Saturday, July 16, 2011

Oak of the Golden Dream

Moving on to a somewhat different format for awhile with these dispatches on California State Landmarks, and that is to concentrate on a single county till all of those visited and/or written up in song are covered, the reason being that song material in album form has been sitting around uncompleted for some time now and for several counties at least, we’ll be staying in those confines in order to hopefully rustle up a few more songs. Where to?  Los Angeles County.

It was an early morning winter dawn when we, and the year of 1966 were young. Our AA/Fuel dragster was in tow from the old Plymouth station wagon and headed towards Fontana when the comment was made that seems to have proved to be the most prolific of a lifetime: “You know, this is as good as it gets, and it can’t last.” Back then we were pretty sure that Southern California was the known center of the world….and it may well have been. Styles, trends, music, movies, all touted a lifestyle unencumbered by overpopulation and congested highways. The interstates were new and could deliver you across the county in a Thunderbird flash. In fact, as an experiment, we went for the beach party movie trifecta of surfing, skiing, and racing the car, all in a single day (actually 24 hours), playing a little back seat banjo and guitar along the way. Though a little harder than we thought, we pulled off what now could only be accomplish with helicopters and a reality show crew. Granted, the Watts riots of 1965 were a grim reminder that all was not well in paradise, and Vietnam was soon to call and put the lights out on the party that held the promise that there was absolutely nothing you couldn’t do.

Los Angeles County, August 8, 1994

Oak of the Golden Dream

We head to Newhall for a two’fer, two plaques one monument at the corner of Lyons and I-5. If you have a little extra time and want to actually see the tree, it’s up Placentia Canyon Road off Hwy 14.

Everybody knows California gold was first discovered on January 24th, 1848, when James Marshall pulled a nugget from the American River while helping John Sutter build his sawmill, right? Wrong. The discovery by Jose Francisco de Garcia Lopez of gold clinging to the roots of wild onions in what is now called Placerita Canyon in Los Angeles County on March 9th, 1842 (his 40th birthday) predate that event by six years. 

Sometimes this find is attributed to simple dumb luck but that is not the case. Francisco Lopez studied mineralogy at a university in Mexico and systematically searched for gold while at the rancho. To graze his cattle, Lopez had leased the land from Don Antonio del Valle, a relative through marriage. 
This was indeed the first authenticated find, leading to the first gold rush. Also, it was the first attempt at a mining claim in California, leading to the first mining laws in the state

Since writing this song in 2003, it has turned out to be a great educational tool for 4th grade history-social science, as this important story gets little mention in text in relation to the 1849 gold rush. The chorus makes for great call and response.  

OAK OF THE GOLDEN DREAM  © Radio Flier Music  

In California history, this date remains a mystery
March the ninth of 1842
Out in Live Oak canyon, a man without companions
Came to where a giant oak tree grew

Tired and unrested, underneath it he’d siesta
A peaceful early California scene
In the shade and cool air, Francisco Lopez slept there
And had himself a most peculiar dream

(Chorus) Golden dream, golden dream
A pot of gold at the oak of the golden dream

The dream gave him a vision, to make the decision
To dig up wild onions nearby
And underneath the shoots, gold was clinging to the roots
To town with his discovery he did ride

News of the gold did grow, from LA to Mexico
To the oak of the golden dream prospectors came
At Francisco’s siesta, they named it Placerita
1300 pounds of gold they took away

So go and tell your mother, six years before John Sutter
This was California’s first authentic find
Francisco the rancher, dreaming underneath the branches
Six years before the days of forty nine

Plaque inscription: NO. 168 OAK OF THE GOLDEN DREAM - Francisco López made California's first authenticated gold discovery on March 9, 1842. While gathering wild onions near an oak tree in Placerita Canyon he found gold particles clinging to the roots of the bulbs. The San Fernando placers and nearby San Feliciano Canyon were worked by Sonoran miners using panning, sluicing and dry washing methods. Lopez's find predated James Marshall strike at Sutter's Mill by six years.
Location: Site: Placerita Canyon State and County Park, Placerita Canyon Rd, 4.6 mi NE of Newhall (Los Angeles)
Plaque: SE corner I-5 and Lyons Ave, Newhall     
Google maps for site: 34.378030,-118.467765
Google maps for approach marker : 34.370556,-118.522525

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