Morgan Hill Historical Society

Morgan Hill Historical Society



Join us monthly for a conversation with a notable contributor to our community and heritage.  This is a monthly interactive series where you can participate in the conversation or just listen and learn. These events are free and no reservations are required. Check our website, sign up for our email list and/or follow us on Facebook for detailed program topics and speakers each month. Beverages and pastries served



Saturday, March 2nd

Topic:            Chitactac, Amah Mutsun and Muwekma Tribes of Santa Clara County

Presenter:     Alan Leventhal

Professor Alan Leventhal is a trained archaeologist/anthropologist/ethno historian with a particular interest in California archaeology and ethnography.  He has worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and as a state archeologist at the Nevada Archaeological Survey-Reno, Nevada.

Alan has lectured and conducted archaeological investigations in New York, Georgia, Nevada, California and Hawaii.  Alan wrote “Morgan Hill’s Regional Ethno-history: The Lands of the Matalan and Unijaima” with Muwekma Tribal Chair Rosemary Cambra.

Alan was a key researcher and advocate for the historical preservation of Native American landmarks, such as the petroglyphs and milling holes at the Chitactac site in Gilroy.

Alan spent nine years in the Department of Anthropology as the Anthropology Lab Director at San Jose State University (SJSU). Alan continues to teach as a volunteer lecturer on topics such as: contemporary Native American issues and advanced methodology and theory in archaeology in the Anthropology Department.

For the last 29 years, Alan has worked as a tribal ethno historian and archaeologist for the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Region.  He has worked closely with other tribes of California as they seek restoration and reaffirmation of their tribal status.  During the period 1992-1998, he was one of a few advocates for the Previously Recognized Tribes in the state of California.

Saturday, April 6th 


Topic:            “A Cross of Thorns” – the Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish  Missions

Presenter:     Elias Castillo, author

Elias Castillo holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from San Jose State University. Castillo was born in Mexicali, Mexico, where his step-grandfather, Jose Severo Castillo, a renowned newspaper publisher, exposed political corruption. As a journalist, Elias Castillo reported frequently on criminal organizations, politics and immigration issues in Mexico and has spoken to audiences at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. He co-authored a chapter in the book Organized Crime & Democratic Governability: Mexico and the US-Mexican Borderlands(University of Pittsburgh Press).

Elias is a three-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize and a former reporter for the San Jose Mercury News and the Associated Press. He researched his book “A Cross of Thorns” using primary sources, including material from little-known church and Spanish government archives. ”A Cross of Thorns” describes the Mission Period when California’s coastal Indians paid a high price for their interaction with the church. St. Junipero Serra, who arrived in 1769, created a harsh and unforgiving regimen that would ultimately claim the lives of 62,000 California Coastal Indians, and devastate their civilization, including the total extinction of a number of small tribes.

Released in 2015, ‘A Cross of Thorns”drew praise from Indian groups and major publications, and now is being taught in classes at the University of California at Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford, Monterey State University, Sonoma State University and Oklahoma State University, plus several California community colleges.


Saturday, June 1st 

Topic:The History of Morgan Hill Mushroom Farms

Presenter:Emily Bettencourt

Emily currently works at two different mushroom farms in Morgan Hill and will be presenting pictures and stories from the past—1950’s to present.  She is also willing to give a cooking demonstration using the mushrooms. YUMM!!!


Saturday, August 3rd 


Topic: Charles Kellogg – The Naturalist Who Sang like a Bird

Presenter:     Mike Monroe

Charles Kellogg was an American vaudeville performer who imitated bird songs and later became a campaigner for the protection of the redwood forests of California. He was born on a ranch in Susanville, California and grew up in the 1870s observing the animals and birds of the forests and learning outdoor skills. He constructed a mobile home, called the "Travel Log", out of a redwood tree and drove it around the country to raise awareness of the plight of the California forests. Its maximum speed was 18 mph. The Travel Log itself is currently on display in the Visitor Center at Humboldt Redwoods State Park.