The Glory Years, 1865-1899
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Our ‘Innocent’ Lambs Are Sheared
One of the characters in Millionaires of a Day complained that “I had a million dollars wiped out in the crash, and what’s worse, $500 of it was in cash.”
Within six months the population of San Diego dropped from 35,000 to about 16,000. Even at that it was three times as large as it was before the boom. Many did find themselves holding inflated property which the speculators had unloaded when the first signs of trouble appeared on the horizon and while San Diegans were still blinded by the blaze of golden expectations. Being sheared twice in the selling and buying of their own land was an experience most of them would never forget. But the real assets were in resources and climate, and remaining, after the boomers and speculators had departed, were those who had come, as they always had, to build homes, to plant trees and to bask in the sun. As Van Dyke wrote:
“A grand and everlasting crash had been generally predicted for San Diego. That it did not happen, its people may thank, not themselves, but that kind of providence that watches over children and fools, and that, with not one in a hundred either caring or knowing anything about it, put a prosperous population in the country larger than that of the city itself … It is a hard thing to say … but if ever a people deserved utter ruin for ignoring and despising great and valuable resources, it is those people who have made San Diego what it is today.”
There was distress, of course. Public and private improvement work was delayed or halted. More than $2,000,000 in cash was withdrawn from the eight banks and they struggled to remain solvent. San Diegans consoled themselves that much had been accomplished as the result of the boom. Hotels had been built, fifteen business blocks added, a $400,000 sewer system laid, and public transportation begun. The city now had nine miles of gas mains, 230 miles of streets, of which forty miles were graded; an electric light circuit of twenty-five miles; forty-six miles of water mains; twenty-four churches, eight piers and wharves, plus two at Coronado and two at Roseville. The courthouse had been improved and twenty-seven new schools had been opened in the county and eighteen more were to be finished in another year. Fifth Street, the principal avenue, had been paved from the bay north to B Street.
In the county as a whole, the population after the boom was about 35,000, four times what it was in 1880, and more than a million fruit trees had been set out and there were 12,000 acres devoted to raisins and grapes. There was little decrease in population in the county areas, where newcomers had arrived to reside and not to gamble. The passage of the Wright Act in 1887 by the State Legislature, providing for the organization of irrigation districts, brought about rapid agricultural development and within a few years San Diego County had a dozen districts and 10,000 acres under irrigation.
City and county assessments, which had risen to $40,000,000 in 1888, dropped to about $25,000,000 by 1890. At that, they were far above the $2,382,795 of a decade before.
Twenty towns had been started, though some of them quickly disappeared, among them Englewood, in the Sweetwater Valley; Hyde Park, on Point Loma; Glen-Barnham, east of Encinitas; Richland, east of National City; Morena, near Mission Bay; International City, Monument City and Pacific Park, all in the area south of the bay; and Helix, Waterville and Teralta, east of San Diego. La Playa, another subdivision on Point Loma, died, but was revived in later years. The names of other towns or subdivisions survived, but became attached to other places or settlements, as was the case with Helix. Some of the areas settled during the boom acquired other names as the years passed.
Within the boundaries of the city, subdivisions, or additions, as they were called, had reached a total of 103, ranging in size from a few blocks to tracts as large as the original Horton grant.
The San Diego College of Letters at Pacific Beach soon faded and its one building was converted into the Balboa Hotel. In Escondido, where the Land & Town Company had donated 1000 lots for a seminary as a branch of the University of Southern California, one structure had been erected at a cost of $40,000, and it soon was converted into a combined elementary and high school. The first of the major fires that were to take out the boom-time hotels occurred in 1890. The Del Mar resort hotel, which stood alone in a sparsely settled area, was destroyed by fire on January 17.
All of the local steam motor railroads went out of business except the National City & Otay, the Coronado, and the San Diego, Old Town and Pacific Beach Railway. The San Diego, Cuyamaca and Eastern Railway was built as far as El Cajon and its promoters still clung to the dream that it could be extended to provide a direct line to the East. The tracks of the San Diego Central feeder line, from Oceanside to San Diego by way of Escondido and El Cajon, never got beyond Escondido. The Spreckels brothers, John and Adolph, continued to put money into San Diego, in particular into the Babcock enterprises, and Hotel del Coronado weathered the storm.
The depression was well under way when in 1889 a cable car system went into operation. The San Diego Cable Railway Company ran its cars from a turntable at L Street, up Sixth to C and west on C to Fourth, and then up Fourth to University Avenue. From there they were pulled to Normal Street and out what is now Park Boulevard to Adams Street, where a five-acre recreation park was being developed. The power house was situated at Fourth and Spruce Streets. The little cars were painted maroon and white, had names just as did the Pullman cars of the transcontinental trains, and narrow stained glass windows along the upper sides.
The ascendancy of Los Angeles over its more southerly rival was complete. The federal census of 1890 gave San Diego a population of 16,159 and the county, 34,987. Los Angeles came out of the boom with a population of about 50,000 and the county, more than 100,000. In 1889 Los Angeles moved to acquire a harbor, the one factor it lacked for the growth of commerce, and members of the United States Senate Committee on Commerce were invited to inspect a number of projects. San Pedro Bay seemed the most logical site, but Sen. William B. Frye, of Maine, after looking it over and concluding that it would cost more to develop than the value of Los Angeles, suggested that if Los Angeles wanted a harbor the city be moved to San Diego. Los Angeles was properly outraged and a fight over whether a harbor should be constructed at San Pedro Bay or Santa Monica Bay, and to obtain federal participation, was to continue for a decade. A few years later, in 1892, Edward L. Doheny, a prospector who had failed in his quest for gold and silver, sank a crude drill into the ground in a residential area of Los Angeles and struck a heavy upswell of oil. Though oil had been taken from the ground in other sections of Southern California for some time, the oil boom that was to transform Los Angeles and all of Southern California was at last under way.
At the lowest point in the fortunes of those who had banked so much on the future of San Diego, the flume to bring mountain water to the semi-arid coastal lands was completed in 1889. The wooden flume, six feet wide, sixteen inches deep and lined with redwood, was laid in a bench cut into the mountains or on 315 trestles carrying it across canyons and depressions. The longest trestle was 1800 feet and at its highest point it was eighty feet above Los Coches Creek. There were five tunnels, the longest 1850 feet.
The building of the flume was a stupendous task. More than 100 wagons and 800 horses and mules were employed to transport nearly 9,000,000 feet of lumber. In many instances roads had to be constructed up almost impassable mountain slopes. The flume company experienced its own financial difficulties, and at a crucial period Ephraim Morse stepped in to temporarily accept the presidency and to arrange more money and credit for its completion.
During dry seasons the water was to be released from the Cuyamaca Reservoir and let flow twelve and a half miles down Boulder Creek to another dam on the San Diego River, at which point it would be diverted into the flume and carried down the south side of the San Diego River to E1 Monte Tunnel, about two miles east of Lakeside. From there the water was to be turned south to follow around El Cajon Valley to a terminus at a small reservoir. Here it was to be fed into a steel pipeline laid on the mesa for about ten miles and then into the city mains.
The terminal storage, Eucalyptus Reservoir, on a small branch of Alvarado Canyon, was not completed until the following year. A second, known as Grossmont Reservoir, was built soon afterward. San Diegans, eager for prospects, hailed the flume as the most important enterprise in the history of the county and said it assured the irrigation of from 40,000 to 80,000 acres of land.
Bryant Howard, president of the Consolidated National Bank who had taken over the direction of the flume company from Morse, was named president of a celebration scheduled for February 22, 1889. The event was considered so important that it rated nineteen vice presidents and ten scheduled speakers. A parade started from Sixth and H Streets with A. G. Gassen, the grand marshal, wearing a scarf of red and a big red plume in his hat. His adjutants wore blue scarves and white plumes in their hats, and their aides wore yellow scarves. It being Saturday afternoon and Washington’s Birthday as well, most of the downtown area was draped with red, white and blue bunting and flags were displayed in front of houses and stores.
Every organization that could muster a unit was represented, including the City Guard Band, the City Guard, the Grand Army of the Republic, the Knights of Pythias, the Pacific Beach Cadets, the Ancient Order of United Workingmen, the International Order of Odd Fellows, the Turnverein, Atherton’s Commercial College, S. White’s and Schiller & Murtha’s baseball clubs, the Excelsior Rowing club, the Golden Eagle Society, the League of Freedom, and the Red Men. The most popular of the commercial floats was a brewery wagon dispensing free beer to parade viewers along the way.
In the principal address, Howard caused San Diegans to re-experience the hopes of the past. He said the arrival of the water and construction of a railroad to Yuma would make San Diego the hub of territory from South America to Australia, from China to the Sandwich Islands, and from California to Sonora, Mexico:
“San Diego is more fertile than Palestine when Solomon reigned … more than Greece where Pericles reared the Parthenon … one of the most favored regions on earth … with a climate that gives life to the blood, elasticity to the step and bloom of health to the cheek.”
A visiting member of the United States House of Representatives from Sioux City, Iowa, John Brennan, concurred in the long-range prospects and said that when the Panama Canal became a reality San Diego would realize a fulfillment beyond its wildest expectations, and he cautioned against dividing real estate into small pieces in order to sell it more easily. A subsequent speaker, M. A. Luce, however, held out the tempting prospect that with an assured supply of water, land which had been selling at $10 an acre was now worth from $100 to $500 an acre.
The celebration served as a “wake” for the boom. The San Diego Union said editorially:
“The sleepy San Diego of the past, the struggling ambitious town of years ago, the “boom land” of a less remote period, are all things of yesterday, and with today’s sun dawns a new era in our growth. Some decry the boom, but San Diego’s flume is one of its bequests to the present. While we welcome the water from Cuyamaca, can we not at the same time use it to brighten a few flowers to strew on the bier of the boom? With present increased prosperity we shall find that the boom was but a greedy worm that, after a natural period of dormancy, has hatched out into the bright-hued butterfly that will be coveted and pursued by many eager followers of the attractive things on earth.”
The climax of the celebration came when two streams of water from fire hose nozzles were shot into the air, one at the corner of Fifth and Beech Streets and another at the corner of Fifth and Ivy Streets. There were many compliments on the quality of the new water. However, as valves had not been installed, the water was air-locked, and other water had to be substituted. It was three weeks before the mountain water reached the city’s mains.
Before the year of 1888 had come to its sad close, the city’s voters had chosen a commission to frame a new charter which was adopted on March 2, 1889, and approved by the State Legislature on March 16. The first election followed on April 2, and at long last San Diego acquired its first formal mayor in thirty-seven years. He was Douglas Gunn, the former editor of The San Diego Union. The charter provided for a cumbersome, two-house legislative system based somewhat on the form of state and national governments. It provided for a Common Council consisting of a Board of Aldermen, with nine members elected at large, and a Board of Delegates of eighteen, two to be elected from each of nine wards. Both bodies had to approve measures, the mayor had a veto power but no vote, and many administrative duties were assigned to councilmen.
The campaign for mayor was a bitter one, and Gunn led a Non-Partisan Citizens ticket against a Republican organization that was still dominated by remnants of the San Francisco carpetbaggers known as “Gallaghers,” who had arrived as Democrats and changed affiliations in order to gain control of vice and gambling in San Diego’s boom days. Gunn and most of his ticket won in an election where a Republican majority of between 500 and 800 normally could be expected. Democrats failed to enter a ticket of their own. The new form of city government went into effect on May 6.
The same charter extended the city’s boundaries beyond the pueblo limitations as defined in the Hays survey, to once again include Coronado and North Island and all of the bay, to the strenuous complaints of Coronadoans who objected to paying taxes to San Diego. A campaign to “secede” from San Diego was successfully executed at an election in Coronado in 1891.
The years of careless handing out of community lands also were over. An amendment to the charter prohibited the further sale of pueblo lands, until the year 1930, though 43,000 acres of the almost 49,000 acres originally within the city limits already had passed into private hands.
For more than a year machinery and equipment of the California Southern Railroad had been quietly moved to San Bernardino, and the Santa Fe now was dispatching all its trains from there instead of from National City. The Santa Fe officials appeared before a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce and acknowledged the impending removal of its shops and its general freight offices to the inland point. The Santa Fe technically had met its commitments to San Diego and National City, in the bringing of a line into the county and in the location of its shops and offices. But there was nothing in the agreement that stipulated how San Diego was to be served and that the terminal was to be permanently located in National City. The decision was a staggering blow to the Kimball brothers, who had given up most of their land and fortune to acquire a transcontinental railroad terminal, but the Santa Fe was entering serious financial troubles.
Frank Kimball wrote:
“… on looking back over the occurrence it has every appearance of an ingeniously planned scheme, which only experts could plan, to secure a vast waterfront adapted to railroad purposes, with no intention of using it, but rather prevent anyone else from using it …”
Most of the traffic now was routed through Los Angeles and down the coast over the “Surf Line” instead of directly from San Bernardino and through Temecula Canyon. Another season of heavy rain came in 1891 and a roaring flood again tore out the railroad tracks in Temecula Canyon, and the section of the line from Fallbrook station to Temecula station was abandoned. San Diego was left at the end of a branch line. It meant that the town was to experience very little growth in the next decade.
For its brief duration, scarcely more than a week, the storm that struck Southern California and Arizona in February of 1891 was probably the worst on record.
On February 19 heavy rain was welcomed as a guaranty of good crops. Four days later the city was isolated from the world. The San Diego River quickly rose to flood level and hundreds of residents flocked to ride the cable cars to the pavilion park overlooking Mission Valley. A solid sheet of water spread across the valley floor and over the tide flats to False Bay. Every telephone and telegraph line was out, railroad connections were severed and a heavy storm at sea with gale winds interrupted shipping. Virtually everything that had been built in the riverbeds or on the alluvial plains between the great watersheds and the sea was gone or reduced to wreckage.
Bear Valley reported thirty inches of rain in thirty-seven hours; Cuyamaca, eighteen inches in forty-eight hours. The city, however, recorded only 2.56 inches for the storm and 4.77 inches for the month.
In that day the town of Tia Juana straddled the border and consisted of thirty or forty residences and business houses. The storm washed away perhaps twenty-five of them, as well as the trees which shaded the town. Those who rebuilt moved to higher ground, and laid the foundations for the present cities of Tijuana and San Ysidro. Elsewhere in the county, Campo suffered heavy damage and the little settlement of Foster, three miles north of Lakeside at the end of the San Diego & Cuyamaca Railroad track, disappeared. The Lakeside Hotel was nearly wrecked. Seven months later, the tiny settlement of Campo was deluged by another cloudburst which in 1964 still stood as a world record measured by an accredited weather station, 11.5 inches in eighty minutes, on August 12, 1891.
The San Diego River had dropped almost to normal by February 25 and San Diego discovered that it had been the most fortunate of all the Southern California towns. Mojave, Calico, Barstow, San Bernardino, Pasadena, Los Angeles, and San Juan Capistrano all were far worse off than San Diego. Yuma reported that the Colorado River was twenty miles wide at the former crossing. The local militia had evacuated the town.
Two days later a wall of water from the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains passed through Yuma, raising the river thirty-three feet above low water mark. The next day nothing remained but a railroad bridge, the Southern Pacific Hotel and the Yuma prison. The town was gone and twenty miles of railroad were gone with it. Fourteen hundred people had been made homeless. Lakes formed in the Salton Sink, in the deepest depressions of the Imperial Valley.
Late in the year the California National Bank, which had been opened a year after the boom had burst, failed. A federal investigation indicated that the bank’s two organizers, J. W. Collins, president, and D. D. Dare, vice president, had systematically looted the bank; that Collins had been associated with a similar bank failure in Cheyenne, Wyoming, before coming to San Diego, and that Dare was an ex-painter and photographer who bought in with Collins for $7000. When the crash came, Dare was in Europe and apparently never returned. Collins, with his arrest impending, shot himself to death.
Less than two years later in June of 1893, during the “Tidal Wave of Distrust” which swept over banking in the United States during another financial crash and depression, the Consolidated National Bank and the California Savings Bank failed. The president of the Consolidated National Bank was Bryant Howard, who had headed the flume company and had proclaimed San Diego one of the most favored places on earth. The crash also wiped out the fortune of Oliver S. Witherby, one of San Diego’s early pioneers who had owned Rancho Rincón del Diablo, the site of Escondido, and he died a short time later. The Santa Fe railroad was thrown into receivership for two years, from 1893 to 1895.
Wyatt Earp, the frontier marshal, sold out the investments he had made in San Diego with the aid of boom-time gambling, and departed. The magazine The Golden Era, which had exemplified the robust years of California’s literary youth, withered away. It lived only eight years in San Diego, from 1887 to 1895.
Horton had come out of the real estate boom with enough money to erect a new home, his fifth and last in San Diego. Three stories in height, it was at State and Olive Streets and commanded a sweeping view of the bay. Not long afterward his wife, while on a visit to one of her sisters in Washington, was thrown from a carriage when a horse bolted, and fatally injured. In 1890 he married Mrs. Lydia M. Knapp, the widow of a retired Navy officer.
Horton remained a staunch Republican to the end. President Benjamin Harrison visited San Diego for one day on April 23, 1891, and he and Mrs. Harrison were taken on a parade through festooned streets. They passed the new home of Horton which he had blanketed with calla lillies, marigolds and geraniums. The Stars and Stripes flew from the roof and all garden statuary was draped with patriotic bunting.
Bad times came upon him again, and in 1894 he decided to sell the Plaza across the street from the hotel he had once owned. The city agreed to buy it for $10,000 by paying him $100 a month, “during the lifetime of said A. E. Horton.” The payments in time actually amounted to $16,000, and it was this $100 a month on which he lived out his days. His associate in the founding of San Diego, Ephraim Morse, also experienced severe financial losses from which he never fully recovered.
In January of 1892 the Spreckels interests through the San Diego Electric Railroad Company began buying the local steam horse and power streetcar lines and by the end of the year owned all of them except the cable car system. They were converted to electric power by the simple expediency of installing electric motors in old horse cars. The cable car system had gone bankrupt following the failure of the California National Bank.
Those who stayed and those who came were of many types and many classes. In the waning months of the boom a youth named Ed Fletcher in Ayer, Massachusetts, which is about twenty-five miles from Boston, read with excitement letters from his married sister in San Diego describing the wonderful possibilities for the future. The Fletcher family was one of many by that name in that area of Massachusetts. Ed Fletcher was born in Littleton, not far from Ayer, which in 1964 was still a typical New England town of large and old two-story houses, with a little triangular park and surrounding fields neatly squared off with low stone fences. He was one of six children whose mother died when he was four years old. They tried to keep the family together, but after one sister had married and another had gone to Boston to work, the father placed the other four children with relatives or neighboring families and left for Florida in the hope of making a new start in life. At the age of fifteen, and after having saved $126.50 by working at odd jobs, Ed Fletcher purchased a scalper’s train ticket to San Diego for $20 and arrived on September 3, 1888.
The future, however, was not waiting; it would have to be earned in a town that was feeling the first effects of the collapse of the boom. But he stayed, as did many others, and after a few odd jobs, one of them selling boxes of apples from a wagon, became a regular employee of the produce firm of Nason and Smith. While riding a bicycle many miles across the mesas and up into the hills, he became impressed with the struggle for water, and he learned, as he expressed it years later, that “water is king; and the basis of all value in this county is water.”
One of the banks to survive the crash was established by a native of Mechanics Town, Maryland, who had made a fortune in manufacturing by the time he was thirty-four years of age. He was Joseph Weller Sefton. Sefton, his family and a group of friends from Dayton, Ohio, wintered for several seasons at the Florence Hotel, until in 1888, at the height of the boom, he succumbed to the climate and decided to remain. He founded the bank in May of the next year, even when signs indicated that the tide had turned against San Diego. One of his early depositors was young Fletcher, who entrusted the bank with $5. But to a man who loved to drive fast horses and race buggies, adversities were challenges.
The son of a President of the United States, U. S. Grant, Jr., who had served as secretary to his illustrious father, drifted from law to finance and real estate and arrived in San Diego in 1893. He and a brother, Jesse Grant, of Arizona, were drawn into a scheme promoted by George Puterbaugh to bring water from Warner’s Ranch, with a dam and reservoir on the San Luis Rey River, all the way to San Diego, to irrigate 40,000 acres on the Linda Vista Mesa, where land was being offered for sale at speculative prices on the gamble of attaining water.
At the time of Southern California’s boom, in far distant England in the town of Lytham, between Liverpool and Blackpool, during a period of high incidence of tuberculosis, a jeweler named Joseph Jessop worried about the health of his wife and seven children. He subscribed to twenty-one newspapers for a year and studied them to find a new place in which to reside. One of the newspapers was The San Diego Union. He finally settled on two choices: South Africa and Southern California. The latter won out, and the family arrived in New York by steamer and went to California by train, arriving at San Diego in 1890. Jessop left his family in San Diego while he looked over Oakland and the San Francisco Bay region, but returned and decided to buy a farm on Linda Vista. Though the whole family improved in health, there was little money to be made in farming dry land while waiting for water, and in three years, as business began to recover, he reentered the jewelry business in San Diego.
John F. Forward was a grandson of a secretary of the treasury under President Tyler. But there was no money in the family when young Forward’s father died and he went to work at the age of fifteen to help support the family. He became a locomotive engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad, lost an arm in a railroad accident, and faced with a life of service as a railroad clerk, decided to go West, to the San Diego of opportunity. He arrived in 1887 and obtained a job as a clerk in a cigar store. The mayor’s chair was twenty years away.
A search for health, not for himself but for an ailing brother, also had brought a utility company owner from Aurora, Illinois, to San Diego. He was Ira C. Copley and the year was 1881. Nine years later his parents, Ira Birdsall and Ellen Copley, arrived to take up residence. On one of his visits, in 1891, the son read an edition of The San Diego Union and remarked that he would like to own it. That ambition was years from realization, and the newspapers of San Diego were still going through troubles of ownership and finance that had characterized their existence. The majority of the newspapers that started with the boom had faded away. The San Diego Union, which had been acquired by a group of investors from Douglas Gunn in 1886, purchased a rival, the Daily Bee, also backed by local residents, in 1890, and the new publication became The San Diego Union and Daily Bee. Though both were residing in San Francisco, the Spreckels brothers were still investing money in a town which 15,000 persons had deserted, and they acquired the combined newspaper in 1890. The San Diego Sun, that had been founded by Mrs. Charles Taggart, passed through several ownerships and apparently was headed for bankruptcy.
In the winter of 1890 while on the West Coast to visit an ailing sister in Alameda, E. W. Scripps, the successful Eastern newspaper publisher, made a side trip to San Diego, and he later described it as a busted, broken-down boom town. Though he was only thirty-six years of age, he was ready to retire from business and San Diego appealed to him because “it was 3000 miles from the people who bothered me about my newspapers and about their own political or business ambitions.”
The region proved to be more attractive than at first glance and after riding around the countryside for a few days, he became aware of its similarity to the Mediterranean area:
“The climate seemed identical with that of North Africa, especially Algeria. Trees and plants growing about the houses of San Diegans were the same I had seen in Algeria. As I had always suffered from colds in the East, and had been free from them in Algeria, Mexico, Egypt and Syria, it occurred to me that I should have a winter home near San Diego.”
He promptly purchased 400 acres about sixteen miles outside San Diego, which became the Miramar Ranch. A few years later Scripps advanced money to Paul H. Blades and E. C. Hickman to acquire the San Diego Sun, which soon absorbed the San Diegan. And thus he, too, would be drawn into events shaping a new course for the “broken-down” town that had been all but abandoned by the railroad barons.
Agriculture developed and the fishing industry expanded. Immigrants of Italian descent were building their own fleet of ships, though there were complaints that the sixteen Chinese junks in the harbor were fishing out the bay with the use of fine nets. Use of nets in the bay was illegal so the Chinese operated largely at night and with little interference. Large fish were sold on the local market and the small fish were dried and exported to San Francisco. The Chinese fishing camps were south of Roseville, along the base of Point Loma, where they had huge drying racks. Most of the homes of the Chinese fishermen, however, adjoined the old “Stingaree” district and were little shanties standing out over the water on stilts, and, as has been described, backed by irregular streets of the Chinese quarter “where John chatters with his neighbor or gravely smokes his pipe while watching the group of children, with almond eyes and dangling queues of silk, playing in the doorway.” The Chinese also began moving into the crumbling adobes of Old Town, a community by-passed by time and events. They covered the open windows with red posters and converted one large adobe into a joss house, or temple.
In the winter of 1889 the United States steamer Albatross investigated the offshore fishing grounds south of San Francisco and explored the possibilities of Cortez Bank, lying 100 miles nearly due west of San Diego. The Golden Era, in its report on “Prospective Fisheries of San Diego,” stated:
“It is very probable, judging from the rapid progress made in nearly all the industries of San Diego, that the time is not far distant when the primitive and Oriental type of fishing boats which are now engaged in fisheries of Southern California will be supplanted by a type of vessel similar in construction to those engaged in prosecuting the fisheries of New England. It is not to be supposed that vessels over fifty tons will be used, for the present demand … is not sufficiently large to warrant safe investment in vessels of larger tonnage. A small fleet ranging from twenty to fifty tons could find profitable employment off the coast of Lower California and on Cortez Bank.”
The difficulty of keeping fish in a fresh state limited the range of fishing fleets but there was considerable discussion of solving this problem, perhaps by keeping the fish alive in tanks of water, and that long voyages down the west coast of Mexico might be a possibility. By 1897 fresh fish and lobsters packed in ice were being shipped from San Diego by Wells, Fargo to all major cities in the north and as far east as Denver and Kansas City.
The extension of the San Diego, Cuyamaca and Eastern Railroad as far as Foster, about twenty-three miles from the city, brought about another resumption of gold mining activity. Using rolling equipment borrowed from the National City & Otay, the Coronado, and Southern Pacific railroads, it ran trains over a line from Ninth and Commercial Streets in San Diego, through Lemon Grove, La Mesa, Lakeside and to Foster, at the foot of the swiftly-rising hills. That’s as far east as it ever got.
The two daily trains were met by Frary and Foster’s four-horse stages which provided a direct service to Julian and Banner. The two mining districts had been combined into one and by 1894 twenty mines were in operation, mostly under new and stronger companies. Two new ones were opened, the Ranchita and the Elevada. The richest producer of them all, however, the Stonewall mine, of which Gov. Waterman had been the principal owner, closed down in 1893 after having given up about $2,000,000 in gold. Total production from the Julian-Banner mines probably reached between $4,000,000 and $5,000,000.
On the high hills above Pala, the site of the little asistencia of the San Luis Rey Mission and twenty-eight miles inland from Oceanside, rich tourmaline gem stones were being taken from the earth. That gem stones existed in San Diego and Riverside Counties had been known for many years, as they had been found in ancient Indian burials, and Henry Hamilton in 1872 made the first important recorded discovery, on the slopes of Thomas Mountain in Riverside County. Some years would pass before extensive mining would begin and many more rich deposits be uncovered. Red tourmaline was to be particularly sought after by Chinese merchants for shipment to distant China.
San Diego County was reduced in size by 6000 square miles when Riverside County was formed in 1893, and $4,000,000 worth of taxable property and many settlements were lost. The county, however, still contained more than 8551 square miles and extended in width all the way to the Colorado River.
In the mid-1890’s San Diego recovered some of its confidence and developers were offering land and lots and once again comparing San Diego with Italy. A report issued by the Chamber of Commerce in 1895, entitled Our Italy, commented that while San Diego might not be the “Promised Land” of the Children of Israel, it still flowed with milk and honey and how foolish it was for American tourists to spend forty million dollars annually in Italy.
Land developers began to recover some of their courage. The San Diego, Old Town and Pacific Beach Railway was reorganized to permit an extension of the line to La Jolla, which had languished without transportation facilities. The La Jolla Park Hotel, though completed in 1888, did not open its doors until 1893. The last railroad spike connecting San Diego with La Jolla was driven on May 15, 1894, but the line soon was extended 1500 feet to the area of the hotel.
Time had removed the Horton House from its place of eminence, and the Chamber of Commerce report stated:
“On Florence Heights, overlooking the city, bay and islands, is another big hotel, the Florence. The first families fill its spacious rooms. The Brewster, corner Fourth and C, has most comfortable quarters and accommodates large crowds. It is the home of the traveling man. Opposite the Plaza on D Street is the Horton House-the old reliable, everyday businessman’s hotel.”
It was estimated that there were now more than 3,000,000 fruit trees in the county, 2,000,000 more than at the end of the boom, of which about 300,000 were orange and 400,000 were lemon trees. The report continued:
“Our mountain districts are devoted largely to apple culture, but nearly all deciduous fruits thrive and produce the highest grades of fruit, while some of the valley districts, such as Cajon and Escondido, give preference to deciduous fruits with good citrus orchards in lands a little elevated above the level of the valleys. On the mesa land about Fallbrook citrus fruits and the olive take the preference over all else, the olive being more extensively planted there, probably, than in any other district of similar area in the state, there being over 800 acres now growing within a few miles of the town of Fallbrook. Next in order comes the lemon, then the orange; yet this country with the mesas and small valleys near Escondido, and in Bear Valley, produces apples only second to those of the mountain regions. In the district about San Diego bay the lemon appears to find nearly or quite everything necessary for the production of perfect fruit, and hence it is being extensively planted, but not to the exclusion of the orange and deciduous fruits.”
A new subdivision, with the improbable name of Minneapolis Beach, was platted thirty-five miles north of San Diego and just south of the present Carlsbad. Former residents of Minneapolis had purchased 1500 acres, but were offering lots to other settlers from Eastern and Middle states, and special attention was being given to the development of a silk industry. A Japanese expert was imported to superintend the cocooneries and the care of mulberry trees. Women were assured that within eight weeks, by working in their own homes, they could be ready to sell commercial silk for which there were immediate markets.
The 1400 acres laid aside for a public park, as yet unnamed, were barren and there were few to envision what might be done. In 1892 a former school teacher from San Francisco, who operated a nursery in Coronado, asked for a lease of thirty acres of park land to start another nursery. She was Kate Sessions. The lease was granted on condition that she plant 100 trees in the park each year and donate 300 more for setting out in the town. For years she planted trees, mostly from seed, in the park and directed the planting of others along the sun-drenched streets. She imported seeds from far away places, Australia, Asia, South America, Spain, Lower California and New England.
The Santa Fe railroad which had so easily abandoned its promises to San Diego joined with the Southern Pacific to form a citrus pool to control freight rates and they threatened to break the citrus growers in San Diego and other counties of California. It became cheaper to ship citrus from the Mediterranean to New York than from California. Trains were wrecked in the north and San Diego ranchers resorted to shipping by wagon trains. The Santa Fe retaliated by raising passenger rates to San Diego.
Los Angeles became the hub of commerce that San Diego had so yearned to be. The larger growth of Los Angeles, and the prospering of such surrounding communities as Riverside, San Bernardino and Redlands, diverted much of the trade with the interior that San Diego originally enjoyed. As early as 1890 the Southern Pacific was running thirty freight trains a day in and out of Los Angeles. The Santa Fe had never envisioned San Diego County as originating much freight, and despite the belief of Frank Kimball and others, had expected to use the waterfront for transshipment of goods to and from the many ports of the Pacific. For a time some commerce was routed between Los Angeles and San Diego, over the “Surf Line,” in preparation for an Oriental steamship line proposed by the Santa Fe. But this dwindled and then disappeared with the development of San Pedro Harbor.
Return to Books.
THE GLORY YEARS
Ch. 1 It All Began With Father Horton
Ch. 2 Move Over, San Francisco!
Ch. 3 The Train That Never Came
Ch. 4 The Mountain That Spouted Gold
Ch. 5 The Panic That Broke the Bubble
Ch. 6 The Great Tidelands Robbery
Ch. 7 The Day the Town Went Wild
Ch. 8 Why Not Sell the Climate?
Ch. 9 The Big Gun Fight at Campo
Ch. 10 The Discontented Seventies
Ch. 11 The Train That Finally Came
Ch. 12 A Boom Nobody Would Believe
Ch. 13 When the Games Ran All Night
Ch. 14 Our ‘Innocent’ Lambs Are Sheared
Ch. 15 The Town That Wouldn’t Give Up