Lecture offers glimpse into legendary pioneer’s life

History buffs throughout the Temecula Valley are in for a rare treat on Aug. 25 with the presentation of “The Excavation of Nate Harrison’s Cabin.” The program is being offered free of charge through a partnership between The Temecula Valley Museum and the Temecula Valley Historical Society.

“We do these lectures all the time,” said Tracy Frick, museum manager. “We find the lecturer and hold the speeches here at the museum. Because we thought there would be wider appeal, we are partnering with the Temecula Valley Historical Society to offer this lecture to the public and are using city hall conference center because we are hoping to have more people attend.”

The program will be offered at the Temecula Conference Center in front of the Temecula City Hall at 6 p.m. and focuses on the life of Nate Harrison, a freed slave from the south.

Harrison, who is believed to have escaped slavery as a young man, is one of San Diego County’s legendary pioneers. Eventually settling high on the western slope of Palomar Mountain, Harrison was friendly and welcomed by all the inhabitants of the valley.

He is said to be one of the most photographed of early pioneers, as tourists frequently took pictures with Harrison, who passed away in 1920, to prove that they made it to the top of Palomar Mountain. The true story of his past remains elusive, adding to the allure of the man, due to a propensity to exaggerate.

According to a press release issued by the Temecula Valley Museum, the folklore surrounding Harrison includes stories that he added lizards to his coffee grinds for extra flavor and made batches of mountain lion jerky while greeting his visitors with a warm smile. Even his date of birth is subject for discussion. These stories add to the intrigue surrounding his life.

“He was a very interesting man, much loved by the people he encountered,” said Frick. “It should be a very interesting lecture.”

Temecula Valley Historical society president Dick Fox says the program will be full of information on the pioneer. The lecture will be led by Shelby Castellis, one of the lead archeologists of the site located in 2004 during a three week field study. More than 6,100 artifacts were found on the site where the cabin once stood.

“She is an archaeologist at San Diego State University,” Fox said. “She was one of the key archaeologists at the dig. There is a lot of photo documentation of what they found and she will offer up what they found and the stories behind it all.”

The Temecula Valley Historical Society offers monthly programs each month for its members and the general public in order to inform them of the rich history offered throughout the region. A listing of upcoming programs can be found by visiting www.temeculahistoricalsociety.org.

“Lots of history stories that I can remember talk about Nate Harrison and the time he lived on the mountain,” Fox said. “There has been an awareness of him for many, many years.”

Light refreshments will be served included. For more information on the program, call the Temecula Valley Museum at (951) 694-6450.

The Temecula Valley Museum in Sam Hicks Monument Park is located at 28314 Mercedes Street, one block east of Front Street in Old Town Temecula. For more information please call the museum at (951) 694-6450 or visit the museum Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or Sunday 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

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