Story by Jerry Dwyer; Photos by Shann Rupp

Temecula 2001

First stop on Sunday was the Oak Grove stage station, now a museum.

The CA-NV OCTA 2001 Spring Symposium was held in Temecula on the weekend of March 10th and 11th. Joanne Hinchliff, a resident of nearby San Jacinto, chaired the two-day event which consisted of talks and meals on Saturday at the Temecula Community Center and an all-day bus tour of the Southern Emigrant Trail and Butterfield Stage Road on Sunday.

The Saturday festivities got underway with a continental breakfast featuring frozen orange juice (I mean frozen!) and a host of morning lecturers including Leo Lyman, John Robinson and Phil Brigandi. Professor Lyman woke us up with a rousing and somewhat controversial (what did he say about Brigham Young?) delivery about the trail from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. Retired Educator Robinson’s topic was “El Camino Viejo: North from Los Angeles.” [For those who want to see for themselves what John was talking about, he will be leading an outing to Beal’s Cut, the monument at El Camino Viejo, and Fort Tejon on October 20th. Historian Phil Brigandi is the director of the Ramona Pageant in Hemet. His talk focused on the Southern Emigrant Trail from the Yuma Crossing to Temecula.

After a long buffet lunch three members of the SouthWest OCTA chapter – Don Buck, Tracy DeVault, and Rose Ann Tompkins – talked about their mapping expeditions along the Southern Trails and novelist Richard Buskenkell told us about the real-life characters after whom the fictional characters of Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona were modeled.

Temecula 2001

We gathered around Phil Brigandi to hear some tidbits about Box Canyon.

The talks ended by mid-afternoon and we had a choice between a self-tour of the Temecula Museum or a Walking Tour of Old Town Temecula led by Phil Brigandi. We opted for the walking tour which consisted of about a half a block but Phil entertained us all with stories about Temecula’s lively past, especially during the days of Prohibition.

After our buffet dinner that evening we were entertained by Steve Clugston’s impersonation of Colonel Carleton, who marched down the Southern Emigrant Trail during the Civil War to repel the Confederates coming in from Texas with visions of conquering New Mexico.

Temecula 2001

Vallecitos Stage Station

Early Sunday morning two bus loads of OCTA members headed out of Temecula to tour the Butterfield Stage Road and Southern Emigrant Trail southeast of town. Phil Brigandi and his sidekick John Robinson were our tour guides. Joanne Hinchliff led the other bus. We passed by the historic Warner’s Ranch and stopped at the old Butterfield stage stations at Oak Grove and Vallecitos. We also got out and walked along the trail a couple of times in the Anza-Borrego Desert at Box Canyon and First Crossing.

Joanne warned us that the busses had to be back by 4 o’clock OR ELSE! We drove into the Old Town parking lot at 3:58. No sweat. About the only negative comment I heard all day was that it was too bad that we were about three weeks too early to see the desert in bloom. Oh well, next time we will come in April!

Afterword: When she is not leading a trails research expediton somewhere in the Southwest, Rose Ann Tompkins manages the SW OCTA chapter website. See her pictorial account of the group’s 1999 Expedition along the Southern Emigrant Trail. Three guesses who their tour guide was. Yes, none other than our very own Temecula guide, Phil Brigandi!

Additonal Reading:
An interesting biography of J.J. Warner of Warner’s Ranch;
A stirring account of the 1851 Indian Uprising in which Warner played a major role;
Vallecitos and the Haunted Desert;
A list of the sites between Warner Ranch and Earthquake Valley;
and finally, a poem called The Ghost of Vallecito