The Descendants Chapter of the Old Spanish Trail Association, in partnership with the Peña Adobe Historical Society, will present “The Old Spanish Trail: Tales of its Northern California Travelers”. The Old Spanish Trail Association was formed in 1994 by historian Ron Kessler to preserve, protect and promote the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. Join us at our Open House, Saturday, March 7, from 11am-2pm at the Peña Adobe, and learn about the historic route that allowed local pioneers to settle in Vacaville.
The Old Spanish Trail has been called one of the most difficult trails in the United States. Originally a Native American route, it was used by adventurous pioneers who did not use wagons but traveled the old pack trail by mule, horse or by foot from the Midwest to Los Angeles beginning in the early 1800s. John Fremont, Kit Carson, Antonio Armijo and George Yount all traveled to California via the Old Spanish Trail.
In September 1841, John Workman and William Rowland and a group travelers, left Nuevo Mexico traveling the Old Spanish Trail to the San Gabriel Mission in Los Angeles. Although the expedition is known as the Workman-Rowland Party, it has long been considered the first “wagon train” of Americans to travel overland to Los Angeles, even though the Old Spanish Trail is a narrow trail and could not accommodate wagons. The 1,200-mile journey was completed on November 5, 1841.
In addition to 300 animals, expedition members included Dr. William Henry Knight, who established Knight’s Ferry & Landing on the Sacramento River, Benjamin Davis Wilson, grandfather of George S. Patton, a rancher and politician, and for whom Mt. Wilson is named, Trail Guide Lorenzo Trujillo, founder of La Placita de los Trujillos, north of present day Riverside and farmer Daniel Sexton, future son in law to Chief Solano. Also included in the party were the families of Juan Manuel Vaca for whom the town of Vacaville was named and Juan Felipe Pena who partnered with Vaca and built the historic Peña Adobe.
Old Spanish Trail Association members Cecelia Peña and Darlene Coombs-Stewart are both fifth generation descendants of travelers, Juan Felipe and Ysabel Peña. They will be sharing their family stories and those of Peña’s partner, Juan Manuel Vaca.
President of the Old Spanish Trail local chapter Conchita Marusich will also be joining the event. Conchita is the author of “In Search of William Wolfskill, Journey to Find the Legacy”, which describes Wolfskill’s trail-blazing expedition over the Old Spanish Trail in 1830-31. She will also chat about Wolfskill’s brother John Reid Wolfskill who became a local rancher and is known for his contributions to the California’s agricultural industry. He gave an orange tree to the Peñas in the 1860’s and today it is known as the second oldest orange tree in California. Still producing fruit, come see this amazing piece of history!
The mission of the Peña Adobe Historical Society, a (501)(c)(3) corporation, is to preserve the history of the Peña Adobe and provide educational and cultural services to the community. The Peña Adobe, California Historical Landmark #534, the oldest fully restored building in Solano County, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and will be open for docent led tours during the open house event.