John Grafton is a docent at the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park, where he has a special interest in the history of California horse culture. He also uses an unusual, hands-on style to explore the past. We interviewed Mr. Grafton to find out more about his background, his workshop approach to history, and how he views horses and tack of the early American West. We also asked him about historical inaccuracies in Hollywood Westerns.
Grafton was born in Boise, Idaho to cattle-ranching parents who ran cattle in Oregon in the Jordan Valley area. He moved up to the central interior area of British Columbia, Canada, where his parents continued to raise cattle. Grafton worked for various cattle companies in B.C. until he joined the Peace Corps, and was sent down to Ecuador, South America, where he worked in large animal production for nearly four years.
Upon returning to North America Grafton followed a career in law enforcement in Sacramento, CA, where he became a docent at CA State Parks Historic Site of Sutter’s Fort. Staff and docents there encouraged him to do Californio interpretation because of his background in cattle ranching, and experience in Latin American culture. Grafton retired from law enforcement, and went on to travel, and stay for periods of time, in Mexico, primarily with the rancheros of lower Baja California. Grafton moved to Monterey County where he now lives, and continues to work at various historic sites.