How are General George S. Patton, the San Gabriel Mission and an old grist mill connected? Come take a field trip with me and I’ll explain.

Mark Twain said, “One of the most admirable things about history is, that almost as a rule we get as much information out of what it does not say as we get out of what it does say.”  

As I continue to study early California history, I uncover more stories connected  to early mission life, and the more I discover, the more I realize I now have additional research questions.

I suppose this is why historians often choose a particular era or even one single historical event and then dedicate their work to becoming experts. I have no design on fashioning myself into an expert, but I’m definitely hooked and have multiple areas of early California history begging for my attention.

This week I was able to stay very local, within five miles of my home, and take my field trip to another historic landmark. El Molino Viejo, or The Old Mill, a former grist mill associated with the operation of the San Gabriel Mission.

The mission was founded on September 8, 1771, dedicated to farming and self-sufficiency. One of the remaining mission structures is less than ten miles from current mission property, the Old Mill, built by the Tongva-Gabrielino Mission Indian laborers around 1816, as designed by Franciscan Father Jose Maria de Zalvidea.

Between 1816-1823 the Old Mission gathered water from an adjacent canyon and the mill was responsible for grinding enough wheat and corn to feed the mission inhabitants.

Be sure to read the story on the plaque and see how General George Patton recovered the millstones.

A surprise to many who live locally, the water that left the grinding area then flowed to what is now the very popular Lacy Park. The padres used the water that accumulated into a bog  for wool-washing, and as a tannery and sawmill.

In 1846, Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor or Alta California sold the property and it is there that new stories open into the settling of the Pasadena area. I am working on those bites of history and will look forward to sharing them with you as I do a bit more local touring.

I hope you’ll enjoy photos of the current mill site . The mill is the oldest commercial building in Southern California and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The grounds are beautifully landscaped and maintained by The San Marino Women’s Garden Club, “The Diggers,” with specific attention devoted to native plants. This late in the season there isn’t much in bright color, but I’ll be going again in the spring to note the changes. It is really quite lovely as it is with natural brush, many fruit trees, wild grasses and succulents.

The birds, bees, butterflies and small animals are very much at home!

Part of my personal study is to better understand complex stories and find a way to share them without overwhelming amounts of information. My exercise in studying the historical record is indeed at least scratching the surface of what is “said and unsaid.”

Indigenous “Californians” date back some 13,000-15,000 years. It’s impossible to study the life and activities of the mission without acknowledging that all mission success was realized at the expense of the native Gabrielino-Tongvan people. Their story is much more complex than I can develop in a single blogpost, but there are 6,000 Indians buried at Mission San Gabriel Arcangel.  There is a lot to learn.

And as I share, I don’t expect others to remember all the details, but I hope it excites you enough to think about what little historical field trips you might make to better know your own local history. Be careful, though. It’s addicting.

50 thoughts on “How are General George S. Patton, the San Gabriel Mission and an old grist mill connected? Come take a field trip with me and I’ll explain.

  1. I’m so pleased it’s now a beautiful area and I think your images show lots of colour. I can imagine that this type of research into your local area would be very addictive. It’s amazing what you can uncover xx

    • I hope I don’t overwhelm others with detail that isn’t interesting to others, Charlie, but I try to add pictures. We all like photos! LOL! I think my interest and enthusiasm comes through, and what’s difficult for me now is that there are, of course, many, many interesting details that have caught my imagination and I’m always tempted to share it all…so deciding what to share is a challenge for me. I’m just grateful you’re following along! Thank you for that. Have a wonderful weekend. Have a few adventures of your own. :-)

  2. The reason why we study history is to learn from mistakes made in the past. I think it is also important to learn the stories of were we live today and why are communities are shaped the way they are. Through your blog it is so enjoyable to learn historical gems about where you live in California which is a state that has such a rich history. Keep up the great work! ~Thea

    • Thank you, Thea, I appreciate the encouragement to continue to share some little tidbits of local history. I am enjoying the opportunity to share photos and little stories from my local adventures. Before this week I hadn’t been to the mill in twenty years, yet I drive by it all the time. I’m challenged to see what else I’ve been mindlessly ignoring! I’m sure there is plenty I haven’t even noticed! I hope I can continue to make my little field trips of enough interest to continue to bring you along! I hope you have a wonderful weekend! :-)

      • I so much appreciate your support regarding my blog and your words of encouragement. I also appreciate your messages that are so positive and so interesting. Lastly, I am really enjoying reading and learning new information through your blog. How can I not keep visiting you and staying in touch? Have a good weekend. ~Thea

  3. So true. Again, sorry for redundancy, my curiousity peaked when I visited Cabrillo National Monument. After that, I got that itch of exploring further and farther about the man.
    It’s always nice to get to know your own community. It gives you that sense of connection, being a true part of it.
    I went to the closest Mission from my area last weekend, but just didn’t take pictures. I’m sorry, not a big fan per se, but I’m always open to explore anything or any place. :D

    • It is always of interest to me, Rommel, to experience the differences in what each of us finds intriguing. I think that’s why blogging is such a remarkable way to learn about people, places, and events, and sometimes we really connect, while other times we’re not sure we relate! But it’s all good! I agree about Cabrillo, too. I’m in the San Pedro area at least once a week to be with my family, and yet I haven’t been to the Cabrillo Marine Museum in ages. Time to do that again, too!

      There are 21 missions and they aren’t all “equal” in my mind. But the history connected to them and the reason for their establishment is a significant epoch in California history. I grew up living near one, so that undoubted fuels my interest. Maybe by the time I’m through sharing little details I’ll have “won you over” to be a fan. Ha! You’ll have to let me know…but have a great weekend. You’ll have adventures of your own, I’m sure!

  4. This is truly interesting… I love the newer history that enables one to make an educated guess and allow experts to write things down…
    Whilst flying around the Lydenburg district in a microlite, which I did often, I spotted twhat appeared to be stone enclosures, now our old inhabitants enclosed their homes with stone walls so nothing seemed too odd, till we did a bit of ground research and discovered these had no openings and had many interlinking passages… flying now just to look for these we found 100 over vast areas and I started to research the items on the web… I was by no means the first to discover these (although I fantasised that I was) but many items where available on the web, but none with any definite authority… and to date there is no explanation for these circles… they have been linked to the Zimbabwe Ruins, but again no one knows the origination of them… I took hundreds of photos from the air, which is easy from a microlite… and a few have been used by others in their books of explanation, which is just conjecture… but still very interesting.. I prefer yours that has answers than being left to imagine…

    • I hope someday you’ll be able to learn a more definitive answer as to what the stone enclosures represent. How fascinating and curious! I suppose that if there is no recorded story associated with them they may be ancient and without a likely answer to the riddle. But I, too, would be coming up with a variety of possibilities!

    • The Old Mill is a lovely spot, Marie. This was again one of those times when I wished I could be a more skilled photographer! It was so peaceful…except for the leaf blowers I could hear in the background! LOL! :-)

  5. Everything has a history, and your journey is driving you past the surface. Redundant from a past comment, but I applaud your self-motivated quest! Love the pics and who General Patton fits into the post.

    • Genera Patton was a local guy! One of these times I’m going to go around the city and snap photos of all the statues dedicated to him. But the story of him finding the millstones abandoned on the Huntington estate was a great little addition to the old mill’s restoration. I think part of my intrigue in going deeper is being fueled by realizing that so many inaccuracies were passed on in my education as a child…of course, my “childhood education” was in the prehistoric ages! LOL! Have a great weekend, Frank. I hope the weather cooperates with your plans!

      • Inaccuracies in education and legends? No … surely you are kidding! ;)

        Because I didn’t realize Gen Patton was a your-area local, yes – I’m interested in your post of Patton sites. :)

        Drastic weather shift is in progress … so, most likely, outdoor plans could face change. Oh well, time will tell.

  6. With California’s rich, multi-cultural history, there is enough to keep you interested and intrigued for quite some time. It’s like one massive jigsaw puzzle — but in 3D. You can only find the other layers by looking beyond the top or outermost.. I found today’s post to be was very interesting, Debra. Thanks for taking the time to include us on your field trip.

    • I’m really happy to know that I’m not overwhelming with too much detail and that you’re enjoying the history posts, John. You are so right about our multi-cultural history. This is in part what is fueling my inquiries. I’m really amused, if that can even be the best word, to be filling in many details that were certainly not shared when I was in the 4th grade–that’s when we had our first California history and the stories from the missions. Of course that was a L O N G time ago. But now I can’t get enough. I have some other local field trips planned and hope I can continue to find ways to make them interesting to you. Thank you! Hope you have a good weekend, John. Max, too! :-)

  7. The grounds look stunning, very well kept. I have been toying with the idea of discovering more about the history surrounding this area but I keep getting put off by the idea of so many facts and figures rolling around in my head, my memory is getting appalling and I’m worried that I will bog myself down before I even start. However, I must admit that you’re slowly persuading me to give it a go! I’m glad you’re enjoying your own history field trip and thanks for including us on it :-)

    • Eleenie, I hope you will take the plunge to getting to know your local history. It can be overwhelming, I do know, but you don’t have to think in terms of remembering everything. That’s impossible! Just take small journeys, absorb what you can, and realize that you can learn in small amounts just by taking some photos and finding one or two things of interest.

      You might consider sharing on your blog. It would inspire you to take very large topics and just generalize down to one or two facets. Believe me, each time I come away from a little field trip there was so much more that I observed and could share, but I know no one has time to read a small book or absorb that much detail. So I find one or two things of interest. That also helps me remember things better.

      I hope you’ll get started. You’ll enjoy what you learn and better appreciate where you live! :-) Think about maybe one small thing this weekend. oxo

      • I’ve been thinking about this one and I’m considering learning more about Novae just outside Svishtov. It was a Roman settlement and the Bulgarians are in the process of uncovering a lot of artifacts from their various digs. I like that period in history too so maybe that’s the local history I’ll opt to explore…

    • I’ve become a grown up “Dora the Explorer,” Nancy. I wish I had the time for daily field trips…I also wish I’d been more curious decades ago. LOL! I may have more questions than I have time left! Ha! Have a great weekend!

  8. Debra, thank you so much for reminding us how much beauty and history as at our fingertips. I’ve lived in California for 46 years and have yet to explore the rich history. Sometimes we are so focused on the allure of foreign travel that we ignore the lessons on our doorstep. Thank you.

    • Kozo, I’m so pleased you stopped by, and I hope I have inspired you to explore aspects of California history you may find interesting. I am learning so much that I never knew, nor had any interest in, and I was born here. I know you’re right that we get caught up in world history and focus more thought on foreign travel. Or even our own east coast history! But California has so much to offer in both beauty and fascinating stories. I’m glad to meet another Californian. Thank you for sharing. :-)

  9. Local history is, indeed, addicting Debra, and a habit I don’t ever want to break. Isn’t it exciting to dig into local history and lore? I look forward to each of your historic posts. Your enthusiasm is contagious. That’s an interesting connection to Patton and the Huntington Estate.

    I also love grist mills. We have one a few miles from here (where I took the pictures for the Moffitt poem) that was part of the underground railroad. The mill is still operational and ground cornmeal is available for purchase there.

    • I do remember you sharing about grist mills in the past, Penny, in particular the connection to the underground railroad. There we go again, the interest in one site leads to more information and questions into another historical context. It’s so fascinating how the stories build upon one another.

      El Molino Viejo isn’t still operational, but it was a lovely setting. I thought of you with the information that was there about the support, massive support, from the Garden Club. The garden was so carefully maintained and I will be returning often.

      The idea of Patton recovering the millstones was icing on the cake! :-) Hope you have a great weekend, Penny! oxo

    • I honestly think you know a lot more about some aspects of California than I do, Carl. I don’t know much at all about Fremont…but I’m learning! You’ve now given me a prompt for further inquiry! Thank you for that. :-)

    • Oh the bookshelves…and on the floor by the bed! Ha! I don’t go to any of the museums or sites with bookstores and come away empty handed! I’d be quite an expert if I actually read all the books I buy. LOL! But I slowly do my best. I’m glad to know that you, too, love studying history. Every time I post I wonder who will actually enjoy it. But it’s fun to see that some people are very “quiet,” which is certainly fine, but I find one or two new people who come along to at least read the post because they, too, are history enthusiasts. It’s an interesting little personal exploration. I really do thank you for being an encouragement! Enjoy your weekend. :-)

  10. Dear Debra, I enlarged the plaque photo and so read the words easily. We truly are all connected. There’s a movie reviewed in today’s Kansas City Star that your posting makes me think of: “Cloud Atlas.”

    If I’m understanding the review, the story is about six different time periods and characters and some connection between them.

    Also the word “cloud” means something in today’s technological world. I’ve seen it used but because I’m technologically challenged–that is a neat way of saying I’m behind the times, w-a-y behind!!!!–I’m not sure what “the cloud” is. I bet you know. You study the past and you live in the present and you learn from both what you’ll need for the future. A true historian. That’s you! Peace.

    • I know how hard it is to make the rounds and stay in touch with your blogging friends when time is short, Dee. All the more reason I appreciate your lovely comment. I want to see the movie, “Cloud Atlas” and I didn’t know until you mentioned it that so many time periods were involved. I’d simply seen such beautiful trailers for the movie I knew it would be one I’d enjoy.

      The “cloud” is really just another internet repository. It’s a fancy way of saying that all of our information is “backed up” and stored in an off-site giant computer. Now how all that actually works in reality, I surely do not know. But I do have my computer backed up on “the cloud.” Sometime in the near future we’re all going to be doing more with that technology. But we can get used to the whole idea in bits and pieces.

      Thanks for enjoying my short California history stories, Dee. I’m so glad you enjoy them!

  11. I’m so glad you visited my blog so I could find yours. I think Dee must have given me a link, but I lost track of it. I got the idea to write about the missions after I posted some photos I had and found out that my blogger friends in other parts of the country and the world didn’t know about them. I lived in Pasadena for several years, and visited the San Gabriel Mission on several occasions. I did’t know about the mill stones and the General. History is so wonderful, isn’t it? A great post.

    • Thank you so much for coming by and sharing some of the local history. I have friends who have lived in the San Gabriel Valley for decades yet have never once visited one of the missions. I’m so caught off guard by that…I don’t understand the lack of interest. Perhaps that’s in part why blogging is so delightful to me. We have the opportunity to connect over shared interests and find others who are delighted by the same interests. I enjoy others who also enjoy history! It’s a pleasure to meet you, Inger.

    • So many of our historical sites don’t go back as far as our east coast history, but I think it’s pretty cool to find these little treasures hidden among the very modern! Makes for a very fun treasure hunt! I’m glad you came along, Meg.

    • Isn’t the story of General Patton and the millstones kind of surprising, Celi? I don’t know enough about horses to have really envisioned how that all fit together, but I loved the idea that they had been missing and were found. I enjoyed my day in the garden! Thanks for making such a nice visit.

  12. Fantastic post, Debra, how fascinating! The thought of the founding of a mission is so absorbing. I’ll never forget The Mission, Robert Bolt’s beautiful study of priests who came to begin a mission. A complex business, importing one culture to superimpose another. I look forward to your posts immensely :-)

    • I loved the film The Mission, too, Kate. I particularly liked the soundtrack! I am so glad you’re enjoying the bits of story I can share. I struggle with keeping the information interesting while also realizing there is a huge amount “on the cutting room floor.” I will keep coming back to the topic and I am just so pleased you enjoy! :-)

  13. Such a beautiful place, with such a big history Debra. your photos were a treat, I now have a real idea about the feel of the Mission, especially the building. And yes I oggled the garden photos :) and how much would I love to wander there, and sit a while pondering on the history an dthe people.

    • I think you’d enjoy walking through some of the gardens filled with native Californian plants, Claire. They would be quite different for you, I think. Of course, most Californians landscape patterned after a traditional English garden, because of the color and beauty, but then they require a lot of water to keep them alive in our climate. The old mill property was something special. I plan to go back frequently just to sit in the garden! :-)

  14. I read the word “Mission” and I think of the movie.. to be sure there is always a story behind the story. I really enjoyed this story today. I wonder why and how those stones disappeared? I can’t think they were easy to move! I enjoyed your photographs, especially the pomegranates and the little squirrel! xx

  15. I appreciate your interest in local history and that you’re taking the time to share it with us and in short simple to read posts, as you said:
    “Part of my personal study is to better understand complex stories and find a way to share them without overwhelming amounts of information”

    There are so many historical places near us like the Old Mill that I haven’t been to. Thanks for reminding us to get in the damn car and explore our neighborhood.
    Gosh I didn’t know that Patton came from the Pasadena area.
    I was fascinated to follow the story of the millstones. Where did they put the stones at the Huntington?

  16. Pingback: It’s rose pruning time in Southern California. Shouldn’t they stop blooming first? | breathelighter

  17. Pingback: wine, citrus and water–still following the trail of General Patton’s Southern California family | breathelighter

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