RELICS & LEGENDS
Step Back into Central California History at San Benito County Historical Park
By Nancy J. Reid & Lisa D. Smith
Located in central California, east of Monterey, San Benito County is the eastern gateway destination of Pinnacles National Park, about 2 hours from San Francisco and less than hours from Los Angeles. Popular as a nature and outdoor destination, along with it’s wine tasting and farm-to-table fare, the region remains active in its ranching and farming culture, providing an authentic Californian heritage experience. The region boasts a picture perfect country landscape with wide blues skies that open up to soaring hawks and golden eagles, rolling hills that lead down to grasslands dotted with rustic barns and oak trees, along with horses and cattle, and the occasional sight of roaming deer and coyotes.
Showcasing the region’s pioneer, homesteading and ranching heritage and culture, the San Benito County Historical Park is an historical village set within 33 acres of San Benito County Recreational Park in Tres Pinos, a small historic community that’s home to the San Benito County Fairgrounds. The Park is preserves and features 10 historic buildings including the Willow Creek School House, Sullivan House, Woods Cabin, Dunneville Dance Hall, Cottage Bar and Tres Pinos Jail, as well as a diverse collection of historic vehicles, farm and household implements, old medicine bottles, a rose garden, firehouse, and more.
To give you a taste of San Benito County’s rich history, follows is a little sampling of just five of the many fascinating ‘relics and legends’ you can experience at San Benito County Historical Park. Take the video tour of the park, and hear the radio interview with docents Delbert Doty and Don Pidd, who share some of the historical stories of the area, as well as some of the park’s artifacts.
Peddler’s Wagon – Built by Spence White somewhere between 1880-1890, this four-horse powered covered wagon was owned by local pioneer Fred Rist, who traveled around in it for over 30 years, selling everything from soda pop to cabbages, horses and hides.
The Sullivan House – Made out of virgin redwood with clapboard siding, this house was originally built in 1868 by local carpenter Michael Shea. He built it for his widowed sister Mary Sullivan and her four daughters. The house remained in the family for 109 years until Loretto McAleer, a granddaughter, sold it in 1976. Along with a group of concerned locals, the San Benito County Historical Society saved the house from being used in a practice burn by the Hollister Fire Department. The house was moved from Hollister to the Historical Park. Now restored, the home features a rustic outhouse and landscaped period garden, two bedchambers, a kitchen, and parlor.
Hose Co. No. 2 – Step into the historic firehouse featuring an exhibit of fire extinguishers from the 1920s-1930s, along with historic firehoses and a grinding machine that looks like an old-fashioned excerise bicycle! Using peddling power, the grinding machine was and still is used to sharpen all kinds of tools and implements.
Talking Machines – The San Benito County Historical Park has a couple of phonographs from around the 1890s, as well as their recordings. Instead of music, these were actually used as ‘talking machines’ that played recorded political and national speeches of importance.
Flag Ceremonial Fire Burn Pit – A traditional way to retire Old Glory, the United States Flag, is to incinerate it through a Flag Retirement Ceremony which is typically conducted by the US Army or Boy Scouts on Flag Day, observed annually on June 14. The San Benito County Historical Park has a ceremonial flag burning pit, which along with the flag pole, was built by a local Eagle Scout.
San Benito County Historical Park is a great place to stop for an afternoon picnic! Admission to the Historical Village is free (donations are very welcome); however there is a gate fee to the county park of $3.00 per vehicle. Guided and group tours are available. The park is located on Highway 25, Tres Pinos, CA, 95075. For more information call Don Pidd at (831) 902-9349 or visit http://www.sbchistoricalsociety.org/sbc-historical-park.php