Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Orange County history!

Depending on the exact location of Portola's camp in Christianitos Canyon, either today or tomorrow is the 240th anniversary of Orange County history itself.
On July 22, 1769, Gaspar de Portola and his expedition camped in the canyon, near what is now the border of Orange and San Diego counties. They found an Indian village there, where Fr. Crespi baptized two gravely ill children -- the first baptisms in California. (Hence, the canyon's name, which means "little Christians.")
The following day, they continued their march northward, and were (by that point) definitively in what is now Orange County.
Both Portola and Crespi kept diaries, and the expedition's engineer, Miguel Constanso, later wrote up the official narrative of the trek. They were the first Europeans in Orange County, and the first to record the experience. And without records you can't have history.


Gustavo Arellano said...

You should've told Alex Haley of your history definition back when he was believing old Africans about his family's past...

Chris Jepsen said...

True, there's an oral tradition. But you can only take that a relatively short way back before it becomes unreliable. I have that proved to me on a daily basis as people try to prove stories grandma told them -- They often include a kernal of truth, but also feature a great deal of misinformation.

Doug said...

Thank you Chris for remembering this date. In the archaeological record of Southern California, we call everything before this date/time as the "prehistoric period". After this date it is classified as the "historic period" or time of recorded history. This difference in "prehistoric" and "historic" varies widely across the US. In the South West portion of the US, recorded or written history starts in the year 1540, with the first Spanish exploration. The prehistoric period in Southern California and O.C. runs quite late in comparison to the rest of North America. Many people think of the term "prehistoric" describing cave men and dinosaurs. This is not necessarily true. We classify it as the period without written history. This all said, Oral history is very important...but is subject to changes and additions by preceding generations. One family member's recollections of the past or stories are not allows the same as another family members

Chris Jepsen said...

I considered clarifying the difference between historic and pre-historic periods, but you've covered the ground better than I could, Doug.

Both pre-historic research and oral history are important. But I become skeptical when "old timers" are interviewed about things that happened a century before they were born. As the Russians say, "Trust, but verify."

gabriel san roman said...

The written word of the conqueror has proven itself to be fallible in many regards in the craft of historiography.

There are many ways people leave their history behind to be told