I met an enthusiastic Californian who was building a fine house in the
tract and who told me that he came to the state thirty years ago on his
honeymoon and was so enamored with the country that he never returned
east; being a man of independent means, he was fortunately able to
gratify his predilection in this particular. With the advent of the
motor car he became an enthusiastic devotee and had toured in every
county in the state, but had seen, he declared, no spot that appealed
to him so strongly as an ideal home site. Straight as an arrow through
the beautiful tract runs the wide, level Foothill Boulevard, bordered
by oak, pepper, locust, and walnut trees until it reaches the outskirts
of Monrovia, where orange groves are seen once more.
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About midway a road branches off to Sierra Madre, a quiet little village nestling in the foothills beneath the rugged bulk of Mount Wilson. It is famous for its flowers, and every spring it holds a flower show where a great variety of beautiful blooms are exhibited. Just above the town is a wooded canyon, a favorite resort for picnic parties, where nature still revels in her pristine glory. Mighty oaks and sycamores predominate, with a tangle of smaller trees and shrubbery beneath, while down the dell trickles a clear mountain stream. It is a delightful spot, seemingly infinitely remote from cities and boulevards-and it is only typical of many such retreats in the foothills along the mountain range which offer respite to the motorist weary of sea sands and city streets.
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It seems anomalous that our Far West-the section most removed from the point of discovery of this continent-should have a history antedating much of the East and all of the Middle West of our country. When we reflect that Santa Fe was founded within a half century after Columbus landed, and contests with St. Augustine, Florida, for the honor of being the oldest settlement within the present limits of the United States, the fact becomes the more impressive.
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About the same date-June 27, 1542, to be exact-the Spanish explorer, Juan Cabrillo, sailed from the port of Navidad on the western coast of Mexico with two small vessels and made the first landing of white men within the limits of California at San Diego, in the month of September. A few days later he sailed northward to the Bay of San Pedro, and landed within the present boundaries of Los Angeles to obtain water. Indeed, if he climbed the hills overlooking the harbor, he may have viewed the plain where the main part of the city now stands. But he did not linger here; by slow stages he followed the coast northward as far as the present site of San Francisco, but did not enter the magnificent bay. On the homeward voyage he died near Santa Barbara in 1543, and the expedition returned to Mexico.
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Thirty years later Sir Francis Drake sailed along the coast, but there is no record of his landing anywhere in the south. In 1602 Philip of Spain despatched a second expedition under Viscaino, who covered much the same ground as Cabrillo, though there is nothing to show that he visited the vicinity of Los Angeles. In his account of his voyage to the king he declared that the country was rich and fertile, and urged that he be made the head of a colonization expedition, but his death in 1606 brought his plans to naught.
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For one hundred and sixty years afterwards no white man visited the present limits of California, though it was still counted a possession of the king of Spain. Not until the revival of Spanish colonization activities under Philip II did California engage the attention of Europe, and being-nominally at least-a Spanish possession, the king, with the co-operation of the pope, undertook to establish a series of Catholic missions along the coast. The enterprise was put in charge of Junipero Serra, a Franciscan monk of great piety and strength of character, and after long delay and much hardship, he arrived at San Diego in July, 1769. Missions had already been founded in the lower peninsula and upon these Father Serra planned to draw for priests and ecclesiastical equipment necessary in the establishments which he should locate in his new field of work. He did not proceed northward in regular order, for the second mission was founded at Monterey and the third at San Antonio.