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Some Local History (Read This Its Cool)

Original Residents: The Ohlone

For more than 2,500 years before the Spanish 
missionaries first arrived in the Bay Area in 
the 1770s, dozens of small, politically inde-
pendent native "tribelets" belonging to the 
Ohlone language group inhabited the region. 
Recent studies suggest that the very place where you are now stand-
ing was once part of the ancestral homeland of the Huchiun people, 
whose territory is thought to have extended north to present-day 
Richmond. While actual village sties are not known, our under-
standing of native practice suggests that the Huchiun Ohlone 
hunted, fished, and gathered seeds and acorns all along Temescal 
Cree, including in what are now the Temescal and Rockridge neigh-
borhoods. They built their modest, dome-shaped shelters of willow 
branches covered with tules, and erected sweat houses or temescals
on the banks of the creek. Thus, using a wide range of time-tested 
technologies and with acute knowledge of their environment, the 
Huchiun successfully lived off the bounty of the land.

The arrival of the Spanish radically altered the Bay Area's 
indigenous communities. It is estimated that by 1815, the native 
population had been reduced by three-quarters, in large part due to 
European diseases. Most of the Indians who survived lived in the 
mission in poverty and close to starvation. When in 1834, the
missions were disbanded by the newly independent Mexican 
government, many mission Indians significantly cut off from their 
traditional ways of life, found work as servants and ranch hands on
the large Spanish and Mexican land grant estates that had been
established during the previous two decades.

While there is no record of any Huchiuns having survived the 
dislocation and hardship caused by the mission system, it is likely 
that through intermarriage the Huchiun lineage persists today. 
Meanwhile, Ohlone descendants from other parts of the Bay Area 
are actively renewing and celebrating their rich cultural heritage.

Vicente Peralta's Chosen Place

In 1836, with the construction of a modest 
adobe dwelling on his father's Spanish 
land grant, Jose Vicente Peralta became the
first person of European descent to settle 
in this area. Situated less than 100 yards 
from here at what is now the center of this block, the adobe was but 
a stone's throw northwest of Temescal Creek (now flowing in an
underground culvert). Eventually, this adobe formed the nucleus of 
Vicente's Rancho Encinal de Temescal-- the portion of his father's 
estate, inherited in 1842, that stretched from present-day downtown 
Oakland to the Berkeley Border.

Over the next 30 years, Vicente and his wife, Maria Encarnacion 
Galindo, built additional adobes on this site (including the first chapel 
in the East Bay north of Mission San Jose), planted orchards that 
stretched to present-day Emeryville, and oversaw their extensive 
herd of cattle, raised primarily for the hide and tallow trade.

The gold rush and California statehood brought an end 
to the Peralta's way of life when droves of squatters descended on
the land grant estates of the East Bay. In the years that followed,
Vicente fought for -- and eventually won-- legal title to his land. 
However, by the time his court battles were over, all but 700 acres 
of his original rancho were gone-- either relinquished to squatters 
or sold off to cover his legal fees.

Vicente Peralta died in 1871 at the age of 58, and was buried 
nearby in St. Mary's Cemetery, where his tomb can still be seen. 
Shortly thereafter, his remaining land was subdivided and individual 
lots were sold to new arrivals, thus furthering the growth of the 
small town of TEmescal. No trace of Vicente's adobes remains today.

Although Don Vicente and Dona Encarnacio had no surviv-
in children, dozens of Peralta family descendants make there home 
today in the East Bay, remembering their ancestors and honoring 
their early Spanish California heritage.

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