I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The General's wife, Francisca Benicia Carillo de Vallejo.

Comandante General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, must have loved his wife a lot or maybe it was tradition. He used her name for  many towns around California. In December of 1846 he sold some land to two men, Thomas Larkin and  Dr. Robert Semple and the City of Benicia was founded on May 19, 1847.
He wanted to call it Francisca but the little burg of Yerba Buena, by the bay, choose to change it's name to San Francisco and I guess there were no patents or copyrights on names then so his second choice was his wife's middle name and Francisca became Benicia. His last name, Vallejo, became the town just to the west of Benicia.
Mills College was founded here in 1852. It was the first women's college west of the Rockies. It moved to Oakland in 1871. Benicia became the capitol of California for one year in 1853.  Soon after the legislature was moved to a courthouse in Sacramento which became the permanent state capitol. I think the residents of Benicia would like to have their "capitol" status back. This tile plaque is embedded in the sidewalk. It seems that there was or is a group that is called "Return Our Capitol".
Wikipedia says that Benicia really opened up when World War 2 began. During the war, the arsenal supplied ports with weapons, artillery, part and supplies. It was called the Benicia Arsenal and you can read about this war effort here if you would like to learn more history about this interesting place. My mother worked at the arsenal for a short time before she married my father. I believe it was in the post office.
Benicia became much more accessible when, in 1962, the Benicia-Martinez Bridge was completed . That was the year I graduated from high school. I don't remember the new bridge being built. There must have been a lot of celebrating and excitement but I just don't remember. I was 17 years old. Could have been that I was more into boys than bridges then.

 Last Tuesday the weather was in a holding pattern. No rain. Big fluffy clouds. A bit of sunshine. We had plans and the weather was going to cooperate for a while. We drove to Walnut Creek and picked up a good friend at her vintage/antique co-op called A Room With A Past. She and a bunch of other ladies have a once a month store that is more fun than ... "a barrel of monkeys". Did I say "monkeys". I did. For those of you who love monkeys.... it's that much fun. Here's the link for those of you who want some great buys and a real treat.
They were getting ready for the opening on the following weekend and Jan told us to meet her there. We dragged her away for the day, drove across the bridge to Benicia and just had a fun day of looking, laughing and eating. Jan was raised in Pleasant Hill too only she is much YOUNGER than us. She happen to read my blog a couple of years ago where I had written  a post on Gregory Gardens, the housing development that we all lived in. We have been friends ever since. She helped us during Mom's illness and passing. She was always ready to offer any help she could give. I will always be grateful for this. She has a blog called Little Pink Houses and really lives in a little pink house. Our families went to the same church. Our dads were both from Napa, CA. and knew each other. We are a friendship of coincidence and love of old things, except for MONKEYS.... but that's another story.
So, we headed for Benicia....
The trees were in bloom and sun was still shinning down on us. This is a charming downtown.
 We wandered through a few stores waiting until noontime and our reservations for lunch at the Camellia Tea Room
 a charming place where the food was great and we talked, and talked, and..... divided a delicious dessert three ways and watched the clouds gather from the west.
The sun disappeared as we headed toward the car. Sis took this picture of Jan and I so we could celebrate finally getting together. We had tried before and something always happen to our plans. This time we did it.

It was a great day. Before we left, we drove down to the old arsenal.
 The old arsenal buildings are filled with artist workshops and they have an open house during the summer where you can come down and see what the artists are doing. We will have to come back. We had such a good time.
Let's do it again soon, Jan. Thank you for the handmade valentines you gave Sis and I. I have mine out where I can see it all the time. It's beautiful. You are a sweet person. We're so lucky to have your friendship.
Jan used her hand to formed the shape of the valentine. Somehow that makes it even more personal. Isn't it beautiful? She always remembers the love of music that Mom passed down to us and the memory of our mothers, hers and ours, singing in the choir at church. It's a good memory.
The rain came in later in the afternoon. It poured. The next morning I went over to my Son's house and watched Little Bean so his mom could go to a meeting. We picked up The Bean from Kindergarden and all of us went to lunch. It was a fun day.
 We need these special times. They give us fortitude for the other times that aren't so good. Please try to make some time for yourself ..... even if it's only a day or two. It's live giving. It's the umbrella in a rainstorm.


  1. Thank you for the history of the towns of Benicia and Vallejo. I learned something new. Again I enjoyed reading this last post. Your pictures are great. The valentine is cute and very unusual. Have a blessed evening. Madeline

  2. It was a great day to "Monkey" around with you and your red-headed sis. Next time we'll have the world-famous crab & artichoke sandwich at the First Street Cafe and I'll take you to the "beach" to look for sea glass. Then we'll head over to Port Costa to see if Wendy will let us in to her Theatre of Dreams! Thanks to you both for "getting" me!!!

  3. very interesting history lesson! And that Valentine is just too sweet, what a fantastic idea...take care and I'm so glad you had a good time!

  4. How great to meet and spend time with a new friend! I've been reading Jan's blog for quite a while, so this post was pretty neat :)

    The story of our United States is so rich, and much of it isn't being passed down any longer. It's ginteresting to read about what shaped our locales. Thanks for passing on a bit of history!

  5. A great post filled with history I never knew. Glad you shared your outing as well.

  6. There was a fantastic restaurant named DONA FRANCISCA in Benicia in the 80's, where they let senior citizens have free soup and bread and sometimes more. What a nice place Benicia was! gtummolo@hotmail.com


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