The Spanish Mission of San Rafael California

One of the most interesting stories pertaining to the old Spanish Missions of California regards Mission San Rafael Arcangel in San Rafael California. This is a very convenient  mission to visit being located just about twenty miles north of San Francisco along U.S. Hwy 101.

san rafael arcangel

San Rafael Arcangel, San Rafael California

If your vacation plans include San Francisco, make certain to head north over the Golden Gate and visit historic San Rafael.

Mission San Rafael Arcangel Replica 

The original mission replica you’ll explore today, the one dedicated in 1949, was built according to original specifications known at the time.

There were no photos of the original structure therefore the replica was built based on what was known with some variations. The small church building faces west whereas the original faced east. The site location is next to the St. Raphael Parish of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The replica site is approximate since other church buildings had been built adjacent prior to 1949.

Today’s visitor will notice that the old mission replica is in no way adorned as are most all  other California missions. This was because, as mentioned above, Mission San Rafael Arcangel was not originally planned to become an official stand alone mission. Built as a branch of Mission Dolores, the church building was a fairly plain unadorned structure.

san rafael arcangel bells

San Rafael Arcangel historic bells

The Problems at Mission Dolores

The realities at Mission Dolores in San Francisco were such it’s believed that 5,000 Native Americans were buried at the mission cemetery. Disease ran rampant at the mission site and as was the case with much contact between Europeans and Native Americans, the Indians were easily affected by European bred diseases. This phenomena began from the very first contact between Native American and European. This problem continued into the 1800’s all across the western frontier.

A Change of Climate

The site of Mission San Rafael Arcangel was chosen for a reason. The area which in present day San Rafael California had much more sunshine and much less fog than the San Francisco peninsula to the south.

mission dolores san francisco

Original Mission Dolores, San Francisco, CA

The mountains to the west of San Rafael acted as a buffer to the weather coming off the Pacific Ocean. The regular fog and damp conditions caused illness. The San Francisco peninsula lacked the natural barrier that San Rafael enjoyed.. The added sunshine and generally milder weather was sought to help the healing process. The move to establish the mission in San Rafael seemed to work quite well. Ailing Native Americans seemed to recover very well at this new more sunny and mild location.

Visiting Mission San Rafael Arcangel 

A day trip north of the Golden Gate Bridge to Mission San Rafael Arcangel is an excellent addition to a Bay Area trip planner. The story of the Spanish Missions is really a vivid story of the very beginnings of California settlement. There’s much to learn visiting any of the old missions and Mission San Rafael Arcangel tells us a very unique part of that story.

st. raphael arcangel catholic church

St. Raphael Arcangel Catholic Church

From San Francisco, drive north on U.S. Highway 101 from the Golden Gate Bridge about fifteen miles and exit at Central San Rafael (Exit 452). The mission is located at 1104 Fifth Avenue about four blocks west of the freeway.

Driving to San Rafael from the east bay area allows you to cross the bay via the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge. After you merge onto U.S. Hwy 101 northbound take exit 452 as described above.

See the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

The Last Days of the California Stagecoach

World War Two Attacks on the West Coast

California and the Old Spanish Missions

sonoma barracks

Old Sonoma Barracks

For those making a trip to the Sonoma wine country from San Francisco can easily visit both Mission San Rafael Arcangel and the Sonoma Mission in Sonoma California during a day trip. Mission Sonoma (Mission San Francisco Solano) was the last of the twenty-one missions built and was actually constructed by the Mexican government after their ouster of the Spaniards.

The Mission Sonoma is located in the heart of Sonoma California, between the cities of Napa and Santa Rosa off State Hwy 12.

The town of Sonoma is also in the heart of the beautiful Sonoma Valley wine country which this area north of San Francisco Bay is so noted for. It’s also adjacent to the popular Napa Valley wine country. The old Spanish mission and the entire town of Sonoma is part of the Sonoma State Historic Park.

Parts of Sonoma State Historic Park include the Mission San Francisco Solano, the Blue Wing Inn, Sonoma Barracks, the Toscano Hotel, the Servants Quarters Vallejo’s Home. Visitors typically walk through the streets surrounding Sonoma’s historic central plaza. Maps are available at the Sonoma Visitors Center.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)


Famous Western Frontier Generals / Crook and Miles

A Western Frontier General

The Indian Wars are what thousands of books have been written about, both nonfiction historical accounts and dime novels. Fighting Indians is also what we remember most about the famous frontier generals of the period but in reality many were involved in civilian matters as well.

General George Crook House

General George Crook House

Visit the General George Crook House

The General George Crook House is located in the Miller Park neighborhood of North Omaha Nebraska. It’s on the U.S. Register of Historic Places and it would makes a good trip stop when visiting Omaha. The Crook House was used as the headquarters for the Department of the Platte during the general’s tenure and also for later commanders.

The Crook House was visited by both Ulysses S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes. The house was eventually  taken over by the Douglas County Historical Society and was refurbished in the 1980’s. It’s open for both tours and special events.

The Expeditions of General George Crook

General George Crook was involved in many events on the western U.S. frontier, being part of the Sioux Indian Wars of the mid 1870’s as well as Comanche campaigns among others.

battle of slim buttes march

General Crook's Expedition after the Battle of the Little Bighorn

Crook was also involved in matters not strictly military in nature and with nothing to do with fighting Indians or western pioneers. This was a part of frontier military duty that probably hasn’t been heavily written about in history books.

The Posse Comitatus Act

During the very early Civil War reconstruction period, Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act which really was an extension of an Act passed in 1807.

The Posse Comitatus Act put a limit the military’s potential involvement in civilian affairs. In other words, it’s intent was to keep the army from being a domestic police force. Local and state law enforcement was charged with that duty.

This law was actually one of the founding principles of our government. Being passed in 1867, the act went into effect at about the peak time of westward expansion. Towns were springing up almost every day and when the transcontinental railroad was completed, in 1869 the emigration westward reached even new heights. To be sure, the U.S. Army had it’s hands full trying to protect settlers and keeping trails open. At about this time the army was also attempting to write treaties and relocate Indians to reservations.

great train robbery

Actor in 1903 film The Great Train Robbery

The Army Goes After Train Robbers

One interesting story concerns the army’s role in chasing after train robbers.

A Union Pacific train was robbed at Big Springs Nebraska on September 18, 1877. The  robbers netted personal items from the passengers and about $60,000 in gold coins. This certainly was one of the great robberies of the time. After the robbery the outlaws split up into two groups and headed south. The Union Pacific offered a $10,000 reward mostly due to the amount of gold coins stolen which was enormous for the time.

Civilian posse’s headed out after the robbers which was normal. What was different in this case was that General George Crook ordered troops dispatched from both Fort Robinson and Fort McPherson to join the pursuit. Eleven of his troops joined Sheriff George W. Bardsley of Hayes City Kansas and a short time later confronted two of the bandits near Buffalo Station Kansas. A shootout ensued and two of the robbers were killed.

george crook statue fort omaha

General George Crook bronze statue, Fort Omaha

Reward Money

If it sounded like a good outcome, it really wasn’t. There was a legal battle over the reward money and a few years later Bardsley collected $2,250 and the eleven soldiers had to split a total of $1,002. The tale is that Sheriff Bardsley claimed all the credit. While General Crook was known to have a liberal interpretation of Posse Comitatus, in most cases when the army involved itself in civilian affairs it drew loud criticism.

The army’s dilemma was that the relatively new settlements in the west often times had inadequate law enforcement but at the same time the army had to act in some capacity when high profile trouble erupted and a $60,000 train robbery qualified as high profile.

Regardless of the controversy generated, General Crook was known to have ordered his soldiers into civilian matters on several occasions. You can just imagine the political infighting that ensued trying to interpret the Posse Comitatus Act. Today we have much clearer lines of jurisdiction but in the wild west of the late 1800’s with local law enforcement somewhat sketchy this line was blurred at best.

pullman car interior

Pullman Car Exhibit at Texas Transportation Museum, San Antonio

Labor Trouble and the Pullman Strike

Another high profile civilian incident that ended up involving the army was the 1894 Pullman Strike in Chicago. While Chicago isn’t really the western frontier, the story is revealing as to how military intervention can turn political.

The period after the Civil War saw it’s share of labor unrest. Immigrants had arrived by the thousands searching for work. Regarding labor unions, The Knights of Labor reached it’s zenith in the 1880’s and had it’s greatest victory with the Union Pacific Railroad strike.

The primary goal of the Knights was the eight hour workday. Alkso miners as a group called many strikes involving both pay and working conditions. In the second decade of the 20th century one of the most bloodiest labor uprisings took place in Ludlow Colorado when coal miners struck and were attacked by the Colorado Militia. This incident also eventually drew in federal troops to stop the bloodshed.

Several economic downturns  from the 1870’s onward aggravated the labor situation and in this case it involved the Pullman strike in Chicago.

pullman company chicago

Pullman Company circa 1900

During an economic downturn the Pullman Palace Car Company lowered worker’s pay 25% while leaving corporate manager’s pay the same. Union activists and avowed socialists entered the picture. Tempers flared and violence was inevitable. George Pullman stuck to his guns. He wasn’t going to bargain with his workers and he wasn’t going to even speak with the strikers.

General Nelson Appleton Miles, another big figure from the Indian Wars both on the plains and in Arizona (Geronimo surrendered to Miles) and a Civil War veteran, was sent in with 12,000 troops augmented by U.S. Marshals on orders of President Grover Cleveland to end the strike. Miles had one of the more colorful army careers and eventually in 1895 was elevated to the post of Commanding General of the U.S. Army.

general nelson miles

Early photo of Nelson Appleton Miles

The use of force against civilians by federal troops was a very controversial topic at the time. During the confrontation several strikers were killed in the and that in itself led to further violence. The situation spiraled out of control. A tremendous amount of property damage occurred. During the strike Eugene Debs, the socialist organizer, was arrested and tried for inciting violence and destroying private railroad property. Debs, after two trials and being represented by Clarence Darrow was found guilty of a lesser charge and actually served six months in jail.

See the Trips Into History article on the links below…

A Visit to Fort Sill Oklahoma

The Last Days of the California Stagecoach

Garryowen and George Armstrong Custer

When the Pullman Strike was over the army took a great deal of criticism. The criticism was that Nelson Miles was getting too close with George Pullman and kept his troops in Chicago longer than necessary. In situations like these the army is wide open for accusations of taking sides.

Regardless of this incident, Nelson Miles was considered one of the frontier’s more successful army generals. The town of Miles City Montana was named in the General’s honor. Pullman himself was criticized for his “company town” philosophy whereas workers were dependent on his company for their homes, groceries, everything. They lived in homes within Pullman’s own town outside Chicago.

pullman strikers

Pullman strikers in Chicago

Many historians have pointed out the irony of having rank and file troops used to subdue the nation’s labor force. If anything, the typical non commissioned soldier had much more in common with the labor unions of the late 1800’s made up mostly of newly arrived immigrants than he did with the industrial tycoons of that period. Many U.S. Army troops were themselves immigrants.

As a memorial to the 1894 Pullman strikers, a rose and herb garden was planted in Chicago in the 1980’s to commemorate the strike. It’s location is 11111 S. Forestville Ave.

Recommended books on the subject of the western frontier generals and 1800’s labor unrest include General Crook and the Western Frontier by author Charles M. Robinson III…My Life on the Plains: Or, Personal Experiences with Indians by George Armstrong Custer…The Pullman Strike : The Story of a Unique Experiment and of a Great Labor Upheaval by Almont Lindsey.

(Article copyright Trips Into History. Photos and images in the public domain)

Tour the WWII Submarine U.S. Pampanito

The USS Pampanito Goes to War

Between 1944-45 the Pampanito completed six war patrols in the Pacific Theater. After her shakedown cruise in the Atlantic, the USS Pampanito headed directly for Pearl Harbor via the Panama Canal and arrived there in February 1944. Her deployment was during the latter part of the Pacific war.

world war two submarine pampanito

USS Pampanito

When you tour the USS Pampanito you will get a good feel of the last few years of the war. This was the period after the Battle of Midway when the U.S. was quite on the offensive in the western Pacific. Her first war patrol took her to Saipan and Guam. She had to return to Pearl Harbor for repairs of damage caused by Japanese depth charges. An interesting thing when you tour the Pampanito today are the separate displays of items such as depth charges, torpedos (shown above right) and torpedo hatches. Your visit to the vessel is more than just a tour of a submarine. It’s really a well rounded presentation of World War Two submarine warfare in general.

The Patrols of the U.S.S. Pampanito

The Pampanito’s second war patrol took her near the Japanese home islands where she almost was almost hit by torpedos from a Japanese sub. Her third patrol was in the South China Sea where she inadvertently sunk a Japanese troop ship which was transporting British POW’s. This was quite common of the Japanese to bring some POW’s back to the home islands. The Pampanito picked up over 70 survivors of that sinking. The fourth patrol was off Formosa where she sunk a 1,200 ton Japanese cargo ship. The fifth patrol was in the Gulf of Siam where another cargo vessel was sunk and then back to the Gulf of Siam for her sixth patrol.

us navy world war two submarines

USS Pampanito SS 383

After the sixth patrol the USSA Pampanito sailed back to Pearl Harbor then on to San Francisco for an overhaul. She then went back to Pearl Harbor but was called back to San Francisco because of the war’s end.


The USS Pampanito was decommissioned at Mare Island next to the North Bay town of Vallejo California in December 1945. It’s not far east of Vallejo in the Sacramento River where the Navy stored many old World War Two vessels in what was called the “mothball fleet“. The question is…what does a perfectly good submarine do after the war and after being decommissioned? Not a whole lot until 1962 when the Pampanito was assigned as a Naval Reserve Training Ship at Vallejo. Finally in December 1971 the USS Pampanito was officially taken off Navy registration records, almost thirty years after the launching of this historic United States naval ship.

world war two diesel submarines

Another view of the USS Pampanito

Today, the USS Pampanito is on the National Register of Historic Places and is an official National Historic Landmark.

Just as the ship berthed behind her, the Jeremiah O’Brien, the Pampanito was recognized as being an invaluable asset perfect for historic preservation and for the public to enjoy and learn from. While the Jeremiah O’Brien represents the all important Liberty Ship program, the Pampanito represents the heroic contributions of submariners during war.

Visit the USS Pampanito

The USS Pampanito is now owned and operated by the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association which displays several historic ships.

world war two submarine torpedo

World War II submarine torpedo

The submarine was transferred to the Maritime Park Association in 1976 and was opened for public tours in 1982. When you visit the Pampanito you’ll pass the Maritime National Park which displays several more historic ships like the side wheeler Eureka which among other assignments ferried passengers and automobiles over San Francisco Bay during the early 1900’s.

If you enjoy exploring old vessels and World War Two naval ships, you’ll absolutely enjoy these displays adjacent to Fishermans Wharf at the San Francisco Maritime Park. It’s one of the very finest displays of maritime vessels in the United States.

See these additional Trips Into History articles on the links below…

World War Two Attacks on America’s West Coast

A Civil War Submarine

Today, this classic World War Two submarine also makes a great venue for group sleepovers. Organizations such as the Cub Scouts have taken advantage of this opportunity to spend the night on the Pampanito using it’s 48 bunk beds. Small waves churned up by passing cargo ships often give the Pampanito a slight roll so those who spend the night aboard may get an authentic sailing experience. The Pampanito also conducts educational programs for adults and youngsters.

submarine torpedo loading hatch

Original torpedo loading hatch from the USS Pampanito

Take a fascinating tour back to the times of World War Two and the U.S. Navy in wartime by visiting the magnificent floating museum which is the submarine USS Pampanito.

To get to the submarine on Pier 45 in San Francisco, walk straight through the Musee Mecanique (entrance shown at right)  at Fishermans Wharf and turn left on the pier. At that point you will see both the Pampanito and the Jeremiah O’Brien behind her.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)

Visit Historic and Scenic Fort Davis Texas

As the line of westward migration progressed so did the building of military forts along that line.

fort davis texas mountains

Davis Mountains of Texas

When gold was discovered in California in the late 1840’s more people than ever headed west. The charge for military forts such as Ft Davis and it’s troops was simply to extend security whenever possible. The military forts existed to aid emigration. In the case of Fort Davis, it was established in 1854 to help protect a road which was 600 miles in length stretching from San Antonio Texas all the way to El Paso on the border with the new New Mexico Territory. This southern route west was desirable during the winter months for it’s relatively mild weather. Memory of the ill fated Donner Party caught in the Sierra Nevada blizzards was still fresh on peoples minds.

The Dangers of Comancheria

The military post helped protect settlers, mail coaches and freight wagons on this isolated south Texas trail. During this era the biggest concern for anyone traveling the trail was the nomadic Comanches. The Comanches were hunters and excellent horsemen and were also known to be some of the fiercest warriors of all Indian tribes. Many historians have contended that the Comanches were tougher warriors than even the Apaches. Texans or Tejanos, including the Spanish and Mexican military had fought the Comanche tribes for years as settlement moved from east Texas to west Texas.

map of comancheria

Area referred to as Comancheria

Heading West in the 1850’s and a Waiting Civil War

There was quite a bit of western migration in the 1850’s. This was not only because of the western gold strikes but also because of the end of the Mexican-American War which opened up the New Mexico Territory to the Union.

Many of the early New Mexico settlers came from Texas, especially along the southern tier of the vast New Mexico Territory. This concentration of pro confederate settlers was one reason for the attempted succession of the southern part of the New Mexico Territory during the Civil War. The Confederacy ideally wanted to establish a link to the Pacific from Texas to southern California. Geographically, Fort Davis located near the beautiful Davis Mountains near the Big Bend area of Texas was in a Confederate stronghold.

The Civil War caused big problems in Texas and not only involving the Union. Two things happened. Many Union troops were called east to the major battle areas. This stripped the Texas frontier of military protection. The second element was that Texas was on the side of the Confederacy. Texas militia attacked and took over the Union forts in their area of the country. Most accounts report that the forts actually surrendered as opposed to full scale warfare between Union troops and Texans. The Texans would have had much greater numbers and a secure supply line.

old fort davis texas hospital

Old Fort Davis Texas Hospital circa 1910

With the absence of Union Cavalry during the war Comanche raids increased. Settlers along the frontier edge were at much greater risk. While the Texas militia drove Union troops out of Texas at the beginning of the war, they had no less trouble with the Comanches. You could almost say that the pro Confederate Texans were fighting a two front war. In addition to the Comanches, the Apaches were also present in south Texas until they were later literally driven out by the Comanches.

See the additional Trips Into History articles on the links below…

Searching for Old Pioneer Trail Wagon Ruts

A Visit to Fort Apache Historic Park

Exploring Western Art in San Antonio Texas

Adding a Stop to Fort Davis Texas to Your Travel Planner

The old Fort Davis site was officially dedicated in 1966 and is now managed by the National Park Service. The old Fort Davis is an excellent example of frontier forts from that historic era, including both ruins and restorations.

The fort’s museum, open daily in reconstructed barracks, does a fine job of interpreting frontier life, it’s hardships and dangers during the mid 1800’s. Another event at the fort is a sound re-creation of a 19th-century military paradebugles and hoofbeats, the unique sounds of mounted troops, and music from 1875 band manuals.

mcdonald observatory fort davis texas

McDonald Observatory

Easily accessible from Interstate-10 in southwest Texas, the fort gives the visitor a real feel for life on a southwest frontier post. Located on the northern edge of town, the fort can be reached from I-10 on the north, or U.S. 90 from the south. The site can be reached by Texas 17 and Texas 118.

Fort Davis is located about 175 miles southeast of El Paso Texas. Also a very good stop is Fort Davis State Park located 4 miles northwest of the town of Fort Davis TX. It is one of the best state parks in Texas.

Another must stop if your Texas vacation takes you to Fort Davis is the world famous McDonald Observatory. Located in the Davis Mountains, this is a first class observatory and functions as a research unit for the University of Texas in Austin. This is a fun Texas side trip for the entire family. There are many excellent stops on your Texas road trip between San Antonio and El Paso and Fort Davis is one of them.

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Photos and images in the public domain. Davis Mountains photo credited to Zereshk, CC share-alike.)

Some of the Finest Western Aircraft Museums

Aircraft enthusiasts and historians will enjoy what is one of the best collections of vintage aircraft in the western U.S. There are two fascinating venues you’ll want to note make a note of.

vintage beechcraft

Vintage Beechcraft

Chino California

The first location is Chino California. The museum operates as an independently operated non-profit organization. The Chino California location of the Planes of Fame Air Museum is at the corner of Merrill Avenue and Cal Aero Drive, on the north side of Chino Airport. The entrance is off Cal Aero Dr.

Valle Arizona

As more and more vintage aircraft were restored and the Planes of Fame collection grew, an additional display location was opened in 1995 in Valle, Arizona. This site is located halfway between Williams Arizona and the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The Valle-Grand Canyon site displays over 40 of the Museum’s vintage aircraft with many of them being flyable. In Arizona the Planes of Fame Air Museum is located at 755 Mustang Way, Valle Williams, AZ, on the southeast corner of Valle Airport. This is between the town of Williams Arizona and the south rim of the Grand Canyon. This location is easily reached for those traveling through northern Arizona on Interstate-40

ford trimotor aircraft

Ford Trimotor Aircraft

A Great Display of Vintage Aircraft

Many of the vintage aircraft are kept flyable by the many people who donate both funds and aircraft parts to the two museums. People have also donated their time to help maintain the aircraft. Aircraft restoration is a big part of what this organization does.

Per the museum’s web site “Our mission is to preserve aviation history, inspire interest in aviation, educate the public, and honor aviation pioneers and veterans“. The organization claims to have the oldest air museums west of the Rocky Mountains. These fascinating museums feature a total of over 175 aircraft.  These museums offer the visitor absolutely stunning collection of vintage and famous airplanes.

The museum was first established in 1957 in Claremont California by Ed Maloney as the Air Museum. Today the museum is known by that name and also as Planes of Fame. The museum expanded at it became apparent that a second location should be added. The Arizona location is located at the reopened Valle-Grand Canyon Airport which at one time served as a TWA facility.

From time to time some of the Planes of Fame collection may be unavailable because of their participation in air shows, movie productions and often displays at various military airbases. Below is a very partial list of the flyable aircraft on display at each of the two Plans of Fame Museum locations.

uboat patrol aircraft

Aircraft used for Uboat patrol in the Gulf of Mexico during W.W. II

At the Chino California museum...Grumman Bearcat, Grumman Avenger, Vought Corsair, Grumman Hellcat, North American Mustang, Misubishi Zero, Lockheed Lightening.

At the Valle-Grand Canyon Arizona museum…Standard W.W. I Trainer, Curtiss Robin Flying Replica, Martin Airliner, North America Trojan, Billy Walker Nieuport Flying Replica.

Two additional articles you’ll enjoy are on the links below…

American Military Aircraft

Who Was the First American Aviator?

Take a Plane Ride on an Historic C-47

Static Displays and Restorations

In addition to the above, there are many aircraft models on static display and some in various stages of restoration.

The Chino California location places an emphasis on Naval aircraft where a part of one building features the aircraft of the U.S.S. Enterprise, a naval air museum within the museum.

At the Arizona location one of the most interesting aircraft on display is the 1929 Ford 5-AT Trimotor. This aircraft was built by the Ford Motor Company as a passenger aircraft. The plane was sold all over the world for both civilian and military use.

grumman hellcat airplane

Grumman Hellcat

The Trimotor was very popular in it’s time for providing both luxury and speed. During it’s years of production, a total of 199 Ford Trimotors were produced. The last Trimotor was built in 1933. The author had the opportunity to ride in a Ford Trimotor from Port Clinton Ohio to South Bass Island a short distance island off the Ohio coast in Lake Erie. It was a great historic type adventure and I would recommend it to anyone. If your travels include a northern Ohio vacation or weekend trip you may want to check with Island Airlines at the Port Clinton Ohio Airport for schedules and more information.

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Photos and images in the public domain)