Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Camels of Fort Tejon

Ever since I read that camels were once brought here as an experimental way to transport goods, I've wanted to visit this State Historic Park.  Fort Tejon is located on the top of the infamous Grapevine in Central California.  Its history is a brief one--only ten years from 1854 to 1864.  It was, however, a time of expansion and volatile history for the United States.  The country had doubled its territory through war, annexation and treaties.  Military posts were set up to protect the thousands of settlers who swarmed to the new frontier and the government had to figure out how to send supplies to these distant forts.  Railroads hadn't yet criss-crossed the country so someone in Washington D.C. came up with the bright idea of using camels.  After all, Texas, New Mexico and California were very much like the arid Middle East.  So why not?

Twenty-five of these "noble brutes" found their way to California and stayed at Indian Superintendent Edward F. Beale's ranch, which was located nearby.  He tried hard to persuade the soldiers to adopt these animals as transport carriers between the fort and Los Angeles, but the field officers and quartermasters didn't want anything to do with them.  They were eventually sold at auction.  So alas!  Beale's vision of raising a herd of camels in the wilds of California never came to pass.
 What did come to pass was a vibrant community of carpenters, bricklayers, cooks, roofers and businessmen, which followed the military and helped supply their needs.  Today, Fort Tejon is a living museum and comes alive the first Saturday of every month with demonstrations of candle making, cooking, blacksmithing and sewing.  Military drills are held in the open field.   Self-guided maps are provided at the entrance.  A trail makes a loop around the barracks, kitchens, mess halls and officer quarters.  There are plenty of picnic tables, so it's a great place to spend a couple of hours on a warm summer day.  And dream about camels!

No comments:

Post a Comment