Juan Bautista de Anza and the Expedition that Established San Francisco / The National Trails System

There is a very historic old Spanish trail that eventually established what is today San Francisco California, the historic Mission Dolores and the Presidio. Today, this trail is administered by the National Park Service through a partnership with other federal, state, county and municipal parks and volunteer groups. Some of the areas of this Spanish trail are in the hands of private ownership but there is a remarkably large amount of the trail that is ideal for a California auto tour. In 1990, Congress established the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail as a part of the National Trails System.

juan bautista de anza

Juan Bautista de Anza, public domain

This very important Spanish trail was blazed by a Spanish military officer by the name of Juan Bautista de Anza. Ther idea actually originated with Anza’s father who dreamed of finding an overland route to Alta California. This was an important route for Spain who was trying to secure their stronghold in the region. Spain’s concerns were the explorations of both the Russians and the English. The Russians had a thriving trade operation in the area about 100 miles north of San Francisco Bay at Fort Ross on the Pacific coast. The English of course had operations in what is today Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Using mission and Indian trading routes, Juan de Anza found a path into Alta California in 1774. This route would allow passage of supplies, livestock and much needed settlers. When Anza identified the route he secured permission from the Viceroy of New Spain to make the Spanish expedition.

Juan Bautista de Anza’s expedition was quite different from a mere exploration. Some of the earlier expeditions were for simple exploration. This expedition was to help colonize a distant land. This essentially went hand in hand with the Spanish Mission system being established around the same years. Traveling through Sonora New Spain, Anza put out a call to men to join him and be paid as soldiers. His men told about the lush land to the north which was greatly different than the desert region around Sonora. Interest was high but Anza placed certain requirements to many of the prospective recruits. There were two primary conditions. The men would agree not to return to New Spain and they were obligated to bring along their families.

de anza trail map

Route of the Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition, public domain

Anza’s expedition departed from Tubac Presidio on October 23, 1775. The expedition included thirty families which amounted to some 240 men, women and children. The expedition had a purpose. The purpose in general was to safely deliver the settlers and their livestock to el Rio San Francisco, the first Spanish settlement in that key area. There was no guarantee of success but the travelers put their full faith in Anza. The families who joined the expedition, after weighing their current opportunities in Sonora, felt strongly that a better life could be found in Alta California. They risked everything for a chance to be among the very first settlers to California.

As with just about all Spanish expeditions, religion and the Franciscans played a large role. Most days began with Mass and hymns of praise. These were conducted by Franciscan priest Pedro Font. In addition to Font’s religious duties, he kept a very detailed diary and recorded latitudes using a quadrant. His journals were a running historic record recording locations, miles traveled and supplies used. It is from his diary and one written by Anza himself  that today we have an excellent record of the Anza expedition. Coming up from present day Mexico around the Nogales area, the expedition which included some 1,000 head of cattle crossed the Colorado River into Alta California at present day Yuma Arizona. Anza was fortunate to have received able help from the local Indians and this included finding the Yuma Crossing. The trail went through Riverside and north of present day Los Angeles to the coast near Oxnard. Then it was up the Pacific coast past San Luis Obispo and to the east of Monterey before reaching present day San Francisco. Much of the route fairly follows US Hwy 101. It’s interesting that riders on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles to Oakland also follow a section of this trail.

juan bautista de anza interpretive center in martinez california

The Juan Bautista de Anza Interpretive Visitor Center in Martinez, CA, from author's collection

The Juan Bautista de Anza expedition was a great success for Spain. After Juan de Anza selected a site for both a presidio and a Spanish mission, on June 27, 1776 a Lt. Moraga led the settlers to what is today the city of San Francisco. This marked the establishment of Mission Dolores on the San Francisco peninsula. This also marked the very northernmost settlement to that date for Spain. What’s very interesting to the tourist is that many of the names of settlers and military involved with Juan de Anza’s expedition are still seen today throughout northern California. These are names such as Moraga, Berryessa, Bernal and Peralta. Today, these are names of towns, highways, landmarks and counties. De Anza’s name can be found on buildings, schools and streets.

The National Park Service has sixteen sites along the de Anza Trail where many visitors like to collect stamps showing their visit. These stamps are given out by the NPS to officially confirm the visit. The National Park Service administers the Anza Historic Trail Exhibit Visitor Center located at John Muir National Historic Park in Martinez California. This is the historic adobe on the Muir grounds that has been made into the Anza Historic Trail Center. This center has some great exhibits and would be a fine addition to any san Francisco area trip planner. Martinez is located northeast of San Francisco opposite the town of Benicia California.

A Visit to Old Town Sacramento California

The location of what became Sacramento California could not have been more opportune at the time of California statehood in 1850. Here was a land far away from the U.S. seat of government but at the same time so important to the nation’s westward expansion. At the same time, Old Town Sacramento was at almost ground zero during the spectacular California Gold Rush. So many things came together at the end of the 1840’s with the Mexican cessation of Alta California and then the Gold Rush that California became the destination of immigrants from around the world. This also catapulted San Francisco into a world famous seaport. Today, that original site east of San Francisco where all the action occurred is called Old Town Sacramento and is as close as you can get to a must stop during your California vacation. Sacramento Old Town is all about the history of the gold rush era.

Wells Fargo Concord Coach model at the Wells Fargo Museum in Old Town Sacramento

Transportation wise, Sacramento was at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers which afforded easy access to San Francisco, the major western shipping point. This is adjacent to present day downtown Sacramento. All of those thousands of people who rushed to California by ship in pursuit of gold would find themselves passing through Sacramento. As they say, it was the right location at the right time.

The gold rush was responsible for the heavy steamboat traffic up and down the Sacramento River. Boats were crowded with prospectors who had arrived in San Francisco by ship from either around Cape Horn or through Panama. Supplies were shipped up to Sacramento and in many cases gold dust was shipped out. Some steamboat owners made a fortune on the Sacramento. According to steamboats.org, the very first steamboat to make it up the Sacramento River was the George Washington in 1849. Prior to this, the first recorded journey by boat up the Sacramento River was in 1839. This was a three boat trip by John Sutter. He went up the Sacramento to where it met the American River and this is where the city of Sacramento rose from.

Sutters Fort, Sacramento California

The late 1840’s and early 1850’s was a time when people were beating down the door getting to Sacramento and to Sutters Fort which was the major jumping off point to the Sierra Nevada gold fields. What sprang up and was built at the area of the Sacramento River and the American River is today called Old Town Sacramento. This and Sutters Fort which is located a few miles west could be the two most historic sites in Sacramento. Definitely, two places you want to add to your trip planner if your California vacation takes you up to Sacramento.

You’ll find plenty of things to do in Sacramento. Old Town Sacramento has enough historic attractions to spend the entire day. You’ll view historic old town hotels such as the Union Hotel which originally was named the Veranda Hotel and was used extensively by old town Sacramento politicians. The California State Railroad Museum might be the finest vintage railroad museum in the United States. Among the many large exhibits under roof is a Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe railroad dining car from the Fred Harvey era. They also have a mail car from the Great Northern Railway. All of these exhibits allow you to walk through and see everything close up. Another rare exhibit among the steam locomotives is the Governor Stanford, which was one of the first locomotives purchased by the old Central Pacific Railroad. The Central Pacific Railroad was the western leg of the transcontinental railroad completed in 1869.

When you’re strolling around Sacramento old town you’ll also see the unique Tower Bridge. This is a vertical lift bridge that crosses the Sacramento River  was dedicated in 1935 and in 1982 was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The California State Military Museum is another excellent historic attraction. This museum is the official California historic military museum and historic research center. Opened in 1991, the museum has artifacts on display from the earliest times until the present. Vintage firearms are showcased in abundance as well as official military flags, uniforms, frontier equipment and many historic photos. One rare exhibit includes a 1875 Battery Gun which is a modified Gatling Gun. The California State Military Museum also features a pretty extensive library.

1875 Battery Gun

Among the historic buildings still standing, and there are several, includes the old B.F. Hastings Building. This building is considered the old focal point of Old Sacramento. The structure was built in 1853 and at one time served as the western terminus for the Pony Express, the offices of the Alta California Telegraph Company as well as a Wells Fargo Agents office. Hastings completed and opened the building with his bank, Hastings & Company. The land where the building sits on was once owned by John Sutter through a Mexican land grant. The building changed hands several times. The structure that was there prior to Hastings building had burned down in a fire. The building you see today, built by Hastings, is a two story brick structure. At one time the B.F. Hastings Building also served as the first site for the California Supreme Court.

B.F. Hastings Building, Old Town Sacramento

Old Town Sacramento itself has been declared a state historic district. Truly, you can spend an entire day in touring Old Sacramento and the California State Railroad Museum is at least a half day itself. One thing you may want to check on is the excursion train trip put on by the railroad museum usually offered April to September.The museum also hosts an extensive history program available to students. The museum staff has information on this and their website features all current programs.

The following two articles highlight both the gold towns of Auburn and Grass Valley California with several great pictures. Both of these towns sprang up from the California Gold Rush and are also great stops to put on your California vacation planner along with Old Town Sacramento.

(Photos are from author’s private collection)

 

 

A Tour of The Pioneer Museum in Fredericksburg Texas

Fredericksburg Texas, in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, was a major settlement for German immigrants. Located in Gillespie County Texas, Fredericksburg presents an excellent example of early German migration to the state. In fact, there are many towns in the Texas Hill Country with German names such as New Braunfels, Gruene, Boerne and others. The Bavarian government largely discouraged emigration in the 1880’s but nevertheless there was a lot of publicity in Germany regarding Texas. Those who did publicize Texas told about the available land, the topography of the Hill Country and the abundance of wild game. Many Texas Germans arrived in in the state during the German Revolutions of 1848. One thing that is quite remarkable is that the early German settlers developed a good relationship with the Indians. It’s remarkable in the sense that trouble with the Native Comanches is so much a part of Texas history. A few other interesting facts about the Texas Germans was that they actively participated in politics, and by 1846 a German language version of Texas law was in place. Also, Fredericksburg stood out as a bastion of Union support during the American Civil War. Most of the immigrant population was adverse to slavery.

Today, Fredericksburg Texas is a fun Hill Country tourist destination with a lot to see and do. There are many things to do in Fredericksburg and one of these is to explore the towns early days of Texas German immigration.

One very historical attraction which goes a long way in explaining and showcasing Fredericksburg’s founding is the Pioneer Museum and village located in the heart of Fredericksburg Texas. The Pioneer Museum which includes many outdoor exhibits is located on three acres of shaded grounds and included many plants that are native to the Texas Hill Country.

Pioneer Museum, Fredericksburg Texas

The early Texas Hill Country was very active with people who emigrated to the area from the German region of Europe. Many towns in this part of Texas have German names.such as Fredericksburg, New Braunfels, Luckenbach, Bergheim, Boerne,and Gruene. The history of these settlements tell the story of the Germanic influence on the early settlement in this part of Texas. The Pioneer Museum does a great job in showcasing all of this early history.

The Dambach-Besier House stood at 515 E. Main Street for 135 years and was moved to 325 West Main Street where it has been reconstructed to form the entrance to the Pioneer Museum and the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau Welcome Center. The house was originally built in 1869. According to the museum, In 2005, the owners at that time, Kenneth and JoAnn Kothe, donated the house which was disassembled, moved, and reconstructed with funding from donors to the Gillespie County Historical Society.

Klammah House

The Pioneer Museum also exhibits the Kammlah House. This is another very interesting and historic structure. Originally built in 1849 as a one room structure, it grew considerably in later years to include three kitchens, bedrooms, living areas and a stone patio.  When the Historical Society bought the Kammlah property in 1955, amazingly, four generations of Kammlahs had lived in the house. A barn and smokehouse are part of the original property owned and run by the Kammlah family. A general store was operated on this property between the years 1870 and 1924.

 

Sunday House

While touring the museum grounds you’ll see a small structure called the “Weber Sunday House”. Lots of history here. The Sunday House was utilized as a place to eat and rest when the Weber family made the seven mile trip to town for shopping and church. This type of structure is unique to the Fredericksburg TX area. The Sunday Houses stopped being essential when the roadways in the area improved. Interestingly enough, during World War Two when gas rationing was in effect, Sunday Houses had a kind of rebirth of usefulness. It cut down a lot of driving for people who had access to one.

 

 

Watson Log Cabin

There is a 1880’s log cabin on the museum grounds that was the family home of John and Nancy Walton and their three children. After her husbands death, Nancy married John Smith and they added to the house. When this home was rediscovered in the 1980s, the original cabin had been totally encased by additions to the house. According to the Pioneer Museum, in 1985, it was moved and rebuilt at the Museum by Cox Restoration in memory of Jay Cox.

Fredericksburg is about 80 miles west of Austin and about 70 miles northwest of San Antonio Texas. Founded in 1846 and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia, Fredericksburg is a popular tourist destination in Texas and is well known for it’s unique B & B’s. Fredericksburg Texas lodging choices ar many.

A very well known son of Fredericksburg TX was Admiral Chester Nimitz who commanded Pacific Naval forces during the Second World War. Today, many people travel to the Nimitz Museum of the Pacific War which is in downtown Fredericksburg. The museum has absolutely excellent displays of just about everything related to the war in the Pacific. If you have the opportunity to travel to Fredericksburg, the Nimitz Museum is a must stop.

.Another noted resident from Fredericksburg was Carl Hilmar Guenther, an immigrant from Wiessenfels Germany. Guenther served at one time as Justice of the Peace and established flour mills in Fredericksburg. Eventually and because of a severe drought, he moved his flour mills to San Antonio Texas and they still stand today. The Pioneer Flour Mills grounds in San Antonio are a very popular tourist attraction, a museum and also features an excellent restaurant and bakery. It’s definitely a stop to add to your south Texas vacation planner.

You should find this article link about the Pioneer Flour Mills and Carl Guenther interesting. Good pictures of the Guenther house and grounds.

If you have a chance to visit the town during the holiday season, Fredericksburg is well known for their lights and displays. Some of the best holiday displays in the entire state of Texas.