Friday, January 23 – Temecula, CA

Early in the morning some residents of Rancho California RV Park stop for photos at the period tent we had set up. We take some time to discuss our project and the importance of the Battalion to “early California” history. That phrase is somewhat funny to me since the Spanish arrived in 1769 and the tribes were here a very, very long time before that.
It’s a gray morning. The clouds are low – and lowering. It’s apparent there is a possibility of rain today. The peaks are socked in and it’s damp. Peter and I set out following CA-79 to the northwest expecting to arrive at long last in Temecula.
I almost catch a truck bumper on a hill and curve. Hiking facing traffic where there isn’t much apron is kind of scary. When I start to cross the road to be more visible, I look back to check the other side as I step into the road. Peter on the other side already sees the truck I can’t and yells. I jump back and just avoid what would have been a pretty disastrous event. Whew! Thanks Peter – VERY much.
Which…makes one think about all the times the Battalion men were pulling wagons up and down hills, river banks, across rock-strewn areas and all the other dangerous locations. Not to mention that horses, mules, oxen and the food “on the hoof” animals (cattle and sheep) all have a mind all their own. One never could be sure what they were going to do. Kind of dangerous – easy to get killed out here on the trail.
Pioneer journals have numerous stories of men, women and children getting in the way and being run over by wagon wheels or animals. The result usually was death. Medical care was primitive. I just read a Winter Quarters story about a man with a broken upper leg (femur) that they set and he went back to work later the same day. Either you lived or you died.
It is rather amazing that of the 500-man Battalion, only 21 of the men died during their year of enlistment. That is less than a 5% mortality rate among the Mormon Battalion. Among the rest of the Mexican War Army volunteers, a 10% to 15% death rate was typical according to references I’ve seen.
Peter and I work our way down canyon, past Vail Lake and along the old stage route into Temecula. The rain is moving in from the coast, completely surrounding us. Happily, we escape with only light sprinkles.
The Vail Ranch Headquarters Museum at Redhawk Parkway and Wolf Store Road is our stopping location for the day. This was the old headquarters of the historic Vail Ranch established back in the 1880’s by Walter Vail. Rebecca Farnbach is president of their preservation committee who is hosting the activities this weekend. We are treated to a get-together with the Committee and enjoy a dinner at the Museum. There’s a beautifully restored Concord stagecoach and a host of other frontier and early American period artifacts. They have an active “living history” program as well as the school and Scout tour with activities. Nice folks.
If you can’t get to Temecula, you can visit the Vail Ranch Restoration Association website at:
http://varra.hypermart.net/
After our long day, we retire to the home of John and Susan Billings who are letting us set up “home base” in their yard. They’re very helpful and Susan is the LDS Church’s PR lead for the area. She’s felt drawn to the Battalion story since they moved here about 18 months ago. We have lots to talk about, her and I – but not tonight. We’re pooped and it’s going to be a long day tomorrow.

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