wine, citrus and water–still following the trail of General Patton’s Southern California family

When I first opened the series of General Patton-related posts I didn’t foresee my interest broadening so extensively to include his family. Simple reason–I had NO idea his family was so instrumental in the development of early Southern California. They are among the most illustrious and fascinating of true California pioneers.

I suspect I’ll be reading about Patton’s grandfather, Benjamin Davis Wilson, well into the future. He was a successful entrepreneur with political and business interests connecting to many areas of local history.

The history in this valley is too rich and varied to cover in detail, but I’m finding a few areas particularly interesting and perhaps more adaptable to re-telling.

Mid-19th century California was all about the land.

Wilson’s first wife, Ramona Yorba, was the daughter of  very wealthy Don Bernardo Yorba. The marriage opened opportunity to great land wealth, and now allied with an important Southern California family, Wilson,  known as Don Benito, became a Californio–a group of Mexicans and Anglos who thought of themselves first as Californians and less as either Mexicans or Americans.

They settled on large land holdings in what is now the San Gabriel Valley.

I’ve previously mentioned a local naturally occurring body of water that once provided sustenance for the Gabrieleno-Tongva people and later the Spanish missionaries associated with the San Gabriel Mission.

The lower end of the lake was dammed to power a saw mill, wool works and tanner that pumped through a grist mill constructed in 1816.

B.D. Wilson purchased a large part of Rancho San Pasqual in 1854, including the lake, which he named after himself (Wilson Lake) using the water to irrigate his vineyards.

Wilson’s wife, Ramona, died in 1849 and he later married the widow, Margaret Hereford, building a lavish home surrounded by citrus trees and vineyards. It was at this home, Lake Vineyard, that six years following his death, Wilson’s younger daughter, Ruth, brought her new husband, George Smith Patton II. In 1885, his son and namesake was born.

The lovely Lake Vineyard once stood on the grounds of the current San Marino’s Lacy Park, where a beautiful War Memorial honoring San Marino servicemen and women who have lost their lives in combat is placed at the entrance. And there is one other famous honoree, General George Patton Jr., who as a youth, played on the very same grounds.

In learning more about this California pioneer family I’ve stumbled upon several new and fascinating stories. My father recalls when land near his grandmother’s home in nearby Sierra Madre was prime vineyard land.  Although I had some knowledge of grapes and winemaking at the San Gabriel Mission, I have only through studying the Wilson-Patton family begun to understand how closely linked this region is to winemaking in early  Southern California.

I have another story to tell that should please history buffs, wine enthusiasts and those who enjoy a good green thumb story!

I only learned yesterday about the San Gabriel Wine Company of the mid-1800’s. Here’s the deal! Once again I have to sort the usual land boundary confusion. There’s the San Gabriel Mission winery–in San Gabriel, and then the San Gabriel Wine Company appears to have been in the neighboring city of Alhambra. I wonder if I can find an old map!

I’ll leave you with a few photos today, but come back soon with a bit of winemaking history. I have a little reading to do.

53 thoughts on “wine, citrus and water–still following the trail of General Patton’s Southern California family

  1. Your enthusiasm over Southern California history is contagious, Debra. I’m eager to learn a bit about the wine making history of the area. It is interesting how the earliest of settlers came to consider themselves Californians; more identification in what they had become rather than in their separate ethnicities.
    Debra, you are quite the historian.

    • You also caught on to the reference of Californios, Penny. I had never heard the term until very recently. And sadly it only took about two decades from California’s statehood before the influx of Americans into the region created tensions between races which escalated and all peace was disrupted. Southern California was a hotbed of violence and I can’t believe how much of what I’m reading closely parallels the current environment. I think realizing that may in part be what fuels my interest. Thank you so much for showing interest! It’s a little local, but then Patton is a part of all of our history!

  2. The property and land looks so lovely. I love hearing about how people lived their lives all those years ago. It seems so many were widowed as life expectancy just wasn’t what it is today xx

    • I think perhaps one of the reasons my recent interest in the Patton history has caught my attention has to do with the fact that on some of these estates as I’ve wandered in the past I really have done a lot of daydreaming about what this beautiful area must have been like before auto congestion and a huge population explosion! I think it was probably very genteel! Of course, as you referenced, people also didn’t live as long and life was filled with very hard work! :-)

    • Thank you so much for interest, BD. I have really been intrigued at the way a few local investigations have started to connect to much larger stories. I have really been wondering how I could have lived here my whole life and so much fascinating local history was completely below my radar! I am glad I finally woke up! :-)

  3. That’s one of the things I love about history – it unfolds like the petals of a flower, and you never know what you’ll find. For me, one discovery always leads to another, which is why my reading list grows every day, branching off in so many different directions. It’s so nice to read posts from someone with a similar “addiction”! ;)

    • Don’t you just wish we had a little more time to invest in our history addiction? I have so much I’d like to read…and finding the time is the bigger challenge! At least we’re never bored, right? :-)

  4. Well, Detective, you’ve uncovered a great deal and who knows where you’re headed .. make that “we’re headed.” Fascinating stuff, Debra. I cannot help but wonder what role, if any, the Patton family’s wealth and status played in George’s reaching West Point and, perhaps, his military career. I’m not suggesting he didn’t deserve either, only recognizing that, at one time, family wealth “helped” a soldier/officer’s career.

    • You have such insightful comments regarding Patton, John. I am sure his family connections had a lot to do with his West Point career. I have had so much interest in his maternal grandparents that I have hardly scratched the surface of the Patton’s. He was truly a privileged young man, and went to military academies as a young man. I am learning that really only a few families seem to have “settled” this area they all intersect in interesting ways. I started reading a book about the family’s the settled regions across America, and after I finished the section on California I decided I’d better not read any more. I can’t afford to get lost in any other geographic region right now! LOL!

  5. Dear Debra, when I returned to reading blogs yours was one of the first I read and I left a comment there–then it took me more than a week to get back to you because I was trying to get through my blogging list!!!! So much to my amazement I find another Patton posting that enthralls me. I’m so glad you are doing this series and I look forward to learning about the wine-making.

    Debra, did you send me the URL you mentioned in your response to my comment a few days ago? If you did, I’ve forgotten already and that makes me wonder if the old noggin is operating on all six cylinders (I don’t think I ever operated on eight!!!) Peace.

    • You are so kind, Dee, to reference such an interest in my Southern California history posts. The Patton history is so interesting to me, as you can tell, and I have wondered if it was translating well. You have really been so encouraging. Thank you! I had not sent you the URL, so your memory is intact! LOL! I have some concern about how to send a live link through WordPress, so this is the time for me to give it a try! Let’s see if this works! The post was about an Indian woman abandoned on San Nicolas Island (Southern California) in the 1800s. Did you ever read the book, Island of the Blue Dolphins? I hope this link will go through. If it doesn’t, I’ll see the problem and find another way! :-) Peace to YOU!

      http://breathelighter.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/more-california-history-following-the-trail-of-the-lone-woman-of-san-nicolas-island/

      • Dear Debra, thanks for the link. I went and read your posting on the woman of the Nicoleno people and left a comment. I do so hope you will research what happened to her people/tribe/nation. Peace.

      • I am trying to learn a little more about the Nicoleño people,Dee. I haven’t found out nearly enough to be satisfying, but I have a couple of other good sources for better information and I’m not going to let up on my quest. It’s an amazing story, isn’t it? I am both fascinated and altogether very sad for what she endured. I am so glad you checked it out…it was the one story I knew you’d find very interesting.

    • It’s a very nice location, Koji. On weekends the park charges a small fee for non-locals to get in. I find that hilarious and SOOO San Marino! I live blocks from the park, but as a non-San Marino resident I must visit only Monday through Friday! The memorial is very moving, however, and as such, I’ll forgive San Marino for their weekend fee! :-)

    • Thank you! I know that local Southern California history is quite removed from you, but one of the things I hope I inspire is for each person to look a little deeper at their own local history. Maybe at some point you’ll also get caught up in your own historical interests! :-) Thank you for so kindly following along!

  6. Very interesting Debra. Your reference to Don Benito considering himself a Californian reminded me of the movie Zorro! Didn’t the Don in that movie mine the gold to buy California (or something like that!) though of course I doubt that it was based on a true story.

    • You have more memory of Zorro than I do, Sally, although you’re right he was a Californio Don in the Spanish Colonial Era. I just don’t remember much about the stories except for his fabulous swashbuckling figure! You’ve given me a smile just remembering how much I used to love the story as a young person, and I’d love to either see some of the old movies, or perhaps read one of the old novels! :-)

    • Thank you, again, Marie. I have never heard the term Californios before either, until very recently with some new books I’m reading. I’m fascinated with how much I haven’t known and it’s fun to fill in some pieces! The wine industry in Southern California was significant at one time! When I can fill answer a few more questions I’ll be eager to share! Thank you for being interested. :-)

    • I’m so glad you’re enjoying my mini-history lessons, Fiona. Thank you for the nice compliment regarding interest and relevancy, and as for where I get the time? It is always a challenge, however, don’t forget that I am not raising two girls! I can remember the days when I was lucky if I had an hour to myself–ever, so if I’m too busy now it’s mostly self-imposed! :-)

  7. Amazng how all these disparate strands weave together to tell the tale of history in your part of the world, Debra. Water and its availability for irrigation, that beautiful old house surrounded by citrus trees, and its present day incarnation with the memorial which is really beautiful. Thanks again. I do love your Californian history posts.

    • I’m so glad you have an interest in my little portion of California history, Kate. I only wish I had a bit more time–don’t we all! I’m finding more of interest than I can possibly distill down into interesting bites/bytes! :-) I am truly amazed at how many of the notables I’ve known by name do interconnect in fascinating ways, and I previously had no idea! I’m learning so much more about where I live, which is giving me a whole new appreciation. :-)

    • When you get a little homesick, remember we couldn’t give you any snow! :-) But the history is really fascinating, as I’m sure it is in every one of our beautiful 50 states. I’m just currently so focused on the truly local history, and wondering how it is I never knew what I’m discovering now! I’m really pleased that you’re finding it interesting, too. Thank you, Eva!

  8. It’s great to follow your research into Patton – because all do you get to know more about the famous general, but you broaden you knowledge on all kinds of interesting themes. That’s the fun of research, isn’t it?

    • I have enjoyed reading about the celebrated Patton family, Otto, and I have enjoyed sharing how their family history has so influenced Southern California. I appreciate hearing that it is interesting to you. At times it has been challenging to me to know best what to share and when to stop! :-) I don’t want to overwhelm with too much local color and information, so you’ve encouraged me with your thoughtful comment! Thank you!

  9. Pingback: San Juan Capistrano Mission « The Sophomore Slump

  10. I love these photos and can’t wait for the wine making history. That sounds interesting. And I’m just amazed how much Patton has to do with so many facets of California. I really had no idea.

    • Thank you, Kristy. I am still trying to untangle some of the information about the winemaking history in our area, but I’m intrigued with the little I now know. I will look forward to sharing soon! Thank you for being a willing arm-chair traveler with me. :-)

  11. Very interesting about Southern California! I had no idea. I lived in Huntington Beach for a couple of years, and just loved it. Had no idea about the Pattons! I also love the old architecture, the old buildings – you can just imagine the families that worked hard to make it home and lived there happily. They were strong folks.

    • I do love Huntington Beach, too! I would love to live just a little closer to the water. I’m grateful I can get to the shore often enough not to suffer too much withdrawal! :-) I didn’t know any of what I’ve been sharing about the Patton family until very recently myself. I am just fascinated to learn how the General’s grandparents were absolutely instrumental in the found of the greater Los Angeles vicinity! Imagine how beautiful it must have been before we even had automobiles! Sometimes when I’m standing on the elevated grounds of the Huntington Library I try to imagine what it was like and it’s an overwhelming feeling of quiet and peace! Yet they did have many hardships…and didn’t live terribly long. You’re so right with the observation “they were strong folks.” Thank you so much for your insightful comment!

  12. It’s like throwing a pebble into a pond – the ripples from an initial piece of research go ever outwards revealing new areas of fascination.

    I’m really enjoying this series Debra and your illustrating images are great :-) Good luck with tracking down an old map to unravel the vines of the past.

    • Thank you, Martin. Your observation about history/story unfolding like the ripples from the pond describe exactly what is happening. I think if I’d previously had a logical understanding I could have imagined that so many details would be intersecting, since I’ve held my interests fairly close to home, but I simply hadn’t given it any thought at all. I started with following up on questions about water (lack of) in Los Angeles, and from there, I’m now chasing down at least ten different lines of thought. I will probably retire in the next couple of years…I’ll presumably have more time and just think of the trouble I will get into! :-) I appreciate your thoughtful responses.

    • I so appreciate your interest, Perpetua. I rely on photographs so that I don’t turn too much narrative into a history book! I leave a lot on the cutting room floor so as not to totally overwhelm! :-)

  13. Have you at any time experienced a truly unforgettable glass of wine?
    What about a memorable bottle? Which was more crucial for your practical experience, the corporate or maybe the
    wine alone?

  14. It goes without saying that a single wire whereas the other
    one takes up two wires. It is considered that slopes and
    hillsides are preferred for growing of vines. For this purpose,
    you require two posts, which need to know that two benefits of this dish
    also became the name of this region.

  15. Pingback: Do you have a favorite wine region? Better keep an eye on it! | breathelighter

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