Historic Sites in California

Alameda County – Mission San Jose

Mission San José was founded by Father Fermín Lasuén (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Araba, 1736 – Mission San Carlos, California, 1803) on June 11, 1797 on a site close to the natural trail from the Livermore Valley to the San Joaquin Valley. In a letter dated that same day, Lasuén detailed the proceedings to the governor Diego de Borica (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Araba, 1742 – Durango, Nueva España, 1800):

Fermin Lasuen’s signature

“I wish to inform Your Lordship that on this day, Sunday the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, I blessed water, the grounds, and a large cross which we venerated and erected, in a beautiful place called Oroyjon by the natives, some of whom were present and showed themselves well pleased. The place is located between this mission and that of our father St. Francis, on the other side of the inlet, or arm of the sea which extends from that port. Immediately afterwards we sang the Litany of All Saints, and celebrated the holy sacrifice of the Mass in an enramada which we set up the preceding evening and decorated it from floor to roof with many different flowers. I preached a sermon to the troops and to the Christian Indians who had gathered there, and brought my portion of the function to an end by solemnly singing the Te Deum Laudamus”.i

Mission San Jose. By King of Hearts (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

U.S. National Register of Historic Places – Reference no. 71000131

California Registered Historical Landmark – 334

Located at Mission Blvd. and Washington Blvd. Fremont

Coordinates: 37°31′58″N 121°55′10″W

Humboldt County – Trinidad Head

Trinidad was so named by Bizkaian commandant Bruno Heceta y Dudagoitia (1744-1807) and his Basque-Peruvian born pilot Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra (Lima, 1743 – Mexico, 1794), who anchored their frigate in Trinidad Bay on June 9, 1775.

Heceta registered the moment in his diary:

“At one-thirty, I sighted three canoes of Indians who were diligently attempting to approach this ship. I shortened sail and they arrived, all naked and with their hair in disarray. In a short time they had exchanged with the sailors hide clothing that they had carried hidden. In a little while they pushed off and followed our course into the harbor, where I anchored at 3:30 in the afternoon shortly after the schooner”.i

Haceta’s stay in Trinidad Bay (9-18 June, 1775)

Two days later, on Trinity Sunday, Heceta claimed Trinidad Head for Spain in the name of King Charles III.  His men and two Franciscan fathers erected a cross on the summit.  The State monument is located at the Coast Guard Station south of town in the form of a granite cross placed by the Women’s Clubs of Humboldt County.

California Registered Historical Landmark – 146

Located at a rocky promontory surrounded by sea stacks sheltering Trinidad Harbor, adjacent to the town of Trinidad.

Coordinates: 41º 3′ 15.48″N 124º 9′ 3,6″W

Trinidad Head

Title: Colonial Expeditions to the Interior of California Central Valley, 1800-1820. Published 1960 by Sherburne Friend Cook. Released June 12, 2011 [eBook #36387] View Entire Book Here:

1 On July 20 the party went from Santa Ynez Mission- 283 – north to Jonatas, at Las Olivas, then to Saca on Alamo Pintado Cr. The next village, Olomosong, was probably on the Sisquoc R. near the 120th meridian. After 4 leagues further travel they reached Gecp, apparently on the south slope of the Sierra Madre range, because after climbing a mountain they came out onto plains, no doubt the Cuyama V., in approximately T 10 N, R 28 W (San Bernardino base line). Two leagues to the east was Talihuilimit.

2 Lisahua was probably in lower Salisbury Canyon in T 9 N, R 26 W. Cuia may have been in lower Santa Barbara Canyon, T 9 N, R 25 W. Siguecin would then have been 12-15 mi. up the canyon to the south.

3 The party evidently bore more to the north and found Sgene somewhere in lower Cuyama V., T 10 N, R 25 W.

4 Malapoa is located by Gifford and Schenck (1926) as on Bitterwater Cr. It is identified by them with Hoschiu of the Yokuts tribe, Tulamni. All the preceding villages were Tokya Chumash (see Kroeber, 1925, pl. 47). Nopalea can have been on either Bitterwater or Santiago Cr.

5 Buenavista can have been 8 leagues north of either Bitterwater or Santiago Cr. It is identifiedby Gifford and Schenck as Tilamniu, which Kroeber (1925, pl. 47) puts on the western or northwestern end of the lake. Sisupistu is considered to be Pohalin Tinliu at the southeast corner of Kern L. The big river is of course the Kern.

6 Six leagues from Sisupistu would have brought Zalvidea to the mouth of either Tejon or El Paso Cr. at the edge of the foothills. In the reconnaissance of July 28 the group explored the lower courses of El Paso, Tejon, and Pastoria creeks. Tupai is placed doubtfully by Gifford and Schenck at Tejon Ranch on El Paso Cr.

7 The party apparently doubled back west past Grapevine Cr. to Tacui which was undoubtedly Tecuya on Tecuya Cr.

8 Nine leagues north of Tecuya, on the Kern R. was Yaguelame, which Gifford and Schenck think was either Loasau or Woilo. My preference is the latter since Loasau was on Kern L. rather than the river and since Woilo is very close to 9 leagues from Tecuya.

9 The eastern end of Kern L. in T 32 S, R 28 E (Mt. Diablo base line).

10 Gifford and Schenck place Taslupi on Tejon Cr. This conforms with the distances given.

However it is more likely to have been Pastoria on Grapevine Cr. since the party arrived at Castaic, at the head of Grapevine Cr., on August 7.

11 Antelope V.

12 The San Gabriel Mts. The party crossed the mountains and went southwest to San Gabriel Mission. Several villages of the Serrano Indians were seen but the area concerned is well beyond the limits of the San Joaquin V.

Imperial County – Mission La Purisima Concepcion – Mission San Pedro & San Pablo De Bicuñer

California Registered Historical Landmarks 350 and 921

These two missions, located in far southeast corner of California, were founded in 1780 on the Colorado River to help protect the Anza Trail river crossing: Purisima Concepcion at Fort Yuma and San Pedro y San Pablo at Bicuñer, eight miles away. Francisco Garcés and Juan Antonio Barreneche established Purisima Concepcion. Padres Juan Diaz and Matías Moreno served at Bicuñer.

The missions and pueblo were poorly supported by Spain and the settlers ignored the rights of the indigenous Quechan (Yuma) Indians and took their best lands and destroyed their crops. The Quechan and their allies rebelled and attacked both missions between July 17 and 19, 1781.  All four priests were martyred and many settlers and soldiers were also killed.

The bodies of the four priests were recovered and laid to rest in one coffin in the church at Tubutama, Sonora.

Juan Antonio Barreneche, son of Juan Miguel de Barreneche and Ana Catalina de Legarreta, was born in Lekaroz, Navarre, in 1749. As a young boy, a friend of the family took him to Havana, where he was admitted to the Franciscan convent at the age of nineteen. While he was preparing to make his religious profession, a fellow-countryman of his, Fray Enrique Echasco, stopped in Havana on his way back to his native land after twelve years in the missions of Mexico. Having talked with him, Barreneche requested to be sent to the missionary College of Queretaro. He left Havana on August 12, 1773. He reached Tampico seaport of Mexico; and from there he walked 500 miles until he arrived in Queretaro on the 13th day of September:

“With no more baggage than his breviary, he undertook his journey alone, on foot, and relying on divine Providence for the minimum of subsistence; in those solitary lands, he covered up to ten leagues in a day, facing the obstacles of continuous rains and very rough paths, but it was all made tolerable for him by his longing to reach the college, which he did on September 13th of the said year”.i

After six years at Queretaro, he was assigned to the missions of Arizona as a helper of Fr. Francisco Garcés. Garcés wrote about him: “Fr. Barreneche is very happy. He is gifted with such a good nature that he wins over many people. He is another St. Patrick”.ii


Mission La Purísima Concepcion

California Registered Historical Landmark – 350

Located on Picacho Road in Fort Yuma, one mile south of Winterhaven Road.

Coordinates: 32°43’51″N 114°36’54″W

Only the marker identifies the site as the mission has vanished.


Mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuñer

California Registered Historical Landmark – 921

Located on Imperial County Road 524, 0.2 miles west of the intersection of Levee and Mehring Roads, 4.4 miles northeast of Bard.

Only the marker identifies the site.

Coordinates: 32°48′59″N 114°30′54″W

Inyo County

Keane Wonder Mine

Keane Wonder Mine was discovered by Domingo Etcharren (Baigorri, Nafarroa Beherea, 1860 – Ballarat, Ca. 1940) and an Irishman named Jack Keane on the slopes of the Funeral Mountains on the east side of Death Valley in December of 1903. The claim was called the Keane Wonder Mine and it became one of the two highest producing goldmines in Death Valley, netting approximately one million dollars in profit in the succeeding years. Etcharren used his share to purchase a store and other property in Darwin, a very short distance from Ballarat, while Keane was later involved in two shootings and was imprisoned in Ireland for murder.

Domingo Etcharren’s tombstone in Ballarat

George C. Pipkin states that Etcharren, called the “one-eyed Basque butcher from Ballarat,” ended up owning a saloon, a butcher’s shop and a considerable amount of land. He is buried in Ballarat.

Ruins of the lower tram terminal and mill of the Keane Wonder Mine. By Pierre Camateros (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ballarat is now a ghost town but the cemetery holds the remains of many of the early inhabitants.

Death Valley National Park, Inyo County

Coordinates: 36° 40′ 10.1″N 116° 54′ 32.1″W

Further reading

Pipkin, George C. (1982). Pete Aguereberry: Death Valley Prospector & Gold Miner. Murchison Publications, Trona.

Aguereberry Point

Aguereberry Point

Aguereberry Point is a mountain viewpoint in Death Valley National Park. It is named for Jean Pierre (Pete) Aguereberry (Onizepe, Zuberoa, 1874 – Tecopa Hot Springs, Inyo County, 1945), a prospector and well known “desert rat” of the Mojave area. Aguereberry came to the U.S. when he was about 16 years old and spent his first years as a sheepherder for various Basque sheepmen in the San Joaquin Valley, including Bakersfield. He is buried in the Mount Whitney Cemetery at Lone Pine, California.

Pete Aguereberry at Aguereberry Point

Pete Aguereberry marveled at the amazing landscape of Death Valley. Before the place was named as a National Monument and became a tourist destination, Pete carved out a four-and-a-half mile road by hand, using a pick, shovel, wheelbarrow, and blasting powder, from his mine up to the Point. When asked why he had expended so much of his time and hard labor building the road, his answer was simple—he merely wanted to share the wonderful view of Death Valley with others.

Death Valley National Park, Inyo County.

Coordinates: 36°21′28″N 117°02′53″W

Further reading

Pipkin, George C. (1982). Pete Aguereberry: Death Valley Prospector & Gold Miner. Murchison Publications, Trona.

Kern County

Fages-Zalvidea Crossing

Captain Don Pedro Fages was the first European to enter the southern San Joaquin Valley. In 1772 he was searching for Indians who had escaped from the Missions on the coast.

Mission Santa Ines

In 1806 Father José María de Zalvidea (Bilbo, Bizkaia, 1780 – Mission San Luis Rey, California, 1846) reached the same area searching for mission sites. Zalvidea was the first Basque to visit the southern San Joaquin region. The diary he wrote during his expedition (Diario de una expedición tierra adentro,  “Report of an expedition to the interior”), as well as offering concrete information about the Central Valley—geographical location of the villages, number of inhabitants in each one, detailed information about the vegetation and water resources …—, shows us how the Indians lived in their natural environment and how they welcomed the whites at the time of first contact, and above all, it offers details about Indian peoples who would never be named again in any other document.

Fages-Zalvidea crossing

Mission Santa Ines was the origin point of the expedition on July 19, 1806, and the group returned to Santa Ines on August 14.

California Registered Historical Landmark – 291

Located on California State Highway 166, five miles east of Mettler Coordinates: 35°03′33″N 119°04′00″W

Errea House

On July 21, 1952 the Tehachapi Earthquake, measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale, destroyed most of Tehachapi.  The last Basque hotels were destroyed and never rebuilt.  However, a remaining vestige of the Basque settlement is the Errea House built in 1870.  The house has been preserved as it was seventy years ago when José Errea and his family inhabited it.  Errea was a woodsman for a local limekiln.  The Tehachapi Heritage League now owns the property and in 1997 the Errea House was officially placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  At the same time, the house was also placed on the California Register of Historical Resources.

By Bobak Ha’Eri (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

U.S. National Register of Historic Places – Reference no. 97000809

Located at 311 S. Green Street in Tehachapi, Kern County

Coordinates: 35°7′46″N 118°26′49″W

Further reading

Bass, Steve (2015). “The Basque Towns of Bakersfield and Tehachapi, California”.

Noriega Hotel

Faustino Mier Noriega and Fernando Etcheverry built the Iberia Hotel in 1893.  In 1906 it was renamed The Noriega Hotel and it has been Basque owned or operated since its opening day.

In 1940 a bar, dining room and pelota court were added. The hotel now has a masonry façade but, otherwise, the all-wooden building still survives. According to Basque historian Jeronima Echeverria,i  the Noriega is the last remaining Basque hotel to still take in male boarders and serve meals at one setting.

In 2011 the James Beard Foundation honored the Restaurant as an “American Classic.”  It has been featured in newspapers from New York to Las Angeles and in numerous national magazines including the Smithsonian Magazine.

Last remaining Basque boardinghouse in the U.S.

Located at 525 Sumner Street, Bakersfield

Coordinates: 35°22’38″N 118°59’42″W

Further reading

Bass, Steve (2015). “History of the Noriega Hotel”.

Los Angeles County

Point Fermin

In 1793, the English navigator George Vancouver, on his second voyage to California, named the two extremities of San Pedro Bay Point Fermin and Point Lasuen, in honor of his friend Father Fermín Lasuén (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Araba, 1736 – Mission San Carlos, California, 1803), who had succeeded Father Junípero Serra as father-president of the California missions. The names given by Vancouver were retained, but Point Lasuén has disappeared in the reconfiguration of the shoreline.

By Lordkinbote at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

“[Lasuén´s] gentle manners, united to a most venerable and placid countenance, indicated that tranquilized state of mind that fitted him in an eminent degree for presiding over so benevolent an institution.”

In his second visit, Vancouver showed his esteem for the friar by giving him an organ, presumably the one still kept at Mission San Juan Bautista.

Point Fermin Park, San Pedro

Coordinates: 33º 42′ 19.44″N 118º 17′ 37.32″W

Further Reading

Brook Hover, Mildred; Rensch, Hero Eugene; Rensch, Ethel Grace; Abeloe, William N. (2002). Historic  Spots in California. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, page 159.

Vancouver, George, (1798).  A voyage of discovery to the north Pacific Ocean, and round the world, vol. 2, page 34. https://archive.org/details/cihm_41863.

Point Vicente

The English navigator George Vancouver named Point Vicente in 1793 for his good friend Friar Vicente Santa María, of the Mission Buenaventura.

Born in Aras (Navarre) in April 1742, Vicente Santa María embarked for the Americas in Cádiz in 1769 together with thirty-nine other Franciscans. According to the passport registers, he had a good physique, dark hair, and a “florid complexion.” In 1775, he was chaplain of the San Carlos, the first European ship to pass through the Golden Gate. His contemporaries describe Santa María as a strong and impetuous man, perhaps too much so for Junípero Serra’s taste, who complained that he was difficult to keep under control.

Parlos Verdes Light House Aug 2012. By Mike Quach (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

On the contrary, Santa María’s character seemed admirable to Vancouver:

“I had only reason to regret the short time I was to be indulged with the society of a gentleman, whose observations through life, and general knowledge of mankind, rendered him a most pleasing and instructive companion.”

Vancouver also named Point Felipe after Felipe de Goicoechea, comandante of the Presidio of Santa Barbara.

Located at 31550 Palos Verdes Drive West, in Ranch Palos Verdes

Coordinates: 33º 44′ 30.84″N 118° 24′ 38.16″W

Mission San Fernando Rey De España

On September 8, 1797, Father Fermín Lasuén (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Araba, 1736 – Mission San Carlos, California, 1803) founded San Fernando Rey, the seventeenth of the California Missions.  The mission was located in the Encino Valley on a rancho owned by Francisco Reyes. The natives called it Achois Comihabit.  The mission was named for St. Ferdinand, King of Spain (1217-1252). Reyes’ house was appropriated as a temporary dwelling for Father Lasuén who had come south to the site with a military escort especially for the dedication.  Father Francisco Dumetz, and his assistant, Francisco Javier Uría (Aizarna, Gipuzkoa, 1770 – Santa Barbara, California, 1834) the priests chosen to take charge of the mission, along with a large group of Indians, witnessed Lasuén’s solemn dedication.

U.S. National Register of Historic Places – Reference no. 88002147

California Historical Landmark – 157

Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument 23

Located at 12151 San Fernando Mission Blvd., Mission Hills

Coordinates: 34°16′23″N 118°27′40″W

Los Encinos State Historic Park

Los Encinos State Historic Park

The Franciscan padres used Encino as their headquarters while exploring the valley before establishing Mission San Fernando in 1797. In 1849 Vicente de la Osa built an adobe with nine rooms. The next owner of El Encino Rancho was Eugene Garnier, who built the existing two-story limestone house in 1872. In 1878, Gaston Oxarart purchased the ranch at a Sheriff’s auction. In 1886 Oxarart died and the ranch passed to his nephew, Simon Gless. In 1889 Gless sold the rancho to his father-in- law, Domingo Amestoy. This was the last time the 4,460-acre ranch was sold as a whole. In the coming years, it would slowly be taken apart, a piece at a time. In 1916, 1,170 acres of land were sold from the Rancho. This parcel was subdivided and became the city of Encino. In 1949, the last remaining parcel of land, containing the De La Osa adobe, Garnier House and spring were purchased by the State of California, and the Los Encinos State Historic Park was created.

Amestoy Elementary School in Gardena and Amestoy Avenue in San Fernando Valley were named in honor of Domingo Amestoy. Louise Avenue, also in San Fernando Valley, was named after Louise Amestoy, a daughter of Domingo and Marie Aicaguer Amestoy.

Amestoy family portrait. http://historicparks.org/data/node/89

U.S. National Register of Historic Places – Reference no. 71000142

California Historical Landmark – 689

Located at 16756 Moorpark Street, Encino.

Coordinates: 34°9′37″N 118°29′57″W

Further reading

El Molino Viejo (The Old Mill)

Father José María de Zalvidea (Bilbao, Bizkaia, 1780 — Mission San Luis Rey, 1846), from Mission San Gabriel Arcangel, designed and built the mill in 1816. It was the first water-powered gristmill in Southern California and some have called it the first gristmill in California. Zalvidea used unique and innovative measures in the mill for more efficient waterpower and grinding ability.  It is now the oldest commercial building in Southern California.

El Molino Viejo, http://www.old-mill.org/

Father Zalvidea was credited as being a “wise manager of the mission temporalities.” Under his administration, Mission San Gabriel reached its highest prosperity. “In 1806 Father Jose María Zalvidea began twenty years of such successful rule that San Gabriel, the fourth Mission established, became known as the Queen of the Missions.”

U.S. National Register of Historic Places – Reference no. 71000154

California Registered Historical Landmark – 302

Located at 1120 Old Mill Road, San Marino

Coordinates: 34°07′08″N 118°07′41″W

Further reading

Leonis Adobe

Built in 1844, the Leonis Adobe is one of the oldest surviving residences in Los Angeles County.  Miguel Leonis occupied it until his death in 1889.

Leonis Adobe Museum. Courtesy of Leonis Adobe Museum.

Miguel Leonis was born in Kanbo, Lapurdi, in 1824. He came to Los Angeles about 1858 with few possessions and worked as a sheepherder. He went on to become the third richest man in California. He was known as “El Vasco Grande” and the “King of Calabasas.” He was a legendary, historical and controversial figure. He controlled and ruled much of the west end of the San Fernando Valley and part of what is now Ventura County. His home and headquarters was the Leonis Adobe, which he guarded like a feudal baron with his army of approximately on hundred Mexicans and Indians. Miguel died in 1889 from injuries suffered in a wagon accident. In order to claim a wife’s share of the estate, Espiritu Chujilla had to go to court to prove that she was Miguel’s legal wife. After a 16 year legal battle, she finally won her case shortly before her death in 1906.

Miguel Leonis. Courtesy of Leonis Adobe Museum.

U.S. National Register of Historic Places – Reference no. 75000433

Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Monument Number 1

Located at 23537 Calabasas Road, Calabasas

Coordinates: 33°58’33.1″N 117°26’28.6″W

Further reading      

About Miguel Leonis:  “Bridge to the Pyrenees: History of the Basque and Béarnaise Community of Southern California

About Leonis Adobe Museum: http://www.leonisadobemuseum.org/

Leona Valley

Leona Valley

Further reading

“Leona Valley History,” http://www.myleonavalley.org/LEONA_VALLEY_HISTORY.html

Gless Farmhouse

The Simon and Juanita Gless farmhouse is associated with three Basque families who all figured prominently in the early development of Los Angeles:  Oxarart, Amestoy and Gless (or Glaize).  The land on which Simon Gless built his home had belonged to his late uncle, Gaston Oxarart, who had come to the area as a sheepherder.  Oxarart bequeathed his vast land holdings to Gless, including Rancho Los Encinos.  Gless, soon after his marriage to Juanita Amestoy, sold Los Encinos to his father-in-law Domingo, preferring to live with his bride in their Queen Anne home in the fashionable new suburb of Boyle Heights.  They raised their family and farmed there.  By 1916 the home became a Jewish shelter until 2010.

There is a Gless Street located further south of the farmhouse, off of 1st Street in the current Pico Aliso area.  It appears that when the Santa Ana Freeway was built, the Gless land was taken for this project.

Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument 982

Located at 131 S. Boyle Avenue, Boyle Heights

Coordinates: 34° 02′ 46.53″N 118° 13′ 11.78″W

Batz Rose Garden

Batz Rose Garden, California State University, Los Angeles.

Coordinates: 34° 4′ 0″ N, 118° 10′ 4″ W

Marin County – Mission San Rafael Arcangel

Founded at the present day location of San Rafael, California on December 14, 1817 by Father Vicente Francisco de Sarriá (Etxebarri, Bizkaia, 1767 – Soledad, California, 1835. Buried at Mission San Antonio de Padua, California.) Sarriá became Father-President of the California missions in 1823 and held the post until 1825. He is credited with the first original contribution ever offered by a resident of California in the field of medicine, an 1830 paper on caesarean section birth.

California Registered Historical Landmark – 220

Located at 5th Avenue and A Street, San Rafael

Coordinates: 37°58′27.5988″N 122°31′40.476″W