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.

Just another Meatless Monday—When is the last time you tried cashew cheese?

I pressed the pause button, deciding to briefly meander from my focus on General Patton’s Southern California connection. A brief sideline…but a tasty one.

Months ago I mentioned my interest in the Meatless Monday movement.  The grassroots campaign is a gentle force, but significant. Linked with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, the objective is to provide  information, recipes and support to interested health-conscious individuals with the goal of reducing meat consumption by 15%, a controversial and contested point of view.

Debate ensuing, the theories still hold well for me and Meatless Monday is compatible with my goals for health and well-being. Many people enjoy the creativity of occasional vegetarian cooking without holding to any particular social aim. For those of you in that camp, you might be interested in exploring a few new vegetarian options just because they taste good.

Last year I  joined the on-line VegCookBook Club.  Each month we select a vegetarian or vegan cookbook and work our way through as many recipes as we have time to try. Then, on Meatless Mondays, group leader, Britt Bravoposts information and photos about the recipes she’s tried, and others add descriptions to the discussion thread and post photos on the club’s Flckr page.

So in anticipation of another Meatless Monday, let me share two of my favorites from January’s cookbook selection, Crazy Sexy Kitchen, by New York Times bestselling author Kris Carr with Chef Chad Sarno.

Kris Carr is a frequent contributor to Hay House Radio, and in health and wellness circles she is a rather amazing example of what a carefully designed  diet regimen is capable of supporting in the fight against disease. On Valentines Day 2003, Ms. Carr was diagnosed with a rare, incurable cancer, stage IV sarcoma. She was 31 years old.

She has authored several books outlining her vegan diet choices paired with attention to modifying stress and an overall healthy lifestyle. Although she is told she will never be in remission, for ten years she has held the disease in check, while reporting to feeling amazingly strong and now working to help people with diabetes, heart disease, and myriad other illnesses change their diets and experience the same improved well-being she enjoys.

Who isn’t interested in improved well-being?

Ta-Da! I know this doesn’t look like much, but it’s delicious! You’re looking at Cashew Cream Cheese.

Cashew Cream Cheese

I often wish vegetarian dishes weren’t given names that suggest they are a direct substitute for a non-vegetarian food. Especially a popular food. This is absolutely delicious, but it doesn’t really remind me of cream cheese. But I can tell you that it is addictive. I’ve shared it with several people and each has pronounced it “delicious.”

I didn’t have all the suggested ingredients on-hand but I was confident I could make appropriate substitutions and give it a try. This wonderfully tasty and dairy-free spread is excellent on toast, crackers, baby carrots, or as the cookbook suggested, as the spread in a Mediterranean Wrap.

The recipe is very easy to follow. I’ve adapted this slightly from the original.

Blend two cups of soaked raw cashews (soak for a few hours or overnight) with 1/2 cup of water, some lemon juice, 1 TB nutritional yeast and a small amount of minced red onion. I added a little dill. If you need a little salt to enjoy this, go ahead. I didn’t bother, and the dill more than compensated.

Mediterranean Wrap

The wrap is up to you! The cookbook recommended a Mediterranean flair, combining the Cashew “cream cheese” on the whole-wheat wraps, with caper berries, sun-dried tomatoes and arugula.


So was the next recipe, but Red Thai Coconut Soup was a little more challenging to me. I couldn’t find a Thai coconut, so I substituted Melissa’s Brand Sweet Young Coconuts.

Getting to the coconut water while attempting to “poke a hole” in the  designated area, threatened a trip to the emergency room. So I roughly cut away what I could, tapped into the liquid, and made the decision that next time I’ll use coconut water from a carton.

Once I figured out how to “carefully” open the coconuts, I strained the water to remove the shell particles and added fresh lime juice, diced red pepper, garlic, some dried ginger (recipe called for fresh), 1 TB. yellow miso and 1 TB of coconut sugar to the blender and just whirred away. It couldn’t be easier.

These were both great recipes and I intend to make them often. I wish I could share a taste, because I don’t think the photos do justice to just how satisfying and delicious they are, but food photography is tricky business!

I’ll add a bonus to compensate for my poor photos.

One blogger who photographs her recipes very nicely and also shares her technique, is Charlie, at Hotly Spiced. Click here  to learn some of her methods used to improve lighting and focus. And while you’re at it, you’ll enjoy Charlie’s recipes and the humor associated with her family stories.

You know how I like family stories–mine and others.

I’ll be back to adding a little to the Patton family history this week and I’ll also observe Meatless Monday with a new vegetarian recipe.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll learn which new February vegetarian cookbook leads in the group vote.

If you’re so inclined to play along, you might think about joining our on-line book club and occasionally trying simple and creative vegetarian/vegan recipes.

However your week begins, I wish you a very happy Monday…meatless is always optional.

Following the circuitous trail of the illustrious Patton’s

It’s been more of a challenge to tell the local story of General George S. Patton than I had previously thought. I think it would be easier if I had one of those enormous war room strategy maps to plot out the Patton family history. Sometimes I have trouble keeping all the characters straight. It doesn’t help that some of the history books hold contradictory information.

I started my original questioning with a trip to the San Gabriel Cemetery. 

I’m not intending to add much color to the General’s illustrious life, at least in terms of his military career. A general call “Old Blood and Guts”–a nickname he hated but his men loved, is a biographer’s dream. There is much written. Known for his explosive temper and shall-we-say colorful language, he was a leader for which myths and truth have mingled and persisted despite his death 67 years ago.

But there was a reason I decided to finally read a personal history of the Patton family. General Patton and his wife are buried in Luxembourg, but his grandparents, parents, sister and a few other family members I haven’t yet researched are buried half a mile from my home. When growing up I had always heard that Patton was born in neighboring Alhambra. In recent years, the city of San Marino has claimed him as their native son.

I assumed a kernel of truth was contained in each story.

Let’s start with the name.

The first George Smith Patton, the General’s grandfather, was a colonel in the Confederate States Army, killed at the Battle of Opequon. His son, born George William Patton, changed his name to George Smith Patton in honor of his father. Though given the name Junior, General George S. Patton was actually the third George Smith Patton.

But to get down to where was Patton born? My research says San Gabriel can claim him! Sort of…

Some of the records indicate he was born in “San Gabriel Township.” That term caught my interest. I’ve never heard that before.

Patton’s maternal grandparents were Benjamin Davis Wilson and his second wife Margaret Hereford. The Wilson name is very well-known in Southern California.

Benjamin Davis Wilson was a California statesman and politician. In 1851, Wilson was the second elected mayor of Los Angeles after California was made a state. Wilson’s name cropped up when I was studying early Los Angeles and the Water Wars, but I hadn’t yet made the connection to Patton.

There are many stories which describe Wilson as another very colorful and adventure-seeking man. He was also known for his kind treatment of the Spanish Native Americans. Don Benito, as he was called, became the first non-Hispanic owner of what was then Rancho San Pascual, which includes today’s towns of Pasadena, Altadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra, San Marino, and San Gabriel.

You’ll have to take it from me that this was a very large Rancho.

I mentioned the Wilson name has a strong recognition factor. Yes, indeed! Mount Wilson, a notable peak in the San Gabriel Mountains is where the majority of television and radio transmission towers for the greater Los Angeles area stands as a monument to the man who took the first white man’s expedition to the peak hoping to harvest timber for making wine vats. The wood was of inferior quality for that purpose, but the Wilson Trail remains one of the most popular hikes to the crest of the San Gabriel Mountains.

I wonder how many Southern Californian’s know that Mount Wilson was named after General George Patton’s grandfather?

I couldn’t help but notice a clear view of Mount Wilson taken from the foot of the Wilson/Patton burial plot.  The large marble obelisk measures almost 25 feet in height and is inscribed with the Wilson name. Looking north from that spot the television and radio transmission towers are easily visible.

Mt. Wilson

Wilson Obelisk

Wilson did live out his days in what is present-day San Gabriel and after that, understanding the property divisions gets complicated. I think it’s safe to say that each of the cities has a reasonable claim on some portion of the Patton family history.

Next to the cemetery, on what was once Wilson land, is one of the prettiest little churches in the area, the Episcopal Church of Our Savior. The General’s family were long time members and benefactors of the church, first built in 1867 with adobe and hand-made nails. It is told that Patton was baptized in this parish.

A beautiful bronze statue of General George S. Patton stands with his side arm in a dedicated space between the cemetery and the church.

But like I said, other cities claim him, too. So next post I’ll share another San Marino bronze and perhaps get a little deeper into the local history. There’s the arroyo which passes under the Rose Bowl and was once called Wilson’s Ditch, bringing water to the valley long before Mulholland and the infamous aqueduct, and I think I’ve figured out where the Patton family home was, right around the corner from the Huntington Library.

Wish me luck. You know I can get in trouble with my camera and private property.

Stay tuned…