Tentative Program for Placeritos Mch. 9th. '30.
On Sunday, March 9th. prox. at 11 A.M., the Historical-landmarks committee of
Ramona Parlor 109, Native Sons of the Golden West, the Kiwanis Club and Chamber of
Commerce of Newhall-Saugus, and La Mesa Club, will unveil a temporary tablet, over a
mound of granite boulders unearthed in Placeritos canyon by Mr. F.E. Walker, after
being covered by brush and debris for 75 years, marking the spot where gold was first
discovered in California, on March 9th. 1842, by Francisco Lopez, a native Californian.
Mr. Adolfo G. Rivera, will officiate as Master of Ceremonies.
A tree-planting ceremony will be conducted by Past Grand President of the N.S.G.W.,
Mr. Herman C. Lichtenberger.
Mrs. Francisca Lopez de Belderrain, will tell us of the discovery by Francisco
Lopez, one of her ancestors;
Senator R.F. del Valle will relate some incidents along the line of discovery
and the placer miners, (Don Antonio del Valle his grand-father owned this land at
Judge A.B. Perkins, representative of the Kiwanis Club and the Newhall-Saugus
Chamber of Commerce, will briefly relate the interesting history and commercial
importance of "Little Santa Clara Valley;
Mr. F.E. Walker, the present owner of Placeritos and whose father owned it before him,
65 or 70 years ago, will relate some anecdotes connected with the miners' activities;
Mr. J.A. McNaughton, President of La Mesa Club, will speak on "cooperation" in our
State's historical events by the Adopted Sons of California.
You will be shown the 500 year old oak tree, under whose shade Francisco Lopez
enjoyed his mid-day siesta on the day of his discovery.
At 12.30 P.M. the invited guests will trek to Mr. Walker's beautiful oak grove,
two miles up the canyon, there to enjoy a basket picnic; view the miners' trail over
the mountains from the mining camp to San Fernando Mission; view the Placer
Diggings at the site of the Mexican-Italian village of 1843 and later years; see
the ruins of the old stone house, erected by the miners in 1843 and lastly look over
the diggings in the canyon.
The object of unveiling a temporary tablet is to avoid any possible future confusion
as to the exact location of the site and announce to our Northern and Eastern
historians and the world, the true facts concerning the first discovery of gold in our State.
/s/ A.G. Rivera
Historical-Ldmarks Com'tee of
Ramona Parlor, 109, N.S.G.W.
Route to Discovery Site.
Go to Newhall, on Northern Inland route, as far as the bridge, notice sign
pointing to Placeritos canyon; turn to your right, about 300 yards North of
bridge, cross the R.R. Tracks, and turn to your right on first dirt
road after you cross the R.R. tracks, and follow the "Bear Flags" along dirt,
main road, for five miles up the canyon, to site of gold discovery.
The identity of the Oak of the Golden Dream in Placerita Canyon State Park as "the" tree where Francisco Lopez napped and dreamed of finding gold (which he did)
in 1842 was not set in stone — literally or figuratively — until nearly a century later, in 1930, by Frances Lopez de Belderrain, a Lopez descendant.
Belderrain (alternately Francisca Lopez de Balderain) had learned the story from Catalina Lopez, who was in her 80s when she shared the information with
family members from memory.
According to Adolfo G. Rivera, who presided at the 1930 dedication of the tree, Catalina would have been 12 years old when she attended an
1843 ceremony marking the one-year anniversary of the Lopez discovery, whereupon she learned learned the relevant locations.
In a promotional brochure published by 1930s Placerita landowner Frank Walker, Rivera writes in part:
"The first anniversary [in 1843] of this gold discovery was celebrated by the erection of a chapel on the site of the discovery and the chanting of a
solemn high mass by three priests, two from San Fernando and one from Los Angeles, six altar boys, the entire Mission choir, consisting of
twenty neophytes and eight musicians. Many prominent families of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Buena Ventura and the surrounding country
and the Commissioners sent by Mexico to investigate the truth or falsity of the discovery, were present, — a date in the history of our
State was solemnized, which was to be forever after forgotten.
"Catarina [sic] Lopez, wife of Geronimo Lopez, was eleven years old when gold was discovered here and was present at the celebration of the mass in 1843.
Before her death she took several members of her family to Placeritos Canyon and pointed out to them the exact spot where the chapel had been erected and
gold discovered by her ancestor. In this party were the Señoras Frances Lopez de Belderrain, and Graciosa Lopez de Wilson of San Fernando and these
kind ladies have in turn shown the writer the self-same spot of FIRST GOLD DISCOVERY IN CALIFORNIA."
Read Rivera's entire story and see the Walker brochure here.
Whatever the truth of the dream legend or the accuracy of the tree's identification, Lopez and his partners did extract gold from Placerita Canyon in 1842
and did file a claim with the Mexican governor of Alta California — and that piece of parchment, with the governor's seal of approval, is what makes the
Lopez discovery the first documented discovery of gold in California.
Earlier discoveries in the Castaic and Piru region appear in 19th-century literature, but in each case, the documentary evidence is lacking.
In a joint effort of fraternal organizations — Ramona Parlor No. 109 of the Native Sons of the Golden West, the La Mesa Club and the Kiwanis Club
of Newhall-Saugus — a plaque was placed on March 9, 1930, the 88th anniversary of the Lopez discovery, at the site of the tree that is now
recognized by the state of California as the Oak of the Golden Dream.