In Search of La Placita

In Search of La Placita

Cal Poly students use ground sensing radar in the hunt for artifacts buried by 1862 flood.

History tells us that the 1862 flood totally devastated the twin communities of La Placita de los Trujillos and Agua Mansa.  Adobe homes, furniture, clothing, tools, dishes, silverware, everything was washed away by the 100 year flood.  La Placita and Agua Mansa residents survived the flood by heeding the warning tolls of  the San Salvador Church bell and quickly making their way to higher ground.  Once the flood waters ebbed and normalcy returned, the sturdy New Mexican pioneers rebuilt–on higher ground.  That rebuilding effort yielded the Trujillo Adobe (City of Riverside landmark #130 and County of Riverside landmark #009, and California Site of Significance #75) and is the only remaining structure of the rebuilt 1862 community.

Where did the items washed away by the flood finally settle?  How deeply were they buried? What stories will these items tell us?  All questions Spanish Town Heritage Foundation (STHF) hoped to answer, but how?  Enter Old Spanish Trail Association (OSTA) Tecopa Chapter President Jack Pritchett.

In a conversation with Jack at the 2017 OSTA Annual Conference in Barstow, we learned that Tecopa had worked with college students utilizing ground sensing radar in their work along the Old Spanish Trail.  Jack referred STHF to Dr. Jascha Polet at California Polytechnic University Pomona.  The contact was made, Dr. Polet and graduate student Chloe Sutkowski toured the Adobe and the adjacent Pellissier Ranch, and were excited to take on this project–the search for artifacts of the 1862 flood and perhaps the foundations of the original 1842 community of La Placita.  One thing remained–permission from the property owner to conduct the sensing.  Enter Riverside Public Utilities (RPU), owner of Pellissier Ranch, who graciously gave permission to conduct the ground sensing radar project.

The student team was assembled and has worked the area for several week-ends led by Chloe Sutkowski.  More week-ends will be necessary to complete the project but Sutkowski’s research and preparation (and a few pictures) are posted here in an initial answer to two of our questions: 1.)  Where are most of the items buried? and 2.) How deeply are they buried?  Click on this link to view Sutkowski’s report.  Pellissier_Ranch_GIS_Survey

We’ll have to wait until the project is complete to answer our last question–What are the stories behind the artifacts found?  Can’t wait.  We’ll keep you posted.


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