Mormon Battalion Commemoration coming in January!

The annual Mormon Battalion Commemoration Day is coming to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park on January 27, 2018.

Anyone interested in the long march of the Mormon Battalion from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego and their important contributions to our city’s early history should put the event on their calendar!

I’ve been informed by the commemoration day organizer that entertainment will include a Native American dance group featuring drums and singers, some colorful ballet folklorico dancers, and an old time fiddler’s group!

To get a taste of the many interesting things you might see, view photos of past Mormon Battalion Commemoration Days here and here!

I recently finished writing a short story about generosity and the true spirit of Christmas. To read it, click here!

Photos of historical plaques on Presidio Hill.

View of the Serra Museum through trees atop Presidio Hill, near the spot where European civilization first took root in California in 1769.
View of the Serra Museum through trees atop Presidio Hill, near the spot where European civilization first took root in California in 1769.

A few years ago I walked from Old Town San Diego up to the top of Presidio Hill and wrote a simple blog about what I saw. You can revisit that post here.

What I failed to do at the time was photograph many of the historically important plaques that can be found around various sites and monuments, so I thought it would be proper to finally correct that omission.

I’ve included one informative sign which stands near the ruins of the old Spanish presidio’s chapel, and a variety of plaques. One of the plaques is at the base of the Padre Cross; two are near The Padre sculpture; one is on an observation structure near the Junipero Serra Museum parking lot; and several others are found at Fort Stockton, where the Mormon Battalion camped after their 2000-mile march from Iowa to San Diego.

Click the photos and they will enlarge for easier reading.

Sign marks the Old Presidio Historic Trail. Grassy mounds on the hill below the Serra Museum are the ruins of the old presidio chapel.
Sign marks the Old Presidio Historic Trail. Grassy mounds on the hill below the Serra Museum are the ruins of the old presidio chapel. It was built for the garrison’s soldiers after the original Spanish mission was relocated up the valley.
A large cross marks the location of the first Spanish mission in Alta California, established by Junipero Serra.
The large Padre Cross, made in 1913 of tiles from the Presidio ruins, marks the location of the first Spanish mission in Alta California, established in 1769 by Junipero Serra.
Plaque at base of cross remembers the Indian village of Cosoy, named San Miguel by Cabrillo in 1542, then San Diego de Alcala by Vizcaino in 1602.
Plaque at base of the Padre Cross remembers the Indian village of Cosoy, named San Miguel by Cabrillo in 1542, then San Diego de Alcala by Vizcaino in 1602.
Near the Padre Cross, a plaque covers a time capsule that was created two centuries after the establishment of Mission San Diego de Alcala. It is to be opened on July 16, 2069.
Between the Padre Cross and The Padre sculpture, a plaque covers a time capsule that was created two centuries after the establishment of Mission San Diego de Alcala. It is to be opened on July 16, 2069.
A plaque behind The Padre sculpture, placed on December 29, 1981 by the Presidio Hill Society Children of the American Revolution.
A plaque in the ground behind The Padre sculpture, placed on December 29, 1981 by the Presidio Hill Society Children of the American Revolution.
Photo taken behind The Padre on Presidio Hill. The 1908 bronze sculpture is by Arthur Putnam.
Photo taken behind The Padre on Presidio Hill. The 1908 bronze sculpture is by Arthur Putnam.
A plaque can be seen on the observation structure near one corner of the Serra Museum parking lot.
A plaque can be seen on the observation structure near one corner of the Serra Museum parking lot.
The plaque begins: Sylvester Pattie, pathfinder, leader of the first party of Americans into Alta California over Southern trails. Arrived at San Diego Presidio March 27, 1828.
The plaque begins: Sylvester Pattie, pathfinder, leader of the first party of Americans into Alta California over Southern trails. Arrived at San Diego Presidio March 27, 1828.
Mural at Fort Stockton depicts the long march of the Mormon Battalion.
Mural at Fort Stockton depicts the long march of the Mormon Battalion.
California Historical Landmark plaque at Fort Stockton. The top of Presidio Hill was fortified by Carlos Carrillo in 1838. From July to November 1846 the fortification was called Fort Dupont when American forces temporarily held Old Town.
California Historical Landmark plaque at Fort Stockton. The top of Presidio Hill was first fortified by Carlos Carrillo in 1838. From July to November 1846 the site was called Fort Dupont when American forces temporarily held Old Town.

 

Plaque by mural, commemorating the heroic sacrifice and history-making achievements of the Mormon Battalion.
Plaque by mural, commemorating the heroic sacrifice and history-making achievements of the Mormon Battalion.
More plaques nearby explain the history of the Mormon Battalion, which blazed the first wagon trail to the Pacific over the southern route.
More plaques nearby explain the history of the Mormon Battalion, which blazed the first wagon trail to the Pacific over the southern route.
Members of the Mormon Battalion worked to improve San Diego by making the first kiln in California, the first pumps to draw water, and the first blacksmith shop and bakery.
Members of the Mormon Battalion worked to improve San Diego by making the first kiln in California, the first pumps to draw water, and the first blacksmith shop and bakery.
The two plaques depicted above are near the Mormon Battalion Monument, a bronze sculpture by Edward J. Fraughton.
The two plaques described above can be found near the Mormon Battalion Monument, a bronze sculpture created by Edward J. Fraughton.
Another nearby plaque explains the history of the sculpture. It was a gift to the City of San Diego in 1969 by the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers.
Another nearby plaque explains the history of the statue. It was a gift to the City of San Diego in 1969 by the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers.
A plaque by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers also stands at the site of old Fort Stockton.
A plaque by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers also stands at the site of old Fort Stockton.
Women of the Mormon Battalion. Almost eighty women and children accompanied the soldiers during the long march. Four wives traveled the entire distance to San Diego.
Women of the Mormon Battalion. Almost eighty women and children accompanied the soldiers during the long march. Four wives traveled the entire distance to San Diego.
Flags of the United States, Spain and Mexico fly atop Presidio Hill, birthplace of California. Here many chapters of history are remembered.
Flags of the United States, Spain and Mexico fly atop Presidio Hill, birthplace of California. Here many chapters of history are remembered.

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Mormon Battalion celebrates Flag Day in Old Town.

Mormon Battalion flag flies during a special event in Old Town San Diego.
Mormon Battalion flag flies during a special event in Old Town San Diego.

I was invited to a unique event that took place yesterday. A special Flag Day Ceremony was held at the Mormon Battalion Historic Site in San Diego’s Old Town. The event remembered World War I and saluted all American veterans.

During the ceremony five veterans from different military services were made honorary members of the Mormon Battalion. A cake was cut with a military saber and an American flag that has been flown over the U.S. Capital and over Fort Leavenworth (where the historic Mormon Battalion originated) was raised.

The patriotic ceremony was organized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members composed the Mormon Battalion, the only religiously based unit in United States military history. Commanded by regular U.S. Army officers, members of the battalion marched almost 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to San Diego, California to help secure the region during the Mexican–American War. Much of the difficult march was over mountains and through desert. They saw no fighting.

I have noticed that Mormons treasure liberty–religious freedom in particular. I’m not a Mormon–very far from it–but I do happen to be a strong believer in personal liberty. That’s because I’m a writer. Also, as a child I traveled with my family behind the Iron Curtain twice. I have briefly seen how dark life is without liberty.

A friendly Mormon lady in pioneer dress welcomes guests to the Flag Day Celebration.
A friendly Mormon lady in pioneer dress welcomes guests to the Flag Day Celebration.
This 2017 celebration of Flag Day honored veterans who served with distinction.
This 2017 celebration of Flag Day honored veterans who served with distinction.
Guests are welcomed by Director of the San Diego Mormon Battalion Historic Site, Elder Michael Hemingway.
Guests are welcomed by Director of the San Diego Mormon Battalion Historic Site, Elder Michael Hemingway.
The United States flag is posted after the National Anthem.
The United States flag is posted after the National Anthem.
Folding of the flag. Each of the thirteen folds is invested with a special meaning.
Folding of the flag. Each of the thirteen folds is invested with a special meaning.
Four American veterans on stage are honored and made honorary members of the Mormon Battalion.
Four American veterans on stage are applauded and made honorary members of the Mormon Battalion.
Keynote speaker General Bruce Carlson, USAF, Ret. talks about liberty. He is also made an honorary member of the Mormon Battalion.
Keynote speaker General Bruce Carlson, USAF, Ret. talks about liberty. He is also made an honorary member of the Mormon Battalion.
Many voices sing God Bless America.
Many voices sing God Bless America.
Young members of Marine Band San Diego after the ceremony.
Young members of Marine Band San Diego after the ceremony.
The United States Marine Corps bus contains an image of the flag being raised during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The United States Marine Corps bus contains an image of the flag being raised during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Pageantry and remembrance at a Flag Day Ceremony in Old Town San Diego.
Pageantry and remembrance at a Flag Day Ceremony in Old Town San Diego.

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First San Diego Courthouse Museum in Old Town.

Likeness of Agoston Haraszthy, first Sheriff of the County of San Diego. He was elected in 1850 and served one term. He was a pioneer when it came to growing grapes and became known as the Father of California Wine.
Likeness of Agoston Haraszthy, first Sheriff of the County of San Diego. He was elected in 1850 and served one term. He was a pioneer when it came to growing grapes and became known as the Father of California Wine.

Visitors to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park can get a taste of the city’s early history when they step into the First San Diego Courthouse Museum.

One of many free attractions that can be found around Old Town’s central Plaza de Las Armas, the First San Diego Courthouse Museum is a recreation of our city’s first fired-brick structure, built in 1847 by members of the Mormon Battalion.

From 1847 to 1850 the original building served as the office of el Alcalde (Mexican mayor) of San Diego. Beginning in 1850 it contained the office of San Diego Mayor and City Clerk, and was used for meetings of the San Diego Common Council. The building was also used as a city and county courthouse and First District Court beginning in 1850.

Other uses for the building would include a meeting place for Masonic Lodge No. 35, headquarters of the U.S. Boundary Commission, office of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, and a place of worship for San Diego’s first Protestant church.

Come with me inside the museum. Let’s have a peek at a few very small rooms and their fascinating exhibits.

Photo of the modest brick First San Diego Courthouse Museum in Old Town, a recreation of the city's first courthouse.
Photo of the modest brick First San Diego Courthouse Museum in Old Town, a recreation of San Diego’s first courthouse and city hall.
In 1847, the Mormon Battalion built the first fired-brick structure in San Diego. For a couple decades it would serve as courthouse.
In 1847, the Mormon Battalion built the first fired-brick structure in San Diego. For over two decades it would serve as courthouse.
Visitor to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park enters a fascinating recreation of the city's first courthouse and city hall.
Visitor to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park enters a fascinating recreation of the city’s first courthouse and city hall.
The portrait is of Oliver S. Witherby, He was appointed First District Judge in 1850. He served for 3 years. He is considered the Father of San Diego Jurisprudence.
The portrait is of Oliver S. Witherby, He was appointed First District Judge in 1850. He served for 3 years. He is considered the Father of San Diego Jurisprudence.
A time capsule lies in a corner of the first San Diego courthouse. It is scheduled to be opened in 2050.
A time capsule lies under this cornerstone of the first San Diego courthouse. It is scheduled to be opened in 2050.
A display case in San Diego's first courthouse contains artifacts from the 19th century, including old pipe bowls and an antique lawyer's briefcase.
A display case in San Diego’s first courthouse contains artifacts from the 19th century, including old pipe bowls and an antique lawyer’s briefcase.
In 1872 a fire destroyed the San Diego courthouse. The fire burned a large part of Old Town's business section.
In 1872 a fire destroyed the San Diego courthouse. The fire burned a large part of Old Town’s business section.
Sign explains the first California courts. The district court convened here, and acted as the highest court in the state.
Sign explains the first California courts. The district court convened here, and acted as the highest court in the state.
This room in the small building was the mayor's office. Portraits of some early San Diego mayors are on the wall. Joshua H. Bean was San Diego's first mayor, elected in 1850.
This room in the small building was the mayor’s office. Portraits of some early San Diego mayors are on the wall. Joshua H. Bean was San Diego’s first mayor, elected in 1850.
A peek into the adjacent sheriff's office. I see rifles, handcuffs and keys to the outdoor jail cell.
A peek into the adjacent sheriff’s office. I see rifles, handcuffs and keys to the outdoor jail cell.
This iron jail cell was the size and construction of the original courthouse jail from 1850.
This iron jail cell was the size and construction of the original courthouse jail from 1850.
Break the law, and you might end up in here!
Break the law, and you might end up in here!
the San Diego Courthouse and City Hall museum in Old Town is open free to the public every day.
A small museum depicting the first San Diego Courthouse and City Hall in Old Town is open free to the public every day.

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History comes alive at Mormon Battalion Commemoration Day.

Folks enjoy taking a ride in an old-fashioned covered wagon in Old Town San DIego during 2017 Mormon Battalion Commemoration Day.
Folks enjoy taking a ride in an old-fashioned covered wagon in Old Town San Diego during 2017 Mormon Battalion Commemoration Day.

I’ve got lots of colorful photos! The annual Mormon Battalion Commemoration Day was held today in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. I covered this event last year, but I love history and scenes from the Old West so much that I swung by again!

San Diego’s history is remarkably diverse, considering our city is relatively new, and that it is situated in what for a long time was a thinly populated, desert-like wilderness. Many peoples and cultures have converged to help shape our dynamic city, including the original Native American Kumeyaay, missionaries from Spain, Mexicans who have called San Diego home, immigrants from Asia, an influx of Italian and Portuguese fishermen, and among many others, the Mormons.

Please enjoy these photos and click the big sign that provides a little more background about the event and the historical importance of the Mormon Battalion in San Diego. More information can also be found on my previous blog post concerning the event last year. Check the related links below!

The public was welcome to swing by the annual Mormon Battalion Commemoration in Old Town. There were many historical reenactments and costumes to see.
The public was welcome to swing by the annual Mormon Battalion Commemoration in Old Town. There were many historical reenactments and costumes to see.
One tent concerned letters home, featuring historical journals, maps and genealogy.
One tent concerned letters home, featuring historical journals, maps and genealogy.
Today we commemorate the first arrival of the U.S. Army in San Diego on January 29, 1847. This detachment was called The Mormon Battalion, recruited from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Click image to enlarge the sign if you'd like to read it.)
Today we commemorate the first arrival of the U.S. Army in San Diego on January 29, 1847. This detachment was called The Mormon Battalion, recruited from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Click image to enlarge the sign if you’d like to read it.)
Lots of interesting historical activities were being enjoyed by a large, enthusiastic crowd.
Lots of interesting historical activities were being enjoyed by a large, enthusiastic crowd.
Map shows Mormon Battalion Routes 1846 - 1847. The soldiers, recruited by the U.S. Army to fight in the Mexican-American War, undertook the longest military march in United States history.
Map shows Mormon Battalion Routes 1846 – 1847. The soldiers, recruited by the U.S. Army to fight in the Mexican-American War, undertook the longest military march in United States history.  After arriving, they helped to build early San Diego.
People draw the star and bear symbols of the California Republic.
People draw the star and bear symbols of the California Republic.
I believe these folks were making biscuits, a staple of the Old West.
I believe these families were making biscuits, a staple of the Old West.
Guys in pioneer clothing just kick back in plastic chairs and watch some dancing and musical entertainment during the event.
Guys in pioneer clothing just kick back by plastic chairs and watch some dancing and musical entertainment during the event.
Some colorful, joyful Mexican folklorico dancing on stage in Old Town San Diego!
Some colorful, joyful Mexican folklorico dancing on stage in Old Town San Diego!
This guy with the huge saw was demonstrating another aspect of life in old San Diego.
This guy with the huge saw was demonstrating another aspect of life in old San Diego.
Visitors to Mormon Battalion Commemoration Day try their hand at sawing a thick log!
Visitors to Mormon Battalion Commemoration Day try their hand at sawing a thick log!
A bunch of steampunk enthusiasts were attending the historical event!
A bunch of steampunk enthusiasts were attending the historical event!
A fez and a golden arm. These guys should be in some sort of cool adventure movie!
A fez and a golden arm. These guys should be in some sort of cool adventure movie!  Perhaps they belong in a blimp!
Like last year, a tent showed people how bricks were once made in San Diego.
Like last year, a tent showed people how bricks were once made in San Diego.
These assembled bigwigs were judging a Dutch Oven Bake-off!
These assembled bigwigs were judging a Dutch Oven Bake-off!
Scouts and other youth learn how rope was once made, using twisted fibers from native Yucca cacti.
Scouts and other youth learn how rope was once made, using twisted fibers from native Yucca cacti.
Lots of folks were in one tent learning about and making frontier dolls.
Lots of folks, old and young, were in one tent learning about and making frontier dolls.
Some mountain men were camped at the Black Hawk Livery Stable, near the Old Town blacksmith shop.
Some mountain men were camped at the Black Hawk Livery Stable, near the Old Town blacksmith shop.
A sign tells about various Western trailblazers, including Jedediah Smith, Kit Carson and Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.
A sign tells about various Western trailblazers, including Jedediah Smith, Kit Carson and Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.
Five anvils!
Five anvils!
Shaping red hot iron in the old blacksmith shop.
Shaping red hot iron in the old blacksmith shop.
These guys are keeping the ancient art of blacksmithing alive in a high tech world.
These guys are keeping the ancient art of blacksmithing alive in a high tech world.
Running out onto the wide grassy area behind Seeley Stable. Like travelling back in time.
Running out onto the wide grassy area behind Seeley Stable. Like travelling back in time.
Some beautiful quilts on display during Mormon Battalion Commemoration Day in Old Town San Diego.
Some beautiful quilts on display during Mormon Battalion Commemoration Day in Old Town San Diego.
Kids were learning how acorns were mashed by the Kumeyaay and others in San Diego's early history.
Kids were learning how acorns were mashed by the Kumeyaay and others in San Diego’s early history.
Someone poses for a photo with an old rifle.
Someone poses for a photo with an old rifle.
History, culture and period costumes. I saw many smiles in Old Town.
History, culture, bonnets and period dress. I saw many smiles in Old Town.
People in nostalgic frontier garb and a modern t-shirt with a jolting urban message pose together for an unusual photo.
People in nostalgic frontier garb and a modern t-shirt with a jolting urban message pose together for an unusual photo.
Playing old frontier music.
Playing lively old frontier music.
Playing simple, old-fashioned games.
Kids playing simple, old-fashioned games.
Another unique and memorable scene from Mormon Battalion Commemoration Day in Old Town San Diego!
Another unique and memorable scene from Mormon Battalion Commemoration Day in Old Town San Diego!

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of unique stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Photos of Mormon Battalion Commemoration in Old Town.

Lots of music was being played during today's Mormon Battalion Commemoration event in Old Town San Diego.
Lots of music was being played during today’s Mormon Battalion Commemoration event in Old Town San Diego.

I love history. So I was thrilled to stumble upon a special event today in Old Town San Diego!

The Mormon Battalion Commemoration is an annual celebration that recalls a part of San Diego’s diverse, often surprising history. The battalion was formed in 1846. Composed of members of the Latter Day Saints and led by regular U.S. Army officers, over 500 men and several dozen women and children set out from Council Bluffs, Iowa and endured an almost 2,000 mile march to San Diego. Their presence in San Diego and several other locations in Southern California helped to support the eventual cession of much of the American Southwest from Mexico to the United States. Many members of the Mormon Battalion went on to play leading roles in the settlement of the West.

Of course, history–like life itself–is a complex thing that can be told and interpreted from many differing viewpoints. Happy reenactments don’t tell the entire story. But among so many costumes and demonstrations, one can start to imagine what life appeared like in San Diego over a century and a half ago.

I ambled around Old Town’s central plaza, spoke to some very friendly folks and took a few photos.

When I saw this rider on horseback as I entered Old Town this afternoon, I knew something special was going on!
When I saw this rider on horseback as I entered Old Town this afternoon, I knew something special was going on!
The public was welcome to this celebration of the Mormon Battalion. It included a parade, which I unfortunately missed.
The public was welcome to this celebration of the Mormon Battalion. It included a parade, which I unfortunately missed.
I saw kids in covered wagons, folks on horseback, and just a big whirl of activity all around Old Town today!
I saw kids in covered wagons, folks on horseback, and just a big whirl of activity all around Old Town today!
We are commemorating the end of one of the longest military marches in U.S. Military History. Five hundred soldiers known as the Mormon Battalion marched from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego, CA. In addition...there were 35 women and 45 children.
We are commemorating the end of one of the longest military marches in U.S. Military History. Five hundred soldiers known as the Mormon Battalion marched from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego, CA. In addition…there were 35 women and 45 children.
Various exhibits recreated aspects of camp life, and life in San Diego during the mid-19th century.
Various exhibits recreated aspects of camp life, and life in San Diego during the mid-19th century.
Marshmallow treats on a stick. Lots of families were present for the very popular history-based event.
Treats on a stick. Lots of families were present for the very popular history-based event.
One tent explained the hardships of women settling the West, and what life was like as a laundress.
One tent explained the hardships of women settling the West, and what life was like as a laundress.
Lots of folks were about Old Town San Diego State Historic Park in period costume. Many people participating in the event were themselves Mormons.
Lots of folks were about Old Town San Diego State Historic Park in period costume. Many people participating in the event were themselves Mormons.
More unique and colorful costumes worn to help reenact a fascinating period of local history.
More unique and colorful costumes worn to help reenact a fascinating period of local history.
Traditional folklorico dancing on a stage in Old Town. A strong Mexican heritage is a vibrant part of San Diego history.
Traditional folklorico dancing on a stage in Old Town. A strong Mexican heritage is a vibrant part of San Diego history.
During the festivities, a large crowd enjoyed music, dance, food and all sorts of interesting sights.
During the festivities, a large crowd enjoyed music, dance, food and all sorts of interesting sights.
Contestants in a Dutch Oven Bake Off prepare their tasty concoctions for the judges.
Contestants in a Dutch Oven Bake Off prepare their tasty concoctions for the judges.
Young people were shown how clay bricks were made in the early days of San Diego.
Young people were shown how clay bricks were made in the early days of San Diego.
I was told this fabric would be used in the making of dolls.
I was told this fabric would be used in the making of dolls.
These ladies on horseback and in a fancy miniature donkey-driven cart were being photographed right and left. Wearing elegant frilly dresses and holding parasols, they delighted everybody!
These ladies on horseback and in a fancy miniature donkey-driven cart were being photographed right and left. Wearing elegant frilly dresses and holding parasols, they delighted everybody!
One booth in Old Town's central plaza had a quilt-making demonstration, where kids could learn about the craft.
One booth in Old Town’s central plaza had a quilt-making demonstration, where kids could learn about the craft.
Of course, there were many historical exhibits that told the Mormon Battalion's story and described their contributions to San Diego's early life and culture.
Of course, there were many historical exhibits that told the Mormon Battalion’s story and described their contributions to San Diego’s early life and culture.
The Liberty Stand explained how Mormons believe in the vision of America's founding fathers, and their belief in values delineated by the U.S. Constitution.
The Liberty Stand explained how Mormons believe in the vision of America’s founding fathers, and their belief in values delineated by the U.S. Constitution.
Another demonstration had folks grinding nuts and seeds, a skill adapted from Native American Kumeyaay who lived in this region long before Europeans.
Another demonstration had folks grinding nuts and seeds, a skill adapted from Native American Kumeyaay who lived in this region long before Europeans.
A guitar and a banjo create upbeat frontier-style music
A guitar and a banjo create upbeat frontier-style music.
This nice lady at an information stand gave the thumbs up for my camera!
This nice lady at an information stand gave the thumbs up for my camera!
I wandered behind Seeley Stable because I noticed their famous blacksmith demonstration was open today!
I wandered behind Seeley Stable because I noticed their famous blacksmith demonstration was open today!
This lady was hammering glowing red hot iron while kids watched.
This lady was hammering glowing red hot iron while kids watched.
A miniature donkey pulls an elegant cart!
A miniature donkey pulls an elegant cart!

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Spinning yarns (and twine) in old San Diego.

Yarns dyed many different colors out on display in San Diego's Old Town.
Yarns dyed many different colors out on display in San Diego’s Old Town.

One more quick post from today’s stroll through Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. After going on the free walking tour, which I do every few years to jiggle my memory, I observed that a couple of unique exhibits were out on public display. One concerned yarn, the other twine. A “string” of coincidence too good not to blog about!

During the tour, our knowledgeable guide explained how red dye in the olden days was derived from a particular insect–the cochineal. The cochineal is a beetle that can be found on prickly pears, a cactus which grows abundantly in arid San Diego. While we watched, the guide plucked one from a prickly pear next to the Casa de Estudillo, then crushed it. His fingers turned bright purple from the beetle juice! (He explained the British Red Coats dyed their uniforms with cochineal, but Purple Coats didn’t sound quite so fierce.)

Tour guide about ready to make some red dye.
Tour guide ready to produce some reddish dye.

After the tour ended, two volunteers inside the Casa de Estudillo were demonstrating how yarn used to be made. To dye the fibers, both cochineal and indigo dye were commonly used. A spinning wheel served to demonstrate the hard work required to live comfortably before our more modern conveniences.

La Casa de Estudillo, an elegant house built in the early 1800s by a wealthy Californio who owned several large ranchos in Southern California.
La Casa de Estudillo, an elegant adobe house built in 1827 by a wealthy Californio family that owned several large ranchos in Southern California.
Volunteers in costume told me a little about San Diego's complex, fascinating history.
Volunteers in costume with baskets of color.  They told me some yarns concerning San Diego’s complex, fascinating history.
State Park volunteers describe life in early San Diego, when spinning wheels were common household objects.
State Park volunteers describe life in early San Diego, when spinning wheels were common household objects.

Out in one corner of Old Town’s big central plaza, some friendly Mormons were demonstrating the making of twine. Like the native prickly pear, yucca plants have always been plentiful in San Diego’s desert-like environment. The tough fibers in the leaves, once extracted, are dried and then twisted using a simple mechanism to create primitive but very practical twine or rope.

Making twine used to involve twisting dried fibers from native yucca plants.
Making twine involved twisting fibers found in native yucca plants.
Mormon guy smiles as he exhibits rope-making in Old Town. The Mormon Battalion was one of many diverse participants in San Diego's early history.
Mormon guy smiles as he exhibits rope-making in Old Town. The Mormon Battalion was one of many diverse participants in San Diego’s early history.

Someday I’ll probably blog about the amazing, hour-long Old Town walking tour. I need some more photos and many more notes before I undertake that, however!

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