Situated in Grapevine Canyon, Fort Tejon was located on the main route between California’s great central valley and Southern California. The fort was built in 1854 to protect area citizens and the Sebastian Indian Reservation from the warlike Paiute, Chemeheui, Mojave tribes to the southeast, as well as suppressing the cattle rustling that was rampant in the area. It soon became an important military, social, and political center and in 1858 was the western terminus of the experimental US Army Camel Corps, which utilized the imported animals in an effort to carry supplies across arid regions in the Southwest. When the Civil War erupted, the troops from Fort Tejon were sent to guard Los Angeles and later transferred east to fight in the war. In the summer of 1862, violence erupted between the encroaching white settlers and the Owens Valley Paiute, who wanted to protect their lands. Three cavalry companies of California Volunteers forcibly moved the Paiute to the Sebastian Indian Reservation, but the authorities there refused to accept responsibility for them. In 1863 several hundred of these Indians were brought to Fort Tejon, which was then being used by the California Volunteers. The next year the Indians were transferred to the Tule River Indian Reservation and the U.S. Army closed Fort Tejon in September 1864, formally ending its career as an active military post. The land was then operated as the Tejon Ranch, which utilized fort’s old adobe buildings as stables, storehouses, and residences for ranch workers.
In 1940, the Tejon Ranch Company deeded five acres, including the old parade ground, the foundations, and remnants of the original adobe buildings to the State of California to be utilized as a state park. Restoration began on the adobe buildings in 1947 and today, the site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places maintains several restored and recreated buildings of the original fort, including, the barracks, officer’s quarters, and quartermaster building. The park is located 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles, near the top of Grapevine Canyon, via the Fort Tejon exit off I-5.
Fort Tejon State Historic Park
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated January 2018.