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The Vizcaino-Serra Oak

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Joined: 27 Nov 2007
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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:19 pm    Post subject: The Vizcaino-Serra Oak Reply with quote

At each edge of the American continent an oak tree has become historically prominent. On the Atlantic the famed and revered Charter Oak gained renown when, in 1687, Connecticut's Royal Charter suddenly disappeared and escaped falling into the hands of the officers of King James. The tree was blown down during a storm on August 21, 1856, but a section of its trunk was preserved by the Connecticut Historical Society, and a marble shaft, unveiled with due ceremony in 1907, now marks the spot where stood this celebrated tree.

On the Pacific Coast the historic Vizcaino-Serra Oak cradeled an infant Spanish colony that grew into a great American commonwealth. Surviving three centuries of time, and rescued from the sea, where it had been cast by thoughtless hands, this silent actor in a mighty drama now stretches forth its leafless branches in the shadow of the old parish church at Monterey.

The story of the "Charter Oak" is one of the oft told tales of Colonial America, the story of the Vizcaino-Serra Oak is not so well known.

Eighty-five years before the disappearance of Connecticut's Royal Charter, Sebastian Vizcaino made his famous voyage that resulted in the discovery of the Harbor of Monterey. As a part of the landing ceremony, Father Ascencion said mass under a large oak tree that stood near the beach where they landed, and under that same tree Vizcaino, with due ceremony, unfurled the Spanish flag.

This tree was of unusual size, of striking appearance and easily identified. Father Ascencion kept rather a full diary during this history making voyage, and in it he described this oak in detail, noting also its location. This diary came into the possession of Father Serra, and when Portola, after his first and fruitless expedition, returned to San Diego with the belief growing in his mind that there was no such harbor as Vizcaino had described, Father Serra called Portola's attention to this oak tree as a certain and easily found landmark of Vizcaino's "noble harbor." On his second expedition Portola found the oak tree described in Father Ascencion's diary, together with other landmarks described by Vizcaino.

Undisturbed, but watched with loving eyes and reverend because of its historic association, the Vizcaino-Serra Oak grew and thrived until 1903, when as a result of some engineering and construction work, it became partially submerged, the result was that the oak sickened and died.

In 1905 the historic landmark had disappeared, and somehow managed to get into the bay from where it was rescued by some fishermen three miles out at sea. The tree trunk was then erected on a prepared mound in the grounds of the San Carlos Church, where it is now, majestic even in death, with a marble tablet appropriately inscribed beside itóDawn and the Dons.
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