The era when the flag of Mexico flew over the pueblos and presidios of California will be remembered this weekend at two of the oldest residences in the Pomona Valley. The celebration marks the 150th year of the signing of the Rancho San Jose land grant by Gov. Juan Bautista Alvarado--which gave nearly 15,000 acres to Don Ygnacio Palomares and Don Richardo Vejar.
Palomares' first house, La Casa Primera, will be the site of a fiesta today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sponsored by the Historical Society of Pomona, the program will be similar to one that might have been held when Ramon Vejar and Teresa Palomares, son and daughter of the rancho founders, were married.
Staged Wedding Ceremony
There will be Mexican dancers, strolling musicians, booths selling a variety of items, and a staged wedding ceremony with the principals and guests in period costume. A parade will precede the wedding in which descendants of the early Mexican families will arrive in historic attire. Instead of horse-drawn vehicles, the guests will be riding in antique cars.
Visitors will also want to stop by the Adobe de Palomares at 491 E. Arrow Highway. This was Palomares' second and much larger home. Completed in 1854, the house had 13 rooms and a number of outbuildings. It became known as the House of Hospitality, presided over by Don Ygnacio and his wife, Dona Concepcion Lopez de Palomares. Fiestas were held here frequently. A birth or a marriage was always the occasion for a celebration that often lasted several days.
The house has been restored to its original appearance, with furnishings typical of Mexican households during the pastoral era when large herds of sheep and cattle grazed across the valley. Many are heirlooms, given or loaned to the museum by descendants of those early families.
On Sunday, the Native Daughters of the Golden West, Rancho San Jose Parlor, will sponsor a deep-pit barbecue from noon to 5 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, $4 for children 12 and younger. There will be music and dancing.
Visitors will see the huge outdoor oven where food was once prepared for the family and guests. Pausing here, one may wonder what foods were served at mealtime during the 1850s. Historian Hubert Howe Bancroft, in his monumental account of California's past, did not overlook the tastes of the residents then:
"Food was simple and wholesome," he wrote. "The Californians were no gourmands; a sensitive palate was too troublesome. The Mexican tortilla remained the substitute for bread. Stewed beans were a favorite dish of rich and poor. Meat, particularly beef, was largely consumed, fresh, jerked, and in soups. Nearly all dishes were highly seasoned with peppers and garlic. Chicken and hard green cheese were common enough, but milk, though in a country occupied by hundreds of thousands of cattle, was not plentiful. . . ."
A Welcome Sight
These were ingredients for a meal that would be welcomed by many a traveler, for the rancho became a stage depot and tavern along the road between Los Angeles and San Bernardino. Its huge fireplace with logs blazing on the hearth was a welcome sight after a jarring ride on a cold night, and passengers could further warm themselves with a tot of brandy or two before continuing their journey. Like so many of the missions, this historic house was later abandoned and its adobe walls crumbled with the passage of time. Following restoration, it was opened to the public in 1940 as a museum of the Historical Society of Pomona Valley.
The Casa Primera is at 1569 N. Park Ave., at McKinley Avenue, Pomona. From the San Bernardino Freeway, take the Garey Avenue exit. Go north, under the freeway to McKinley Avenue, then left two blocks to Park Avenue. To continue to the Adobe de Palomares, follow Garey Avenue to East Arrow Highway, turn right to the house at 491.