Tanya Hanson: History and Romance, the perfect combo


 Well, there is something downright romantic about darling little birds flying in to California from Argentina on the same March day year after year to build their nests in the eaves of a jewel-like California mission. In the 1940’s, the hit song “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” delighted radio listeners around the world. 

Truth is, the swallows have barely been seen at the San Juan Capistrano mission for years. Maybe it was all exaggeration. Or maybe the tiny birds got ticked off when work to preserve the mission started up ten years ago. Or…maybe their absence is just the tragic dearth of birdlife all over my fair state—the unhappy result of excessive building of houses and strip malls as far as one can see. Today, swallows are more likely to be seen building their mud nests on freeway overpasses even though mission-keepers try everything to lure them back to the grounds with ceramic nests and recorded bird songs.  

But there is definitely something romantic going on in San Juan Capistrano as you’ll soon see, after I enlighten (bore?) you with a few facts about the mission itself.

The founder of California’s mission system, Junipero Serra instructed Father Fermin Lasuen to found a mission between San Diego and San Gabriel, and Fermin did so in 1775. He named it for St. John of Capistrano, Italy. The local Indians, the Juaneno, were friendly and helped construct the buildings, church, and belltower. In its heyday, 1811, the mission grew 500,000 pounds of wheat, 303,000 pounds of corn, and had 14,000 cattle, as many sheep, and some 800 horses.


However, an earthquake in December 1812 destroyed the church and killed 40 natives; Pirate Hippolyte de Bouchard provided further destruction in 1818 when he raided the California coast. bouchard

(To be honest, I didn’t even know a blackguard buccaneer had raided my beloved home coast! Grrrrrrrrrrrr. Sounds like future blog material?)


In 1834, after Mexico won independence from Spain, the Mexican government ended the mission system and sold the land. Don Juan Forster became the owner of the mission in 1845, and the Forster family lived there for years.

When President Abraham Lincoln returned mission lands to the Catholic church in 1863, Mission San Juan Capistrano was in ruins, and Frank A. Forster, Don Juan’s grandson, lived in a small home on the site. In 1910, he decided to build an elegant mansion for his family.  And a good thing he did, for the Forster Mansion was the gorgeous site of our daughter’s wedding just eleven days ago.  forster-mansion-historic


The Forster Mansion was the first stucco-covered home in an area of adobe homes, and a historic wall of the mission still defines the property.The wall is the focal point against which a flower-bedecked arch is positioned during  wedding ceremonies. wedding-arbor-day-of


At a cost of about $10,000, Frank constructed a mansion of 6,000 square feet that soon became the hub of high society. Sadly, by 1983, the mansion was considered nothing more than a “tear down” until foresighted buyers restored it to its original elegance, making it one of the premiere event sites in this south Orange County area. And the mansion even has a ghost! Owners swear to cigar smoke, inter-changed portrait on walls…and the stub of  one of “George’s” cigars is enshrined under a glass dome in the parlor. Georg has been seen in moustache and khaki clothing and the bedroom upstairs credited to him has a “crack” in the wood door so he can keep an eye on things.

Today the mansion is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Properties.  

I couldn’t have been happier with Christi’s choice of wedding venue, lover of history that I am. The fountain directly across from the historic wall is the starting point for processionals, including a ringbearer who did the job great even though he refused to wear his tux jacket. His shiny shoes, however, did make the cut. 


 To the artful music of a string quartet playing the same Bach air I marched up to 35 Augusts ago, my hubby escorted his daugher in a misty, poignant moment. With her cousins, her sisters-in-law, her brother, and her sorority sisters waiting for her at the altar, it was a family moment ever etched in my  heart.


 The bride wore her godmother’s garter and the sixpence from my wedding shoe.

 Later, the yellow Livestrong theme garnished with lemons graced the event.  livestrong-theme


And with beloved friends and family surrounding us,  a special pastor blessing us all, I know the newlyweds will have a HEA even better than anything I could pen.


Truly, a day to remember. History. Romance. Love. Family. Friendship.


Now, how about you? Have you ever visited a California mission? How about a historic church or cathedral, a shrine or otherwise sacred ground? To me, battlefields and cemeteries count! Let’s hear from ya today!


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41 thoughts on “Tanya Hanson: History and Romance, the perfect combo”

  1. What a beautiful wedding, Tanya. Christi is glowing. Congratulations to the newlyweds–and to you and dh!

    I’ve never been to a California mission, but I’ve done several on the Texas Mission Trail out of San Antonio.

  2. Hi Tracy, thanks for the wonderful comment! You must have seen the Alamo then. I was scheduled to go to San Antonio for a conference and was looking way forward to seeing it and the River Walk, but it was right after 9/11 and I nixed the trip. Someday!


  3. Tanya, thanks for sharing these beautiful picture and the interesting history of the mission. I plan to take a drive along the California cost and will add this site to my visit. The wedding pictures are gorgeous and your daughter such a lovely bride.

  4. Tanya,

    Thanks for sharing all this info. I have never been to a mission but I have been in the sacred church built in the mountains in Sedona and I have been on sacred grounds where Native Americans have been buried.

    The photos were great The wedding photos were great also

    Walk in peace and harmony,


  5. What a lovely place for a wedding. Your daughter was a beautiful bride.

    Another lovely mission is the one at Carmel. I have visited there a couple of times.

  6. Hi Melinda, always nice to hear from you. I visited Sedona a few years ago, and wow, what a spiritual place. Holy Cross Church was amazing. I can’t wait to go back and investigate some of the vortex sites. I have a friend who visits regularly with a shaman. Thanks for visiting the Junction today.

  7. Hi Tanya,

    Well, that was a lovely wedding, for sure! I have never visited a California mission–not yet, anyhow! Thanks for sharing all your pictures! Great post, and congratulations on your daughter’s marriage!

  8. Hi Cheryl, I love the Carmel area but haven’t made time yet to see the mission, Carlos Borromeo, I think it is. Another fantastic one that is still a working rancho is La Purisma.

    Thanks for stopping by today! oxox

  9. Thanks, Cheryl P. for your good wishes for our sweet daughter. She picked a really wonderful guy so her daddy and I are very happy for her. As he put it, I didn’t give my daughter away. I’m sharing her.

    Here’s to more wonderful reviews for your terrific book, Fire Eyes oxoxoxox.

  10. Tanya, what a gorgeous bride! She’s just beaming. And of course, so is the mother of the bride! You certainly couldn’t have chosen a better place for the ceremony either.

    Last year I was fortunate enough to visit the ruins of an old Spanish mission near San Saba, TX. It was attacked by Indians and all the occupants were killed in the late 1700’s. In spite of the tragedy that happened there, I sensed a peaceful calm about the place. And I love visiting cemeteries and reading the tombstones. There are so many stories that were buried along with the people.

    Thanks for sharing your pictures. I enjoyed seeing them.

  11. Hi, Tanya. I grew up in Lompoc, California (a small town an hour north of Santa Barbara), and we had La Purisima Mission, founded in 1787. I can remember visiting as a child and seeing where they carded wool. Maybe that was where my love of historical imaginings began.

    Ironically, just like your mission, La Purisima was also destroyed in an earthquake in 1812. Apparently, the year 1812 in California was known as “El Año de los Temblores,” or “The year of the Earthquakes”. Thankfully they rebuilt and later preserved this wonderful heritage for us to enjoy today.

  12. Hi Linda, as you know, I totally need to go to Texas! All that history and southwest Culture! Thanks for the post. And oh yes, it was such a happy day! Thank God for pictures. It all went so quick, but I knew that going in, so held many moments close to my heart and brain for later.

    Hi Karen, thanks for visiting the Junction today. I visited La Purisma not long ago and parts of it are being restored and back in use. Lots of animals. Santa Barbara has a lovely mission, too but I haven’t been there since I was a child. It’s on my list of things to do.

  13. Hi Tanya!

    Beautiful pictures of your daughter. What a beauty. It must’ve been a wonderful day for you. I used to live in that area years ago — in San Juan Capistrano. Beautiful area.


  14. I was at the mission church La Lomita at Christmastime.
    That’s a slide show of the small church.
    Here’s a good picture.
    It’s a tiny church and when we were threre, a funeral was going on, with a priest and a coffin and about … eight? mourners. Not sure what that was about because it’s not in use in any traditional sense.

    Here are some details.
    Lands for La Lomita (The Little Hill) Mission came from the 1767 Spanish grant of Joseph A. Cantu. Used as farms and ranches, the lands supported the priests and their charities. The original chapel, built in 1865 at a campsite on the Brownsville – Roma Trail, has been rebuilt or restored at least two times. It was relocated at this present site in 1899. The City of Mission, Texas was named for this significant landmark.

    There are haunting rumors. Maybe there WASN’T a funeral going on.
    Maybe those people were all ghosts???????!!!!!!!!

  15. Beautiful wedding pictures. I loved the wedding cake adn that decorated arch. Your daughter’s dress is beautiful and her flowers are spectacular.
    And the little ring bearing is adorable.
    Thanks so much for showing us the pictures.

  16. Haven’t been to any missions. Plan to see the Alamo next year. Arlington Cemetery was a very interesting place to visit. There was a funeral going on while we were there. Complete with the horse drawn hearse.

  17. Congratulations and the wedding looked beautiful. My daughter got married last year in a historical hotel with a beautiful gazeebo. Unfortunately they went out of business 5 months later (heard it was a gambling problem). Alas they were to get a free night in the same suite a year later to celebrate. I just heard yesterday someone bought it but they are tearing down the oldest part to put in a strip mall!!!! How horrible.

  18. I remember visiting several California missions when my kids were in elementary school, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Then there was the project of making the clay model when we got home…a different story. My son was so proud of his mission he still has a portion of the clay and the bell we put into it. That kid saves everything. : )
    Congratulations to all on a beautiful wedding, and thanks for sharing the lovely photos.

  19. Tanya, and all…

    We live just over the mountains from San Juan Capistrano (and a wee bit to the south, in Temecula.) I love the old mission churches, each built within a day’s ride of each other up the coastline – is the way I recall.

    I remember seeing a basalt “water purifier” on the grounds at SJC – where sea water could be “cleansed” for drinking.

    Another favorite – though I’m not sure it’s an official mission – is the Serra Center in Malibu, CA. Extraordinary view from up there.

    Another beautiful mission church, this one attributed to Father Kino – is San Xavier Del Bac – White Dove of the Desert – in Tucson, Arizona. Beautiful, stark white mission church, rising up from the desert. A gorgeous representation of Mexican artwork – recently restored to its full splendor.

    Great post! Here’s to hoping the swallows go back soon! I know we get them in our eaves here in Temecula!


  20. Hi Tanya,
    I’m so glad I stopped by. Loved the history of the mansion! And pics of little Carter are so cute. Everything was magical and beautiful. Christy and Scott looked so happy! And the 4 of us don’t look half bad either!

    As for the swallows, they are not at the mission because they are ALL at my house. They nest in our eaves and drop little goodies onto our patio. My dh is appalled and rigged up a scarecrow of balloons up there, to keep them from nesting. Sorry, they are cute birds, but they are messy!

  21. Hi fillies and friends, thanks for all your good wishes and memories of beautiful churches and missions. I’ve been out for a while and will watch up now.

    Mary, thanks for the links. I’ll check them out asap. I always enjoy learning of new historical places to visit. oxoxox

  22. Hi Charlene, your scarecrow makes me laugh LOL. And thanks for celebrating with us. Yes, I loved the pic of us four and couldn’t resist using it.

    I confess to feeding the sparrows at our house, but there’s a sparrow hawk who circles the cul de sac from time to time and he keeps thins in check.

    Thanks for stopping by~ oxox

    Robena, oh yes, I remember those mini-missions. Macaroni, tiny marshamallows, whatever you could think of.

    Some of the craft stores tried to get craft packs with premade items and the school teachers had to bend together to refuse to accept those as projects! The marshmallow ones are much cuter. Thanks for commenting.

  23. Hi Kay and Mary, thanks for the good wishes. Kay, I know you were a MOB not long ago. It’s quite something, isn’t it?

    Hi Sue, my and I will be visiting Arlington and the rest of DC net spring and cannot wait. We recently watched a History channel special on Arlington…wow, did it break hearts with those horse-drawn hearses. Thanks for coming by today.

  24. Oh Jeanne, how awful~ The Forster was scheduled for demolition too as I understand…thanks to those foresighted folks to saved it. Boo. And a srip mall yet. Actually the old SJC mission lands are now mostly strip malls and houses and boulevards. It is a charming town however with the mission crammed in.

    Jennie, thanks for the coming by. Keep up with your writing! I can’t wait for your next book. oxoxox

  25. What a beautiful place for a wedding and wonderful pictures. Loved reading about your daughter’s wedding. She is a beautiful young lady.

    Loved the information about the misson. I was able to tour all of the missions at San Antonio. Really enjoyed seeing them but was disappointed at the Alamo. It was so much smaller than I had imagained.

    Old churches and cemetaries are among my favorite spots to visit. I love making up stories to go with the headstones. There was one nearby that says “gone and forgotten”. That one makes me so sad but now that the ladies’ children are all gone, I understand that the grandchildren have changed it.

    Great post and I shall be searching out your book.

  26. What a beautiful site for a wedding. The photos are lovely as is the bride. Love the cake. Looks like it was a lovely day.
    As for your question, yes to all of them. We got married at an outdoor shrine in the Adirondacks of Upstate New York. When we lived out West, we took advantage of the area and visited several missions and churches. Our two main focuses when we travel are history and nature. We’ve hit shrines, churches, cemeteries, and battlefields from coast to coast, north to south, across Canada, and overseas.. You can learn so much of the culture. While going around Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, we hit every church we came to. Up the west coast, the churches were plain. As we got to the northern part of the western coast, the churches became more ornate and the religion changed. It was the change from the area settled by the Scots and that settled by the french catholics. ( Of course, you could tell this by listening to the people speak.) As you headed down the eastern coast the same thing happened, from french back to scot. Cemeteries are even better. The tombstones in Quebec are inscribed a little differently. The women are listed by their maiden names – “Here lies Mary Smith wife of John Jones” rather than ” Mary Jones wife of John.” The cemetery on the Wind River Reservation was an education in itself. It is out in the middle of nowhere in an area of great poverty. The graves are covered with personal items – candles, flowers, statues, pictures, boxes, etc. Two graves of young children stood out. They were only a few years old if that. The little girl’s had dolls, a carousel, and jewelry on it. The little boy’s had matchbox cars, etc. on it. People visited the cemetery frequently and no one disturbed anything. I look at what happens at the cemeteries in the “white” culture and there is a world of difference. Little statues, candles and flowers are stolen almost as soon as you put them out. My husband’s cousin put flowers on her mother’s grave. Two day later, she went back and they were on another grave several stones down the row.
    We will be heading to Oklahoma and Texas in late September early October. We’ll be in Ft. Worth and the San Antonio areas. I’m so looking forward to all the history there to explore.

  27. Hi Tanya — lovely photos! No, I haven’t visited a mission, but I’ve visited many ancient cathedrals in Europe, and like others who’ve commented, I’ve walked the sacred grounds in Sedona. All were wonderful experiences.

  28. Hi Helen, I’ve enoyed some European churches and cathedrals, too. Hard to believe how those great cathedrals could have been built without our modern tools and technology!

    Mary, Connie and Patricia, thank you for your kind words. Patricia, enjoy those travels! I also enjoy old cemeteries. Seeing Cotton Mather’s grave in Boston was a highlight for this former American lit teacher.

    Thanks everyone, for stopping by today. I had a great one. See you next time.

  29. Thanks for sharing the wedding pics, Tanya. So lovely!

    I’ve never been to a mission, but we used to have barn swallows make nests on our porch. I haven’t seen them for several years, though. My cats might have had something to do with that.

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