Cambrian: Opinion

Exhibit documents life of man said to have named Cambria

It’s the stuff novels are made of: A dashing young man leaves bustling San Francisco after the Gold Rush and statehood to embark on several careers in the hinterlands of the Central Coast. Marrying into an illustrious Californio family, Peter Aloysius Forrester sweeps his beautiful young bride, Maria Josefa Pico, off her feet and into the emerging community along the banks of Santa Rosa Creek. Follow their fascinating tale as they raise their large family there and then relocate to San Luis Obispo.

View photos, documents and drawings which detail their lives during this historical era, as the Cambria Historical Society posts their newest exhibit March 21 at the Cambria Historical Museum, based on extensive research done by direct-line descendents of the Forresters, Ned and Lois Atchison and daughter Josefa.

Forrester was a mining engineer and surveyor who mapped downtown Cambria in 1870.

He lived with his wife and several children for many years at the southwest corner of Bridge and Center streets near Santa Rosa Creek (across from the present-day Bucket of Blood, which was also home to the Painted Sky Recording Studios).

Historians credit Forrester with giving Cambria its current appellation. Earlier names for the town had been San Simeon, Santa Rosa and Roseaville. After many contentious town meetings on what to name the place, Forrester suggested “Cambria,” saying it resembled the topography of Cambria City, Pa., from whence the man of Irish descent had come.

The townspeople agreed and the federal government gave official recognition to the name for the post office, which had been originally established in the Grant and Lull store on the southwest corner of Bridge and Main streets on Oct. 2, 1867.

Exhibit opening

To celebrate opening of the exhibit, members and prospective members are invited to a special champagne reception from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21. Applications for new and re-instated memberships are being accepted.

The general public is invited to visit the Cambria Historical Museum at the corner of Burton Drive and Center Street from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 24. There is no charge for admission.

Tribal life display

A special addition this month will also be posted at the museum during the vernal equinox. Members of the Salinan tribe will display an informative illustration of tribal life and history of the natives who ranged north of Cambria and San Simeon and across the Santa Lucia coastal range. A larger exhibit was recently installed at Mission San Miguel, north of Paso Robles.

Visitors to the newly refurbished museum store will note major changes in the floor plan, as well as new items for sale. Coming soon will be the Hometown Collection puzzle featuring a Cambria Scarecrow Festival (aka, Festival del espantapajaros/Festival del’epouvantail) theme, with local features clearly identifiable in the art of Heronim. The puzzle was last available at Target and Amazon, and is sure to be a bestseller here!

Society programs

Eighty-five guests were present at the CHS annual Recognitions Dinner, enthralled by author/speaker Victoria Kastner, who spoke of the life and times of architect Julia Morgan, who collaborated with William Randolph Hearst in construction of La Casa Encantada.

Almost 30 docents were recently treated to a session on local area history by rancher/historian Dawn Dunlap. An additional training for new docents is scheduled for  9 a.m. to noon Friday, March 22 at the museum. Call Penny Church at 927-1442 to register. 

Our latest project on behalf of businesses, beginning in historic East Village, is to mark all the early day edifices with bronze plaques indicating their dates in Cambria history.

Christopher Brazelton of the Porte House is coordinating the campaign, ultimately to include more buildings beyond the 24 which are already displayed in the exhibit room and featured in a descriptive booklet for sale in the Museum Store for $10. For information, call him at 927-7900. 

Business partners can benefit from inclusion in quarterly newsletters, as well as postings in the museum, where we have encouraged more than 25,000 visitors since opening in 2008 to patronize our businesses. Request an application from any board member, or leave a message at 927-2891.

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