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.