1846 Indian Village Site (SLP-TS-2)

Author: George Hruby

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Sometimes, the most interesting discoveries made in history are made by accident. The story of how the SPBSLP came to discover site SLP-TS-2, is a fascinating one. It is the site we have identified as the location of the San Pasqual Indian Village during the Battle of San Pasqual.

Just a few weeks from his 21st birthday, a young Scottish immigrant named Philip Crosthwaite found himself fighting in the Battle at San Pasqual on December 6, 1846. Crosthwaite was one of the volunteers in Captain Gillespie's group that had met up with General Kearny and the Dragoons prior to the battle.

As soon as the war was won with Mexico, Crosthwaite remained and settled in the area. He lived for some time in Poway (not far from San Pasqual) and later, even became the Sheriff of San Diego before finally retiring down in Baja, Mexico in the town that is today called Rosorita Beach.

By 1897, the Battle of San Pasqual was fading into obscurity and San Diego began to take a renewed interest in this historical battle that had occurred in its county just 50 years earlier. Philip Crosthwaite, who was then seventy-two years old, was asked to lead a tour from San Diego to the San Pasqual Battlefield, to show interested San Diegians where the battle had occurred at and to recount the events that had unfolded there. Accompanying the wagons, buggies, and horses carrying people to this event on July 17, 1897, was San Diego Photographer Samuel Schiller.

The following newspaper article appeared in reference to this event:

Battle of San Pasqual

Don Felipe Crosthwaite returned from Ensenada last Wednesday. He will go to Escondido today and tomorrow to San Pasqual, where he will meet a committee of Native Sons, and locate the battle site, where General Andres Pico whipped General Kearny December 6, 1846, and the American forces met with a loss of 22 killed.

The committee consists of L. A. Blockman, Samuel Schiller and C. E. Overshiner.

The Native Sons have started a fund, and later will erect a stone monument on the site. Don Felipe Crosthwaite participated in the battle.

        San Diego Progress         San Diego, South California         July 17, 1897

Schiller, the photographer, was named as a actual committee member involved in locating this battle site. There is no doubt he took photographs during these two days of sites relevant to this event, especially as an actual participant, and first-hand witness to the event, both showed and explained details and locations to them all while there.

At least two photographs taken by Schiller that weekend were retained by the then “Pioneer Society of San Diego County”. These two photographs were then later turned over to the San Diego Historical Society and sat buried in the archives for the rest of the 20th century until discovered and researched by the SPBSLP in 1996. On the back of one of these photographs was simply written, “San Pasqual Battlefield.”

This is what Thomas Adema, Photo Archivist with the San Diego Historical Society wrote about these two photographs:

Concerning photographs 85:15705 (Starvation Hill) and 85:15706 (Battlefield of San Pasqual); I believe the two photographs were most likely taken on the same day. The writing on the back of the photos are the same, as is the mounting board and size of the image. I believe the date to be around July 18, 1897. I base this date on information I found in the biographical files at the San Diego Historical Society Research Archives under Samuel Schiller. I recognize Philip Crosthwaite in the photo 85:15705 and he appears to be an age that would agree with 1897. Crosthwaite was born December 27, 1825 and would have been 72 years-old. I have enclosed a copy of the Samuel Schiller note. The Pioneer Society of San Diego County gave the photographs to the San Diego Historical Society.



It was difficult to imagine how important this little known photograph, and its history, truly would be to revamping and reorientating our knowledge of the present day physical sites relevant this battle.

To simply look at this photograph, it leaves us in wonder why it was even taken? It is a photograph of an empty field, void of any objects or significant landmarks. Not even a human being or animal is found in this plain, uneventful photograph. Yet, the photograph is perhaps one of the most powerful pictures in the entire collection of the San Diego Historical Society Archives. This photograph shows us the location of the lost village of the San Pasqual Indians which archaeologists had been searching for years for. This photograph also shows us where bloodletting occurred in this battle inside the village. And finally, this photograph became the missing piece of a historical jig-saw puzzle in trying to make all of the pieces fit as far as site locations relevant to the Battle of San Pasqual. This photograph, and the site that it shows, gave us an important orientation point from which all other site locations of the first engagement of this battle, came into place.

Upon first initial response to this photograph was that Crosthwaite, who had actually been in this battle, was trying to show us something? We felt it was an important clue but what? It must have been important enough because not only did Schiller go through the trouble of photographing it but the Pioneer Society of San Diego County thought enough to hold onto it and then, upon its closure, make sure that it was turned over to the San Diego Historical Society for safe keeping. The first part of this investigation was to find where this site was located upon the present day battlefield. The first unusual observation of the location shown in the Crosthwaite photograph was that whatever it was showing us of the battle definitely did not occur on the valley floor like we thought. Both the San Pasqual Indian Village site and the first engagement were thought to have occurred on the valley floor. The location in the photograph was clearly up against the base of hills. But where?


After a considerable search was conducted in the San Pasqual Valley for this location, it was finally discovered. The photographer that took this picture in 1897, was standing where today, is the rear area of the San Diego Archaeological Center. The photographer stood east of where the buildings are today and the site that he photographed today lies on property just inside the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

So now that the site was found, what was it?

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The site became relevant to the battlefield and became identified as SLP-TS-2. The first stop was understanding what Crosthwaite's intimate involvement with this battle was with the first engagement?

Crosthwaite was a civilian volunteer and was part of a detachment of about 20 men that Captain Gillespie ordered, in the first engagement, to fan out between the road and the base of the hills to flush out any hiding Californios who may be trying to attack the Americans from their rear. In reading Crosthwaite's account, this put him and other volunteers into the Indian Village. They were searching the huts which means they had to at certain points, dismount from their horses. The execution of at least two Californios occur here in the Indian Village in addition to the capturing of the only recorded Californios P.O.W. taken at the Battle of San Pasqual.

Could Crosthwaite have been showing us where the Indian Village was at in December of 1846? Indeed, even the Band of San Pasqual Indians today did not know where this village site was at? Archaeologists had also been searching for it but had not been able to find it.

While I did not argue that an Indian Village site did in fact exist in the far northeast end of the valley, I did not think it was the village site in 1846. In interviews conducted with members of today's present San Pasqual Indians, they explained to me that in reality, their people had been living almost everywhere in the valley, on both sides, for centuries. Further, they said that their people usually had a Summer village and a Winter village. During the Winter, the Indians were known to move their village up to a higher site until Spring. This was done because of Winter floods that would occur on the valley floor and also to help get out of the wind more. The battle occurred in December.

It was also noticed that both the Christian Cemetery and adobe chapel had been placed right next to this site as well. Again, another indicator that a good size village was close by.

In the early 1990's, two archaeologists conducted excavations on property of the San Pasqual Battlefield Visitor's Center, just east of their parking lot. In interviews with both of them, they said they had been searching for the San Pasqual Indian Village of 1846 for years. They had not been able to find it. However, their present excavations revealed numerous sites typically found just outside a major village site.

It has seemed that everyone had been looking down towards the valley floor when we should have been looking up. I decided to put Crosthwaite's site to a test. If it was indeed where the Indian Village was at in 1846, then it would have to fit the various soldiers descriptions including distances noted by them from the first engagement site to the village. To my amazement, the descriptions and distances fit exactly!

When all of this information was turned over to the two archaeologists working on the excavations at the Visitor's Center, they were excited. Finally, all the pieces were fitting. Eye-witness accounts, distances, a photograph, and physical evidence from archaeological excavations, all seem to indicate that this site was where the village had been in December of 1846.


Historian Leland Bibb countered with the suggestion that the Crosthwaite Photograph was part of a panorama, suggesting that the photographer had simply taken an array of photographs from that position in a 360-degree circumference and that the Historical Society only had the one. Bibb stated that the other parts of this panorama were probably strewn out among other historical societies or private collections. He further stated that as a result, no one would know what they are looking at in the photograph. The problem was that Bibb failed to produce evidence that would indicate this to be the case.

Research showed that out of all the pictures in possession by the San Diego Historical Society of the San Pasqual Valley, not one is associated with a ‘panorama’. Further, there is no evidence from the San Diego Historical Society, or any of the area historical societies, that any other picture exists of this battlefield from that day, especially any panoramic shots.

Based on the amount of existing evidence - physical, historical, and statements made by battle participants concerning the village, the SPBSLP, involved archaeologists, and members of the Band of San Pasqual Indians, believe this photograph is the site where the San Pasqual Indian Village was at the time of the Battle of San Pasqual.

Historian Leland Bibb, or any other historian, is welcome to present any evidence that the Crosthwaite Photograph is part of a ‘panorama’.


Historian Leland Bibb suggested in reference to the Crosthwaite Photograph, that Crosthwaite was 72 years old when he revisited the battlefield in 1897 and may not have had a good memory when showing these sites to the people and members of the press.

The SPBSLP recognizes that Crosthwaite never really left the area after the Battle of San Pasqual. He married locally just 2 years after the battle and remained in the area most of his life. It is unknown how many times Crosthwaite actually visited the battlefield after 1846. He lived for a while just south of San Pasqual in Poway on a cattle ranch and had a home in Mission Valley before, in his later years, retiring to Rosorito, Mexico. He was a local businessman in San Diego and even served as the Sheriff and as the Chief of Police for San Diego. He died in 1903 at the age of seventy-seven.

It is in the opinion of this office that given the trauma of war and what 25 year old Crosthwaite experienced those fateful six days at San Pasqual and Mule Hill, that being back upon that battlefield with little changed, he would have known quite well the locations involved and what occurred at same.

Further, there is no evidence to suggest that Crosthwaite had any problems with his memory, especially to such a degree that he could not identify two large battle sites and what occurred at them. Should Leland Bibb or any other historian have evidence of this, then this web site will gladly publish same. Until then, Crosthwaite's identification of these sites must hold credible until proven otherwise. Just because of one's age is not an automatic reason to assume a great degree of memory loss in that person. Such would be a stereotypical assumption which is in no way either scientific or academic in nature.

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