(An interview by 14-year-old Max Cherman of one of the area's well-known historic people.)
Guy Weddington McCreary, Chairman of the Board of the Campo de Cahuenga Historical Memorial Association, is a self-proclaimed history buff who has been involved in some way with the Campo de Cahuenga site since the 1970’s, and is devoted to San Fernando Valley history.
He has played a key role in the preservation of the most important site west of the Mississippi- a place most of us pass by without even noticing it exists. This place is . Once a small adobe in the middle of a rural place known as the San Fernando Valley, the Campo was the site where John C. Fremont and Andres Pico signed the Capitulation at Cahuenga (aka the Treaty of Cahuenga or the Treaty of Campo de Cahuenga), which ended the Mexican-American War in California.
The treaty ended matters peacefully, and led to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War as a whole. You may think you are unfamiliar with the site, but you have probably passed it by at least a few times on your way to Universal Studios.
A replica of the original adobe at the Campo now stands across the street from the “Universal Studios” sign. In fact, parts of the original adobe are now under Lankershim Boulevard, which is known more for its proximity to superheroes at Universal than anything else.
McCreary, though, has helped the Campo gain more recognition over the years. In fact, you may have even seen one of the flyers for the Campo’s annual celebration for the anniversary of the signing of the Capitulation at Cahuenga — a celebration started by McCreary himself. Today, McCreary hopes to open the Campo more frequently than the current once monthly schedule. By doing this, more visitors will come inside because they are surprised to see such a historical place in the least likely location.
I sat down with McCreary, and asked him about his involvement with the Campo as well as some of the history that happened at the location:
Max Cherman: It sounds like the Campo has been a very important part of American history for a very long time.
Guy Weddington McCreary: For a long time, because you go back to when the Campo was built was built was between 1797 with the coming of the mission to 1810, and the Verdugo family, which is, of course, over towards Burbank and Glendale, they’re the ones who had a grant from the king of Spain and they built it; originally with the Spanish people together, and then he gave them the land.
MC: So, how would you summarize your own relationship with the Campo site?
GWM: I didn’t really get involved until 1990, when I was asked to become president of the organization. I was president for twelve years, and we reorganized the Campo; we have the fiesta every year, the big event we have once a year here in January. We bring in fiesta dancers, and we bring in all kinds of events here; we reenact the signing of the treaty, and it’s a wonderful time.
MC: What is the most memorable moment you have had at the Campo, or related to the Campo de Cahuenga?
GWM: I think its my time helping develop the Campo to a great historical site, where people can see the history, and when I made it much more meaningful to the general public. Due to politics and all, and that Fremont wasn’t that well on, a lot of historians in the past moved it out of the history scene, and we want to now bring it back where it should be; that important historical site.
MC: What do you think when you see all these people passing by, who may have had ancestors who were directly affected by the treaty signed here, but yet don’t pay any attention to the site?
GWM: Because they don’t know its here, number one. They’re just going on to Universal to go up there and have a good time there. We are being showed more interest by people. We are open every first Saturday of the month now, from 12 noon to 4 p.m. That’s just the beginning. The objective really is to have two or three days open, and we bring in the students from the local schools.
MC: So, when did you first hear about the Campo, or start to learn about San Fernando Valley history, and what was your reaction when you first heard about these historical places that were so close to home?
GWM: I was first glad we had some historical places in the valley. There are about eight of them. So that’s a good deal. Anyways, I heard about the Campo back in the ‘60’s. I was young, and I was always interested in history. I spoke a couple times in the late ‘70’s, and I came here, and at that time we only had professors and stuff, and we didn’t have all the other events. We would tour here, and we started the fiesta dancers. I got into history very early, and I enjoy it. I have even written a book on the Mexican Revolution, can you believe it!
MC: So, who would you consider to be the most important person in the Campo’s history, and what do you specifically remember about this person?
GWM: Well, I’d of course think of Fremont and Andres Pico. After the Capitulation at Cahuenga, Andres Pico continued on as the Don until 1864, when taxes got him. But he lived like a Don. He lived with all this style, and he also became an assemblyman, state senator, he went out and arrested thieves and hanged some of them, and that’s probably why he had kind of a bad ending. I think someone followed him up and got him at the end, which is a shame. Pico was caught in LA and was beaten to death in the end. People don’t know that. That’s not talked about. That upsets me so much, when I think of a man of that caliber and that quality, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was tied to someone related to the things he did, and it was a revenge thing on that basis. He was very involved, and he would have to be one of the key people, I would say, outside of Fremont.
MC: What has interested you about the Campo or the San Fernando Valley that not only made you want to be part of the history in the beginning, but has made you want to continue to be part of the history for fifty years now?
GWM: Well, my family has been a little exceptional. Weddington Park here is a family park, and our family came here in 1890, and they’ve been always involved in these types of things. My uncle Fred Weddington was one of the founders of the Campo de Cahuenga Historical Memorial Association, and so we’ve always been very involved in the positive parts of the history. Its part of me and part of being part of the family. For 125 years this family has been part of the valley, and that doesn’t mean a lot in the east, but out here, that’s a lot.
MC: So, in your opinion, what distinguishes the Campo from other historical places in other metropolitan areas around the U.S.?
GWM: Well, number one, we are in the San Fernando Valley, which gives the distinct area that is part of LA but is still kind of independent of LA. I just think that’s the number one thing. Nationally, it is the fact that it is a national site, which means it has meaning all over the country. People don’t know what happened here, but it is important for them all to know what happened, and the Mexican-American War in particular. What happened is kind of hidden in the background to some degree, and it should be known what happened here. It’s a national site, it’s a state site, and it’s a city site. All our employees worked to get those, especially this last one, which is the federal one. So we are all those things here.
MC: Lastly, as Chairman of the Board, do you feel a special connection to the Campo that you think nobody else really feels, and if you do, can you please try to formulate that feeling into words?
GWM: Wel,l there is a special feeling about it because it is so important historically, and it gives me the opportunity to try to find ways to make it more important to the citizens of this state and to the United States. So, it gives me an initiative to want to push and make things better, and modernize things better. It gives me a drive to want to do it better, make it better, and make it larger, and make people realize how important it is. It is very important to everybody.
McCreary wants to make a difference, and make sure that Los Angelinos recognize their early roots.