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Catching Up On California History Is Mission: Independence


Celebrating an old-fashioned Fourth on the 6th and 7th of July may seem the work of the terminally tardy, but some members of the Daughters of the American Revolution think it's a dandy idea.

This weekend the Mission History and Heritage committee of the state DAR will celebrate American independence with an early-California twist.

After nearly three years of study, DAR members Mildred Murray and Alise McEnteggart are helping stage the event to bring attention to important but little known links between the Revolutionary War and the first California missions.

On the agenda are presentations of Revolutionary War-era publications that "put California directly into the active history of our country right from its beginning, rather than 70 years later from the days of the Gold Rush," Murray explained.

Her research shows that money was one of the strongest links between the early missions and the colonists fighting British forces at the opposite end of the country.

"One of the best kept secrets about that war was the fact that in 1778, the king of Spain issued a royal order asking that all Spanish colonies contribute to the war effort.

"The people of Mission San Juan Capistrano contributed [hundreds of] Spanish dollars," Murray said. "And all eight of the early missions together brought in a little more than $2,600, which was sent to Mexico City, then on to Spain."

Saturday's festivities will feature a Parade of Patriots with nearly 100 participants, many of them descendants of American Revolutionary patriots.

Adding to the mood will be costumed schoolchildren who will perform in a fife and drum corps, recite passages from "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" and sing period folk songs. A children's folklorico troupe and the Juaneno dancers will also perform, and docents will lead mission tours.

Orange Countians have another reason to feel connected to the events of 1776: It's also the year Mission San Juan Capistrano was established.

Said Murray: "It's the most amazing feeling to sit on the [mission] patio and look at an adobe wall that was built in 1776, or walk on these old stones and think about all that took place in that part of our history."

* What: Olde Fashioned 4th of July.

* When: Most events happen Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday focuses on film screenings, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

* Where: Mission San Juan Capistrano, 31522 Camino Capistrano.

* Whereabouts: Exit the San Diego (5) Freeway at Ortega Highway; go west. The mission is on the corner of Ortega and Camino Capistrano.

* Wherewithal: Free with mission entry fee: $4; $3 for children 12 and under and seniors.

* Where to call: (714) 248-2047.

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