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Why Historical Societies are Important

By John Lyon, Artesia Mayor

Long ago, a Roman statesman named Cicero summed up what I’m essentially about to say. “History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illuminates reality; vitalizes memory; provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.”

 For the reasons stated by Cicero, I believe that the efforts of a few people genuinely infatuated with history benefit everyone, and that is why I commend the Artesia Historical Society, and their efforts to preserve and record Artesia’s history.

 Let us take a moment to consider regional history. We know that long ago the land in which we now live so comfortably were wetlands inhabited by Gabrielino/Tongva tribe; a group of hunter-gatherers who lived comfortably because of the abundance of acorns, and even closer to the coast, shellfish. Then, Spanish conquistadors and later missions began popping up throughout California, introducing European disease and decimating the native population. The Mexican War of Independence from Spain, which ended in 1821, made this land (Alta, or ‘upper’, California) the property of Mexico. Baja (or ‘lower’) California is still the property of Mexico. Finally, the Mexican-American war transferred ownership of this land to the United States. This type of history is large-scale and covers big events that shaped the land. It’s interesting, but it does not help us truly understand the history of Artesia, per se.

 Not covered by this type of macroscopic history are specific questions that may at times irk us. Why is Bloomfield Street called “Bloomfield”? Why is Artesia High School in Lakewood? Why is there such an abundance of Indian businesses on Pioneer Blvd.? Who built the Artesia Water Tower?

 These are the types of questions that make historical societies important. It puts those of us in the present in touch with the people of the past who shaped our landscape, named our landmarks, and made the decisions that ultimately affect us today.

 Yes, there are problems with the recording of history. There’s a lot of grey areas, and sometimes artifacts and documents don’t tell the whole story. But it is exciting, and it is literally all we have to tell us of the past.

 Preserving history also makes it possible for the past to serve as a resource which we can reference when we make important decisions today. Sometimes people made bad decisions; and sometimes people made great decisions. If nothing else, knowing history gives us the context in which prior decisions have been made. Why did Artesia’s founding fathers decide not to join with Dairy Valley (now Cerritos) and instead create its own incorporated city? The answer to that question is important one, and it affects us today.

 If you would like to know about Artesia’s history, or even find the answers to the questions I’ve mentioned here, you owe it to yourself to check out Artesia’s Historical Museum. Ask the members of the Historical Society. You might find yourself enthralled by the history of our little town. Who knows? You might even find yourself as a member of the Historical Society.

 The museum is open to the public every second Saturday of every month, from 1 to 3 p.m. Otherwise, feel free to call the Historical Society at (562) 865-1503.

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