Anza Trail near Tesla Park

By Dan L. Mosier

1976 Anza Expedition Bicentiennial Celebration
1976 Anza Expedition Bicentiennial Celebration

In the spring of 1776, troche Juan Bautista de Anza and his small group of Spanish soldiers passed through the region, after having explored around San Francisco Bay and having been stopped by the impenetrable tule swamp of the San Joaquin Delta near Byron. Anza was trying to reach the Sierra Nevada, but having failed to find a way through the tule, he was on his way back to Monterey.

Anza was on his second land expedition in California from Tubac, Arizona, where he was captain of the presidio there. Anza’s dream was to establish a land route from Sonora, Mexico, to Monterey in Alta California. His first expedition accomplished that in 1774. Now, on his second expedition in 1776, he had established a settlement at Monterey, found a suitable site for a presidio and mission at San Francisco, and explored the San Francisco Bay region. Father Pedro Font was the observer and diarist on the expedition. Father Font carefully noted the direction and distance of travel as they explored new territory. But before them laid uncharted, rugged mountains with few distinguishing landmarks. It is difficult to know exactly the course that Anza took over the Diablo Range from the Spanish descriptions in Font’s diaries. Some believed that Anza passed through a part of Corral Hollow, some didn’t.

Through the translations and careful study of historian Herbert E. Bolton, we are able to trace a probable route of Anza through the Diablo Range using familiar landmarks. Bolton wrote, “Going south now, they entered the range (Loma de las Tuzas), evidently by Midway Valley, and ascended Patterson Grade to the vicinity of the pass, whence they looked down into Livermore Valley (Santa Coleta), and descried in the distance the range of redwoods (Sierra de Pinabetes) on San Francisco Peninsula. Descending from the summit, and crossing the eastern edge of Livermore Valley near the Hetch Hetchy plant and Tesla Grade, they ascended Brown’s Ridge, continued southeast, and camped near Corral Hollow, five or six miles from the Hetch Hetchy plant. This was Anza Camp 102, about four miles west of Corral Hollow Creek. The Hetch Hetchy power plant was located on Tesla Road in Arroyo Seco a half mile west of Tesla Park.

Following the route of Anza the next day, Bolton wrote, “Continuing southeast along the northeastern edge of Crane Ridge for seven or eight miles, about to the San Joaquin County line, they climbed to the top of Crane Ridge, perhaps up Sulphur Spring Canyon, reaching the summit west of Eagle Mountain. Continuing south they descended to Arroyo Mocho, striking it about Callahan Gulch, some two miles north of the Santa Clara County line. Following Arroyo Mocho two leagues (6 miles), Anza ascended the pass at the S.S. Grade (Blackbird Valley), near where the Mocho comes in from the east. Then they continued southward to Monterey.

It is clear from Bolton’s description that Anza did not trek through the Tesla Park property directly, but traveled to the west and south of it. Yet, on April 4, 1976, for the Bicentennial Celebration of the Anza Expedition, a plaque was erected at Tesla Park to commemorate Camp 102. The placement of this plaque may have been more of convenience than accuracy. The actual campsite is believed to be located about four miles to the west of the Tesla Park property in the vicinity of Dry Creek at the south end of Greenville Road.

Father Font was not fond of the region he had just traveled through, as he wrote, “In all the journey today we did not see a single Indian, finding only human tracks stamped in the dry mud. It appeared to me that the country is so bad that it could not easily be inhabited by human beings. At least I was left with no desire to return to travel through it, for besides the smarting of the eyes which I brought from there, and the fever in my mouth which I had corrected but which today returned to assail me, I have never seen an uglier country.

On his return, Anza made a brief stop in Monterey to bid farewell to the small band of colonists who had accompanied him to California. Back in Mexico, Anza received honors for his great leadership on the 1,600-mile expedition. He later became governor of New Mexico. He died in 1788 at the age of 51.