CA History Blog

Portola Cross, Carmel, CA

The Portola Cross overlooks the Carmel Bay. There is much history behind this area and the placing of the cross. 


Subastian Viscaino in 1602 sailed from Mexico to what was known as Alta California. With him he took back reports of a large bay and natural harbor. Future colonization was thought to be suitable due to it’s seclusion and close sources of wood. The area had been mapped by Juan Cabrillo some 60 years before Viscaino’s visit. The latter provided more detail, as well as, some exaggerated reports of the area.


Not until 1768 did the Spanish get serious about colonizing Alta California. In this expedition it was planned to establish a presidio in San Diego and locate Monterey Bay and establish a presidio in the harbor by Viscaino. In the summer of 1769 Captain Don Gaspar de Portola and Father Juan Crespi along with a group of soldiers, natives, and mules headed north from San Diego. The San Jose, a supply ship from Mexico was to meet them when they reached Monterey Bay. What the land travelers did not know was the San Jose was lost. They came up the coast past what is now Morro Bay reached the Salinas River which they mistook for the Rio Del Carmelo that was described by Viscaino. 

The Carmel River was accurately described by Viscaino as being south of Monterey Bay. On October 1, 1769 upon arrival at the Salinas River the Portola-Crespi expedition believed they were still south of their destination. They continued north until they reached the San Francisco Bay. They realized they went too far north and turned back south. 

The travelers became aware that the information give by Vicaino was incorrect. They were unaware of the San Jose’s whereabouts and their provisions were running low. Unaware they had arrived at their destination, on November 28th, they stood on the shores of Monterey Bay. They camped for several days south of the bay near San Jose Creek, not knowing they were south of the Carmel River. 

The expedition decided to return to San Diego due to malnutrition and illness of the travelers. A large cross was put up to signal passing ships, in particular the San Jose on December 9th or 10th near the shore where they had set up their campsite. They engraved a message in the wooden cross to dig at the base where a message was placed in a container. In the message they explained they were headed back to San Diego and the dire situation they were in. They also erected a cross on the shore of the southeast side of Monterey Bay. 

Potola and Crespi set out again in April of 1770. This time they had an understanding of their errors in navigation previously. They located Monterey on May 24 and discovered the second cross was still standing. Natives had place mussels at the base of the cross, arrows in the ground, and hung sardines from it with strings. 

Father Junipero Serra arrived in Monterey on May 31st via the supply ship the San Antonio. 

Learn more about this and many more historical events in the Monterey Bay area by traveling to Monterey, CA and taking SOC 902 Monterey: Historic Capital of California. Find out more about this course here

Learn in Los Angeles and Earn CEUs

Take this great California history course from Fresno Pacific University Center for Professional Development. Visit the Los Angeles, CA area and earn Continuing Education Units. Learn about Los Angeles’ great history where it happened. You can take the information directly back into your classroom. Learn more at my website, or go to the FPU site,

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Earn CEUs in Monterey, California

Easter break is right around the corner. What a great time to take a vacation and earn some CEUs. Are you interested in California history and California’s beautiful Monterey area? Check out this travel course from Fresno Pacific University Center for Professional Development: Monterey: Historic Capital of California. Learn where history happened, listen to many oral histories, and take the information back to your classroom. 

Learn more about SOC 902 Monterey: Historic Capital of California and my other courses at:
My FPU Course Page:
My Website:

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Gold Rush 49/Miners

This is a great course for teachers who want to learn more about the California’s Gold Rush Era. Earn CEUs at Fresno Pacific University while traveling to the gold rush area or take the course from home on DVD. Find out more on the Gold Rush Course Page. Fresno Pacific University Course Pages: SOC 901V Gold Rush 49ers/Miners (No Travel) or SOC 901 Gold Rush 49ers/Miners (Travel Required).

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History of the Mother Lode

Are you a teacher interested in earning CEUs and learning more about California’s Gold Rush Era? You can take one of my courses on the Mother Lode through Fresno Pacific University Center For Professional Development. This course is offered on DVD as an at home study or you can travel to the sites in Mariposa, CA. Either way you will learn about California’s rich history and many of the people who were a part of making California what it is today.

Watch this short video to learn more about this course. Courses: SOC 900V History of the Mother Lode (DVD Course) or SOC 900 History of the Mother Lode (Travel Course). Go to the Mother Lode Course Page on my site to find out more.

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