Vital Coronado history on sale for $100K

Historians: "Holy Grail" of Coronado may be lost

SAN DIEGO - A vital part of Coronado’s history is on sale for $100,000.

Local historians are concerned a box of historical documents -- which date back to the 1800s -- could be lost to San Diego forever.

“This is really the holy grail of Coronado and it would be a sin to see it go somewhere else,” said Joe Ditler, a Coronado historian.

10News got a look at this box of yellowed papers. It includes the earliest known map of Coronado and hand-written letters and drafts that led to Coronado’s final deed.

The documents are currently on loan to the Coronado Public Library. The library’s director, Christian Esquevin, told 10News what it was like to touch history. Back when these papers were made, Coronado didn’t even have a name.

“Once upon a time, it had no name. [Coronado] was just called ‘The Island,’ or ‘The Peninsula,’” said Esquevin. “[The papers] trace all the owners -- and there were several of them -- with old fashioned names like Bezer Simmons or Archibald Peachey.”

The papers outline all the wheeling and dealing that took place through the Mexican-American War and the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Creek.

The rare documents collector who owns the papers has now put them up for sale. Ditler describes the worst case scenario: The seller could grow impatient, split the documents into pieces and sell them to private collections. Many of those collections would likely be off the island of Coronado.

“To see it go somewhere else, to see the box broken up and sold piece-by-piece, to see it disappear into a private collection… It really would not be able to benefit future generations,” Ditler said.

Esquevin has spent the last year examining the documents while they have been on loan in the library. During this time, he's uncovered new insights into Coronado’s already-storied past. He describes the potential loss like this: “It’s like the Declaration of Independence, or the U.S. Constitution. What if they were in Canada instead of the U.S.?”

Somewhat ironically, back in the 1880s, Coronado itself was purchased by Babcock and Story for $110,000. Now the island’s history is on sale for a similar price.

“We’re very hopeful that someone will step forward and will write a check for $100,000,” Ditler said. “It’s a lot of money to me, but maybe it’s not a lot of money to you.”

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