Marines get an “at home” feeling at most bases when they see streets and locations named in honor of well-known Marines or battles.
Names such as Tarawa, Bougainville and Lejeune are seen on street signs or in housing areas throughout Marine Corps installations.
Camp Pendleton, however, may confound and confuse many Marines with such unfamiliar names as Pulgas or Horno. Remaining true to the heritage of this historic land, officials of this vast training base decided in 1942 to keep the names given to geographic locations by Spanish explorers and their descendants.
It was common practice for Catholic missionaries to name a point of arrival or a rest stop for the patron saint whose holy day coincided with the time they arrived. Thus, a majority of Camp Pendleton locations can be traced to Spanish padres and explorers who traveled Southern California in the late 18th century. Examples include:
Cristianitos: Spanish priests of the Portola-Serra expedition, as they made their northward trek through the base in 1769 to Northern California, named this area. The site of their encampment was named after St. Apollinaris, but due to the fact that the priests conducted California’s first Christian baptisms for two dying Indian infants, the soldiers referred to it as “Los Cristianitos,” or the little Christians. Today, the baptismal site is a California Historical Site.
Las Pulgas: On July 21, 1769, Father Crespi with the Portola-Serra expedition camped at the site where Las Pulgas is today. Admiring the wild Castilian roses that grew in the canyon, he named the place La Canada de los Rosales (Rose Canyon). The name didn’t stick, however, because years later, soldiers accompanying a survey party for the San Luis Rey Mission camped in the same location and were constantly bothered by fleas (las pulgas). The tiny pests made a stronger impression than the physical beauty of the area.
Las Flores: The way station or asistencia to Mission San Luis Rey was established in 1827 near what is today the Las Pulgas exit to Interstate 5. Seeing wild roses and flowers at the mouth of the canyon and remembering the name given by Father Crespi years earlier, the name Las Flores, meaning “the flowers,” was given to the area.
Chappo: The name is believed to be derived from the word chapala, which was the thick undergrowth found in the area.
Horno: This is the Spanish word for the clay oven or kiln used by early settlers. Camp Horno is nestled below the coastal mountains, which block the cooling ocean breezes. As any Marine stationed there can attest, it can get hot as an oven in the summer.
San Onofre: (The grammatical accent is on the “no.”) In keeping with the Padres’ tradition of naming areas after patron saints, this area was named after the obscure Egyptian, St. Onuphrius.
San Mateo: This area was named after St. Matthew — a saint whose name was a favorite with the Catholic missionaries.
DeLuz: An Englishman by the name of Luce kept a corral of horses in the area north of the village of Fallbrook. The Spanish-speaking neighbors knew it as Coral de Luz, which was later shortened to the name we use today.
Lake O’Neill: This is a man-made lake created for the irrigation of the fields on Rancho Santa Margarita in the late 1800s. It is named for Richard O’Neill, who managed the ranch and later became part owner.
Vado Del Rio: At one time the Margarita River was much deeper and wider. Small trading boats actually sailed up the river from the ocean to trade goods behind the Ranch House. A bridge was constructed so that travelers could easily cross the river, thus Vado Del Rio means “river crossing,” since it overlooks the bridge over Basilone Road.