March 12 Membership Program -- A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions
Author Elias Castillo will give a presentation on his new book, “A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish Missions” on March 12 as the March membership program. The program will start at 7:30 with potluck starting at 6:30. The program is open to the public and will take place at the Saratoga Foothill Club. Castillo’s book will be available for purchase. The lecture is free to SHF members, nonmembers will pay $5 to attend the lecture.

The Spanish missions of California have long been misrepresented as places of benign and peaceful coexistence between Franciscan friars and California Indians. In fact, the mission friars enslaved the California Indians and treated them with deliberate cruelty. "A Cross of Thorns" describes the dark and violent reality of Mission life. Beginning in 1769, California Indians were enticed into the missions, where they and their descendents were imprisoned for 60 years of forced labor and daily beatings.

The chilling depictions of colonial cruelty in "A Cross of Thorns" are based on little known church and Spanish government archives and letters written by the founder of California's mission, Friar Juniperro Serra (who advocated the whipping of Mission Indians as a standard policy), and published first-hand accounts of 18th and 19th century travelers.

Elias Castillo is a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and the winner of thirteen journalism awards. Born in Mexicali, Baja California, Castillo holds two degrees from San Jose State University and is a former reporter for the San Jose Mercury News and the Associated Press.

Saratoga and the 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition—100 Year Centennial
A new exhibit—Saratoga and the 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition—100 Year Centennial opens February 13 at the Saratoga History Museum.

The Panama–Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) was a world's fair held in San Francisco, between February 20 and December 4 in 1915. The purpose was to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal but the reality was to demonstrate that San Francisco had recovered from the 1906 earthquake. The fair was constructed on a 635 acre site in San Francisco. It featured 11 Exhibit Palaces with over 40 countries and all the states participating. Among the exhibits at the Exposition was the C. P. Huntington, the first steam locomotive purchased by Southern Pacific Railroad; A telephone line was also established to New York so people across the continent could hear the Pacific Ocean. The Liberty Bell traveled by train on a nationwide tour from Pennsylvania to attend the exposition. Henry Ford had cars assembled every 10 minutes for 3 hours each day.

The exhibit will cover the PPIE exhibit and include information on Saratogans participating. The exhibit will run from February –June 28. Fair artifacts and ephemera will be on display. The Saratoga History Museum is located at 20450 Saratoga-Los Gatos Road in Saratoga. The museum is open from 1-4 Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Museum admission is free.

Help With the Blossom Festival—it’s Free!

Visit The Blosson Festival Webpage

We’re looking for musicians, craftspeople, artists, volunteers to help produce the Blossom Festival in 2015. Music is old time—pre 1940; crafts should be handmade (no imports). The Blossom Festival will bring a day of family fun on March 21 from 10-4 PM in the Heritage Orchard and Civic Center area (13777 Fruitvale Avenue) in Saratoga. Produced by the Saratoga Historical Foundation, and sponsored by the city of Saratoga, the free event is reminiscent of the original Blossom Festival that debuted in 1900 and was popular for over 40 years. For more information: call: 408-867-4311 or e-mail

Lecture on the Pan-Pacific International Exposition on April 18

Historian Laura Ackley will give a special presentation on April 18 at 2 PM on the Pan-Pacific International Exposition in Saratoga. Hosted by the Saratoga Historical Foundation, her talk will cover, "New Technology at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition". The lecture will be held at the Saratoga Federated Church at 20390 Park Place in Saratoga. Cost to attend the lecture for everyone is $5.00. Afterwards people can walk across the street to the museum and see the exhibit on the PPIE.

Ackley’s book, San Franciso’s Jewel City will also be on sale and Ackley will autograph copies. One of the main purposes of World's Fairs always has been to introduce the "latest and greatest" to the public. At the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, no exhibit could be considered for an award of merit unless it was based on a product or process new since the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition.

Ackley will discuss a variety of the new technologies displayed at the fair. Ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, these exhibits may elicit warm nostalgia, amazement, laughter and even a wince or two. “Sample” wonders from many areas of the fair, including the Palace of Food Products, the Palace of Liberal Arts, The Palace of Horticulture, and the Joy Zone. “Ride” on the Strauss Aeroscope, visit the Panama Canal in miniature and walk through a model mine before learning the Secrets of Mental Telepathy.

Architectural Historian Laura A. Ackley holds graduate degrees from Harvard University's Graduate School of Design and from the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley.

The South Skyline Story—New Book
The Saratoga History Museum gift shop has added a new book: The South Skyline Story by Janet Schwind and the Skyline Historical Society. The South Skyline region runs along Skyline Boulevard and includes parts of three counties: San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara. The 232 page book includes historic photos, maps and stories of residents from the Ohlone Indians through the present day. According to author Janet Schwind, “Upon opening the book you will follow the paths of the native Ohlone peoples; experience the rugged life in the logging camps, mills and ranches. Learn how the crude trails, dusty ranch and private roads of the ridge properties through four different counties were connected by the building of the boulevard, in spite of the daunting impediments of politics and financial difficulties.

Moving at a lively pace the book covers the various activities of timber harvesting, the search for oil, recreation, and agriculture, followed later by the development of communes, communities and organizations. It will provide great insight into the history of the area we call “home”.

The Saratoga Historical Foundation Museum
The Saratoga Historical Foundation Museum located at Saratoga Historical Park: 20450 Saratoga-Los Gatos Road, Saratoga, CA
Subscribe to our e-mail list
  • 2015 Upcoming Events
  • February 3 One-Horse Railroad--History of the South Pacific Coast Railroad; video by Willya Peck (7:30pm)
  • February 5 Lecture on the Flying Tigers by Ray Cosyn (7:30pm)
  • March 12 Lecture -- A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions

Seeking Furniture Donation
The Saratoga Historical Park has a beautiful 1860’s historical home that needs the following items: Dry sink, hutch, wardrobe/armoire, small dining room table, men’s shaving station. Since the house is used for educational purposes, the furniture should be authentic and not reproductions and from the era 1860-1880. If you have any of this furniture, please call 408-867-4311 or email All donations are tax deductible.

Some Free Things To Do!
Get in touch with local history by taking our historic landmark walking tour, bicycling the historic house tour, and walking around our historic garden with a self-guided tour.

Get out your camera and your walking shoes! The Saratoga Historical Foundation offers docent-led walking tours or you can download the tour and take a self-guided one. The docent-led tours last about 60 minutes with lots of easy walking. Meet your fellow “time travellers” and get some exercise at the same time. Make an appointment today by calling 408-867-4311 and take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about the history of your community.

Forget about driving and bicycle our historic house tour. See over 30 heritage homes on this self-guided bicycle tour. Want just a little exercise? Walk the historic garden in the Saratoga Historical Park—a copy of the self-guided tour is available outside near the Museum door or by downloading. The plants look different with each season so there is reason to return again and again. Find out how Native American children used ferns.

The walking tour, historic house bicycle tour, and the garden tour maps can be downloaded from this site.

Plans for a New Blacksmith Exhibit
The recorded sounds of a blacksmith forge might ring in the hills as the Saratoga Historical Foundation raises funds to convert an existing outside area into an interactive blacksmith exhibit. The blacksmith exhibit ties into the nearby 1850’s McWilliams House because the owner, James McWilliams was Saratoga’s second blacksmith.

The blacksmith exhibit will house tools and items normally worked on by a blacksmith. Some interactivity and possibly sound effects will be available. Also planned is a nonfunctional outhouse—as part of the turn of the century theme of all the structures in the Saratoga Historical Park. All the structures—McWilliams House, one-room schoolhouse, museum, and soon the blacksmith exhibit are used to teach pioneer living as well as Saratoga’s rich history.

If you would like to contribute to this exhibit ($5000 contribution and higher will be part of a plaque on the outside of the exhibit), please send your contribution to: Blacksmith Exhibit, c/o Saratoga Historical Foundation, PO Box 172, Saratoga, CA 95071. Your donation is tax deductible.

Speaker Available
If you are in need of a speaker on history and local Saratoga history—contact Saratoga Historical Foundation Historian Ray Cosyn. Cosyn has developed the following presentations—most 30-40 minutes in length with quality slides using historic images:

  • Saratoga: A Lumber Town, traces the history of Saratoga from the Ohlone’s to the present historic village. The excitement of the once rollicking lumber town to the battle for incorporation is of interest to every Saratogan.
  • The Interurban Railway, yearn for the days of a trip by rail to San Jose or Palo Alto on the sleek Interurban Railway? The mass transit train, carrying packages and people, once quietly traveled the Santa Clara Valley.
  • Prohibition—sit back and enjoy hearing about the driest town in the valley – a period of time that lasted over 40 years. Interesting stories about the effect of Prohibition on the local wineries (including Paul Masson) will make you smile.
  • Lincoln’s Funeral Train- miracles and sadness traveled with the death of Present Abraham Lincoln as his funeral train made it’s last journey.
  • Flying Tigers – find out more about these intrepid Americans who fought an air war prior to WWII for freedom in China.
The presentations are appropriate for groups of all ages. Cosyn has given presentations to those interested in the Civil War, railroads, winemakers, high schools, as well as local history and other organizations. If you are interested in having Cosyn speak before your organization, you can contact him HERE. More information on lectures HERE.

Community Service
Saratoga High School students looking to fulfill community service requirements can contact Linda Hagelin at the Saratoga History Museum. Please e-mail HERE with the date you can work. The museum is open Friday-Saturday and Sunday from 1-4PM.

Give Back to the Community
If you are looking for a way to give back to the community—support the Saratoga History Museum with a donation. We are presently raising funds for a new blacksmith exhibit and your donation can help.The current tax law requires all charitable gifts to be made by December 31 to qualify for a deduction in 2014. Even items postmarked after December 31 must be attributed to 2014, regardless of the date on the check inside. The operation of the all-volunteer museum is dependent on membership fees, donations, grants and fundraisers—please support us. Make your check to SHF Blacksmith Exhibit, PO Box 172, Saratoga, CA 95071.

Saratoga Historical Foundation  ·  20450 Saratoga-Los Gatos Road, Saratoga, CA 95070-5935  ·  #408.867.4311
© Saratoga Historical Foundation 2014