Calvary Cemetery, Mission Hills
  • Calvary Cemetery, Mission Hills
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The Great Families Who Created This Town Are Still Angry

“I’d rather have a monarchy than a republic. The majority of people here cannot rule themselves. We Californios didn’t support the idea of the Mexican republic. This sentiment got passed down in subtle ways. We've never celebrated Cinco de Mayo. Nor do we celebrate September 16, Independence Day. I believe that a monarchy is a way of connecting the individual to the past.”

Bill Manson, November 14, 1996 | Read full article

"Other visitors at that time called it 'a miserable seaport town.’"

Letters from 1849

“The only reason half of the emigrants don’t turn back is because they're out of funds; the other half keep moving out of false pride. San Diego resembled 'nothing more or less than an Indian Village.’ There were none of the amenities of the established eastern communities. No hotels, no boarding houses. The once-flourishing Mission of San Diego was now old and deserted.... Other visitors at that time called it 'a miserable seaport town.’"

Jeff Smith, July 2, 1998 | Read full article

Indian children with nun at San Diego Mission

San Diego Historical Society photo

A Small Revolution

The Spanish colonists believed Indians were primitive “diggers” who never communicated with another settlement. But in 1775, more than 40 rancherias joined to attack San Diego Mission. These included Indians “from [the Laguna Mountains] accompanied by coastal Christian and non-Christian Indians.” Near 1:00 on the morning of November 5, between 600 and 1000 Indians descended on the mission. Using firebrands, arrows, stones, and clubs, they looted the church and set fire to the buildings.

Jeff Smith, July 16, 1998 | Read full article

Old Town from Presidio Hill, c. 1867

San Diego Historical Society photo

How People Lived in Old Town

“The sale of whiskey outstripped all other items in popularity. Customers purchased it by the drink, bottle, demijohn, keg, and cask.” In second place, tobacco: “Most of the men, and some of the women smoked; almost every account showed sales of tobacco.” Spices rank high. “In an age of no refrigeration, spices were a necessity to preserve foodstuffs and make them palatable. It's no coincidence that Mexican dishes we enjoy today are highly spiced.”

Jeff Smith, August 12, 1999 | Read full article

Cave J. Couts

San Diego Historical Society photo

Indians in Debt

Low wages put Indians in an “ongoing cycle of debt.” Rancheros would lend them food, then required work to repay the “loan.” The cost of food was so inflated, the Indians owed weeks of labor for the donation (one Indian worked one month to pay off $2). An Anglo traveler in 1834 observed that, on the ranchos, “the stock was herded by Indians, who cost them but a trifle more than they eat.”

Jeff Smith, July 13, 2000 | Read full article

Indians at Mission San Diego de Alcalá c. 1900

San Diego Historical Society photo

Revolting Indians

“The soldiers on recruiting forays would drive off the Indian men and lasso the women to satisfy their lust.” The women responded with abortion and infanticide. Abortion prevented “the birth of an Indian child into the mission institution aimed to destroy Indian culture and society.” Women practiced infanticide on racially mixed children. “Their disgust and abhorrence never left them.... In fact, every white child born among them for a long period was secretly strangled and buried.”

Jeff Smith, July 20, 2000 | Read full article

Elisha Babcock, c. 1890

San Diego Historical Society photo

Coronado Was a Wedding Gift

When Don Carillo claimed the land, “thousands of black brant or geese recently departed their winter gathering spot, and now curlews, willets, dowitchers, and snipe waded along the shoreline. Sandy soil nearby gave rise to a dense growth of Spanish Bayonet (a stiff, short-trunked plant with rigid, spine-tipped leaves) and lemonade berry, an evergreen shrub or small tree with white or pink flowers. Tough sumac brush and cactus also grew abundantly on the ‘island.’”

Jeff Smith, Aug. 3, 2000 | Read full article

Calvary Cemetery, Mission Hills

San Diego Historical Society photo

How to Do Genealogical Research in SD

“On July 1, 1769, soon after the arrival of Father Serra, burials began in consecrated ground on Presidio Hill.... Even though people began moving off Presidio Hill and settled in Old Town, burials still took place within the Presidio walls. These burials included early settlers as well as Mission Indians. The last recorded burial in this location was Henry Delano Fitch, who died in 1849. Indians continued burying their dead on Presidio Hill through the 1870s.”

Barbara Palmer, March 15, 2001 | Read full article

Pio Pico with his wife

Pio Pico’s Disastrous Addiction

Pico favored the British. He counted many Englishmen among his intimates, including his brother-in-law, John Forrester. Garza says Pico also preferred a British takeover because he thought Americans were aggressive and impatient. “He was quite dismayed about how they were transforming the land. They are cultivating farms, establishing vineyards, erecting mills, sawing up lumber, building workshops, and doing a thousand other things which seem natural to them, but which Californians neglect or despise.”

Jeanne Schinto, April 12, 2001 | Read full article

Cannon at Presidio, 1928

San Diego Historical Society photo

Crude Camp on Non-Christian Land

Candles were never abundant and lighting was limited by today’s standards. "People slept on plank beds, adobe benches or on rawhide stretched across wooden frames. In large families, the sons “threw their blankets wherever they liked, outside or on the covered corridor that circled the interior plaza.” Families purchased sheets, blankets, and pillows when they could afford them. But “even in the simplicity of these homes, one would find satin pillow covers edged with lace or embroidering.”

Jeff Smith, July 19, 2001 | Read full article

Artist's rendering of Presidio, 1874

San Diego Historical Society photo

Guests Ate Well at Presidio

“Typically, chapel bells would ring the ‘Ave Maria,’ and all would kneel and pray or recite the Angelus. The meal was taken after.” People ate pozole (barley or other grain boiled with beans — and sometimes, stewlike, including maize, pig’s feet, pumpkin, and peppers) and puchero soups, made from available meats and vegetables (especially cabbage and squash). Another staple: potatoes mixed with chili and cheese.

Jeff Smith, Aug. 2, 2001 | Read full article

Edward Everett Hale

Forgotten Romance Gave Us "California"

The strongest, most beautiful woman in the world, Calafia, lived on a remote island “very close to the site of the Terrestrial Paradise”— i.e., Eden, which, Columbus and every explorer that followed him believed, stood on the “right hand” of the Indies. Calafia was a black queen and ruled the “strongest island in all the world,” called California, also on the Indies’ “right hand.” It had “steep cliffs and rocky shores.”

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