There is not much information about Peter Lebec. They believe he was a French fur trapper/mountain man. The story goes: Peter Lebeck was killed on October 17, 1837 by a Grizzly Bear he had shot and wounded. Obviously, he didn't quite kill the bear, so the bear did him in.
What is amazing about Mr. Lebec's grave marker. As the oak tree grew, the engraving disappeared within the tree bark. Then a ranger happen to notice an imprint of wording from the fallen bark from the tree so she pulled the rest off, thus uncovering some information about his death. The actual bark is in the display case at the Fort Tejon State Historic Park visitor center.
Although it was during the week, foggy, drizzling, we notice this gentleman up in the blacksmiths shop. Since we were the only ones there at the time, we ventured over. This lovely mans face completely lit up as soon as he saw us. He was completely dressed in period wear down to his boots. He was busy making these hooks for the soldiers so they could hang their guns. He didn't hesitate to welcome us and was very busy showing us the whole process. What amazed me is my boys were fascinated in what he was doing. He had such a twinkle in eyes because the boys were listening. Said a group from the local school was suppose to be there, but they had not shown up. So he was so happy we were there and so were we. Really enjoyed the lesson and the company. What a wonderful soul!
Based on a historic sketch of Mansfield Map and a survey in 1935, this was an adobe structure was rebuilt in the 1950's on its original foundations. What is so unique is it has a partial cellar and is two stories and an attached kitchen, which they use to prepare for visitors to the park. You will often see some folks walking around in period wear. There was one gentleman that was dress like a soldier, but he was driving around in a ATV, so we giggle about that.
This lovely building is furnished with period pieces of what might have been within the walls. You cannot go into the rooms because they have the doorways and an a window done in plexiglass so at least you can see inside. You can even walk up stairs, but be careful because the stair steps are narrow and the stairs is steep, so hold onto the rails. It was fun exploring the structures, the family really enjoyed it.
He was buried by a once young Oak Tree where his marker was carved into the tree within Ft. Tejon State Park. His marker said he was killed by a "X bear", which they believe is a California grizzly bear. They think Mr. Lebec was called Pierre Levesque. They had exhumed his body in 1955, and found a 1836 French five-franc gold piece buried with him. Yet it is still a mystery.
This is the site of the original barracks. Sadly there was another earthquake in 1956 that pretty much devastated the rest of the adobe buildings within the park. Yet, the barracks was pretty cool, because you are able to walk inside and see lots of wonderful exhibits. They have the exhibits incases, but you can see them very well. If you walk towards the front the building you can see a wonderful display of period wear the soldiers might wear and explaining the difference over the years.
If you walk over towards the middle entrance of the building, (it's closed with plexiglass) you can look inside and see what maybe the barracks might have looked during its day. Uniforms adorn the wall and I think they belong to the folks who put on reenactments of a battle or just what the every day life might have been here. Please check the web site for more information.
There are many fenced areas to let the visitor know that there were once buildings here. Over the centuries so many structures came and gone due to earthquakes, fires, decay, being moved around or being bought and taken away. There has many archeological digs that have discovered either remains or the foundations of these structures. Many are not on the Fort grounds, but scattered in many direction, some even across the freeway or under it. So, the ones they can show they put fences around them and have put these nice plaques explaining what was once here. So by doing that, helps people get an idea how many structures might have been here.
They have in the visitor center some documents explaining the various structures and this is why I can share with you.
Camels of Fort Tejon Marker
Marker reads: In 1856 the U.S. Army started an experiment using camel for supply transport in the southwest. The camels proved ill suited to the American southwest.
In November 1859 a civilian contractor turned over 28 camels to the Army at Fort Tejon.
The post quartermaster cared for the camel herd until 1861 when the herd was transferred to the Los Angeles Depot. With the possible exception of an unsuccessful messenger service in September 1860, the camels were never used in military operations. The "Camel Corps" mentioned in many writings never existed.
Dedicated Sept, 27 2003 by Calif. Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Peter Lebeck Chapter 1866 and Platrix Chapter #2, E Clampus Vitus
Fort Tejon Camel Trail Terminus Marker
Marker reads: efferson Davis, “Father of National Highways,” as Secretary of War 1853-57 sponsored the importation of 33 camels for transporting military supplies to the west coast. The camel trail survey ran from San Antonio, Texas to Fort Tejon which marks the western terminus, part of the Jefferson Davis Highway. The army camel corps arrived at this fort in November, 1857, with Lt. Edward F. Beale in command.
Erected by California Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy
May 11, 1956
Peter Lebec Marker:
Killed by a Bear October 17, 1837
In memory of a pioneer
of whom only conjecture can speak
Dedicated October 14, 1972
E Clampus Vitus
Peter Lebec Chapter 1866
Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale Marker
Marker Reads: This memorial plaque placed in memory of
Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale First Superintendent of Indian Affairs in California appointed by President Millard Fillmore.
Sanctioned by the United States government the Tejon Indian Reservation was established in 1853 by Beale for the welfare and protection of the Indians in this part of California
Fort Tejon was established in 1854
The Historical Society of Southern California
June 13, 1953
The First and Only "Camel Brigade" of the United States Army Marker
Reads: The first and only "Camel Brigade" of the United States Army Marker
The various camel markers along the sidewalk provide a variety of historical perspectives on the Army's camel experiment.
Inscription. The first and only "Camel Brigade" of the United States Army commanded by Lt. Edward E. Beale 1857-1864. San Antonio, Texas to Fort Tejon, California.
E Clampus Vitus Platrix Chapter
September 21, 1957
The marker reads: NO. 129 FORT TEJÓN -This military post was established by the United States Army on June 24, 1854, to suppress stock rustling and protect the Indians in the San Joaquin Valley. Camels for transportation were introduced here in 1858. As regimental headquarters of the First Dragoons, Fort Tejón was an important military, social, and political center - it was abandoned September 11, 1864.
I will have to say, my family has a wonderful sense of humor. Although at times my boys do balk at first when we go to places like this, but once they get out and explore they always have a great time. My oldest can be really goofy like his mom, so I enjoy that. Now, my hubby is quite character and he didn't hesitate to walk over and play with the exhibits. At first I was not paying attention because I was taking lots of pictures in the other direction. As soon as I turn around there they were doing the soldiers laundry. So who says men don't do laundry....LOL!!!
This little structure was rebuilt and the foundations of this sort of structure have been found all over the area. Since fires were a problem during the day, the kitchens were always built separate from the main structures.
This poor structure is hanging in there. I am amazed it has survived so many natural devastating earthquakes in this area. Yet it still stands. Like so many of the buildings, they have served so many functions to Officer Quarters, Kitchens, Storage, Depots, and the Orderly's Quarters, maybe even the stables. Anyway it illustrates how hardly these buildings had to be.
Over the years, they many different structures. So when it came time to try and rebuild some of the Forts actual buildings, these were constructed according to historical sketches and archeological investigations. The prison and guard post were two 12 foot by 16 foot buildings. The prison contained three small cells off a narrow hallway. The Guard house is only a one single room and the door faced the prison. They were built by volunteers of the Historical Society for the Fort Tejon.
The visitor center is not very big, but all the walls are covered with loads of historical information about the simple beginnings, it's development, its closure, and its rebirth to what it is today. I always enjoy the photographs and the wonderful done exhibits and displays. They also had a stand filled with lots of informational documents. The whole history is almost documented here.
The building houses the Rangers Office and the Visitor Center. There is a fee for entry, but it is on the honor system.
Due to department budget cuts and service reductions, Fort Tejon SHP is reducing its hours of operation to 9:00 am to 4:00 pm daily until June 30th 2010.
The Park is open 7 days a week, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and for Special Events.
From the site: "On a hot dusty August day in 1854, a company of soldiers on horseback negotiated a steep rocky trail up and out of the southern San Joaquin Valley. The uniformed men wound their way up the wild grapevine covered canyon toward a grassy flat near the top of the pass. This beautiful tree-rimmed meadow become the U.S. Army post of Fort Tejon.
For almost ten years, Fort Tejon was the center of activity in the region between Stockton and Los Angeles. The Soldiers, known as Dragoons, garrisoned at Fort Tejon patrolled most of central and southern California and sometimes as far as Utah. Dragoons from Fort Tejon provided protection and policed the settlers, travelers and Indians in the region.
People from all over the area looked to Fort Tejon for employment, safety, social activities and the latest news from back east.
With continuing restoration and reconstruction work taking place, Fort Tejon invites you to a experience frontier California life of the 1850s and 1860s. Talk with soldiers who grumble about fatigue details. Visit the blacksmith at his forge, the carpenter in his shop, or the soldiers in the barracks.
Servants, cooks, officers, laundresses, and laborers are eager to share their stories with you.
Surround yourself with the sounds, sights and colors of the past. Smell and hear the bubbling stew simmering over open hearth fire place. Hear the musketoons fire, the blast of the cannon, the blare of the bugle, and see the clothing of the era.
Take part in everyday life at Fort Tejon. Shoulder a musket, mend cloths, polish brass, stomp around in the mud of the adobe brick pit, help churn butter, play along with children in a game of graces. Visit the officers Quarters and take tea with the Captain’s wife or sample the soldiers’ rations.
Come take a step back in time and join with the men, women and children of Fort Tejon. Relive a day out of the past. At Fort Tejon visitors are always welcome and the modern world is checked at the gate." Couldn't had said it any better.