Historic Place of the Month - June 2012

June's Historic Place of the Month was:

The De Anza Trail

The Juan Bautista de Anza Trail (De Anza Trail) stretches for 1.4 miles from the east end of Calabasas Road west to Las Virgenes Road, roughly parallel to current Highway 101. This trail would eventually become part of the El Camino Real, the road connecting the California Missions.

Between 1774 and 1776, Juan Bautista de Anza led two overland expeditions from Sonora, Mexico to Alta California. Such a route was needed for two reasons. First, supplying the Spanish missions and presidios by ship was risky and unreliable because of weather conditions and pirates. Second, the King of Spain wanted the viceroy to accelerate the colonization of Alta California to thwart encroachments by other Europeans powers and to assert control over San Francisco Bay.

In January 1774, Anza left Tubac, in present-day Arizona, with a contingent of 21 soldiers, two priests, two guides, mule drivers, servants, and various livestock and pack animals. On March 22, Anza and a portion of his expedition arrived at Mission San Gabriel, having successfully found a route through near waterless deserts and uncharted mountain passes. An overland route to Alta California was now available for use in transporting supplies and colonists to the outermost reaches of New Spain.

In October 1775, Anza, by then a lieutenant colonel, guided a group of 240 people from his staging area in Tubac to California. The primary motive for the expedition was to establish a presidio and mission in the area of San Francisco Bay. Anza actively recruited young married couples, many from the lower classes, and the group included many women and children. Because of an unusually early and severe winter with record amounts of snow and ice, the trip was unexpectedly difficult. Food ran short, drinkable water was scarce, and many animals perished. Nevertheless, Anza’s was one of the most successful trips ever made overland to California. His party arrived in Monterey with four new babies. The only death was a woman in childbirth.

In June 1776, the colonists, led by Anza’s second in command Lieutenant José Joaquín Moraga, continued their journey to San Francisco Bay. Both expeditions entered Los Angeles County from the east past San Dimas and went on to Mission San Gabriel. During the 1775-76 journey, the colonists stayed at the mission for about six weeks while Anza and some soldiers went to San Diego to quell an Indian rebellion. Later, the colonists traveled west from the mission. From an account recorded by Father Pedro Front, scholars think the expedition followed the Los Angeles River through Griffith Park to the San Fernando Valley and to the Calabasas Creek vicinity.

On February 22, 1776, the colonists made camp in the Las Virgenes area. The exact location of the campsite is unknown but is referred to in historical documents as “Agua Escondida” or Hidden Water. This could possibly be a destroyed spring in the Deer Springs tract off of Lost Hills Road in Calabasas. The segment of the Anza Trail that passes through Calabasas has been identified, not as a campsite, but as part of the original route, and it is part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, which was designated by Congress in 1990. The Anza National Historic Trail, including the Calabasas segment, was recognized again by the White House in 2000 as one of 16 Millennium Trails.

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