Monday, March 2, 2015
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 [email protected] 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
  • Recent Articles

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    Solano News

    Whiteside ready to take Travis school board seat

    By Bill Hicks | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    World War II spy shares tales of work behind enemy lines

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

    I love to ‘read’ audiobooks

    By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

     
    PublicStuff, an online app, set for Fairfield

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

     
    Beginning gardening series starts in March

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

    Literacy celebration returns this month

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

     
    Council to hear budget scenarios

    By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

     
    Fairfield High School celebrates black history

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

     
    Warm winter afternoon at Lagoon Valley Park

    By Steve Reczkowski | From Page: A3, 3 Comments | Gallery

    Free medical series targets senior health issues

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

     
    Pena Adobe hosts natural dye-making presentation

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

    IHOP takes part in National Pancake Day

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

     
    Local governments schedule meetings this week

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

    Vacaville 4-alarm house fIre

    By Steve Reczkowski | From Page: A4, 2 Comments | Gallery

     
    Weather for Monday, March 2, 2015

    By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B10

    Corner Store Gallery schedules open house

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

     
    .

    US / World

    Kerry tries to dampen fuss over Israeli PM’s speech

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Hundreds of bills introduced by California lawmakers

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Storm brings rain, thunder, hail to Southern California

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    California GOP recognizes gay faction of party

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

     
     
    Activists say Islamic State releases 19 Syrian Christians

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Sierra Leone’s vice president in quarantine for Ebola

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    30,000 marchers in Moscow mourn slain Putin foe

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Spacewalking astronauts finish extensive, tricky cable job

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Survey: Parents increasingly ask doctors to delay vaccines

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Newspaper: Nurse who survived Ebola says hospital failed her

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Myanmar captures rare white elephant in western jungles

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Crowd kills girl suspected to be suicide bomber in Nigeria

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    New plane tracking to be tested after Malaysia jet mystery

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    .

    Opinion

     
    A night with a King

    By Delon Jackson | From Page: A8

    Your right to work for less

    By Mike Kirchubel | From Page: A8, 38 Comments

     
    Right fight in DC, but wrong reason

    By Colbert I. King | From Page: A8

    Editorial Cartoon: March 2, 2015

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Living

    Today in History: March 2, 2015

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Community Calendar: March 2, 2015

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

    Why timeouts only prolong the problem

    By The Washington Post | From Page: B5

     
    Horoscopes: March 3, 2015

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

    Horoscopes: March 2, 2015

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

     
    It’s never a good idea to point out how big a pregnant woman is

    By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7

    .

    Entertainment

     
    Will Smith’s ‘Focus’ tops box office with $19.1 million

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

    Lady Gaga, Vince Vaughn take charity polar plunge in Chicago

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

     
    TVGrid March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

    TVGrid March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

     
    .

    Sports

    Curry scores 37, leads Warriors from 26 down to beat Celtics

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Jimmie Johnson pulls away for another Atlanta Sprint Cup win

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Giants reliever Strickland insists he’s tranquil on mound

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Lillard, Aldridge lead Blazers past Kings for 3rd in a row

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Major league baseball’s 1st black Latino star Minoso dies

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Seller’s market for NHL teams as trade deadline nears

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Andy Sullivan wins Joburg Open for 2nd title this year

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    South Korea’s Amy Yang wins Honda LPGA Thailand

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Hannah hurls Bulldogs to 2-0 win over Campolindo

    By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

    Oregon women upset No. 19 Stanford 62-55

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Indians open season with 12-4 win over Falcons

    By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

    Oregon beats Stanford 73-70, clinches bye in Pac-12 tourney

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Process gets underway to carve up $60 million Sandusky fine

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Cal’s big run lifts Bears past Oregon State 73-56

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Former Washington basketball star Christian Welp dies at 51

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Sharks trade Sheppard to Rangers for draft pick

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    4,000 attend Jerry Tarkanian tribute in Las Vegas arena

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Garnett buys 1,000 tickets for fans for next T-wolves game

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Poulter, Casey share lead at rain-delayed Honda Classic

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Blatter concerned by Russian soccer racism before World Cup

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Broadcasters propose FIFA election debate to Blatter, rivals

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    This date in sports history for March 2, 2015

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez nearing 1st spring game

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

     
    Fast and furious: Rousey looks to future after 14-second win

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    Mimi’s adds breakfast items to menu

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

     
    Samsung ditches plastic design, adds mobile pay in new phone

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

    In Apple’s latest update, emojis get diverse

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Jacqueline Mendes

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Lester Singer

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Blondie March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    For Better or Worse March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Wizard of Id March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Pickles March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Peanuts March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    B.C. March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Baby Blues March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Rose is Rose March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Baldo March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Zits March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Garfield March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Sally Forth March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Get Fuzzy March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Frank and Ernest March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Dilbert March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Beetle Bailey March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Crossword March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

     
    Sudoku March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

    Cryptoquote March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

     
    Word Sleuth March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

    Bridge March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

     
    Garfield March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Get Fuzzy March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Frank and Ernest March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Blondie March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Sally Forth March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Wizard of Id March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Baby Blues March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    B.C. March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Beetle Bailey March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Peanuts March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    For Better or Worse March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Dilbert March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Baldo March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Zits March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Rose is Rose March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Pickles March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Crossword March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

    Cryptoquote March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

     
    Sudoku March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

    Bridge March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

     
    Word Sleuth March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7