TEMECULA – The Chapel of Memories will celebrate its centennial with a community barbecue tasting located in Sam Hicks Monument Park in Old Town Temecula Saturday, April 15, from noon to 3 p.m. This event will be co-hosted by the city of Temecula and the Temecula Valley Museum as a commemorative re-enactment of an historic event that took place on the same date one hundred years ago.
In the spirit of that event, the 100th anniversary celebration will host a barbecue tasting and birthday cake for $1 per person, first come, first served, while supplies last. Drinks will also be just $1. Live entertainment will be provided by The 2nd Hand Brass Band throughout the afternoon, the chapel will be open for viewing and the Temecula Valley Museum will provide a craft activity for children in the museum. In addition, a photo collage will feature early photographs of the chapel, as well as photographs of the original 1917 barbecue, provided by Rebecca Farnbach from the Temecula Valley Historical Society and Marvin Curran from the collection of Mrs. E. Hale Curran.
At the turn of the last century, Temecula was a small railroad town surrounded by a vast cattle ranch, which provided the economic lifeblood of the community. In 1910, a Catholic priest named Father John J. Burri came to Temecula to serve the citizens of the town. Within five years, Father Burri announced his plan for the construction of the first church in town designed specifically to serve as a house of worship for the Catholic congregation. A lot at the corner of 6th and Front streets was purchased as a location for the new church. A small construction loan was secured through the local bank for the purchase of materials. Construction of the church was completed March 1917.
The following month, Mahlon Vail, owner of the Vail Cattle Ranch and a major stockholder in the First National Bank of Temecula, organized and hosted a barbecue at his Pauba ranch headquarters to raise funds to pay off the construction loan. He personally donated a steer to the celebration. Additional food and funds were donated by local businessmen and townspeople. A four-piece orchestra provided music for dancing in the evening. Daytime entertainment included boxing and wrestling matches, as well as bronco-busting demonstrations by the Vail ranch hands.
Printed invitations for the April 15, 1917, fundraising event went out to all the local residents. The invitations promoted the event as a “free barbecue,” but admission to the grounds was $1. Days later, the local newspaper reported that 800 people had attended the barbecue. Enough money was raised by the event to pay off the $1,200 construction loan with enough money left over for the purchase of an automobile for Father Burri.
For more information on this event, please call the Temecula Valley Museum at (951) 694-6450.