While the owners of Filoli (the Bourn family) made their fortune in providing gas to the City of San Francisco, the owners of Lachryma Montis (the Vallejo Family) made their mark by building one of California’s first water companies. And, their property sat on the source of this water, a free-flowing spring known by Native Americans as Chiucuyem or Crying Mountain. Vallejo chose to keep the name but translated it into Latin: Lachryma Montis.

General Vallejo was a California born Spaniard who joined the military and worked his way up the ranks until he was appointed Commander of the Presidio of San Francisco in 1833. He was a rising star who saw the end of the Mission era, the founding of the town of Sonoma, uprisings between the Ranchers, the Mexican Government, and Native Americans in the region, and a threat from Russian settlers at Fort Ross. The founding of the Presidio in Sonoma (and General Vallejo’s subsequent appointment of Commander of the Free State of Alta California) was in reaction to the Russian threat.

During the Bear Flag Revolt, Vallejo and members of his family were kidnapped and held hostage for several months until California finally became a part of the United States. Though not really influenced by the Bear Flag Revolt, Vallejo did play an important role in guiding the “Free State of Alta California” to join the United States rather than be purchased by interested European countries. He saw this as the best economic path for California.

General Vallejo and his wife lived at Lachryma Montis for more than 35 years; the one thing that amazes me about these old houses is the number of people that lived in such a small space. While the couple had many children, roughly half made it to adulthood, their second youngest daughter Luisa did marry and have children of her own, all of whom were born at and lived at Lachryma Montis.

Our tour guide speculated that the baby rooms in the house were for the Vallejo grandchildren and not the General’s children. Luisa was the last owner of the house (and lived to be 87-years old). When the State took over management of Lachryma Montis, it was purchased “as is” and is now a well preserved example of life in the Vallejo home.

The biggest attraction for us (read: the child) was the turtle pond. Turtles of all ages, sizes, shapes, and colors happily swam around looking for food as we meandered around the pond. At some point I lost track of how many times we circled looking for baby turtles… and while we were circling the pond, whole packs of turtles followed us in hopes of getting a bite of food.