Canyon Fourth Graders Learn Local History
Fourth graders from Canyon Charter School walked to Hacienda Mojica, the site of La Senora Research Institute in Santa Monica Canyon on September 4. Afterwards they visited the Marquez Family Cemetery.
The 1929 hacienda, a Spanish Colonial Revival, occupies a triangle of land at Dryad Road and East Channel and is credited to architect Merrill W. Baird.
The original garage has been converted into a screening room, where Palisades Historical Society President Eric Dugdale told students about the history of the Rancho Boca de Santa Monica, a Mexican land grant given to Franciso Marquez and Ysidro Reyes in 1839, and the Pascual Marquez Cemetery located about a block away on San Lorenzo Street.
“Do you know who helped find the graves in the cemetery?” Dugdale asked.
The kids were surprised with his answer. “In 2007, Canyon fourth graders helped UCLA’s Dr. Dean Goodman run the ground-penetrating radar imaging equipment.”
The cemetery contains the remains of Pascual Marquez, his youngest son, and perhaps 30 other family members and friends–including 13 people who died in 1909 of botulism after eating home-canned peaches at a New Year’s Eve party.
Ernest Marquez, 94, grandson of Pascual, spent several years in court battling neighbors for the right for an easement to the cemetery. In 2005, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge decided in Marquez’s favor.
Students then went into the house proper and the large living room where they met Marquez (whose great grandfathers were Ysidro Reyes and Franciso Marquez), Marquez’s son Ernesto and Sharon Kilbride, whose great, great, great, great-grandfather was Francisco Marquez.
“Ernie attended Canyon School from 1930 to 1936. There were only 32 people in the entire school,” said Kilbride, who attended the school and still lives in the Canyon on the last original residential parcel of the Rancho Boca de Santa Monica land grant.
Several of the children volunteered that either a dad or a grandpa had also attended Canyon School.
After reviewing how early settlers received a land grant (they had to be Mexican, have good character and be Catholic), it was explained how this 1839 grant given to Ysidro Reyes and Francisco Marquez was measured.
The Rancho Boca de Santa Monica extended along the beach from Topanga Road to Montana Avenue and then east. Two men on horseback, starting at Topanga Beach and riding down to Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, each held a long pole that was connected with long buckskin ropes of 100 varas (a vara was about a yard).
The first horseman put his pole into the sand and the second then rode as far as the rope would permit and placed his pole in the sand. They repeated this action until the entire 6656-acre area was mapped.
The Canyon students then took a walk through a garden with fountains and a swimming pool and were allowed to enter the private chapel.
From there, they walked to the cemetery where Ernesto Marquez taught them about native plants. For example, a green pointy bush, called the California grey rush (juncus patens), which grows against the outer cemetery wall, is a California native and was used in broom making.
The monkey’s face plant, near the entrance, has an orange flower and was given that name because it seemed to resemble a monkey’s face. “The people living here would grind up the plant and use it in cooking because it has a lot of salt in it,” Marquez said.
The children then went to the interior of the cemetery and saw the crosses, which were hand-made by Ernest.
Last year, Canyon fourth graders did not go on the tour because the rains had destroyed an adobe cemetery wall, which had to be replaced.
The cemetery is not open to the public, because in the lawsuit that ultimately allowed the easement, the family is only allowed six events a year—this field trip constitutes one of them.