David J. Weber, Book Review Editor
Windows on Early California. By Florence Slocum Wilson. Published under the auspices of The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America Resident in the State of California, Los Angeles-Pasadena Committee. (Pasadena, Ca., Typecraft Publishers, Inc., 1971). Bibliography. Illustrations. Notes. 108 pages. $3.50.
Reviewed by John E. Baur, Professor of History, San Fernando Valley State College. Author of three books and several articles on California and the West, Dr. Baur received his A.B., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from U.C.L.A.
This little book, dealing with several historic adobes of San Gabriel and Santa Barbara, evolved from Florence Slocum Wilson’s talks before the Colonial Dames of America. To present historically Las Tunas adobe, El Molino Viejo, Rancho Santa Anita, the Flores adobe, the González Ramírez house, and Los Cerritos, the author searched archives, interviewed descendants of early California families, and used reliable secondary works. The result is an informal and anecdotal, yet factual, account of Spanish and Mexican eras. Her brief sketches of mission and ranch life, though colorful, avoid an excess of legend, for, as she found, facts about pioneer California are more dramatic than is fable.
As often occurs when one generalizes, several errors have appeared, for example, the statement that gold was found in 1848 at Sutter’s Fort. There are a few unnecessary repetitions, such as the restatement that Mexican California homes lacked fireplaces. Some of the less quaint and cogent quotations might have been paraphrased, since the author could probably have worded them more effectively than did the original. On some occasions, lesser-known personages noted or quoted could have been more fully identified via footnotes without turning away even the most casual reader. Since this work will guide visitors of these early homes, maps locating them and indicating the vastness of their former holdings would have been useful.
Excellent photographs add to a readable narrative. Unfortunately, San Diegans will
not find their favorite adobes here, although Florence Wilson has captured the pre-1848
epoch which also typified their more southern region.