TIME JOCKEY: Temecula

By Joe Castillo

Old Town Feeling…

Located 90 miles east of Los Angeles and 50 miles north of San Diego is the old western town of Temecula.  US Interstate 15 runs through the town heading south on the way to San Diego. The name itself derives from the Indian word for “the Valley of Joy” and was once the capital for several Indian nations. In 1852, the signing of the Friendship Indian Peace Treaty took place in this small town. A new town was surveyed in 1884 and was finally established in 1892. Temecula became one of the largest cattle centers in California. Cattlemen brought their herds from miles away to be shipped through the California Southern Railroad of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe systems. This was the only overland rail between Los Angeles and San Diego at that time. The huge Vail Cattle Ranch surrounded Temecula, but in 1964 the ranch was sold to developers who built hundreds of homes and named their development Rancho California. The Butterfield Stage Line made Temecula one of its stops for going north from San Diego through Los Angeles and beyond. In spite of all the modern day progress of those early ears, Temecula was a wild and violent Cowboy town of the old west. There were many shootings, killings and bank robberies occurring in the town and vicinity. The last man to die in the gas chamber in California was John McNeil, a black smith in Temecula who was convicted of killing his wife in 1936. The location surrounding the hills of Temecula was significant to many Indian events. Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona novel used Temecula as a backdrop for her story of Indian mistreatment and the hills surrounding Temecula were used by Indians to hide from the Spanish and Mexicans and did not wish to convert to Catholicism. On a hill south of Temecula, is an old buried Indian town site.  Temecula is a growing city and its history is rich and multi-cultural. If you want to take a short day or weekend trip, Temecula has enough to offer any tourist or adventurer…… Serra… The Huntington Library has opened a display to honor Father Juniper Serra. The display covers Serra’s early childhood years in Miorca, Spain and through his early priesthood days in Mexico and Alta California. Serra was born Miguel Joseph Serra to Antonio and Margarita Ferrer. He was their third child with the first two children dying in their infancy. Serra entered the Franciscan order and began to serve his commitment. The display includes a collection from Serra’ years in the order. This included the attire of a Franciscan priest including a tunic, walking stick, sandals and crucifix. It also includes his journals, notebooks, dealings with the local Natives and the effects on the Missions on California growth and development. The exhibit runs through January 2014 and should be seen by those wanting to get a better appreciation of Father Serra and the Missions.

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