Coffee with Joan graphic

Coffee With Joan 3-24-2022

Coffee With Joan

Joan Sullivan is a Artist, Historian & Author. She is a classically trained artist who discovered a love of history through painting who produced “Picture the Past,” a monthly show featuring local ranches and other areas of historical interest which aired locally for over 10 years. Find out more at

March 26, 2022

Mission Bells

My daughter, Lynne, and I travel northward on Highway 101, El Camino Real, to pick up the Estero Bay News in King City every other week. The drive gives us an opportunity to enjoy the California landscape along the way.  

A mission bell sign lining the historic EL Camino Real.

On our journey we pass the mission bells placed at intervals on both sides of the freeway northward. When were the bells placed along the highway, and why, has intrigued me on these trips? 

A little research produced the information I wanted to know to wit. The 15- foot cast iron bells were placed one to two miles apart along both sides of the highway from Los Angeles to San Francisco in the year 2004. They were placed at intervals to mark the Mission Trail. 

The idea to create a Mission Trail with the bells began with Anna Pitcher in 1892.  Mrs. A.S.C. Forbes, a member of the California Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1905 did the follow up. 

In 2009, new Mission bells replaced the original bells along the freeway.    

Today the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) takes care of the bells maintaining their position and structure.   

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