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.

All Aboard! Learn About the Railroad to Santa Cruz
The Saratoga Historical Foundation presents on February 3 the “One-Horse Railroad—a history of the South Pacific Coast railroad. The event is free but seating is limited.

The railroad began as a narrow gauge operation in 1875 and later when it was taken over by the Southern Pacific was converted to standard gauge and lasted until 1940. It ran from the Alameda, down the East Bay, through San Jose and on to Santa Cruz through 6 tunnels bored into the Santa Cruz mountains. The short line managed to be the most profitable railroad- per mile- in the state of California in 1887.

The story will be told using a 54-minute video created by past Saratoga Historical Foundation President Willys Peck and friends. The event will begin at 7:30 PM at the Saratoga History Museum located at 20450 Saratoga-Los Gatos Road in Saratoga.

Free Lecture on the Flying Tigers—The Tigers' shark-faced fighters remain among the most recognizable of any individual combat aircraft and combat unit of World War II
Circle the date of February 5 when the Saratoga Historical Foundation presents a lecture on the Flying Tigers by historian Ray Cosyn. The lecture will begin at 7:30 PM and take place at the Saratoga History Museum.

Most Americans believe that the war in the Pacific began on December the 7th 1941, the Day of Infamy, as it is known, when the Empire of Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands. But the war actually began in the Far East in 1931 when the Japanese attacked and invaded Manchuria and later in 1937, invaded China. As a result of this invasion the Flying Tigers, a group of American volunteers who flew for China in its undeclared war against Japan, were created. The lecture is free and open to the public. The Saratoga History Museum is located at 20450 Saratoga-Los Gatos Road in Saratoga.

Nostalia Exhibit Features Favorite Toys from 1950-1970
The Saratoga History Museum opens a new exhibit, It’s a Boomer Christmas— Toys From the 1950’s-70’s, on November 21. The exhibit highlights favorite toys from one of the most innovative eras in the US. Toys such as hula hoops, frisbee, Silly Putty, Wonka trucks, Yahtzee, Barbie dolls, little green army men, Mr. Potato Head and more may conjure up your Christmas fantasy in the 1950s.

Visions of Chatty Cathy dolls, GI Joe, Operation, Rock Em Sock Em robots danced in the heads of children of the 1960s. Atari, pet rocks and more were on Christmas lists of the 1970s. Come to the Saratoga History Museum and see your favorite toy. The exhibit is open from 1-4 PM Friday-Sunday. The Saratoga History Museum is located at 20450 Saratoga-Los Gatos Road in Saratoga. The exhibit is free and runs until the end of January.

Help With the Blossom Festival—it’s Free!
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

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.

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
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  • 2014 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.

Wanted: Author for Book on Saratoga
For immediate release: The Saratoga Historical Foundation is seeking someone to write a book on the history of Saratoga. The historical book would cover the time period of 1950-2000.

The author would be responsible for researching and writing the material for the time period. Requirements include a demonstrated ability to research and write historical materials; knowledge of the publishing process; and prior published experience. Three samples of writing must be furnished at the time of the interview. If you are interested, write or call (408) 867-4311 for more information or to set up an interview.

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.

The Santa Clara County Fire Department has interesting information and pictures about the history of the Saratoga fire station here.
Saratoga Historical Foundation  ·  20450 Saratoga-Los Gatos Road, Saratoga, CA 95070-5935  ·  #408.867.4311
© Saratoga Historical Foundation 2014