Bells mark historic California route

CAMP PENDLETON — Many Marines pass an important historic treasure on their daily commute to work and may not even know it.
Along Camp Pendleton’s Vandegrift Boulevard stands one of California’s many historic El Camino Real bells that has been around long before any Marine or sailor occupied the land.
The bell symbolizes the trail used by the Franciscan Padres on the journey to Northern California from Mexico in the 1800s.
The Padres were Catholic priests sent by the King of Spain to convert Native Americans of California to Catholicism, in order to become citizens of Spain.
El Camino Real, Spanish for The King’s Highway, was the trail used by the Padres that begins in San Diego, in what is now known as Presidio Park, and ends in Sonoma, Calif., at Mission San Francisco de Solano.
There are more than 500 bells along the historic road, typically placed on both sides of the road approximately one to two miles apart when possible.
The bell on base stands where the trail crosses Vandegrift Boulevard, just inland of the main gate.
“In 1963, the bell was dedicated to honor Marines for giving their lives in combat,” said Faye Jonason, museum specialist, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
“However, in 1999, the base held a ceremony to rededicate the historical treasure, sponsored by the San Diego Mission Bells, a historical group specializing in bells.”
The bell is a part of a series that was commissioned in 1906, Jonason said.
It was rededicated due to various incidents over the years, leaving the bell with some inconsistencies to other bells.
The bell was remounted to its proper height of 11 feet and painted the greenish color it is today.
“The famous trail was one of the earliest roads used for the military to protect California from intrusions,” said Max Kurillo, author and researcher, at the rededication ceremony in 1999.
“We want Marines to take note of the history that surrounds them,” said Dorothy Foster, project coordinator, San Diego Mission Bells at the rededication ceremony in 1999.
“Just by (the Marines) mere presence here, they’re protecting the glorious history of California and its people,” Foster said.

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