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Discovery, Find, Beginnings, Early, Challenge, Breaking, Paving, Residents, Tourists, Kelly's, Conclusion

 

Early Exploration by Europeans

  The first white man through this area was a Spanish officer and acting governor of Alta California in 1772, Don Pedro Fages. He noticed an abundance of Cimarron grapes growing wild in the area north of what is now Gorman. He named the place Canada de Las Uvas, or Grapevine Canyon.  Grapevines were so prevalent the wagoneers and soldiers had to hack their way through. Wild grapes still grow on the sides of I-5 in the pass.

   Another association of the name Grapevine was established during early highway construction. The engineers had to abandon the original wagon road up the canyon from the valley floor when Grapevine Creek overflowed during a  torrential cloudburst in 1914. The highway alignment was rebuilt on the east side of the hill with a series of switchback loops to gain elevation. Thus the appearance of a grapevine.

   The name Tejon originated during an expedition in 1806 from the Santa Barbara Mission into the San Joaquin Valley led by Lieutenant Francis Ruiz. His diarist, Father Jose Maria Zalvidea, first recorded the word Tejon to designate the area. A dead badger (tejon in Spanish) had been found in the canyon.

   The name Tejon formerly belonged to another pass 15 miles further east. Lieutenant Robert Stockton Williamson of the Pacific Railroad surveyed the area in 1853. His party crossed the Tehachapis by "one of the worst roads he ever saw." Hearing of a better road further west, he scouted it and found it would be far more practicable for wagons if the bulk of the traffic henceforth went that way. The name Tejon was transferred west to today's "Tejon Pass."

   Fort Tejon was established August 10, 1854 as part of General Edward Fitzgerald Beale's recommendation to provide protection for the Indians in the area. During it's active years the fort was a center of social activity.

   Beale was the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for California and Nevada, and later in life, Surveyor-General for both states. He was called upon to survey the stage route through the Tehachapis and for his work was rewarded with a huge piece of Kern County territory, approximately 300,000 acres which today comprises the Tejon Ranch."'It was the Tejon route via San Francisquito Canyon that the Butterfield Overland Stage took on its journey to San Francisco from Tipton, Missouri. At that time, Tipton was the farthest extension of the railroad west of St. Louis.

   The stage fare between Los Angeles and Fort Tejon near the top of the Grapevine was $12.24 The first mail stage from St. Louis stopped at Fort Tejon on October 8, 1858 en route to San Francisco. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the U.S. government abandoned Fort Tejon,  in 1864. 

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