We recently set out to find a mysterious commercial grade kiln dating back to the late 19th century, which was said to be located in the back country of Jamul. The kiln was the brainchild of an exotic Mexican-born lady named Maria Amparo de Ruiz, who married American army captain Henry Barton. Captain Barton died of Malaria in 1869, leaving her a widow with two children. Maria settled her small family on a nearly 1,000 acre parcel of his land in east San Diego County and continued her career as a writer of plays and novels.
Maria tried several business ventures on her land including farming castor beans and building a reservoir of water to irrigate the region. Sometime around 1880 she also attempted to gain a foothold in the cement industry. Maria intended to use deposits of limestone that were native to the area in making cement to sell wholesale to construction companies. The project foundered when a German she hired to teach her to use the kiln never appeared and she was left with a kiln that was too small to manufacture an adequate supply of product. High labor and transportation costs doomed the venture.
We ventured out to the backcountry mid April. This trip proved to be quite an adventure as there are no websites with given directions thus far. After analyzing Google Maps and doing heavy research, we decided to head out into the wilderness. Having no reception out here, we accidentally took the wrong trail and ended up on top of a mountain looking down on the kiln with no trail leading down! When your adreneline is pumping though, no trail is hardly a deterrent! Upon entering the kiln, I felt as though we had entered a new realm or old, ancient land. She is quite a majestic structure with a slightly eerie presence. As you can see, the kiln has been left with respect and you will see no grafitti on it. We only hope that it stays that way which is why we will be playing our part in preserving this spot and not disclosing the exact location to the general public.
Part of our trip was planned around the new moon with anticipation of capturing some interesting night shots. We decided to stay into the night and soak up the energy that can only be met once the moon and stars have awoken for the night. The only sounds we heard was the wind rustling across the field and the occassional coyote yelps from a presumed kill. It wasn’t until we began hearing the soft pounding of what can only be described as a deep, rythmic drum that we began to get nervous. The drumming would come and go but we all heard it and agreed it sounded like the style of Native American drumming.
I was able to find an interesting story online that told of a battle between the Native Americans and a family that lived at the old rancho nearby. The natives were said to have murdered several family members and captured their daughters. That confirms that this area does have bloodshed and murder on it. Perhaps the drumming we heard was from spirits of the past. I guess we will never know. You can read about the battle here.
This area was inhabited by the Kumayaay Indians for thousands of years as grounds for foraging and inhabiting. Later, Spanish missionaries would use this ground too for similar purposes while using the Kumeyaay Indians for labor. Since then, this land is now owned by a series of private individuals, most notably Pio Pico, the last Mexican Governor of California.
If you have a bike, you can cover far more ground than on foot. Although we did not find this during our exploration, some bikers posted this photo of an old well nearby that is still filled with water!
Below are some vintage photos of the kiln and surrounding area, dating back to the early 1900’s:
Into the hills we go:First sight of it! We’ve got quite an drop ahead of us with no more path to follow. Oops!Giving sage offerings:I used my trusty zoom lens to examine the succulents growing up top. Such a wonderful touch!I am really curious about these bricks that are everywhere. They all had different names/labels. What do they mean though?There are other ruins of the dismantled factory scattered around. Just keep your eyes peeled!Okay, the sun has gone down, let’s see what happens at night! First off, the coyotes began going crazy which, to me, is an incredibly creepy sound because it is them rejoicing after making a kill! 🙁My friend, Anh, was a master with the glowing nunchucks!This is right around the time that we heard what literally sounded like a deep, distant Native American drumming. It really freaked me out. It would come and go. We were in the middle of nowhere though and hadn’t heard anything in the day. Why now? What could this be? Could it be Native American spirits from the past? Upon my research I did learn that a battle was held nearby between the Natives and European settlers.