Webmaster's note: We don't know when or where this story by local historian A.B. Perkins (1891-1977) originally appeared, if indeed it was previously published. The headline is ours; it seems Perkins' headline may have been, "The Mountain Passes." The images are our additions, as well.
There is another plaque which stands at the southern end of the deep, narrow cut through the San Fernando Mountains just north of Highway 6. It calls attention to Fremont Pass and unfortunately gives the impression that the present cut is it.
The Fremont party did come through the rancho on their way to the capitulation at Cahuenga. Edwin Bryant, Fremont's First Lieutenant and later Alcalde of San Francisco, in his narrative of the expedition, leaves the impression that the expedition may have stopped overnight at the Del Valle ranch home January 9, 1847. The night of the 10th of January, the expedition camped at the spot where today Highway 6 joins San Fernando Road, south of Newhall. The 11th of January, Fremont took half his party on foot directly over the hills (presumably at today's Needham Ranch or thereabout) while the artillery wagons, etc. went over the old road in Grapevine Canyon.
For decades, authentication of Fremont's route locally seemed impossible. In his memoirs, his reference is to the "Pass of San Bernardo" of which there isn't any. Some early typesetter read a "B" where an "F" was intended. In Bancroft Library, Mrs. Fannie Vande Grift Sanchez found and translated a manuscript of one Jose E. Garcia, who had been a member of the California group charged with delaying, annoying, or otherwise confusing the advance of Fremont.
In Senor Garcia's words:
The next day in the morning we set out [from Sespe, Jan 8, 1847] for San Fernando, in order to reach it before Fremont, which we succeeded in doing as night was falling. We spent the night there. The following day we went as far as the hill of San Francisquito [San Fernando or Newhall Pass], where we arrived at six in the morning. From the top of the hill mentioned we made out Fremont's camp, a very short distance below in the Valley.
Here, within sight of the enemy, we camped and remained until seven in the evening when we returned to San Fernando where we spent the night in the Mission [then the home of General Andres Pico].
There is but one place on the crest of the range where Fremont's campsite and the mission are both visible, and the corresponding entries in Lt. Bryant's (First Lieutenant of the Fremont Party) diary dovetail with those of Garcia's.
Research frequently confirms rumor, as in this case, where old Indians told of seeing the Fremont camp at Lyon Station — where it was — and the parties going over the Pass as it did.
1. As Perkins indicates, Beale's Cut, completed in 1864, is not in the same location as Frémont Pass.