Historian, author and preservationist Rebecca Farnbach delivered an educational and entertaining program on Southwest Riverside County at a recent February meeting of the Rotary Club of Menifee.
Farnbach is an authority on the early days of the Temecula Valley and is a board member on the Vail Ranch Restoration and Preservation Committee, which seeks a National Historical designation of the several remaining acres at the heart of the old Ranch.
At one time, Vail Ranch covered thousands of acres across the present cities of Murrieta and Temecula, and included the Rancho California area south of Lake Elsinore. It was a principal beef provider for Southern California.
Farnbach also discussed the early history of the Luiseno tribe of American Indians, whose decendants today are the operators of the Pechanga Casino and Resort, largest in Southern California. "Temecula" comes from the Luiseno words that say, translated, "Where the Sun and the Earth were created."
In her Powerpoint presentation, Farnbach showed early Luisano woven baskets. Because the local soil contained no clay, the tribal members could not create pottery, so instead they wove baskets so tightly they could hold and carry water. Since woven baskets could not be used as cooking utensils, the tribe cooked their primary foodstuff, acorns, by condensing the paste of acorns and water into donut-shaped hard pieces of dough -- which they could then cook over an open fire.
Another topic touched upon by Farnbach was the history of the Temecula wine country. Italian immigrants brought grape vines from the Old World, and the first vineyard was planted just east of Temecula by Vincenzo and Audrey Cilurzo in 1967. Seven years later, Ely Callaway built the first commercial winery. Today there are 14 wineries in "Wine Country", with tens of thousands of annual visitors, who often leave with a case, or least a bottle or two, of the various vintages.
Farnbach recently authored, in collaboration with the Cilurzo's, a book in the "Images of America" series, entitled"Temecula Wine Country." Her personal heritage takes her back to the earliest families in the Temecula area, and she is also a third generation member of a local chapter of PEO, one of the oldest and largest ladies' philanthropic and educational organizations in North America.
Menifee Rotary meets weekly at noon at the Menifee Lakes Country Club. It will celebrate its 50th birthday next month. For questions or information, call Carol "Red" Sullivan at 951-672-1523, Linda Denver at 951-672-1731, or Bob Roark at 800-824-6561.