Visiting Fort Tejon, CA

     As you walk up the path and cross the babbling creek, you get a glimpse of the barracks through the old oak trees. After paying your park admission fee and obtaining your self-guided tour pamphlet, you begin in the wonderful shade of those old oak trees.
Off to the left, bound by wooden fences, are the remains of the fort band stand and officer’s quarters. You use your imagination to vision the band playing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” as enlisted men watch.
Continuing up the trail, you pass the end of the first enlisted barracks, behind which are buildings associated with the camp kitchen and mess hall. You can hear the chatter of the enlisted men complain of the food and heat as they eat their bread or tack. Many thousands of meals have been served in this area.
Passing the foundation of the second barracks, you walk toward the steps into the reconstructed enlisted barracks. After entering, you notice its simplicity and the creaky floor as you move about. The southern end is the officer’s area and moving north you move into the enlisted men’s area where 80 or so men would unfurl their textiles for a good night’s rest. The rifles and swords would be in a rack in the middle, while the exterior wall would have pegs and a shelf, allowing the men to hang their wool jackets and place their cap on the shelf.
Looking out through the windows over the parade ground, you can here the officers shout orders as the enlisted men drill in the afternoon sun. Beyond, lays the foundation of the fort hospital where doctors would use “primitive” instruments and medicine to treat your wound.
Exiting down the stairs, you walk south across the parade ground toward the married officers’ quarters. Currently there is only one reconstructed. To the west are the foundations of two other four room, 2-story houses. While rather simple in its design, it is efficient and houses the family. At times, these were duplexes, housing two families that each had two of the four rooms. As you walk up the stairs to the front porch, you can here the footsteps of the captain’s wife as she walks from the kitchen to the porch to watch the drill on the parade ground.
From the central hallway, you can go the to dining room, to the parlor, or upstairs to the two bedrooms. The floor creaks while the sunlight fills the room through the wavy glass windows. Simple pictures adorn the walls and fine wood furniture sparsely fill the rooms covered by simple white linens. Everything here had to be hauled in, so the furniture they had, had to be functional.
Exiting out the back door, you pass the kitchen, where simple ingredients were made into tasty meals for the officer and his family. To the right is another stone building that is believed it was used as an unmarried officers’ quarters. As you walk west between the foundations and the officer’s quarters. You can smell the fruitcake and soda biscuits as they are prepared for the families.
Turning north behind the foundations of the commissary and hospital, you can look across the Parade Ground and the fort flag. Again, you can imagine federal troops playing baseball in the afternoon sun or socializing in the shade. Off to the left, in the trees, are the remains of the fort bakery where hard tack was made to feed the men while on patrol. The smell must have been better than the taste.
Moving further north are two more foundations, which represent two more officers’ quarters. You can see how the parade ground was surrounded by higher ranking individuals. If you disobeyed these higher ranking individuals, you might find yourself in the fort jail, located east of the officers’ quarters back toward the entrance to the park. The cells had little in the way of creature comforts and provided no heat. These cells represented the worst punishment. Next door is the guard house.
As you exit the park, and look across I-5, you can see the Tejon Ranch. What you have just seen is only part of the original fort, the other part lies under I-5 and under the Tejon Ranch structures. Located in this area would have been the stables, corrals, quartermaster’s quarters and store, as well as storage buildings and blacksmith.

This is a brief description of my experience at the park. I would encourage everyone to visit it, especially during one of the reenactment events. For more information and a list of events, please visit the Fort Tejon Historical Association’s website. I will update this post with images as I have them available.


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