contract to deliver mail between Los Angeles and San Francisco via a route diverging from the old road at the southeast corner of the Valley and traveling via the former El Camino Real as far as Rancho Encino before striking northwest across the valley floor for Santa Barbara via the recently improved Santa Susana wagon road over the Santa Susana Pass. This road became the main passenger route between Los Angeles and San Francisco, [37] although traffic over the San Fernando Pass to the Central Valley continued.

Civil War years Edit

The devastation that ravaged the old rancho way of life between 1861 and 1865 had little to do with the Civil War raging to the east. The rains that started shortly before Christmas, 1861, continued for most of the following month. The flooding that followed drowned thousands of cattle and washed away fruit trees and vineyards. The Los Angeles Star reported that

The road from Tejon, we hear, has been almost washed away. The San Fernando mountain cannot be crossed except by the old trail . over the top of the mountain. The plain has been cut up into gulches and arroyos, and streams are rushing down every declivity. [38]

No mail was received at Los Angeles for five weeks. After the floods abated, grazing lands were turned into lush meadows and cattle flourished on the abundant grass. Surveyor General Edward Fitzgerald Beale had the damaged cut in the San Fernando Pass deepened to 90 feet (27.4 m) and named the slot-like roadway Beale's Cut. [39] But the reprieve was only brief. [40]

The flood of 1861–62 was followed by severe droughts in 1863 and 1864. [40] Cattle perished, or were slaughtered and sold for the salvage value of their hides and horn, and land values plummeted. Ravenous locusts and a major smallpox epidemic completed the devastation. [40] The rancho economy of the Dons and the Californio way of life fell to a wave of overwhelming debt and unpaid taxes, never to rise again. [40]

New names on the land Edit

In the decade after the Civil War, the majority of the old ranchos in the Valley changed hands. In 1867, David Burbank, a dentist and entrepreneur from Los Angeles, purchased Rancho Providencia [26] [41] and 4,607 acres (19 km 2 ) of the adjacent Rancho San Rafael. Burbank combined his properties into a nearly 9,000-acre (36 km 2 ) cattle ranch.

That same year, De La Osa's widow sold Rancho Encino to James Thompson, [36] who raised sheep on the rancho for two years. Thompson in turn sold the property to the Garnier brothers in 1869. The Garniers also raised sheep on the property, and were known for the fine quality of their fleece, but they in turn became overextended and lost the property to foreclosure in 1878. [26]

Eulogio de Celis had tried to sell his vast holdings in the Valley, but found no buyers. Squeezed by debt after the flood years, Andrés Pico had sold his half-interest in the Rancho ex-Mission San Fernando to his brother Pío Pico in 1862, [42] retaining 2,000 acres (8 km 2 ) called the Pico Reserve around the old Mission. When De Celis died in 1869, Pío Pico, desperately in need of cash, sold his half-share to a group of investors assembled as the San Fernando Farm Homestead Association. The leading investor was Isaac Lankershim, a Northern California stockman and grain farmer, who was impressed by the Valley's wild oats and proposed to raise sheep on the property. Other investors included Levi Strauss. To complete the sale, the Valley was split lengthwise, with the Association purchasing the southern half and the northern half devolving to De Celis's heirs. The line of demarcation was a ploughed furrow across the Valley floor near the route of today's Roscoe Boulevard. In 1873, Isaac Lankershim's son and future son-in-law, James Boon Lankershim and Isaac Newton Van Nuys, moved to the Valley and took over management of the property. Van Nuys built the first wood-frame house in the Valley. Initially, the two men raised sheep, changing the name of the company to the San Fernando Sheep Company. Van Nuys, however, thought the property could profitably grow wheat using the dryland farming technique developed on the Great Plains, and leased land from the Association to test his theories. After a drought destroyed the majority of the sheep in 1875, the remainder of the property was given over to raising wheat and barley. In time, the Lankershim property, under its third name, the Los Angeles Farming and Milling Company, would become the world's largest wheat-growing empire. [42] [43]

Railroads and boom towns Edit

A 56,000-acre (227 km 2 ) parcel of De Celis's property north of the great furrow was purchased in 1874 by state senator Charles Maclay of Santa Clara and his partner, George K. Porter of San Francisco. Porter's cousin Benjamin F. Porter subsequently purchased portions of Porter and Maclay's interests. Most of the land except the parcel northeast of the mission was used for wheat farming. Ben Porter's portion to the west (now Porter Ranch) remained one of the last parts of the Valley to be developed. [44]

In the eastern section nearest the San Gabriel Mountains, Maclay platted the Valley's first town, San Fernando, on September 15, 1874. [44] The town plan included land for a station for Leland Stanford's Southern Pacific Railroad from Los Angeles, which became the depot for the north Valley farmers to ship their wheat crops south to the port at Wilmington. [45] In 1876, Southern Pacific opened a tunnel through the pass at San Fernando and ran the first through train from the transcontinental railroad's western terminus in San Francisco to Los Angeles. From this time, rail travel superseded long distance travel by stagecoach in California. [37] [44] [46]

The world wheat market remained strong through the 1870s and early 1880s, but then supply began to exceed demand, and prices began to fall. [45] When the rival Santa Fe Railroad reached Los Angeles in 1885, fare wars between the two transportation giants brought ever more settlers to Southern California, and pressure rose to subdivide the great ranches of the Valley. [46] In 1886, David Burbank sold his ranch to Los Angeles land speculators who formed the Providencia Land, Water and Development Company, with Burbank as one of the directors. The land was surveyed and a business district was laid out, surrounded by residential lots. The outlying area was divided into small farms. They named the town Burbank and opened the tract for sale on May 1, 1887. [47]

In October 1887, J. B. Lankershim and eight other developers organized the Lankershim Ranch Land and Water Company, purchasing 12,000 acres (49 km 2 ) north of the Caheunga Pass from the Lankershim Farming and Milling Company. [48] Lankershim established a townsite which the residents named Toluca (later Lankershim, and now North Hollywood) along the old Tulare Road from Cahuenga Pass to San Fernando. On April 1, 1888, they offered ready-made small farms for sale, already planted with deep-rooted deciduous fruit and nut trees—mostly peaches, pears, and walnuts—that could survive the rainless summers of the Valley by relying on the high water table along the Pacoima River (now the central or main branch of the Tujunga Wash) rather than surface irrigation. [45] [49]

In 1888, Ben Porter sold a portion of his property near the base of Santa Susana Pass to the Porter Land and Water Company, which platted it as the community of Chatsworth Park. [50]

The land boom of the 1880s went bust by the 1890s, but despite another brutal drought cycle in the late 1890s, the fruit and nut farmers remained solvent for a time. The Toluca Fruit Growers Association was formed in 1894. The next year the Southern Pacific opened a branch line slanting northwest across the Valley to Chatsworth Park, which made one freight stop a day at Toluca, though the depot bore the new name of Lankershim. In 1896, under pressure from J. B. Lankershim, the post office at Toluca was renamed "Lankershim" after his father, although the new name of the town would not be officially recognized until 1905. [51] [52]

A new Santa Susana Pass wagon route bypassing the deteriorating Devil's Slide was opened in 1895 to the north. Initially called El Camino Nuevo (the New Road), it was later named the Chatsworth Grade Road, which continued in use until Santa Susana Pass Road (now Old Santa Susana Pass Road) was built in 1917. [32] This was the first automobile route between the San Fernando and Simi Valleys. It also was the main northbound 'coast road' to Santa Barbara and San Francisco, until the Conejo Grade in Ventura County between Conejo Valley and the Oxnard Plain on "Camino Real Viejo" (the Old Royal Road, now U.S. Route 101), was improved. Rail traffic through Toluca and Chatsworth Park to Ventura County and points north was made possible by the opening of the Santa Susana Tunnels in 1904, and the new coast route soon superseded the old rail route to San Francisco via the San Fernando Pass for passenger travel, as that route had superseded the stagecoach route via Santa Susana Pass in the 1870s. [37] [53]

Late in the decade the City of Los Angeles sued all the ranchers of the Valley, claiming the rights not only to the surface water of the Los Angeles River and its tributaries, but to the groundwater as well. In 1899, the California Supreme Court sided with the city. Without a reliable water supply, it became impossible to sell farm sites in the Valley. [54]

Development in the new century Edit

In October 1903, George K. Porter sold an option to purchase his last 16,200 acres (66 km 2 ) of land in the north Valley to a syndicate led by Leslie C. Brand of Glendale. In 1904, Brand's syndicate incorporated as the San Fernando Mission Land Company, whose major shareholders included Los Angeles businessmen Henry E. Huntington, E.H. Harriman, Edwin T. Earl, Joseph F. Sartori, and Harrison Gray Otis. [55] One day after the city water commission, on which Moses Sherman sat, approved a proposal to build an aqueduct from the Owens Valley, the Company quietly exercised its option to purchase Porter's land. [56]

On July 29, 1905, the City announced its plans to bring water south from the Owens Valley—water that would only be made available to city residents. [54] Construction began in 1908 and water from the Los Angeles Aqueduct reached the San Fernando Valley in November, 1913. [57]

Real estate development once again boomed. In the "biggest land transaction ever recorded in Los Angeles County", [58] a syndicate led by Harry Chandler, business manager of the Los Angeles Times, with Hobart Johnstone Whitley, Isaac Van Nuys, and James Boon Lankershim acquired "Tract 1000", the remaining 47,500 acres (192 km 2 ) of the southern half of the former Mission lands—everything west of the Lankershim town limits and south of the old furrow excepting the Rancho Encino. As the Los Angeles Suburban Homes company, they laid out plans for the towns of Van Nuys, Marion (now Reseda) and Owensmouth (now Canoga Park, West Hills, and Winnetka), a system of highways, and eventual incorporation into the city of Los Angeles. In the "Sale of the Century" in November 1910 they sold the remaining livestock and non-land assets of the Lankershim Farming and Milling Company at auction. The Los Angeles Times called the auction "the beginning of a new empire and a new era in the Southland". [58] [59]

Times were indeed changing quickly. The City of Burbank was incorporated in 1911, [60] and the Pacific Electric Railway reached Van Nuys on December 16, 1911, Owensmouth on December 7, 1912, and San Fernando on March 22, 1913. [61] In 1912, Carl Laemmle broke ground on a permanent movie-making facility on the Providencia (Oak Crest Ranch) in the hills east of the mouth of the Cahuenga Pass that would become the first location of Universal City. Universal City moved to a new location, the Taylor Ranch in 1914. [62] In 1914, Carl Laemmle broke ground on Taylor ranch for the New Universal City in the hills east of the mouth of the Cahuenga Pass that would become the second location of Universal City in the San Fernando Valley, Universal City. [63]

Annexation Edit

Valley farmers offered to buy the surplus aqueduct water, but the federal legislation that enabled the construction of the aqueduct prohibited Los Angeles from selling the water outside of the city limits. [64] For the Valley communities, the choice was consent to annexation or do without. On March 29, 1915, by a vote of 681 to 25, residents of 108,732 acres (440 km 2 ) of the San Fernando Valley (excluding Rancho El Escorpión and the communities of Owensmouth, Lankershim, Burbank and San Fernando) voted to be annexed by the City of Los Angeles. Owensmouth was annexed in 1917, West Lankershim in 1919, Chatsworth in 1920, and Lankershim in 1923. Small remote portions of the north and west Valley were annexed piecemeal even later: most of Rancho El Escorpión in 1958 and the remainder of Ben Porter's ranch as late as 1965. Burbank and San Fernando remain independent cities to this day. [65] [66]

  1. "San Fernando Valley" By Marc Wanamaker (2011) Page 97, 103, and 106
  2. "Oak Crest, a film city by itself" The New York Dramatic Mirror - January 15, 1913 page 49.
  3. "Universal City Visit" Rotarian February 1914
  4. "Early Universal City" by Robert S. Birchard
  5. "A Motion Picture City . " Daily Advocate, October 2, 1914 Page 6
  6. "Scrap it" the Old Universal - 1915 Universal Tour Brochure
  7. The Cowboys, Indians and zoo 1914 first assets to be moved to the new Universal City. [Motion Picture World]
  8. "The Theatre of Science a volume of progress and achievement in the motion picture industry" by Robert Grau : Page 287 - 1914 Broadway Pub. Co. New York
  9. The Life & Adventures of Carl Laemmle by John Drinkwater (Carl Laemmle views Nestor ranch and names the area Universal City))
  10. "Quiet on the Set" - Iverson Movie Ranch History 1984

Universal History 1912 to 1915 - "Frickr Universal Image collection" by Dennis Dickens. [68]


On the trail of the Father Crespi Collection – Part I - History

By Kathleen Tuthill, Illustrated by Rupert Van Wyk

British doctor John Snow couldn&rsquot convince other doctors and scientists that cholera, a deadly disease, was spread when people drank contaminated water until a mother washed her baby&rsquos diaper in a town well in 1854 and touched off an epidemic that killed 616 people.

Dr. Snow, an obstetrician with an interest in many aspects of medical science, had long believed that water contaminated by sewage was the cause of cholera. Cholera is an intestinal disease than can cause death within hours after the first symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea. Snow published an article in 1849 outlining his theory, but doctors and scientists thought he was on the wrong track and stuck with the popular belief of the time that cholera was caused by breathing vapors or a &ldquomiasma in the atmosphere&rdquo.

The first cases of cholera in England were reported in1831, about the time Dr. Snow as finishing up his medical studies at the age of eighteen. Between 1831 and 1854, tens of thousands of people in England died of cholera. Although Dr. Snow was deeply involved in experiments using a new technique, known as anesthesia, to deliver babies, he was also fascinated with researching his theory on how cholera spread.

In the middle 1800s, people didn&rsquot have running water or modern toilets in their homes. They used town wells and communal pumps to get the water they used for drinking, cooking and washing. Septic systems were primitive and most homes and businesses dumped untreated sewage and animal waste directly into the Thames River or into open pits called &ldquocesspools&rdquo. Water companies often bottled water from the Thames and delivered it to pubs, breweries and other businesses.

Dr. Snow believed sewage dumped into the river or into cesspools near town wells could contaminate the water supply, leading to a rapid spread of disease.

In August of 1854 Soho, a suburb of London, was hit hard by a terrible outbreak of cholera. Dr. Snows himself lived near Soho, and immediately went to work to prove his theory that contaminated water was the cause of the outbreak.

&ldquoWithin 250 yards of the spot where Cambridge Street joins Broad Street there were upwards of 500 fatal attacks of cholera in 10 days,&rdquo Dr. Snow wrote &ldquoAs soon as I became acquainted with the situation and extent of this irruption (sic) of cholera, I suspected some contamination of the water of the much-frequented street-pump in Broad Street.&rdquo

Dr. Snow worked around the clock to track down information from hospital and public records on when the outbreak began and whether the victims drank water from the Broad Street pump. Snow suspected that those who lived or worked near the pump were the most likely to use the pump and thus, contract cholera. His pioneering medical research paid off. By using a geographical grid to chart deaths from the outbreak and investigating each case to determine access to the pump water, Snow developed what he considered positive proof the pump was the source of the epidemic.

Besides those who lived near the pump, Snow tracked hundreds of cases of cholera to nearby schools, restaurants, businesses and pubs.

According to Snow&rsquos records, the keeper of one coffee shop in the neighborhood who served glasses of water from the Broad Street pump along with meals said she knew of nine of her customers who had contracted cholera.

A popular bubbly drink of the time was called &ldquosherbet&rdquo, which was a spoonful of powder that fizzed when mixed with water. In the Broad Street area of Soho, that water usually came from the Broad Street pump and was, Snow believed, the source for many cases.

Snow also investigated groups of people who did not get cholera and tracked down whether they drank pump water. That information was important because it helped Snow rule out other possible sources of the epidemic besides pump water.

He found several important examples. A workhouse, or prison, near Soho had 535 inmates but almost no cases of cholera. Snow discovered the workhouse had its own well and bought water from the Grand Junction Water Works.

The men who worked in a brewery on Broad Street which made malt liquor also escaped getting cholera. The proprietor of the brewery, Mr. Huggins, told Snow that the men drank the liquor they made or water from the brewery&rsquos own well and not water from the Broad Street pump. None of the men contracted cholera. A factory near the pump, at 37 Broad Street, wasn&rsquot so lucky. The factory kept two tubs of water from the pump on hand for employees to drink and 16 of the workers died from cholera.

The cases of two women, a niece and her aunt, who died of cholera puzzled Snow. The aunt lived some distance from Soho, as did her niece, and Snow could make no connection to the pump. The mystery was cleared up when he talked to the woman&rsquos son. He told Snow that his mother had lived in the Broad Street area at one time and liked the taste of the water from the pump so much that she had bottles of it brought to her regularly. Water drawn from the pump on 31 August, the day of the outbreak, was delivered to her. As was her custom, she and her visiting niece took a glass of the pump water for refreshment, and according to Snow&rsquos records, both died of cholera the following day.

Snow was able to prove that the cholera was not a problem in Soho except among people who were in the habit of drinking water from the Broad Street pump. He also studied samples of water from the pump and found white flecks floating in it, which he believed were the source of contamination.

On 7 September 1854, Snow took his research to the town officials and convinced them to take the handle off the pump, making it impossible to draw water. The officials were reluctant to believe him, but took the handle off as a trial only to find the outbreak of cholera almost immediately trickled to a stop. Little by little, people who had left their homes and businesses in the Broad Street area out of fear of getting cholera began to return.

Despite the success of Snow&rsquos theory in stemming the cholera epidemic in Soho, public officials still thought his hypothesis was nonsense. They refused to do anything to clean up the cesspools and sewers. The Board of Health issued a report that said, &ldquowe see no reason to adopt this belief&rdquo and shrugged off Snow&rsquos evidence as mere &ldquosuggestions.&rdquo

For months afterward Snow continued to track every case of cholera from the 1854 Soho outbreak and traced almost all of them back to the pump, including a cabinetmaker who was passing through the area and children who lived closer to other pumps but walked by the Broad Street pump on their way to school. What he couldn&rsquot prove was where the contamination came from in the first place.

Officials contended there was no way sewage from town pipes leaked into the pump and Snow himself said he couldn&rsquot figure out whether the sewage came from open sewers, drains underneath houses or businesses, public pipes or cesspools.

The mystery might never have been solved except that a minister, Reverend Henry Whitehead, took on the task of proving Snow wrong. The minister contended that the outbreak was caused not by tainted water, but by God&rsquos divine intervention. He did not find any such proof and in fact, his published report confirms Snow&rsquos findings. Best of all, it gave Snow the probable solution to the cause of the pump&rsquos contamination.

Reverend Whitehead interviewed a woman, who lived at 40 Broad Street, whose child who had contracted cholera from some other source. The child&rsquos mother washed the baby&rsquos diapers in water which she then dumped into a leaky cesspool just three feet from the Broad Street pump, touching off what Snow called &ldquothe most terrible outbreak of cholera which ever occurred in this kingdom.&rdquo

A year later a magazine called The Builder published Reverend Whitehead&rsquos findings along with a challenge to Soho officials to close the cesspool and repair the sewers and drains because &ldquoin spite of the late numerous deaths, we have all the materials for a fresh epidemic.&rdquo It took many years before public officials made those improvements.

In 1883 a German physician, Robert Koch, took the search for the cause of cholera a step further when he isolated the bacterium Vibrio cholerae, the &ldquopoison&rdquo Snow contended caused cholera. Dr. Koch determined that cholera is not contagious from person to person, but is spread only through unsanitary water or food supply sources, a major victory for Snow&rsquos theory. The cholera epidemics in Europe and the United States in the 19 th century ended after cities finally improved water supply sanitation.

The World Health Organization estimates 78 percent of the people in Third World countries are still without clean water supplies today, and up to 85 percent of those people don&rsquot live in areas with adequate sewage treatment, making cholera outbreaks an ongoing concern in some parts of the world.

Today, scientists consider Snow to be the pioneer of public health research in a field known as epidemiology. Much of the current epidemiological research done at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which still uses theories such as Snows&rsquo to track the sources and causes of many diseases.


Holy Family Parish History

Although gold miners worked the streams of Plumas and Sierra Counties from the early days of the Gold Rush, the town of Portola didn’t have its beginning until 1905, when the Western Pacific Railroad bought the Boca and Loyalton Railroad. The little settlement began as a headquarters for work on the rail line. According to one source, Portola officially entered the Plumas County Board of Supervisors minutes on August 14, 1909. By 1910, the little town had a population of 400 people, but the nearest Catholic churches were in Truckee and Reno.

Catholics in the Feather River country had been served by a succession of “circuit rider” priests beginning as early as 1852, when “a certain Father Acker visited the town of Downieville, on the North Fork of the Yuba River.” Father Shanahan, who was the pioneer missionary of Nevada City, made his first trip into the mining camps of Sierra County in the spring of 1853, probably coming as far north as La Porte. In 1856, Father Cornelius Delahunty was made resident pastor in Downieville, and the mining camps in the southern section of Plumas County fell under his jurisdiction. “Father Delahunty traveled faithfully up the rugged trails into this wild secluded region from La Porte to Jolmsville until he was called away to Virginia City in October, 1861. From 1862 to 1869, a Father Lynch traveled from Downieville to the declining placer diggings in the southern end of Plumas County. In 1869, Father Lynch’s place was taken by Father William Moloney who became the first Catholic missionary to visit the Genesee and Indian Valleys.

The trail Father Moloney followed led up from Downieville to Sierra City, from which it continued northwards to Johnsville, a popular mining town on Deer Creek above Johnsville it connected with the Beckwourth stage road leading into Quincy, the County seat of Plumas County … from here he proceeded on his way to Greenville … he cut over into Indian Valley, and stopped a the towns of Taylorsville and Genesee … whence he continued … to Johnstonville and Susanville, where he held services and performed baptisms. He started back to Downieville, over one hundred miles below, at the end of the trail in Sierra County. He is said to have made the same long trip during (1870) … and every year thereafter until 1874, when the missions in Genesee and Indian Valleys were taken over by the pastor of Truckee. The chain of towns beginning with Chester at the northern border (of the county), and including in turn Greenville, Crescent Mills, Taylorsville, Genesee, Quincy, Mohawk, Johnsville, Graeagle, Portola, and Chilcoot, received regular ministrations by the priests of Reno and Truckee until 1929, when Father Patrick McTague became pastor of Plumas County, establishing his residence at Portola.

Other Catholic churches built in the area around Portola included a church remodeled from an old school house in Loyalton in 1908 a church, now long-disappeared, located on what is now County Road A-23 near the Plumas County-Sierra County line and a church in Beckwourth, built by Catholics in 1873. There is a record of a Father Kiely who journeyed to Loyalton from Reno to hold mass in 1888.

In his very informative Sierra Valley, Jewel of the Sierras, James J. Sinnott includes the following, which he gained from the
“Historical Souvenir and Directory of the Church of the Assumption at Truckee, California, and the Missions attached
Thereto, including Lake Tahoe, Sierra Valley, Portola, Quincy, and Indian Valley.” This document came into Mr. Sinnott’s possession from Mrs. Betty Dellera of Chilcoot. The document states that

Up until the year 1912, the parish of Truckee embraced all that part of California lying east of the Sierras and north of the Southern Pacific Railroad, including all of the counties of Modoc, Lassen, and Plumas, and part of the counties of Sierra, Nevada, and Placer.

Sinnott gained another account from Mrs. Mary Mattox of Loyalton and Father Bernard Bums of Holy Family Parish:

In 1929 the Rt. Rev. Robert J. Armstrong, Bishop of the Sacramento Diocese, established the Parish of the Holy Family of Portola. Included in the Parish were the mission churches of Loyalton, Quincy, Greenville, Graeagle, Johnsville, and Walker Mine … Prior to the establishment of the above Parish, Father Horgan of Truckee traveled to Loyalton to hold Mass. Of interest in the history of Catholic Churches of the vicinity of Sierra Valley is the fact that the bell in the Catholic Church of Portola is from a church at Johnsville, which was built in 1899, which latter church was served in the 1920’s by Father John 1. McGarry who traveled there from his home church in Downieville, extending his trip to Johnsville after visits to Howland Flat, Gibsonville, etc., in northern Sierra County, making the trips on horseback.

The year 1929, then, marks the permanent establishment of a Catholic church in Portola.

The Succession of Priests

Father Patrick McTague graduated from All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland and was ordained June 20, 1926. He came to Portola in 1929. He was instrumental in building the original church building on the comer of Taylor and Pine Streets, facing the railroad yards to the north. Father John McGoldrick succeeded him in 1937. Father McTague later served in McCloud, Redding, Yreka, Sacramento, and North Sacramento. He died in 1981.

Father McGoldrick had been appointed Assistant Pastor of Holy Rosary Church in Woodland in 1931 before coming to Portola in 1937. During the early part of Father McGoldrick’s term in Portola, which lasted until 1946, McGoldrick was assisted by Father Michael Myles.

The two men lived in Portola and served the communities of Portola, Loyalton, Quincy, and Greenville. Later, Father Myles moved to Quincy, serving that community and Greenville. Father Schaeffer succeeded Father McGoldrick. It was during Father McGoldrick’s term that the rectory was built next to the church. A copy of the original contract dated March 27, 1936 and signed by contractor 1. W. Spriggs and Father McGoldrick exists in the records of Holy Family Parish. In the Portola Reporter for April 4, 1936, an article headlined “Father McGoldrick to Have New Residence,” the writer states that “6 local area lumber companies have agreed to donate lumber for the project.” Father McGoldrick was a friend with Jack Hamilton, World War I veteran and then yardmaster for the Western Pacific Railroad in Portola. Hamilton was a Mason. Because of his friendship with Father McGoldrick, Hamilton recruited a group of Masons to help with the building of the rectory. Later, Hamilton’s son, Jack, Jr., converted to Catholicism. In his oral interview, Gerald Gervais, who moved to Portola in 1946, recalled seeing a man on Commercial Street early one morning, which, according to Gervais, was dressed in working clothes and needed a shave. Gervais, who had moved to town very recently, was startled when he went to mass the next Sunday and saw that the man, then in the robes of a priest, was Father McGoldrick.

Father Schaeffer, a native of Ohio, was Holy Family Parish Priest from 1946 to 1954. He was an avid fisherman, Parish member Bob Rowden recalls that Father Schaeffer once drove his Jeep into Wades Lake above Johnsville and couldn’t get the Jeep back up the trail down which he had come. , Rowden says it took parish member Hugo Menesini two weekends to winch the Jeep out of the canyon. Jerry Gervais recalls how he helped Father Schaeffer shovel off the roof of the Social Hall in 1952, the “year of the big snow,” and how Father Schaeffer kept offering him “a little nip to keep off the cold.” Jerry states he had a hard time explaining his condition to wife Agnes when he returned home. Father Thomas O’Brien succeeded Father Schaeffer.

Father O’Brien served Holy Family Parish from 1954 until 1961. He presided over the building of Holy Rosary Church in Loyalton in 1954, which to this day carries the title “mission church.” Holy Rosary Church was dedicated in 1955. Father (later Monsignor) Patrick Corkell succeeded Father O’Brien. In later years, Father O’Brien served in Redding and Anderson.

Father Corkell served Holy Family Parish from 1961 to 1967. Many of his parishioners fondly referred to him as “the high priest” because of his stature. He was well over 6 feet five inches in height. In 1965, the church was enlarged local contractor John Bronson “split” the church along the east-west axis and moved the north half closer to Taylor Street, then filled in the middle. Parishioner Delia Bonta remembers well the date of the completion of that work because her wedding rehearsal was held in the church just before the tile was laid on the floor, and her wedding was the next day. A few years later, builders Eddie Pitzer and Don Ross built a more spacious entrance and toilet facilities and roofed over the porch and steps. After leaving Portola, Father Corkell served in Burney. In 1960, before his assignment to Portola, he served as Chaplain at the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. Before his death in 1995, he was made Monsignor. Father Bernard Burns succeeded Father Corkell.

Father Burn’s term at Holy Family was from 1967 to 1998. Because the length of years he spent as Portola’s parish priest, his life is treated in a separate section of this article. Father Glenn Dare succeeded him in 1998.

Father Dare was the pastor of Holy Family Parish in November 2003.

Updated November 12, 2012 by Barbara Jaquez …

Father Walsh from Ireland succeeded Father Dare in 2004. Father Walsh was a very spiritual leader, who was known for his jovial ways and gentleness. He often returned from retirement in Ireland to visit his friends and former parishioners.

Father Joel, from the Philippines, succeeded Father Walsh.

Father Rainier, from the Philippines, succeeded Father Joel. Father Rainer possesses a child like spirit and taught his parishioners a genuine love for Christ is set by example. He was often found serving others, even serving food at the Parish dinners.

Father Arlon Vergara, OSA, an Augustinian, and also from the Philippines succeeded Father Rainier in 2012.

Father Bernard Burns

The following is excerpted from a speech made by the author at Father Burn’s retirement party in June of 1998.

Father Burns was born August 8,1929, in County Cavan, Ireland, in the Parish of Killeshandra. He was the eldest of the four boys and one girl born to John and Jane Burns, a farming family. When it was time for him to go to school, his parents sent him to the National School, the equivalent of an American elementary school. The school was in Arvagh, 2 miles away, and young Benny walked to and from school every day. He wore boots in winter, but always looked forward to the spring when he could go barefoot to school. He attended National School from grades one through eight. A promising scholar, Benny felt a pull toward the priesthood even before his eighth grade year. However, most farm boys in County Cavan couldn’t hope to go beyond the eighth grade, and most of them didn’t want to, anyway, preferring to return to the farm or go into the trades.

Education beyond the National School was expensive, and most Irish families could not afford to send their sons to be schooled as priests, and schooling in other professions was out of the question. John and Jane Burns were determined, however, and their answer to the question of how to pay for their children’s educations was “If God wants it, we’ll be able.” Eventually, all five Burns children went on to some form of higher education in Ireland.

It cost 10 pounds per year to send 14-year-old Benny Burns to the Moyne School, or, as it more formally know, St. Mary’s Apostolic School, in North Longford, Ireland. Today, Moyne can count more than 600 of its alumni who are priests, almost all of them natives of the dozen rural parishes within a 20-mile radius of the school. The Moyne school is a direct descendent of the “hedge schools” of Ireland which had their beginning under the repressive regime of Oliver Cromwell of England (1653-58). Cromwell forbade education in Gaelic and any Catholic teachings. The “hedge schools” were classes held in secret to circumvent Cromwell’s rule.

Benny studied Latin and Greek, Christian doctrine, English Composition, and mathematics, earning high marks in all courses, And, at the end of his four years at Moyne he was accepted as a Seminary student at All Hallows College in Dublin. All Hallows was a boarding school whose day began with 6:30am prayers and was filled with classes and study. In their first two years, the young Seminarians were in the Philosophy Department, where they studied mathematics, history, and English. In their last two years, the ‘ House,” they were in the Theology Department, studying Dogmatic Theology, Moral Theology, and Scripture.

But All Hallows proved to be not all work for Benny. He excelled in sports, playing soccer, hurling, tennis, and handball. His favorite was soccer, or as the Irish call it, “football.” There were 200 boys in All Hallows at that time, and there were at least two soccer games every aftenoon played among the eight teams organized on the campus.

All Hallows prepared its young men not for Ireland but for the world. They left the seminary for places like South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand – even such far away lands as California in the United States of America. And it was to California, in the Diocese of Sacramento, that 20-year-old Benny Bums, or, rather, newly ordained Father Bernard Bums, was sent after his ordination on June 21,1953.
He was assigned to Chico, as Assistant Pastor of St. John’s church, and served there until being sent to St. Mary’s Church in Arcata, in 1958, again as assistant pastor. He described his time in Arcata as his “first experience in small-town California.”

After three years in Arcata, he was called back by the Diocese Sacramento in 1961 to be Assistant Pastor at the beginning of Presentation Parish in Carmichael. In 1963, he was given another job, this time as a Teacher of Religion at Bishop Armstrong High School in Sacramento. After a year, he was sent to St. Basil’s Parish in Vallejo as Assistant Pastor, where he worked generally with the youth of the parish for three years, 1965-1967.

In 1967 he Burns was called to Family Parish in Portola, a place he knew nothing about. He served Holy Family from that date until his retirement in 1998. After retiring, he moved to his native county of Cavan in Ireland, from which he enjoyed a yearly trip back to the United States to visit friends and parishioners in Portola and Loyalton.
The 1990’s Building Project

(The following is extracted from the Minutes of the Building Committee of Holy Family Church, 1992-2000. The author was secretary of that committee.)

During Father Burn’s 31 years as Pastor, Holy Family grew in spirit and in membership. In April of 1992, in response to hi

call for a parish meeting to discuss repairs to the sanctuary, specifically a leaky roof, a group of men and women came together. Under. Father Burn’s leadership, the discussion ranged far beyond fixing a leaky roof. Discussion of building a new church on some property owned on the north side of Portola ultimately led, over the succeeding months, to a plan for building a new social hall, enlarging the existing sanctuary, and building a large paved parking lot. The death of a neighbor who owned the property directly west of the church (on the southwest corner of Taylor and Pine Streets) had prompted Father Bums to buy the lot for the church. That lot became the site for the social center, which today is called Father Bums Social Center. A parcel of land was bought from the railroad on the north side of Taylor Avenue to serve as the paved parking lot.
Parish members participated over the next five years in a pledged giving program to help raise money for the project. With the pledged money, the Parish was able to borrow from the Diocese the money for the building project. In April of 1994, the construction bid was awarded to Jeff Litz Construction Company of Portola, and work on the new social center began shortly thereafter. The completed hall was a two-story building with a large meeting hall and offices upstairs, and classrooms and a meeting hall downstairs. At its completion, the hall was dedicated during a visit from Most Reverend William K. Weigand, Bishop of Sacramento. Work then began on the expansion of the Sanctuary, and masses were held in the new social center until the sanctuary work was completed in May 2000.

Parish members serving on the Building Committee:
Father Bernard Burns
Father Glen Dare
Clyde “Buzzy” Baur
Betty Folchi
Don Keinlen
Tony Martinez
Eldon Dobyns
AJ Beatley
Jack Bibb

Jack Bridge was hired as Project Coordinator to be liason between the Building Committee and Jeff Litz, the Contractor.


The Explorers, 1492-1774

The expeditions to San Diego by land were to find their journey much easier. Capt. Rivera, after gathering animals and supplies from the missions on the route north along the trail first explored by Fr. Link, arrived at Santa Maria Mission, the last outpost of the existing mission system, in December, and not finding enough pasturage there made camp about forty miles northwest at Velicata. This became an important post on what later was known as the Pacific Trail, connecting the later Dominican coastal missions. Velicata is about 270 miles south of San Diego, but, by a road twisting over a great part of upper Baja California, it is about 360 miles.

When Fr. Crespi arrived, the expedition was ready to start. Besides Capt. Rivera and Fr. Crespi, there were Juan Canizares, engineer, 25 leatherjackets from the presidio of Loreto, three muleteers, and between forty-four and fifty-two Indians, of whom most deserted or died on the march to San Diego. On March 24th, Good Friday, with a pack train of 180 mules, the members of the expedition turned their faces north and began the long march. Fr. Crespi noted in his diary: “The country continues like the rest of California, sterile, arid, lacking grass and water, and abounding in stones and thorns.”

They slowly worked their way northward, staying fairly close to the coast, though the death of a number of Indian helpers and the gradual disappearance of many others during the night caused anxiety and increasing difficulties with the pack train. They encountered many Indian tribes and settlements, but only on one occasion were they threatened, a few arrows falling harmlessly at their feet.

Forty-six days after leaving Velicata they descended into a deep green valley thick with Indian houses and got the first indications that their journey was drawing to an end. This was near the present village of San Miguel, just north of Ensenada. The date was May 9th. Fr. Crespi’s diary noted that the moment the Indians “saw us they broke into an uproar, all coming out of their houses and running to some knolls, most of them not stopping until they reached a hill on the other side of the valley.” The lure of gifts restored confidence and “the Indians told us, as we understood perfectly by signs, that they had seen two barks pass by, and that they were not far away.”

The next day they arrived in sight of another valley as green and pleasant as the one they had just left, at what is now Descanso, Baja California, and found themselves surrounded by so many naked and painted Indians they were unable to count them:

“They apparently belonged to four villages, for we observed that four of them, who were doubtless captains or chiefs, made us long speeches, of which we understood nothing, although we inferred from their signs that they offered themselves and their lands to us. We understood also, the same as from the preceding village, that they had seen two barks, and that they were anchored. They also spoke of the people who had come in them, and said that there were three fathers who wore the same dress as I, pointing to me and taking hold of my habit.”

On May 12th, they crossed over to the coast, near the present Tahiti Beach, halfway between Rosarito Beach and the border, where they could see the Coronado Islands, and finding a pool of fresh water named it the Pool of the Holy Martyrs. The next morning, because of cliffs on the beach, they cut back up onto the mesa west of Tijuana and soon saw

“in a long stretch the level shore that we were to follow, all the land being well covered with green grass. From a height on this plain we could see that the ocean enters far into the land. In the bay we saw the mainmasts of the two barks, which were scarcely to be made out on account of the distance we were still away from them. This sight was a great consolation and a joy for everybody, for we found ourselves at last so near the desired harbor of San Diego.”

Three hours of marching brought them to a populous Indian village along which ran “a good arroyo of water,” the Tia Juana River, and Fr. Crespi named the village Sancti Spiritus. There they remained overnight, soaked by rain, and, departing on Sunday morning, May 14th, despite more showers, continued north over the broad plain of the South Bay area, withdrawing a little from the shore for fear that there might be marshes. Indians were everywhere. Thus they circled the southern and eastern shores of San Diego Bay, and in a march of six and a half hours drew near the camp which had been set up by those who had come on the San Carlos and the San Antonio.

“As soon as we descried the camp the soldiers discharged their guns, giving a salute, and immediately those who were in the camp, as well as those on the packets, responded with their artillery and firearms. Immediately the three fathers who had come in the barks, and also the officers who were on the land, came to meet us and gave us hearty embraces and congratulations that we were now all united in this port of San Diego.”

They were the first white men to reach San Diego by land. Though they had suffered deprivations, arriving weary and emaciated, they had walked the distance with less trouble than coming by sea. Costanso tells how the weary marchers rested, and then how the camp was moved nearer the river. Thus Presidio Hill became the site of the first Royal Presidio in California and eventually the site of the first little mission.

Presidio Hill rose from a fairly wooded area and the Indian village called Cosoy actually was a collection of huts scattered among the trees. Fire pits have been excavated on Presidio Hill and mortars and pestles found on the golf course just below it.

“The whole land expedition arrived without having lost a single man or even carrying one sick person after a journey of two months, although they were on half rations, and with no more provisions than three sacks of flour, of which each man received two cakes for his entire day’s ration. They rested on that day near the camp of the sick, and were supplied with food to recover their strength. The officers resolved to move the camp close to the river, which had not been done before because it was not deemed advisable to divide the small force they had for the protection at once of the vessels and of the people lodged on the shore at the same time, the greater convenience of a shorter distance for the transportation had to be taken into consideration, in order not to tire unduly the men who were handling the launch, as the want of beasts of burden obliged them to carry on their shoulders everything that was brought on shore. All moved to the new camp which was transferred one league farther north on the right bank of the river, on a hill of moderate height (Presidio Hill) where it was possible to attend with greater care to the sick, whom the surgeon, Don Pedro Prat, did not leave for a moment and nursed with the utmost kindness. Seeing, however, that they did not improve, and that the contingency would arise in which the two packets would find it impossible to leave the port for want of seamen, they thought seriously of dispatching one of them to San Blas with letters to inform the viceroy and the inspector-general of the condition of both expeditions. Don Juan Perez, Captain of the Principe ncipe (or San Antonio) was appointed for this purpose, Don Vicente Vila deciding to remain at San Diego till he received new orders and the re-enforcements necessary to carry out whatever his superiors might determine. The packet San Antonio was … unloaded. Part of the cargo was transferred to the camp … and the remainder was put on board the San Carlos. The ship was made ready.”

“Always go forward never turn back.” This is the creed by which Fr. Serra lived. And on Tuesday, March 28th, long past his physical prime and with a painfully infected leg, he mounted a decrepit burro, and, accompanied only by a faithful servant and a soldier guard, set out on the first leg of his long journey leading to San Diego. He had been at Loreto a year, and though his needs were slight he noted in his diary that “from my mission of Loreto I took along no more provisions for so long a journey than a loaf of bread and a piece of cheese, for I was there a whole year, in economic matters, as a mere guest to receive the crumbs of the royal soldier commissioner, whose liberality at my departure did not extend beyond the aforementioned articles.” What a start for so great an adventure!

He went first to the nearby Mission San Javier, where he met his friend Fr. Palou, who supplied him with more provisions and the first articles for the new California missions, a silver-plated chalice, a small bronze bell, a new chasuble of cloth of gold and a used red one, and a few other necessary church goods. Seeing Fr. Serra’s condition, Fr. Palou offered to go in his place.

“When I saw the wound and swelling of his foot and leg, I could not restrain my tears, when I considered how much he would have to suffer traveling over the very rough and arduous roads known to exist up to the frontier, as well as those still unknown and later to be found, with no other physician and surgeon with him but the Divine Healer.”

But his pleadings were to no avail, and Fr. Serra pushed his tired burro on the hard trail to the frontier mission of Santa Maria, 200 miles north, where he met Capt. Portola on May 5th.

Capt. Portola has been criticized for some of his actions, or lack of them, but he had more than his share of troubles. A sympathetic man, things sometimes came hard for him. In his own narrative he recalls his sadness at the stripping of the missions to supply the expedition:

“While I was passing, my friend, through the missions established by the Jesuits to that one on the frontier named Santa Maria, we experienced no hardships worth mentioning, neither I nor my companions for, in addition to the fact that we took from the presidio vegetables and delicacies, in exchange for the lamentations of the settlers, we were fortunate enough to be able to sleep under roofs, and make the march with some comfort. In consideration of the great deserts into which I was going, and of the Russian hunger with which I foresaw we were going to contend, I was obliged to seize everything I saw as I passed through these poor missions, leaving them, to my keen regret … scantily provided for . . .”

Meanwhile Father Serra and Portola moved on to Velicata. The new Mission San Fernando was formally founded a cross was raised and bells were hung. Here, for the first time, Serra encountered truly primitive Indians untouched by civilization. In his diary he writes of them:

May 15: “It was for me a day of great rejoicing, because just after the Masses, while I was praying, retired inside of the little brush hut, they came to tell me that the Indians were coming and were close by. I gave praise to the Lord, kissing the ground, and thanking His Majesty for the fact, that after so many years of looking forward to it, He now permitted me to be among the pagans in their own country. I came out at once, and found myself in front of twelve of them, all men and grown up, except two who were boys, one about ten years old and the other fifteen. I saw something I could not believe when I had read of it, or had been told about it. It was this: they were entirely naked, as Adam in the garden, before sin.”

Serra said that even though the Indians saw that the Padres were clothed he could not notice the least sign of shame in them.

The expedition had now been completely assembled. It consisted of Sergeant Jose Francisco de Ortega, with ten leather-jackets, 44 Christian Indians, four muleteers, two servants, several hundred head of cattle, and a pack train.

It was time to move on, and the expedition left for San Diego on May 15th. From Fr. Palou we learn of the trials of Fr. Serra during this long march, even though Palou was not present:

“During the three days he remained at Velicata our Venerable Father did not suffer any pain in the leg, for from the start the joy and distraction over the foundation (of the new mission) made him forget about his pain. But it was not so afterwards, for on the first journey of three leagues the leg and foot became so inflamed that it appeared there was a cancerous condition there. They were so painful that they gave him no rest. Nevertheless, without complaining to anyone, he traveled another day, also of three leagues’ duration, until he came to a place called San Juan de Dios. There he felt so burdened with his infirmity that he could neither stand nor sit, but had to lie down in bed, suffering such pain that it was impossible for him to sleep. When the governor saw him in this condition he said to him: ‘Father President, Your Reverence now sees how incapable you are of accompanying the expedition. We are only six leagues from the starting point. If Your Reverence wishes, we shall carry you to the first mission, where you can recuperate, and we shall continue on our journey.’ But our Venerable Father, whose hope never waned, answered him in this way: ‘Let Your Honor not speak of this, for I trust that God will give me the strength to arrive at San Diego, as He has given me to arrive this far. If this should not be the case, I conform myself to His Most Holy Will. But even though I die on the road, I will not turn back. Although I be buried there, I shall gladly remain among the pagans, if it be the Will of God.’ When the governor realized the firm determination of the Venerable Father and, on the other hand, his inability either to ride horseback or to walk, he ordered a litter constructed, fashioned in the manner of a stretcher or bier for carrying the dead, and made of rods, so that he might be laid thereon and be carried by the neophyte Indians of Old California who were accompanying the expedition as scouts and for whatever chores they might be called on to perform. When the Venerable Father heard of this, he became very sad, when in his prudence and humility he considered the great labor involved in his being carried by those poor Indians. With this sadness, having retired within himself, he asked God to improve his condition in order to remove the burden to be imposed on the Indians if they should have to carry him in this manner. Rekindling his faith and confidence in God, that afternoon he called the muleteer Juan Antonio Coronel and said to him: ‘Son, do you know how to prepare a remedy for the wound in my foot and leg?’ But the muleteer answered him: ‘Father, what remedy could I know of? Do you think I am a surgeon? I’m a muleteer I’ve healed only the sores of animals.’ ‘Well then, son, just imagine me to be an animal, and that this wound is the sore of an animal from which has developed this swelling of the leg and the great pains I experience, which permit me neither to rest nor to sleep. Make me the same remedy which you would apply to an animal.’ The muleteer smiled, as did the rest who heard the answer. He replied: ‘Father, I shall do so in order to please you.’ He obtained a little tallow and crushed it between two stones and mixed it with herbs from the field which he found round about and when he had fried this, he applied it to the foot and leg, and left the application of both materials on the wound in the form of a plaster. God worked in such a way (as the servant of God wrote me from San Diego) that he slept that night through till morning and that he awoke so relieved from his pain and wound that he arose to say Matins and Prime as he customarily did. And, these prayers finished, he said Mass as if he had not suffered any such trouble. The governor and the rest of the soldiers were surprised on seeing the Venerable Father well so suddenly, and relieved that in order to go on with the expedition not the least delay had to be made on his account.”

Fr. Serra himself says little about it in his diary. Under the date of May 17th, and referring to a place named San Juan de Dios, he writes simply,

“I said Mass there, but I had much trouble in standing on my feet, because the left one was much inflamed. For a year now, and more, I have been suffering considerably, and by now the swelling has reached halfway up my leg, which is covered with sores. That is why for the rest of the time we stayed here, I had to lie prostrate most of the time on my bed, and I was afraid that before long I should have to follow the expedition on a stretcher.” [for more, see “Diary of Junipero Serra, Loreto to San Diego, March 28-July 1, 1769” under Translations]

On May 18th he notes that “our stay there continued, but I could not say Mass for the aforesaid reason.”

That is all. There is no mention of the cure by the muleteer, about which Fr. Palou learned later from members of the expedition. But, in a letter to Fr. Palou, Serra says:

“As I crossed the frontier my leg and foot were in bad shape. But God was good to me. Every day I felt better, and kept up with the day’s marches just as if nothing were wrong with me. At the present time the foot is completely well as the other but from the ankle half way up the leg, it is like the foot was before – one large wound, but without swelling or pain except a certain amount of itching. Anyway it is a matter of little moment,”

Fr. Maynard J. Geiger, O.F.M., who has written the life of Junipero Serra for the Academy of American Franciscan History, believes that Fr. Serra rode his mule the entire distance.

The expedition followed the route of Capt. Rivera and Fr. Crespi, except for the last few leagues. The rather laconic Capt. Portola later described to a friend the troubles en route.

“I began my march to the bay named San Diego, in company with thirty soldiers of the presidio and many Indian auxiliaries but friend, in a few days we saw with extreme regret that our food was gone, with no source of supplies unless we should turn back. As a result, some of the Indians died, and the rest of them deserted from natural necessity. So I was left alone with the cuirassiers without stopping the march, we went on, lamenting, now to the mountains to kill geese and rabbits, now to the beach for clams and small fish, and then in search of water, which we did not find for three or four days, the animals going twice that long without drinking, as we ourselves did sometimes. Overcoming these and other innumerable hardships, natural results of such unhappy fortune, we arrived at the port of San Diego.”

The facts in the various versions of the expeditions to San Diego do not always agree, as many of the reports or narratives were written in later months or years, when details had grown dim.

The country slowly grew more green and more pleasant as they walked or rode north, and at last on June 20th, from a hill they saw the Pacific Ocean, and that night camped by the sea at what is now Ensenada, eighty miles south of San Diego. It was a welcome relief from the deserts and sharp hills they had crossed in the weeks that lay behind them. For the rest of the journey they kept as close to the coast as possible, generally following the route of the presentday highway, until finally Sgt. Ortega and a companion were sent ahead to take word to San Diego of their impending arrival. On June 27th, at Rosarito, they met an Indian dressed in blue cotton, which could only mean he had come from San Diego he gave the joyous news that their goal was less than two days ahead and that he had met the sergeant and his companion on the road. The next morning the sound of pounding hoofs heralded the return of the sergeant with ten soldiers and fresh horses sent by Capt. Rivera. They carried letters for Fr. Serra from Crespi and Parron.

Portola decided to push on ahead, while Serra and the main body of the expedition followed more slowly. Serra writes:

“Early in the morning the Governor, with his servant and eight soldiers, started out ahead of us in order to reach the Port of San Diego the same day which in fact he did … In the afternoon, a march of two hours and a half was made, this time with two guides from San Diego. We followed the shore all the time, our only trouble being the numerous ravines similar to those of the day before. But today they were not quite so bad. We stopped near a gentile rancheria, situated on a pretty piece of elevated land that has the appearance of an island. Where the ocean does not wash it, there is a ravine. The gentiles, as soon as they saw us, came to us, inviting us to stop with them near their huts. But it seemed to us more advisable to encamp on the other side of the ravine where there is another mesa of large dimensions … The land encircled by the ravine near the rancheria has a spring of good, sweet water of medium size … On both sides of us – where we were encamped and where the gentiles had their homes – high mountains make a complete circle and thus the place can never be more than what it is so I gave it the name of Carcel de San Pedro, whose feast we celebrate today.”

This was near the present Tahiti Beach, not far below the border. The next morning, with the guides knowing the direction of the port from the way in which the wind blew, they took a short cut off the traveled Indian road and dropped down into the Tia Juana River Valley, and camped that night at a place which they called San Pablo. This river site was a mile within San Diego County.

“We started early, and the first thing was to cross the ravine and climb up the opposite hillside. After a few ups and downs we saw a wondrous sight a measureless plain stretching out before us over which our footsteps had to tread. The hills we left on our right. And over that plain we trudged that day for four hours and a half. But the ravines we had to cross were, and are, quite numerous, without any possibility of avoiding them or flanking them – they are all alike coming straight out from the mountains. And although I continued to pray and resign myself to the will of God, etc., I summoned up all my courage because you were no sooner out of one ravine than you were into another, and each one was dangerous. At one time I asked the guides: ‘Is this the last one?’ ‘There are plenty more to come,’ was their answer. And they were right as events proved. Anyway like all things in this world, the gullies came to an end and after little more than three hours on the way, we arrived at a gentile settlement, thickly populated. We were very tired and inclined to stop there. But we were told by the Sergeant that they were an insolent tribe … For this reason, and in order to arrive more fully rested at San Diego the next day, we went ahead, with the intention of reaching another hamlet some leagues farther. Here there was sufficient water, although inferior in quality to what we left to those disagreeable fellows. And now the road being all easy going and the guides knowing the direction of the port from the way in which the wind blew, we made a short cut, leaving on our right the traveled road. At the short distance of about one hour’s going we found that the country was not only nice pasture land, but it had also a pleasant river of good water. There we stopped without going to the next rancheria. That place, which neither the Sergeant who passed by this road for the third time nor others for whom it was the fifth had ever previously seen, and which appeared to us very attractive for placing a good mission, we called San Pablo. It is a very large plain and I would judge that it is located about a league from the sea, more or less. There the animals traveled splendidly, and we went without any further anxiety . . .”

The last day’s joumey lay ahead. It was July 1st.

The routes of Serra and Crespi into San Diego are not known precisely, but from their diaries the general course is easily established. From Sancti Spiritu, where Crespi camped on the Tia Juana River one and a third miles from where it empties into the Pacific, the route was probably northeast across the valley, crossing today’s railroad line at about Palm Avenue and skirting northeast to Palm Avenue hill. It is evident that Serra entered San Diego County from Mexico through a sloping vale now known as Smugglers’ Gulch, about two and a half miles from the seacoast. Serra crossed the broad Tia Juana River valley to camp on the north side, which put him nearer the foot of the bay, one-third to one-half a mile south of Coronado Avenue. Serra crossed the Otay River at some point east of National Avenue and west of Third Avenue in Otay. Here the river bed is a wide, dry wash. Then he went north and gradually northwest, skirting the hills, yet keeping back from the shore to avoid sloughs and marshes. He crossed the Sweetwater River probably in the vicinity of Fourth Avenue in Chula Vista, usually a dry bed. Going through the present National City he reached San Diego approximately on the line of Main Street, ever drawing closer to the bay as the hills drew in. The shore was reached near Market Street, and so along the bay to the camp near the vicinity of Laurel Street.

“We started early in the morning on our last day’s journey. Already the beginnings of the port we were seeking are partly visible, and already our guides explained to us its entrance and limits, and thus the labor of the road which is quite flat was made much more supportable to us than usual. On the road we encountered three encampments of gentiles … The road in its last half winds considerably in order to avoid the many sloughs which more or less penetrate the land from the sea, a reason why the journey, which it seems ought to take three hours at most, cost us something more than five, at the end of which we found ourselves on the bank of the port area – not far from its mouth – where the two packet-boats San Carlos and San Antonio were at anchor. From the first of these, being the newest, they came off with the launch to bid us welcome, although we stayed a very short time. Having been informed that to arrive at the place where the land expedition was encamped … we would need to go nearly a league, we therefore continued on and finally arrived at said camp … a little before noon of the above-mentioned day.”

All expeditions, at last, were united at the Port of San Diego. “Thanks be to God, I arrived here the day before yesterday, July 1st, at this Port of San Diego,” Serra wrote Palou. “It is beautiful to behold, and does not belie its reputation. Here I met all who had set out before me whether by sea or by land but not the dead.” Indeed, Capt. Portola and Fr. Serra found a grim situation, one that was to call on their courage and their resourcefulness. When Fr. Crespi had arrived on May 14th, he had found the crews of both ships ill with scurvy, and 21 sailors and a few soldiers already dead. By the time Fr. Serra arrived, all of the sailors of the San Carlos, except one and the cook, had succumbed, and all those of the San Antonio were ill. Perhaps sixty of the 159 persons who reached San Diego had succumbed to scurvy.

Fr. Serra, along with many others of the time, believed that scurvy was contagious. He wrote that “nearly all the people [were] ill, many having died and every day others continuing to die from the sickness of Loanda, or scurvy.” According to Fr. Geiger, this type of scurvy was named after a particularly virulent variety often afflicting sailors who visited the coasts of Loanda, the Portuguese colony of Angola.

The little camp on Presidio Hill was nothing more than a hospital, and the dead must have been buried nearby. It seems strange that none of the bodies has ever been turned up by flood or excavation.

Despite the troubles, Fr. Serra found San Diego to be all that he had hoped and all that had been described by the early explorers. To him, it was a truly beautiful land and justly famous. There were many willows, poplar and sycamore trees along the river banks, wild grapes grew in profusion, there were plenty of acorns and wild asparagus, and game seemed abundant. “There are so many vines grown by nature and without human help that it would mean little expense to follow the example of our good father Noe (Noah) … In short it is a good country-distinctly better than Old California.”

The humble but zealous friar at last had reached the goal which he had set for himself when he first arrived in Mexico nineteen years before. He was in a virgin land surrounded by pagans in need of conversion and “a harvest of souls that might easily be gathered into the bosom of our Holy Mother, the Church, and it would appear, with very little trouble.”

A new life was opening up before him – a life that was to play a rich part in the history of California. He had come a long way for this moment, 5,000 miles from the sanctuary of an academic life on the peaceful island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean Sea.


Watch the video: Museum Of Father Crespi Tayos Cave And Burrows Cave (December 2021).