Monday, July 28, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Peña Adobe a gateway to Vacaville — and the past

Nancy Dingler, a member of the Pena Adobe Historical Society, walks by the front of the Pena Adobe during an open house earlier in March. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

Nancy Dingler, a member of the Pena Adobe Historical Society, walks by the front of the Pena Adobe during an open house earlier in March. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | April 08, 2012 |

Editor’s note: This article continues a series that looks at Solano County’s historic buildings and places. Stories will appear periodically over coming months.

VACAVILLE — Beverly Morlock stood inside the 170-year-old Peña Adobe in Lagoon Valley and recalled the first time she saw it several years ago.

She previously lived in New Mexico and saw plenty of adobes there. Solano County has far fewer, so when she moved to Vacaville in 2004 and saw the Peña Adobe, it held a special attraction.

“As I walked up to the adobe, I had a sense of coming home,” Morlock said.

Morlock is now president of the Peña Adobe Historical Society. Vacaville owns the adobe, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972. The society helps care for it, puts on events there and runs a small, adjacent museum.

Elissa DeCaro, president of the Solano County Historical Society, also feels the pull of the Peña Adobe.

“I love history and I think the place is timeless,” she said.

The Peña Adobe Historical Society held an open house at the adobe Saturday. DeCaro said the adobe brings together people from different cultures and backgrounds. She called the adobe a perfect example of how a historic structure can be used for the public interest.

“I consider it the gateway to Vacaville,” she said.

As with all local historic structures, the Peña Adobe is more than a building. It is the story of people, in this case Juan Felipe Peña and his family and companions at the dawn of Solano County.

The adobe is hardly large or opulent. It has three rooms, one upstairs that can be reached only from the outside. The original floors were dirt and the adobe has no fireplace for warmth. Here lived Peña, his wife Isabella and their six children.

Yet, if the lodging seems spare by today’s standards, it provided in the 1840s and 1850s a place for the Pena family to live in what local historian Wood Young called “primitive splendor.”

A photograph of Peña toward the end of his life shows a man with a high forehead and a penetrating look. He is unsmiling but doesn’t necessarily look stern or uninviting. He is dressed in a suit and seated in an ornate wooden chair.

Peña went through many hardships and showed plenty of ambition to reach that degree of success. The Peñas in 1840 were a prominent Spanish family in New Mexico. Possibly because of an unsettled political situation and trouble with American Indians, Peña and partner Juan Manuel Vaca joined a group of emigrants bound for California, crossing mountains and deserts. Horses and mules provided the transportation.

They ended up in Sonoma staying with Mariano Vallejo, the commandente general of California under Mexican rule. Vallejo later said that he suggested they settle in northern Solano County, which Peña and Vaca did, ultimately ending up in Lagoon Valley.

The Armijos, Wolfskills, Vacas and Peñas in the early 1840s represented the entire white population of what would become Solano County, according to the 1878 Atlas of Solano County. It speculated what drew these families to this region. Apparently, the world it described had already passed away.

“All the valleys were covered with a most luxuriant growth of wild oats, among which fed vast herds of wild cattle, horse, elk and deer, while on the hills and in the canyons of the mountains the fierce grizzly disputed the supremacy of the soil,” the atlas said.

Young in his 1965 book “Vaca-Peña Los Putos Rancho and the Peña Adobe” depicts the Peñas and Vacas as living a somewhat leisurely life, with American Indians serving as vaqueros to tend the cattle. Love of family and hospitality to all were hallmarks, Young wrote.

“The carefree Dons also loved horses,” Young wrote. “They kept one saddled at their door during the daylight hours and rode even the shortest distance. It was not dignified to walk to a neighbor’s home.”

But the Peñas and Vacas faced challenges as California passed from Mexican rule to becoming part of the United States. Young wrote that the “hospitable Dons were imposed on shamefully by gringo squatters” and had to hire attorneys to defend their land claims.

The Vacas and Peñas built their adobes in Lagoon Valley in the early 1840s. The original, sun-dried bricks apparently came from the shores of what Young called Lake Laguna, still a major feature of the valley today and the centerpiece of Lagoon Valley Park. Walls of the Peña Adobe are about two feet thick.

Vaca went on to sell land in 1850 that became the site of Vacaville, with Vaca stipulating his name be used for any future town there. He died in 1858 and his adobe was destroyed by an 1892 earthquake that also caused extensive damage in downtown Vacaville and Winters.

Peña lived in his adobe until his death at 8 p.m. March 15, 1863. He was buried in Benicia after having Catholic ceremonies, according to the March 21, 1863, edition of the Solano County Herald.

“The old gentleman had five sons and two daughters and is said to have enjoyed perfect health through his life until the final summons,” the paper wrote. It also wrote that Peña is notable for “his connection with Vaca in obtaining and settling upon the widely known Vaca Pena grant, which covers so large a portion of territory in the county.”

The adobe stayed in the Peña and Lyon families until 1947. Then two county supervisors bought the adobe and deeded it to the Solano Historic Society, which in 1961 transferred it to Vacaville. It got a $30,000 renovation in the early 1960s and a $159,000 renovation in 2006.

Keeping the Peña Adobe in good shape and holding events there are community undertakings.

“What I would like is to get people who would be volunteers to help with the cleanup and maintenance and telling the story,” Morlock said.

That doesn’t necessarily mean telling the historic story of the Peñas. Morlock talked of people perhaps coming to Peña Adobe Park to talk about such things as nature and the plants there, of finding a way to blend their own talents and interests with the volunteer efforts there.

Please go to http://www.penaadobe.org to learn more about the Pena Adobe Historical Society and its events and programs.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Innovation InstituteApril 08, 2012 - 10:40 am

    Glad the government protected the land for future citizens. It's a great park to enjoy this Easter. Thank You!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Darlene PierceApril 15, 2012 - 10:42 pm

    I was born and raised on Cherry Glen Road, Vacaville, CA. I loved the Pena Adobe. It is great to read about it, the kind of story that would make a wonderful epic film.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Rodriguez student collects, stuffs backpacks for others

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
30 years ago, Art Koch died keeping the city safe

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

Relay for Life of Fairfield was super

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

 
Weather for Monday, July 28, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Artistic ingenuity unhinged at Contraptor’s Road Rally

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Rockville Trail hike offered

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

National Alliance on Mental Illness meeting Monday

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Summertime Fill the Barrel Food Drive ends Thursday

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Live music at Solano Town Center mall

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
County fair opens Wednesday in Vallejo

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Food preservation class at library

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Canines graduate from CHP training academy

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A3

GV Cellars to host Food Bank fundraiser

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Suisun police log: July 26, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Fairfield police log: July 26, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Renowned cardiovascular surgeon comes to NorthBay

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A10

Business workshop addresses marketing

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A10

 
Fairfield gets new pizza shop

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A10, 1 Comment | Gallery

.

US / World

Bills aim to bring family law into 21st century

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
UConn makes 3-D copies of antique instrument parts

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Family law bills proposed in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Man dies after lightning strikes 14 in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

California governor to meet with Mexican president

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Study: Blue whales at risk of hitting ships

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Fighting intensifies near MH17 disaster site

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

.

Opinion

It’s clear: Israel wants West Bank, not peace

By Jack Batson | From Page: A8

 
Arrogance of power evident

By Earl Heal | From Page: A8

 
California’s death penalty dying of old age

By Dan Walters | From Page: A8

Editorial Cartoon: July 28, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
District needs peanut-free schools

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

.

Living

Today in History for July 28, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: July 28, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Randall: Why a ‘liar’ loves to hear from readers

By Sharon Randall | From Page: B5

 
My 33-year-old daughter blames me for all her problems

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7

Horoscopes for July 28, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

 
.

Entertainment

Comic-Con: ‘Avengers’ unleash ‘Ultron’ footage

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
TV team: Actor, detective role paired for 25 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Comic-Con: Kingsley voices animated villain in ‘Boxtrolls’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
‘Lucy’ tops ‘Hercules’ with $44M at box office

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

TVGrid July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Comic-Con’s dark side: Harassment amid the fantasy

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Comic-Con: ‘Hobbit’ cast tease trailer, bloopers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Comic-Con: 4 DC Comics brought to TV get event

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Comic-Con: Radcliffe goes undercover as Spidey

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Comic-Con: ‘Ant-Man’ cast revealed: Lilly, Douglas, Rudd

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Comic-Con: ‘Blacklist’ fans get black fedoras

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

‘The Vampire Diaries’ takes bite out of Comic-Con

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Comic-Con: ‘Batman v Superman’ stare-down

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Comic-Con: Godzilla sequel announced

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
TVGrid July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

.

Sports

McGloin buried on Raiders depth chart again

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Giants lose in Peavy’s debut, swept by Dodgers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Lawrence Okoye preparing for the NFL

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
 
It’s ‘Jeff Gordon Day’ at Indy for record 5th time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Byron Scott says he will be LA Lakers’ new coach

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jaso has 3 RBIs as A’s beat Rangers 9-3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Horsey wins Russian Open in playoff

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Tim Clark rallies to win Canadian Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Spain sweeps to victory in International Crown

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Langer wins Senior British Open by record 13 shots

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Mudcats take pair from Pro Player Baseball

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
The Big Hurt and Joe Torre headline HOF class

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali wins Tour de France

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
LeBron deep-sixes number; will be No. 23 with Cavs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

This date in sports history for Monday, July 28, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Elizabeth Terry

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
Robert Dale Myers Sr.

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Pickles July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

B.C. July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Get Fuzzy July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Wizard of Id July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baldo July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Dilbert July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baby Blues July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Sally Forth July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Rose is Rose July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Blondie July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Zits July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Garfield July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Bridge July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Crossword July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Cryptoquote July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Word Sleuth July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Sally Forth July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Zits July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Dilbert July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Get Fuzzy July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Rose is Rose July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

For Better or Worse July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
B.C. July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Wizard of Id July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baldo July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Blondie July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baby Blues July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Beetle Bailey July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Pickles July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Garfield July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Peanuts July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Frank and Ernest July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Cryptoquote July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Sudoku July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Crossword July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Bridge July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Word Sleuth July 28

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7