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Esselen Indians --- Tassajara - Tass History - Photos - Tass pre ZC photos

Mural of an Indian Legend at Tassajara
and a painting on a rock
Info on them below

The Tassajara Hot Springs Legend (from the mural)

   There once was an Indian chief who was all powerful. He was the favorite of the Sun God that ruled the universe, and from this deity received his powers. So supernatural was he that he could hear the grass grow and see his enemies and game a day's travel away. The chief had a young sister who was very dear to his heart and when she became stricken with a strange malady, the hills and dales were ransacked for herbs by the medicine man for a cure. Everything failing, the brother started her on a trip to the big water, hoping that the ocean would help her. By the time Tassajara Creek was reached, the sister had failed so much that she could not go further. All powers of the chief had failed and her life was ebbing slowly. Finally in desperation he prayed to his Sun God, offering his own body as a sacrifice. He fell prone on the ground. Although it was mid-day the sun was soon obscured and the earth became dark. The body of the chief stiffened and he grew rigid and was turned to stone. As he dissolved into a mass of rock, hot tears poured forth. The sister fell prostrate over the sacrifice, and was soon covered with hot tears of her sorrowing brother. When she rose, she was completely cured. The news of the miracle spread among the Indian tribes of California, and every year the lame, the halt, and the blind wend their weary way to bathe in the hot waters which pour from the rock where the chief died.

The mural

The Legend on the Mural

The Chief

The Chief's Sister


Young Indian woman painted on a rock up the road by the creek near Tassajara

photos by Hiroyuki Ikushima June 2017 and thanks to Leslie James for seeing it was done. - dc




  Machine generated alternative text:

above are four old photos from Marilyn McDonald's Tassajara History book

This is no longer there. Early 20th century

On the mural from the 1984 Wind Bell Vol.1 (spring) article on rebuilding the baths quotes Tassajara historian Marilyn Doyle (McDonald). That article also says she provided Tassajara with photographs which must mean good quality copies. She wrote (full quote here):

During the summer season of 1958, a young waitress, Annemarie Brunken, had been painting watercolors of different scenes around the Springs. Frank Sappok asked if she would paint a mural on the remaining wall of the plunges. Annemarie found a poem at the library that she used for the legend that accompanies the mural.

In Gene DeSmidt's story of finding Indian bones at Tassajara, he tells of taking two women of Esselen Indian descent to see the mural - Loretta Oscobar Wyer and Ann Comilos.

We decided to walk down to the lower barn to the painting of the Indian legend of how the Tassajara hot springs started. These two women got a kick out of the artist's rendering of feather head dresses, loin cloths, and body shapes. They also disagreed about what each of their elders said about the hot springs issuing forth from the maiden's hot tears or hot blood. Loretta said that her grandfather told her many stories.

So one had heard hot tears and the other had heard hot blood from their elders. Like Gene in this piece, we tend to say that it was the maiden's tears but the story relates that the tears came from the stone that once was the chief, To me there are two important points in that paragraph. One is that it establishes that the legend is based on actual Esselen Indian legend and the other is to point out that the details are all wrong - what they wre wearing and the body shapes. - DC

The Story of Indian Bones (found at Tassajara) PDF - Gene deSmidt   in the Winter 1995 Wind Bell - read it on his site in the Tassajara Project section.

From a DC interview with former owner of Tassajara (1960-1966) Bob Beck

What’s the history of the face painted on the rock when you’re driving out – not far up the road on the right?

BB: That was done by a man who was an illustrator for Ladies’ Home Journal and things like that.

DC: Any Indian connection?

BB: No. But they had asked him to paint that. There used to be two Indians, an Indian chief and an Indian maiden, and only the maiden still remained. The other rock had come off and rolled down the creek. It was done maybe in 1920 or something. He was a famous illustrator for these magazines. I can’t remember his name but he was a famous artist.

DC: You mean he got paid for this?

BB: He came there – I don’t know if he was a guest of the Quiltys or what but he came and painted these. And then at various times the Indian woman has been repainted. I can almost remember the name of the artist. His brother was also an artist. They were quite famous.

DC: What about the painting of the legend of the baths? That’s the one somebody told me – somebody told me this summer that was done by some real Indian who was a real legend. I said I don’t think so.

BB: No. The legend was – I don’t know where it came from, but the piece itself and the illustration of the Indian standing there and then the – I guess it was the maiden whose tears made the Tassajara water. Because he was killed or something. It was all written out but it was written by a woman who worked there for the Sappoks. She had heard the legend and she was an aspiring artist or something so she painted this and then wrote it all out. And she was someone who worked in the kitchen or something like that. And then it was removed.

DC: We cut it out from the wall in the old baths when they were torn down because of fear of that big rock falling, because the geologists told us it was not stable. It’s down in the lower barn, or somewhere down there. It might be in one of the hallways.