Redlands Juneteenth Honors Israel Beal
By Dianne Anderson
Redlands, not exactly known for its African American roots, will revisit its prominent past at the city’s first Juneteenth celebration, and honor the man who built and planned several of the city’s great landmarks.
Long forgotten, or ignored, Israel Beal’s legacy takes center stage as a top of the line craftsman with his image forever etched in stone.
Pastor Anthony Green said that most people, including many in the African American community, have never heard of the name Israel Beal.
Green said the unveiling of his legacy and contributions has been a multi-pronged, multicultural effort, especially the efforts of his event co-chair, Mario Saucedo, who was friends with the now deceased son of Beal. “I learned more from Mario Saucedo about Israel Beal. Mario had worked on getting the grave marked, and getting the first park named after an African American,” Pastor Green said.
Saucedo pushed for the park’s dedication in Beal’s honor in 1995, and for the headstone, which was sponsored by Redlands Area Historical Society.
The Juneteenth celebration is inspired, but he said it is also a partnership of many city agencies, and nonprofits.
He said they had good support from white philanthropists, who knew of Beal and thought it was sad that a man of such stature could be laid to rest for so long, since 1929, in an unmarked grave.
“There are people that donated to the cause, and the Gallagher family took on that responsibility,” he said. “It led the city to at least place a stone where he’s buried.”
On Saturday, June 16, the First Unity in the Community is partnering with the City of Redlands to host the first Juneteenth. The free event is co-chaired by Pastor Green and Mario Saucedo of North Redlands Visioning Committee fun for the family, vendors, food and a focus on child safety.
The event runs from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. held at Israel Beal Park-Riverview Drive/Pioneer Street.
Beal, who was born in 1848 and freed after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, left the plantation in Jefferson County Virginia. Having served two years as Army Sergeant, he came west in 1865.
“He graded the foundation that the University of Redlands stands on. He was responsible for overseeing the architecture of the building, and construction of the first Big Bear dam. He was responsible for building many of the early churches in Redlands,” said Pastor Anthony Green of the Second Baptist Church of Redlands.
Pastor Green’s wife, Jackie, also a historian, writes that Beal’s contributions had a huge impact in Redlands development. He had bought 20 acres of land on Lugonia, eventually expanding to 57 acres, and became the home for his wife Martha Embers, and their seven children. During the 1870’s, Beal is recognized for developing land, building homes, and grading some 1500 acres of the first Redlands tract, the original Big Bear Dam. In the following years, he planned the 160-acre vineyard that is part of the University of Redlands.
Beal was also responsible for building the original Second Baptist Church in the late 1800’s, which was then located on Orange Street. But, Pastor Green said that too little information was readily available about his legacy, that had rested with descendants, who had long moved from the area.
In his church’s history books, some of Beal’s legacy was preserved, but it was limited to contributions to the church. There was little mention of the true extent of work.
Redlands had several Black pioneers that took jobs for philanthropist families in the late 1800’s, he said. Second Baptist Church also had origins in the First Baptist Church, where they originally worshiped, but later First Baptist Church philanthropists that agreed to pay salary to get the Second Baptist Church started.
He feels that honoring Beal is a major step forward for the city of Redlands.
“The city celebrates a lot of things, but we’ve yet to have the city celebrate our existence,” he said. “The city is in partnership, the city took on the fees.”
Even today, he said some people in Redlands may know that Israel Beal was responsible for some of the area’s revered landmarks, but they probably are not aware that he is African American, and a former slave.
“The [park] sign says Beal Park, but that doesn’t tell you that he’s African American. So, we’re going to unveil a picture of him in stone in the park,” he said. “There won’t be any question about it.”