I love Temecula, Southern California’s premiere Wine Country (think Napa up north), and I visit every month or two with a posse of gal-pal wine aficionados. Since Temecula is several hours from home, we manage to spend the weekend, and last time, we arrived just in time for the annual Western Days festival! Temecula has a rich history which is preserved in “Old Town.” Enjoy the fun re-enactors pix today!
First off, the name of the valley comes from the Luiseño Indians and basically mean “where the sun breaks through the mist.” The tribe has been in the area since at least 900 AD.
The first “white man” to set foot is believed to be Father Juan Norberto de Santiago while leading an expedition in 1797 to found a new mission.
Forty years later, American fur trappers moved in, and not long after, provincial governors granted a large tract of land to Felix Valdez, and Rancho Temecula was born in 1845. The “rancho” era of California bloomed with a romantic aura that lingers still.
In addition to romance, the area saw its own historic violence. A nearby canyon was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the Mexican War in 1847.
The local tribe captured and executed eleven Mexican soldiers. However, the Mexicans conspired with an enemy tribe, the Cahuilla, to settle some scores with them. In short, the common grave of the dead Temeculans is still visible from a major highway.
And true to legends of the wild west, Temecula had run-ins with bandits and bad guys. In 1857, outlaw Juan Flores killed a shopkeeper (his second in the area) and with his gang, hid out on a nearby peak, eventually killing a Los Angeles sheriff. These events sparked California’s greatest manhunt. (Flores was finally captured in Simi Pass 110 miles north, and hanged.)
Stagecoaches began to arrive that same year (1857) and an alleged hold-up occurred. In 1858,the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach Line scheduled stops there its route from St. Louis and San Francisco.
California’s second-ever post office soon followed.
January 1882 brought the first railroad service, but tracks washed out in an 1883 flood, and the train station became a barn. Not to worry. Temecula started quarrying granite in the 1890’s (although the industry died out about 1915–cement was easier). Many curbs and fences built of this stone are still extant today, even in San Francisco some 470 miles away.
By the turn of the century, Temecula became Cowboy Town–the shipping point for cattle!
By the 1970’s, the Long Branch Saloon had become a meetinghouse, and the Stables Bar, retail boutiques.
Test vineyards were planted in 1966, leading to a dozen wineries by 1990 and at least 35 today. The “microclimate” caused by good soil, seabreezes from 65 miles away, and 11,000-feet high mountains is perfect for wine grapes. Yay.
Two notable authors resided in the valley. Erle Stanley Gardner, of Perry Mason fame, lived at Rancho Del Paisano from 1937 until his death in 1970; a model of his ranch can be seen at Temecula’s History Museum.
Massachusetts native Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885), long an activist against federal mistreatment of the native peoples, stayed in the area around 1880 and became friends with Temecula merchant Louis Wolf–a mixed-race/half Indian, and his wife Ramona. Their store inspired a setting in Jackson’s novel Ramona. Although the 1884 book–romantic and realistic both–was written mostly in New York, it’s a California classic.
I hope you enjoyed these tidbits today. Anybody else ever visited Temecula or like wine tasting?
Sixteen months since the foolish death of her husband, attorney Rachel Martin aches to move on as much as she fears the future. Cutting back on her practice and moving back to her childhood ranch means her three-year old son has all the attention he needs. Finding love again is the last thing on her mind…until she meets Brayton Metcalf.
After ten year’s of self-blame for his wife’s death in a plane crash, successful businessman Brayton Metcalf is instantly drawn to Rachel when he brings his his daughter to Hearts Crossing Ranch for therapy riding lessons. But Rachel backs off at his impetuous personality. He whittles away at her doubts…until he jumps head-fist into a business decision that will affect her family. Rachel, her trust in Brayton endangered, turns to trusting in God. Can the couple’s shared grief and guilt permit them to see daylight once again?