Friday, September 19, 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

Missouri Street Theatre set to open ‘Bonnie and Clyde’

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Shelter uses technology to reunite pets, owners

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Weekend full of jazz on tap in Vacaville

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Police make child molestation arrest

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
Dignitaries celebrate opening of $30M courthouse

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Fairfield police arrest 2 in robberies investigation

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 10 Comments | Gallery

 
Police seek help to find missing Fairfield man

By Glen Faison | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Fairfield eyes sale of excess government land

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4

 
Men, again, are seen as missing in Fairfield

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 6 Comments | Gallery

Stolen vehicle investigation leads to 3 arrests

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Weather for Sept. 19, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B12

Suisun City police log: Sept. 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Sept. 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

.

US / World

Man arrested in fast-growing California wildfire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Strong Senate vote for Obama on Syria rebel aid

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Scots reject independence in historic vote

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Passenger says JetBlue plane filled with smoke

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Law makes earthquake insurance more understandable

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
GOP pushes diverse candidates, but will it matter?

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

PG&E emails may have violated rules, judge says

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
500 Berkeley students missed sex abuse classes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Boxer indicates big decision to come next year

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Father arrested in fatal stabbing of 6-year-old

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Health exchange addresses dropped policies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
UC system plan calls for anti-sex abuse effort

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Democratic state lawmaker arraigned on DUI charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Sheriff: Fla. man kills 6 grandchildren, daughter

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Couple in Craigslist slaying sentenced to life

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
In wake of beheadings, Busch Gardens removes props

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Trooper ambush suspect added to most wanted list

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
CDC tells healthy adults not to forget flu vaccine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Border Patrol to test wearing cameras

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Kansas court: Remove Democrat from Senate ballot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Ukraine’s pleas for lethal aid from US go unmet

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
British hostage appears in new video

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Witness: 21 killed by Mexico army had surrendered

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Militant gains illustrate plight of Syrian Kurds

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Series of attacks kills at least 36 in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Sierra Leone to shut down for 3 days to slow Ebola

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

.

Opinion

 
Did the ‘War on Poverty’ fail?

By Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis | From Page: A11

 
Do you feel more secure?

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

My support for anyone but Moy

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 18 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in History: Sept. 19, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Sept. 19, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Sept. 19, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
Mother-in-law bothers me at work for kid’s minor infractions

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Week in preview Sept. 19-25, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

 
Review: ‘Leave You’ has A-list cast, B-grade result

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Adam Driver shifts into hyper drive

By Jake Coyle | From Page: B2

 
‘The Voice’ winner goes to Broadway’s ‘Pippin’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
TV Guide Network renaming itself POP

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Peter Fonda’s ‘Easy Rider’ bike going to auction

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Entertainment calendar Sept. 19, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B4

Darrell Hammond takes over for Don Pardo on ‘SNL’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

The Roosevelt trail, from Maine to North Dakota

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
.

Sports

Vanden volleyball team remains undefeated in SCAC play

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B7

 
49ers’ Derek Carrier ready to step in at tight end

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7, 1 Comment

Raiders seek ways to get Reece more involved

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Athletics out of top wild-card spot as Texas sweeps

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Nashville new home for Athletics’ Triple-A team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
 
Falcons romp to 56-14 win over hapless Buccaneers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
2-time Grand Slam winner Li Na retires from tour

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Stacy Lewis, Mi Jung Hur share LPGA lead in Alabama

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
WR Simpson, in more trouble, released by Vikings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Royal & Ancient votes to admit female members

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
MLS says Chivas USA might not play in 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Tiger Woods says he might coach himself

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Police: Cardinals RB Dwyer head-butted wife

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Prep football capsules: Week 3

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

 
Signups for Friday, Sept. 19, 2014

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

Appeals court reconsidering Barry Bonds conviction

By The Associated Press | From Page: B10

 
.

Business

Nissan’s small car excels at affordability

By Ann M. Job | From Page: C1 | Gallery

 
Self-driving cars now need a permit in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2 | Gallery

Ellison gives up Oracle CEO role, becomes chairman

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
California bill increases Hollywood tax credits

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Fed keeps rates low, but brace for the inevitable

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Alibaba prices IPO at $68 per share

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11 | Gallery

Home Depot says malware affected 56M payment cards

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Applications for US jobless benefits fall sharply

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11, 1 Comment

Apple locks itself out of devices with passwords

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
Alibaba’s plan: Today, China. Tomorrow, the world.

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

Chevron meets new, voluntary shale drilling rules

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
.

Obituaries

Margaret King

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Mae Frances Jones

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9