26 May 2010

Carbon Canyon and Rancho Santa Ana del Chino: Pasinogna

The previous post on this subject, from 25 April, was the first in a series on the history of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, which extended into Carbon Canyon to just east of Sleepy Hollow.  To avoid the all-too-common mistakes of the past in assuming that this history must start with the written word as introduced by Europeans in the 1770s, this brief post reminds that there was human settlement for untold thousands of years in the area encompassed by the Chino Rancho.

The problem is that there is next to nothing known about the aboriginal use of this land.  Because of Chino Creek, which runs northwest to southeast and empties into the Santa Ana River; because of the abundant plant life supported by the creek, tributary streams and significant subsurface water coming to the surface in springs; because of the wildlife teeming in the Chino Hills; because Carbon Canyon could well have been an important transportation corridor linking the coastal plains with the interior deserts; and for many more reasons, the siting of a native Indian village (or villages) within the general Chino Rancho area seems obvious.

In 1852, shortly before his death, Hugo Reid (baptized as Perfecto when he joined the Roman Catholic Church), who was married to a Gabrieliño Indian named Victoria Bartolomea at San Gabriel, penned a series of twelve "letters" detailing some of what he knew about this aboriginal group, which were published late in the year by the relatively new newspaper, the Los Angeles Star.  That paper reprinted the letters in 1868 and they reappeared again in 1885 in the seventeenth volume of the Bulletin of the Essex Institute in Salem, Massachusetts, the institute being the museum and library of the county of that name.

Reid intended to publish "A History of the Indians of Los Angeles County, California," composed of thirty-two such epistles, but was only able to complete a third of the project before his death at age forty.  The first letter was a simple list of twenty-six rancherias or villages within the county, which then included San Bernardino County and parts of Kern County.  Among those listed was "Pasinog-na" identified only as being associated with the "Rancho del Chino."  Other villages were associated with Los Angeles, the missions of San Gabriel and San Fernando, the islands of Santa Catalina and San Clemente, and ranchos such as La Puente, Azusa, Los Alamitos, Los Cerritos, San José, Santa Ana (Yorba), and Santa Anita.  Reid also indicated that there were a few dozen more settlements that were not listed among the twenty-six he specifically identified.

So, where exactly was "Pasinog-na"?  Reid didn't indicate and there is no other source that does.  It would stand to reason that the settlement would be along or very near Chino Creek, although occasional flooding and drought might have periodically forced its residents to move away from that locale.  More telling would be noting where the earliest European sites on the Chino Rancho were, because more often than not, these later arrivals would select their residences on or quite near earlier aboriginal settlements.  This would be for many reasons, including the fact that the natives selected prime locations from trial-and-error and experience and also that the Europeans would want to employ Indian labor for their ranchos.

If this is a reasonable assumption to make, then Antonio Maria Lugo's selection of a site to build his adobe home after acquiring the Chino Rancho in 1841 is likely at or near the aboriginal village of "Pasinog-na."  In 1938, an affidavit was composed by two daughters, Mary and Laura, of Francisca Williams and Robert Carlisle, Francisca being the granddaughter of Lugo and daughter of Isaac Williams, as well as by A. J. Bridger, a grandson of Williams, whose father, Joseph, was married to Victoria Williams and who oversaw Chino Rancho operations from 1865 to 1880.  According to the cousins, the original Lugo adobe was on the grounds of what is now called Boys' Republic on the west bank of Chino Creek in Chino Hills.  Later, Lugo's son-in-law and Francisca's father, Isaac Williams, occupied the structure, which at some later date was destroyed by fire and razed.  A California state historic landmark plaque stands just outside the southeast corner of Boys' Republic next to a former fire station (now a training center).

Lacking specific information about "Pasinog-na," interested parties can review some of the many works written about the Gabrieliño Indians, starting with Reid's 1852 letters (also republished in full the appendices of an otherwise dated and fanciful biography of Reid, A Scotch Paisano in Early California, which appeared in 1939) and continuing through the modern works such as those of William McCawley, Bernice Johnson and others.  As hunters and gatherers, it seems highly plausible that aborigines residing at "Pasinog-na" would venture into the Chino Hills and Carbon Canyon to gather plant materials for food, clothing and baskets, and hunt for game, as well as utilize the Canyon as a transportation route to coastal area where trade could be conducted with other Indians.  Natives may well have used the hot springs in today's Sleepy Hollow and La Vida, as well.

In the absence of such specifics, it should be recognized that, if Reid was correct, "Pasinog-na" was the linchpin of the Chino Rancho's pre-written history and, as such, should not be overlooked, as was done here a month ago.

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