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California Forts of the Old West - Page 4

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Fort McDowell, CaliforniaFort McDowell (Angel Island) - The island was first named in 1775, when San Carlos' ship anchored in the cove while conducting the first survey of San Francisco Bay in 1775. Dubbing it  "Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles (Our lady of the Angels), the name was later shortened to Angel Island. In the next century, the island was utilized significantly by foreign merchantmen to smuggle contraband past San Francisco customs officers, and later as a Mexican rancheria, a prison, and in 1863, as a military post, immigration station and Civil War camp. At that time, the island became known as Camp Reynolds or the West Garrison. After the Civil War was over, it became an infantry garrison during the military campaigns against the Indians of the American West.


In 1900, the post was renamed Fort McDowell, and for decades it continued to serve as an immigration station for Asians entering the U.S. During World Wars I and II, it became a a major military embarkation center, and during the second World War, Japanese and German POWs were held here. In 1945, the post was decommissioned and in the 1950's, the island  became a Nike missile base.However, the missile base was decommissioned in 1962.


Today, the island, now designated as Angel Island State Park, offers not only some of the most beautiful views of the Bay Area, but also includes numerous military buildings from the World Wars, as well as the largest collection of Civil Warr-era wooden structures in the U.S. The Immigration Station Museum details the island's history when it was known as the "Ellis Island of the West." The island can be accessed by ferry from Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, Tiburon and seasonal service from Oakland and Alameda.


Contact Information:


Dept. of Parks and Recreation
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, California 94296



Fort Reading - One of the earliest forts in northern California, Fort Reading was established on May 26,1852 as a two-company post situated in above buildings. Named for Major Pierson B. Reading, paymaster of the California Volunteers during the Mexican war, and a pioneer settler in California, the post's objective was to protect the mining district from Indian attacks. Though its life would be short lived, it once included barracks, a guardhouse, officers' quarters, a storehouse, carpentry shop, a hospital and several other buildings.  Often flooding during the rainy season, the troops were withdrawn in April, 1856, but the buildings were intermittently occupied by the army until the site was completely abandoned in April, 1970. The buildings were then sold and the land reverted to public domain in 1881. Today, there is nothing left of the original site except a marker about 12 miles northeast of Redding, California.


Fort Rosecrans, California about 1911Fort Rosecrans - The post was established by the U.S. Army in February, 1852 as the Point Loma military reservation just 1 miles north of Fort Guijarros on what is now called Ballast Point in San Diego. Two small tracts later were set aside for lighthouse purposes, one at Ballast Point, one at the tip of the reservation, and a third was reserved for the Quarantine Station, near La Playa. In later years several American artillery units were positioned along seacoast of Fort Rosecrans, which remained operational until 1945.After WWII, Fort Rosecrans was turned over to the U.S. Navy which established a Submarine support base in the early 1950's at Ballast Point (Naval Base Point Loma) which is still active today. The stately two-story historic living quarters are still used by the Naval Base located at the end of Chatsworth Boulevard in San Diego, California. Abandoned cannon encasements can also still be seen. 




Fort Ross, CaliforniaFort Ross - Situated in Sonoma County, California, Fort Ross was established when the Russian-American Fur Company purchased 1,000 acres of coastal land for three blankets, two axes, three hoes, and an assortment of beads in 1812. For the next three decades, the Russian settlement supported fur posts in Alaska while also serving as a base or operations for hunting sea otters. This fur company, chartered by Russia's tsarist government controlled all Russian exploration, trade and settlement in the North Pacific, and established permanent settlements in Alaska and California, of which, Fort Ross was the southernmost settlement. California's first windmills and shipbuilding, and Russian scientists were among the first to record California'a cultural and natural history. Captain John Sutter purchased the fort for $30,000. Today, the site is the Fort Ross California State Park and is  designated as a National Historic Landmark. Most of the existing buildings on the site are reconstructions. The only original structure remaining is Rotchev House, the residence of the last manager, but several other structures have been recreated including the stockade, the officers' barracks and the Russian-Orthodox chapel. A visitor center houses exhibits and displays on the rich cultural history of the site. It is located 12 miles north of Jenner, California



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