Oakland Heritage Alliance News, Vol.1 No.1 Spring, 1981, Pg. 7, author unknown By P. Mendelsohn, 9/02 Temescal Creek- A History Vignette Flowing down from four distinct branches in the hills of Oakland north of Piedmont, Temescal Creek is rich in the history and folklore of the City's past. Nearly 1500 years ago, a peaceful group of Indians, known now as the Costanoans, settled in the East Bay area. A tribelet of these people formed a village near the present junction of Telegraph and Claremont Avenues. There, they built sweathouses, or temescals, as the Spanish later called them-solid structures of sturdy poles, made air-tight by thick slabs of mud. Around a roaring blaze within these huts some fifty people would dance in a great frenzy, their bodies becoming living furnaces of heat and sweat. When near collapse from their exhausting ritual, the dancers would flee from the huts and dive into the cold stream. From these sweathouses, Temescal Creek derived its name. In 1770 Spanish explorers arrived in the Bay Area, and in 1820, much of the area now called Alameda and Contra Costa counties was deeded by the Spanish officials to Don Luis Maria Peralta as a reward for military services to the government. One of Peralta's sons, Vicente, built an adobe at the present site of 5521 Vicente Street. Temescal Creek became a source of water for his horses and fish for his table. Americans, drawn by the lure of redwood timber in the Oakland Hills, soon ended the bucolic life of the Peraltas. In the 1850's. the creek which slaked the thirst of the don's horses became a source of water to the neighborhood growing up near the stream. Water flowing down from the creek percolated into the ground to feed the many wells dotting the countryside. During the 1860's, abandoned wells were turning into cesspools, causing contamination of active wells nearby. The need for clean drinking water soon became urgent for the citizens of Oakland. In 1866, the Oakland and Alameda Water Company began damming Temescal Creek to, "conduct the water of Temescal Creek to the City of Oakland" for human consumption and fire-fighting purposes. The Lake Temescal Reservoir held one of Oakland's principal water supplies for well over fifty years, until Mokelumne River water began flowing through Oakland's water mains. Temescal Creek is a natural -and vital-link with Oakland's past.

Used: William F. Boardman

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