Frontier Women

The American Frontier Woman

I think it can be said that the vast majority of stories about our American West have been written from the perspective of the male. A journey to and inside the old American frontier west was filled with dangers and perhaps because the male was considered the protector and usually the provider, the stories were a reflection of those challenges.

One of the most significant dangers faced by white settlers during the days of the old west was the Indian menace. This again was the responsibility of the male to protect against. Certainly the stories of Indian Wars and buffalo hunting are what popular western novels and historic pieces are made of, but the contribution of females on the western frontier, although very under publicized, were equally important in many aspects. In most cases the women traveled to the frontier after the males, such as the first gold prospectors in California and the fur traders before that, but they did emigrate there and in greater numbers with the among the Oregon Trail wagon trains. Some historians contend that true civilization didn’t come to the western frontier until the pioneer women made their presence. On top of all the other duties of a pioneer woman, there is no doubt that the pioneer women cooks changed the living standards much to the better. The image below is of Narcissa Whitman, a missionary who was massacred with her husband by Indians after an disease outbreak in the year 1847 near present day Walla Walla Washington.

The contributions that women made to the frontier are as complex as those of the male. Just like with the male, the women pioneer came from all backgrounds and with many different goals. Some frontier women displayed extreme bravery in the face of danger. Some helped provide for their frontier family as much as their male partner. On the other hand, some women of the west were filled with as much mischief as the Likewise, there were some women who matched the males in mischief and criminal activity.The painting below is of a Nebraska wagon train by C.C.A. Christensen now in the public domain.

I think it’s safe to say that history books have publicized the women bent on mischief and thievery somewhat more than the woman of virtue. The reason might simply be that it makes for more colorful copy and sells more books. For the most part characters such as Belle Starr, Calamity Jane and Pearl Hart seem to garner more copy than perhaps the hard working frontier woman trying to care for her family while on a six month journey over the Oregon Trail from Missouri to California.

There of course were exceptions such as the many stories of the famed Annie Oakley but Annie Oakley’s fame really surfaced during the late 1800′s and early 1900′s, many years after the days of the wagon train and the great Indian Wars of the West.

Traveling on the American western frontier presented new challenges for the female who really saw her role change dramatically. In many cases she had to take on many of the tasks a man would solely assume back east during the era. While traveling overland it was more important to get things done than spend time deciding who would do it. A woman might have to drive a team of mules while her husband was busy with another task. A woman might have to learn to shoot a gun where this might have been unheard of back home. A woman on the frontier had been placed in what many thought to be a man’s world. Learning new skills was a necessity more than a choice.

There are some excellent locations where you can learn more about the pioneer womans history in helping to civilize the American western frontier. One in particular is the Pioneer Woman Museum located in Ponca City Oklahoma. The address is 701 Monument Road. Ponca City is in far north Oklahoma. The location is at the intersection of U.S.-77 and Highland, 22 miles east of Interstate-35. The museum is now 10,000 sq ft and showcases the contributions made by women to the state of Oklahoma and the nation as a whole.

Another interesting article we have on our Western trips site is the story about the famous female California stagecoach driver Charley Parkhurst.

There is another interesting historic site near Barlow’s Pass Oregon. The site is named Pioneer Woman’s Grave, pictured at left. It has been established as a memorial gravesite to all those who lost their lives enroute to Oregon. A survey crew discovered the grave site in 1924. The site is on the Barlow Hiking Trail. Pioneer Woman’s Grave is off of Hwy 35 a little under one mile past the intersection of Hwy 26 and Hwy 35 on FS Road 3531.

A third excellent location to learn more about the pioneer woman is the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles California. In 2002 the Women of the West Museum merged with the Autry National Center. The site offers programs, exhibitions, collections, research, and education about women’s experiences in the American West. According to the museum their goal is to gain a new understanding, not simply of what women have done but of why it matters for the West—past, present, and future. The Autry Center is located in the Griffith Park area of Los Angeles.

Many of the stories from common hard working pioneer women are now found in diaries of the era. It’s quite amazing that there was time to keep a diary under the circumstances but they did. Many of the diaries tell the story of hardship, much of it having to do with sickness along the trail. This was a time before antibiotics and of course a doctor would have been hard to find. Many were lost to epidemics along the way and a good deal of this is chronicled in diaries kept by the pioneer women. Following is an excerpt from the diary of Samantha Jane Emmons Dillard published by her great grandson John Christopher Stone. This excerpt concerns part of the journey west near Fort Kearney Nebraska which was the last fort before the much more perilous journey westward. Their journey was from Illinois to Oregon.

“Our next main stop was at Ft. Kearney, Nebraska, where we were held until a sufficient number of emigrants had arrived to make up a train to start our journey across the plains. We had traveled alone until we reached here and It had rained almost all of the time and the water was high. Here we were joined by enough emigrants to make up a train of twenty-two wagons, as it was necessary to have this many in the train in order to make a corral. There were four wagons pulled by oxen and the rest by horses. Since the ox teams traveled a good deal slower than the horses all hands In the morning would get the ox teams started ahead first and of course during the day we would pass them and go on ahead and when camping time came we would have things ready for the ox teams when they arrived. Our Captain had been across the plains before and knew just what to do, so at night we would all drive our wagons in a big circle and make a big corral and our stock was all put inside this corral and we would keep fires burning all night, and two men stood guard every night. When It came my father’s turn to stand guard, the next day I would have to drive our four horse team and wagon. I was thirteen years old then and small for my age. Our Captain knew where all the watering places were and the distance between these places largely determined the number of miles traveled each day by the train, which averaged from ten to twenty-five miles per day..”

I think it’s safe to say that the pioneer woman possessed a lot of bravery to travel over the frontier west looking for a new and better life. The bravery and sacrifice of the ordinary settler compares equally to any of the more famed characters and celebrities during the frontier and wild west days.

 

 

The Pacific Coast Air Museum

pacific coast air museum There is an absolutely excellent air museum located in beautiful Sonoma County California. The Pacific Coast Air Museum located at the Charles Schulz Sonoma County Airport in the Sonoma Valley has a terrific display of military aircraft and as an added bonus it’s right in the middle of the popular Sonoma County wine country. Because of this, a visit to the many wineries in the area and a side trip to the Pacific Coast Air Museum makes for a great weekend outing. The Sonoma County Airport is about three miles northwest of Santa Rosa California and just south of the town of Windsor. The Pacific Coast Air Museum operates as a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the acquisition, restoration, safe operation and display of historic aircraft. In addition, the museum serves as an educational venue for students and the community. This aviation museum is a must stop.

f 15 fighter jetThe Pacific Coast Air Museum was very fortunate to receive one of the first two fighter jets that scrambled over New York City during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The historic “First Responder” aircraft, designated “102”, was retired to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ on July 31, 2006 after nearly thirty years of service.This aircraft  “102” was the wing commander’s aircraft and was the lead aircraft that responded from the alert shelters at Otis ANGB that day. In 2009 the National Museum of the United States Air Force awarded the Pacific Coast Air Museum with this same aircraft “102” . The aircraft was partially disassembled and transported from AMARC in Tucson to the Pacific Coast Air Museum in December 2010. Since that time the aircraft has been reassembled and is now on exhinit at the Sonoma County air museum. As you can imagine this is probably one of the most unique historic aircraft exhibits on the entire West Coast and I think you’ll find it quite interesting.

The Pacific Coast Air Museum also hosts the “Wings Over Wine Country Air Show each August which draws thousands of people. The air show features both military aircraft demonstrations along with some of the best civilian aerobatic displays found at any air show in America. I have attended this air show several times and it’s a good one.A visit to the Pacific Coast Air Museum makes for a great Sonoma Valley wine country vacation or weekend trip.

The Santa Rosa airport is in the popular Sonoma Valley and is very near some of the best wineries in the area. The Kendall-Jackson is about a five minute drive away to the south. The Francis Ford Coppola Winery is just to the northwest and the city of Healdsburg is about a ten minute drive north of the airport.

The Sonoma County Airport is also served by Horizon Airlines which allows Sonoma Valley tourists the opportunity of flying directly to Santa Rosa to begin their Santa Rosa Sonoma County wine and air museum tour.

Driving directions to the Pacific Coast Air Museum from Santa Rosa California: Take Highway 101 north and exit at Airport Blvd and drive west. Turn left on N. Laughlin Road and then turn right on Becker Road. Parking is located right at the museum entrance.

 

How the Sharps Rifle Helped Get the Mail Through from San Antonio to El Paso

The end of the Mexican American War in 1848 meant a lot of things to a lot of people. To be sure, there were Americans residing in places such as El Paso Texas and Santa Fe New Mexico during the war. When the war ended and the territory we now know of as the state of New Mexico changed hands, the government and civilians in and around that region had their work cut out for them.

This was a time before stagecoaches. It was before the telegraph and it certainly was a time before the railroads ventured to the southwest. If this new southwest territory won as a result of the Mexican American War was to grow it needed a way to communicate. It needed a mail system. Easier said than done because in 1848 there was no distinct trail through the barren Texas southwest particularly from San Antonio (previously called Bexar) to El Paso. The two trails from east to west across the western frontier were the central overland trail which consisted of the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail and the California Trail. The other was the Santa Fe Trail from Missouri to Santa Fe. A trail from the southern U.S. to New Mexico wasn’t established before the end of the Mexican American War.

El Paso was a very important town because it was there where a road could travel all the way from south Texas to New Mexico and beyond to the Pacific Ocean ports. This was recognized early on and a few survey parties headed west out of both San Antonia and Austin Texas to try to map a suitable route. The route was needed for both military purposes as well as commercial. The route from Santa Fe south to El Paso had been used extensively by both the Spaniards and Mexicans for centuries. This was the route from Santa Fe in Nuevo Mexico down to Mexico City in New Spain. What hadn’t been mapped and used was a route west out of San Antonio across the desert to El Paso. At the end of the Mexican American War, San Antonio was the largest settlement in Texas.

Two routes were eventually found. One was out of Austin heading generally in a western direction and another out of San Antonio that went west/northwest and hugged the east bank of the Rio Grande as it approached El Paso. The two major obstacles of course were the desolation of the region (meaning little water) and the Indians. This was the land of the Comanches and was called Comancheria. To the far west were the Apaches and their Apacheria. Both tribes were nomadic and warlike. Both tribes regularly raided over the border into Mexico for decades and were long an obstacle to both the Spaniards and Mexicans. The route that was eventually chosen for the main way to El Paso was neither of the first two. The route chosen headed directly west out of San Antonio and then took a northwest direction after nearing the Rio Grande.

Henry Skillman Accepts the Challenge

As you no doubt have read in history books, transportation methods and routes were initially subsidized by the federal government. The subsidization came in the form of mail contracts. Throughout history, steamboats, stagecoaches, railroads and in some cases airlines all got their start with a U.S. mail contract. The first wagons to El Paso also relied on Uncle Sam to at least cover their overhead. It’s an interesting question as to why the federal government relied on outside contractors to find a way to deliver the mail. Possibly the government thought it was cheaper. The routes were surveyed with government aid during late 1848 and during 1849 but the independent contractor was the one who really forged the trail. The government did make provisions for outposts along the Rio Grande area which would afford some measure of protection. The reality however was that the outposts established were too sparse to provide any real protection. That would be left to civilian armed guards. The only real alternative to to a stage line to send messages along the route was by single horseback rider who was fast enough to outrun the Comanches. This was tried and there were some losses due to Indian attack.

The first official contract for mail delivery out of San Antonio was awarded to Henry Skillman. Born in Kentucky and having arrived in Texas in 1846, Skillman spent time as an army scout during the Mexican American War. He was a noted rugged frontiersman usually dressed with revolvers and Bowie knives. If there was anyone who could figure out a way to carry the mail 600 miles west through Comancheria it probably was Henry Skillman. The story told is that Skillman had the ability to read Indian intentions before the fact. In other words, he knew the right time to fight and the right time not to. His judgment on the Texas frontier was legendary.

The Post Office department gave Skillman a contract that paid $12,500 per year. The route would run from Santa Fe to El Paso and then east to San Antonio. The contract was to begin on November 1, 1851 and expire on June 30, 1854. The news was received with a lot of fanfare. The newspapers were quite positive on the development but pointed out the great risks involved. The first trip for Skillman was a success even though there was a skirmish with a party of Comanches. Skillman reportedly purchased some wagons while in Santa Fe but the history on this is a bit sketchy.

There was a stage line operating since 1847 between Houston and San Antonio and he may have bought some wagons from them. It’s also unclear if some of the purchases were for passenger service or only for freight. Nevertheless, Henry Skillman got his line up and running with the help of other rugged frontiersmen he was acquainted with. The Indian problem however was always front and center. In fact, with the opening of his service between Santa Fe and El Paso, the Apaches in that area of New Mexico Territory started giving him trouble. To be sure, there were losses incurred such as mules being shot and stolen. A good mule in those days was said to cost about $150. Not a small sum for a new shoestring outfit. Carrying the mail on the San Antonio to El Paso route was a challenge.

Henry Skillman Discovers the Sharps Rifle

On one of Skillman’s trips back to Washington to try to get additional funds (because of the losses from Indian attacks) he met a representative of the Sharps Rifle manufacturing Company. Henry was somewhat familiar with the rifle having seen it with some of the surveying teams sent out west in 1848 and 1849. He was impressed with the weapon because of it’s high accuracy and rapid firing. The Sharps Rifles also were considered excellent long range rifles. Skillman made the decision to purchase ten of these rifles which were from an early lot of new .52 caliber percussion breechloader models designed for the army. In the midst of battle, breechloaders worked much better than old muzzleloaders.

The models Skillman purchased were called “1851 Carbines” and about 1,800 of them were manufactured. This was a solid “boxlock” carbine with a walnut stock. The Sharps Rifle combined high accuracy with a potent .52 caliber punch. One of the best long range rifles developed. On a technical note, all of the Sharps .52 caliber breechloaders made over the ten years prior to the Civil War were referred to as “slant breeched” meaning that the breechblock was slightly at an angle to the barrel. The Civil War version of the Sharps was a “straight breech” and perpendicular to the barrel. The war model was easily converted to shoot metallic cartridges that were developed not long after the Civil War. The purchase of the ten rifles made a lot of sense to Skillman. He believed that these weapons just might give his drivers and guards and himself the advantage they needed over the Indians. He was right and proved it shortly after he returned to Texas.

The story written is that he knocked a warrior off his horse at some 300 yards. The story actually started at a distance of about 200 yards and kept getting longer with each telling. Regardless, the new Sharps breechloader got the attention of the hostiles. Prior to that episode the Indians had a pretty good idea of a pistol and rifle’s range and when they started to get picked off at unheard of distances they chose their attacks much more carefully. In fact, often they retreated. When fighting against Indian attacks in wide open expanses, distance meant everything. Most of Skillman’s guards accompanying the wagons were former Texas Rangers and virtually all of them were known to carry the Sharps carbines.

As an indication of how high in regard Henry Skillman placed his Sharps carbine rifle, he wrote a letter to the Sharps Company praising the effectiveness of the weapon. He told them that it was superior to any other rifle he was acquainted with and that he put the ten weapons he purchased from them to use as soon as he arrived back in Texas. The Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company was so delighted to hear this from Skillman that they published his letter in their sales catalog. This could have been one of the earliest commercial weapon endorsement by any frontiersman. It’s believed that Henry wrote this letter at a friends home in southern New Mexico shortly after what could have been a nearby Apache attack on his wagons.

This was in an area a good distance south of Albuquerque around Dona Ana where the topography placed mountains on both sides of the trail and made it an ideal place for Apache attacks. To fire off a letter from his friends settlement upon arrival tells quite a lot about what Skillman thought of his new rifles. From all that I have read and researched on the subject it is apparent that the Sharps rifle contained the Indian threat and the regular service of mail between San Antonio and Santa Fe was accomplished.

A few historical notes about the Sharps rifles. It’s alleged that many of the Sharps Rifle breechloaders were shipped to anti-slavery factions in Kansas during the 1850’s. After the Civil War there was a large surplus of military style Sharps which made their way to the buffalo hunters although special sport models were also being developed. It was in great part to the accuracy and distance of the Sharps breechloaders, and to the dismay of the Native Americans, that the buffalo herds were decimated in a relatively very short period of time.

Henry Skillman, the Butterfield Overland Mail and the Civil War

Skillman ran his stage, mail and freight lines successfully through the early 1850’s although there was some competition from easterners who managed to get in through their Washington connections. The competition didn’t last long and eventually he was partnered up with a man named George Giddings and they overcame the weak competition from the easterners. Some accounts I’ve read refer to Giddings and Skillman as being partners and others contend that Skillman yielded his mail contract to Giddings in 1854 and drove for him. It appears that Skillman did indeed have difficulty finding the resources to establish passenger facilities along the route which was being pushed hard by the federal government. This could have caused him to transfer the contract to Giddings since Giddings had the funds. Many times you find conflicting details when researching stories this old.

Later in the decade Henry Skillman is remembered as the driver of the first Butterfield Overland Mail stage, which arrived in El Paso on September 30, 1858. The Butterfield line also started with a mail contract between St. Louis and San Francisco via El Paso, Tucson and San Diego. While the mail contract was always the bread and butter of any new operation, the line also carried passengers. The Butterfield line was short lived since during the Civil War the Confederates controlled much of the southern routes and the Union had to then send their California bound mail over the central route which pretty much followed the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails.

Texas aligned itself with the Confederacy during the war and Skillman worked espionage for the Confederates between old El Paso del Norte and San Antonio. Unfortunately for Henry Skillman, his actions during the Civil War cost him his life. He was tracked down in April 1864, at Spencer’s Ranch, near Presidio by a detachment from the First California Cavalry and shot down.

As I mentioned, Henry Skillman’s activities during the 1850’s have been historically under reported but nevertheless are very interesting. Between Skillman’s frontier knowledge and bravery and the accuracy of the new Sharps Rifles, the mail made it through the south Texas Indian country. The Sharps Rifle is today a very popular collectors gun.

You can research this subject in much greater detail by reading “Sharps Rifles and Spanish Mules..The San Antonio-El Paso Mail 1851-1881” by author Wayne R. Austerman. This is a very good read and explains in depth both the Indian and political obstacles of running the southern mail and stage route.

One of the best historic sites that tell the story of early southwest Texas and the dangers of getting the mail and passengers through that part of the country is the Fort Stockton Museum in Fort Stockton Texas. The displays and artifacts in this museum are fascinating. Among the exhibits is a Sharps 1874 Sporting Rifle which was a constant companion of those trying to guard the stage and freight route. The link above will give you much more information about the museum and how to plan your trip there along with some very interesting photos of rare frontier exhibits. Another must stop in Fort Stockton is the Annie Riggs Hotel and Museum which is located only a few blocks west of the fort. Some interesting photos on this site as well.

 

Death Valley Scotty and His Los Angeles to Chicago Train Speed Record

One of the most interesting and strange stories to come out of the Death Valley California early 1900’s gold fields has to do with a man referred to by friends and foes alike as well as by the press as “Death Valley Scotty”.

Today, there is a mansion built in Death Valley California named “Scotty’s Castle” and administered by the National Park Service. The story behind Scotty’s Castle is amazing and the remote desert which this home was built on reflects the strange way it all came about. Scotty’s Castle is located in Grapevine Canyon in far northern Death Valley. Some refer to the site as the Death Valley Ranch but more often it’s called Scotty’s Castle. It’s a very interesting visit and you’re sure to learn some strange things about the search for gold in Death Valley, the Roaring 20’s and the Great Depression in the 1930’s. The following link has much more about the story of how this mansion came to be and regarding the NPS’s Scotty’s Castle site and directions .

One of the most fantastic true tales, yet somehow bizarre, is about a man named Walter Scott and his idea of establishing a new speed record by train between Los Angeles California and Chicago Illinois. Walter always enjoyed publicity and in this endeavor decided in 1905 that he would charter a train to set the fastest time ever between Los Angeles and Chicago. The train would be known as the “Scott Speical” This special train was made up of only an engine, baggage car, sleeper car and dining car. The question of course was, who financed this project? Nobody knew for sure because while Walter Scott always seemed to have money, nobody ever knew where his fabled gold mine was. Nobody ever found it.

Death Valley Scotty’s record breaking railroad adventure began on July 9th from the Los Angeles station. Only a few people were on board the train with Scotty including a few reporters. The local newspapers were all over this amazing story about both the train feat as well as the secretive person behind it. The train pulled out of Los Angeles and did end up indeed setting a record time between the two great cities. The record prior to this run was just under 53 hours. The Scott Special made the same run in 44 hours and 54 minutes. The train reportedly made it’s first change of locomotive and crew in Barstow and then it’s second change in Needles California. The train, which was owned by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad followed the route across Arizona, past Gallup New Mexico and on to Albuquerque. From that point it was northeastward up to Lamy New Mexico just south of Santa Fe and through Raton New Mexico  on to La Junta Colorado. La Junta marked the spot where the mountainous terrain ended and from there across the plains and up to Chicago it was fast going. As it turned out, a total of nineteen locomotives and nineteen engineers were used during the record setting L.A. to Chicago run. The regularly scheduled westbound AT&SF train was even sidetracked at one point to allow the Scott Special to pass. The train had traveled a total of 2,265 miles at an average speed of 50.4 MPH. In 1905, this was fast.

Again, Walter Scott “Death Valley Scotty” was the talk of the nation and his record setting run made the newspapers coast to coast. Another American who knew the benefit of publicity, Buffalo Bill Cody, went ahead and hired an impersonator of Death Valley Scotty to be a part of his Wild West. An interesting side note to this story is that the sixteen year old Walter Scott in the year 1888 actually had joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and performed with the show for twelve years as a stunt rider. As befitting Walter’s career, he left the Wild West under a cloud of controversy having to do with investments.

The story of Walter Scott, “Death Valley Scotty” , is quite interesting and you may very well want to explore the subject further. I would recommend two things along this line. First, if you do have the opportunity, that you definitely visit Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley California and I would also suggest you locate the book, “Who Killed Chester Pray?: A Death Valley Mystery” by author Nicholas Clapp. The book is a great read and gives a lot of insight into the characters who took part in the Death Valley mining boom times at the beginning of the 1900’s.

Take a Grand Tour of the California Spanish Missions

Anyone visiting California by automobile or if you happen to have a rental car and some time while in California, a visit to the California missions on the El Camino Real is one of the most interesting California trips you can take. They make a great addition to your California vacation planner.

The Spanish missions are California. The California Spanish missions represent California’s, then called Alta California, very beginnings. It represents the very firs settlement of California by a European power. When visiting several of these historically restored missions you also can learn about the method in which the Spaniards sought to civilize the region and you might wish to contrast it with how the United States tried to settle the old American West over a century later. This is why the tour of the California missions offer a unique learning experience in addition to a great photo taking opportunity.

mission san juan bautista

Mission San Juan Bautista

The missions in California were built south to north. The first mission established was in present day San Diego.  The San Diego mission was built by Father Junipero Serra. Many historians contend that Father Serra was the first genuine Californian. At that time the region north of Baja California was called Alta California. There were a total of twenty-one missions constructed in California from 1769 to 1823. The last mission built was the Sonoma Mission in the now Sonoma California wine country. Interestingly so, this last mission was built under Mexican rule after the Spaniards were driven out by the Mexican Revolution. This was out of character for the new Mexican government since they secularized the missions after the revolution. Many facts point out that the Sonoma Mission was actually built for military reasons since just to the north was Russian occupation and further north was British occupation.

The missions today are in various states of condition. Some have been beautifully restored and many are current active houses of worship. Mission work back in the 18th century had many elements. The primary goal of the Franciscans were to convert the Indians to Christianity. The Spanish government felt that the first step in civilizing the Indians was for them to be converted to Christianity. It was believed that when the Natives were converted they would be more capable of assimilating to European ways and that would help make them loyal subjects of the King of Spain. The Spanish rulers also felt that the expense of building a mission system would be a fraction of what the cost would be to pay an army to go to war. At the same time, an established mission system spanning most of Alta California would give notice to other European powers of their presence.

carmel mission

Carmel Mission

There are three missions among the total number that make a good trip up the coast of California. I point out these three missions because each had a very pivotal role in California history.

The first of course is the first mission built in San Diego. This was the first attempt at missions in Alta California although missions had been established decades earlier in present day New Mexico. Information on the San Diego Mission is on the following link  San Diego Mission.

There is also a listing of all twenty-one missions on the San Diego story.

The second mission I would recommend is the beautiful Carmel Mission. This mission was established in Carmel California somewhat near to the old Monterey Presidio which served as the military and sometime capitol of the province. Prior to the Carmel Mission there was a mission next to the monterey Presidio but Father Serra wanted a new one further away from the military and a bit closer to the Indians. This is how the carmel Mission came into being. Information for the Carmel Mission is at this link. Carmel Mission

The third mission which is quite significant is the Sonoma Mission. This mission also housed a number of mexican military troops under the leadership of a General Vallejo. This was the last mission built and is located in the heart of Sonoma California just north of the San Francisco Bay. The city of Sonoma now is a historic district and there’s plenty to see there. In addition, it’s right in the middle of the Sonoma and Napa County wine region. California’s very first commercial winery, Buena Vista Winery, was built just east of Sonoma and is a must stop when in the area. Information on the Sonoma Mission is at  Sonoma Mission.

Every mission on the list of twenty-one were important to the early Spanish settling of Alta California. Any you are able to visit is a treat. There are several  missions I’ve visited that are quite interesting as well as the three highlighted. These would include the Santa Barbara Mission, the Mission San Jose and Mission San Gabriel outside of Los Angeles.

I hope you are able to visit the Spanish Missions of California on your next visit to the West Coast. They are definitely worth adding to your California vacation planner.