Vallecito Stage Station
Anza Borrego's Earthquake Valley
by Kent Duryee
In 1852, James Ruler Lassator, a 36-year-old native of North Carolina, married Sarah Waterhouse Mulkins, a widow with three young children, Loduska, Andrew and John Mulkins. Lassator moved his family to Vallecito (in what is now southeastern California) after enlarging and improving the abandoned building. The Lassators raised livestock and provided services and supplies to travelers.
In June 1855, Sarah gave birth to a son, James Jr., and in 1857, to a daughter, Sarah Martha, both born at Vallecito. At about this time, Lassator bought additional property at Green Valley, across the Laguna Mountains, and moved his family there, leaving Andrew to operate Vallecito station with the help of a cook and two other men.
By 1856, California became extremely vocal in demanding adequate communication with the east. In March 1857, the U.S. Congress passed a Post Office Appropriations Bill with amendments providing for an overland mail route. Coaches were to carry passengers and mail and make the trip from Missouri to San Francisco in 25 days.
While bids were being considered, James E. Birch (no relation to John Birch), entered into a contract to carry mail from San Antonio to San Diego. The first trip began in August of 1857. It passed through Vallecito but took the old Stage route through the Oriflamme Mountains. Because this route required that passengers and mail be transported over the mountains on mules, it became known as the "Jackass Mail." It lasted only 18 months, until Birch was drowned at sea when his ship sank off Cape Hatteras en route back from Washington D.C.
John Butterfield was awarded the mail contract to San Francisco in September of 1857, and a year later, after securing sites for stations, hiring men and buying equipment, horses and mules, the first trip left from Tipton, Missouri on September 16, 1858.
Butterfield's son drove the first leg of the journey with Waterman L. Ormsby, a reporter from the New York Herald. (Ormsby's description of the journey from Missouri to San Francisco on the Butterfield-Overland stage is recounted in the book The Butterfield Overland Mail, published in 1942 by the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, CA).
Most stops along the trail were for only a few minutes to change horses and drivers. Passengers ate a good meal only once every 24 hours at what were called "Home Stations." Vallecito was a Home Station, and good meals were provided to the Butterfield-Overland travelers from produce and meat supplied by farmers on Mt. Palomar. Meals mentioned as having been served at Vallecito include beef stew, venison and sauerkraut. There were two coaches a week, and passengers could wait for the next coach, but the only sleeping accommodations were their own two blankets on the dirt floor.
Imagine taking 26 days to receive your mail ... not so long ago, your mail came through what's now Vallecito County Park. It's a place where you can take a step back in time. Let's take a look at the annual Vallecito Days celebration.
Vallecito County Park
37349 Great South Stage Route 1849
Julian, CA 92036
Camping, 24 hours/day
Camping check-in time is 2 p.m., check-out time is 1 p.m.
Day use, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., extended to sunset on the weekends
Open Labor Day weekend through the last week in May
Closed during the summer months.
44 primitive campsites (no hookup), 22 RV campsites up to 40 ft., and 22 tent only campsites
Phone Number: 760.765.1188
Directions: Interstate 8 to Highway S-2 north at Ocotillo or off Interstate 15 south toward San Diego exiting at Highway 79 to Warner Springs and south to Highway S-2. From Junction of Highway S-2 & Agua Caliente Springs Road head 4.5 miles north on S-2.
Text Reference: Pamela Tamplain's Master's Thesis
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