The Glory Years, 1865-1899
CHAPTER EIGHT: Why Not Sell the Climate?
In California 1873 was a year of frenzied speculation. The Comstock silver lode in Nevada was pouring new riches into the pockets of San Francisco stock syndicates. Everyone, no matter how poor, speculated in mining shares. No rumor was too wild to be believed. Even some of San Francisco’s shrewdest financiers, including the presumably infallible William C. Ralston, president of the Bank of California, succumbed to the promotion of a fictitious diamond field in which uncut diamonds were “salted” over the ground in the Rocky Mountains. They were saved from being swindled only by the belated discovery of a geological report.
Millions of acres in the Central Valleys of California, some of it from old Spanish and Mexican grants but mostly former government lands, had passed into the hands of the railroads and large companies which began to introduce grain growing on a gigantic scale, and as W. H. Bishop, a visitor to the state wrote in 1872, “A man will plough but a single furrow a day on his farm, but this may be twenty miles long.”
On September 13, 1873, the bottom fell out of the stock market in New York. It was “Black Friday.”
Tom Scott, the president of the Texas and Pacific Railroad, was in Europe. He had made arrangements with the leading financial houses of Paris to market $54,000,000 worth of railroad bonds, and while waiting for the negotiations to be completed, he had gone to London to enjoy the city’s entertainment. Not knowing he had left for London, the French brokers tried in vain to reach him to complete the deal and accept the bonds. By the time Scott had returned to Paris, the American economy on the Eastern seaboard was in wild disorder, and the French financiers were no longer interested.
For more than a month after “Black Friday” San Diegans went on believing that Tom Scott and the Texas and Pacific had survived the financial disaster. The San Diego Union’s telegraph stories told of Scott’s success in placing the Texas and Pacific bonds in Europe. Then on November 6, after Scott had returned to New York, came the news that the bonds had not been placed, though there was no reason for alarm because Scott was sure to receive a government subsidy to complete the railroad.
In San Diego, the roadbed construction crew continued grading as if nothing had happened, laying the roadbed across the San Diego River and northward along the shore of Mission Bay. Twenty thousand railroad ties and 1,670,000 feet of lumber had arrived and a locomotive water tank was under construction at the depot site. The San Diego Union noted that new settlers were continuing to arrive in town and “San Diego today is the liveliest town on the coast and her future prospects are as bright as ever.”
In Julian in early December the miners held a jubilee and torchlight procession to celebrate the favorable court decision in the Cuyamaca Grant case. United States Land Commissioner Willis Drummond ruled that the Cuyamaca Grant was limited to the boundaries obvious on the original Mexican diseño, or map, and not to the lines of later surveys, and that the northern boundary was marked by Cuyamaca peak, or Iguai; the Laguna Seca, or lake; and the Cuyamaca Indian rancheria, all of which were some five miles south of the Julian mining district.
The San Diego horse racing season opened at the track in Mission Valley with the largest crowd in history. Ranchers and whalers had had a good year, producing 599,756 pounds of wool, 116,000 pounds of honey, 5344 hides and 40,200 gallons of whale oil. Miners had produced $500,000 in gold bullion. The 187 ships which had called at the port had brought 16,025 tons of freight other than lumber; 6,015,185 feet of lumber including the Texas and Pacific stock, 749,000 laths and shakes, 1,403,750 shingles and 1260 split posts.
Horton’s bank block at the corner of Third and D Streets was finished in late November, adding another touch of elegance to the downtown area, and the walls of the new Commercial Bank block were going up at the corner of Fifth and G Streets.
Not even the announcement on December 11 that the New York banking house of Jay Cooke & Company, which had been involved in railroad financing, had been forced into bankruptcy, could dampen San Diego’s optimism. The San Diego Union said that while most people seemed to look upon the progress of the railroad as the basis for the town’s prosperity, the Julian mines were free to operate with settlement of the Cuyamaca dispute, the Lower California mines had produced half a million dollars in gold, and a new placer discovery at Japa, below the border, was expected to produce as much. Farmers had had bumper crops, and sheep ranchers were delighted with theirs; blacksmiths and wagon makers in the city were working at full capacity, and at Ballast Point the War Department had fifty men at work erecting earthworks 1100 feet long behind which it planned to install fifteen heavy caliber guns that could sweep the bay from La Playa to the mouth of the harbor. The project was to cost $225,000. The first ten-mile section of the Texas and Pacific roadbed was nearly finished, as Scott had promised.
The second day of the racing season had to be postponed because of rain. The San Diego River went over its banks in one day and several hundred people collected to watch the sight as it washed about Old Town and tore at the new Texas and Pacific roadbed where it crossed the river. In the mountains work at the mines came to a halt as the downpour softened roads and wagons were unable to move ore to the stamp mills. Eight days of rain turned the creek in Banner Canyon into a roaring cataract.
Farmers and ranchers were jubilant at the first heavy rains, for it was their guarantee that they would see no recurrence of the disastrous drought of two years earlier that had forced many to desert their lands and homes. But for them and the rest of San Diego, their troubles were just beginning.
As the calendar turned over into 1874, Alonzo Horton, heavily overcommitted, leased the Horton House to Gilbert Lane for five years for $27,000. A month later Sheriff S.W. Craigue was forced to take over the lease and he made Capt. James S. Gordon, then manager of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, its new manager.
The frequent heavy rains that had kept the Texas and Pacific grading crews slogging through the mud for more than a month became a steady torrent in mid-January, continuing without pause for six days and nights on land already saturated to its limit. At 2 o’clock on Sunday morning, January 18, a wall of water came down the San Diego River carrying everything in its path. When the first flood crest hit the river mouth, Old Town was flooded, the railroad roadbed was carried away, and only quick work on the part of some volunteers with a boat managed to save a family that lived on a small farm in the flats west of Old Town. Their house, garden, trees and everything they owned were swept away. Again, hundreds of San Diegans gathered on the high ground to watch the river, choked with trees and stumps and drowned livestock, pouring out onto the flats so heavily that no land showed between the river mouth and Point Loma. Several families in Old Town hastily gathered their belongings and moved out of their rain-sodden adobe houses. Among those of the historic adobes that collapsed in the storm was the Lopez House, one of the oldest. It had been built at the foot of Stockton Hill before the American conquest by Bonifacio Lopez, who was known as “The King.”
The in-bound Yuma stage was nearly lost at Otay when the driver attempted to drive his team across Otay Creek at flood stage. Virtually every road in Southern California was washed out and the only communication between San Diego and the outside world was by telegraph and the steamers. Rufus K. Porter reported that it took him a full day to get from San Diego to his home in Spring Valley, from where he sent back word that he could hear the roar of the Sweetwater River which was three miles from his house. Residents and squatters in the Tia Juana River Valley hastily moved their stock and belongings to higher ground as the river began to rise and high winds drove the downpour across the land. By January 29 the Tia Juana River was eighteen feet deep in some places. At the ford in the mountains where the road crossed the headwaters of the Tia Juana River, the eastbound Yuma stage lost nearly all of its mail as the driver and team barely made it across the torrent. James Hamilton, an expressman, came into San Diego on February 5 and reported that he and his partner for three weeks had been trying to reach Julian with a freight wagon and had been unable to do so, as roads had gaps up to ten feet deep and seventy-five feet wide. Two weeks later the Tia Juana River was two miles wide on the flood plain, and rising rapidly.
At the height of the flood excitement, on January 28, James A. Evans, chief engineer of the Texas and Pacific Railroad, returned after a six-weeks trip to the East with reassurance for San Diego. Evans said all was well as Scott was sure to get the government subsidy and the 400 miles of Texas and Pacific line in operation in Texas was paying splendidly.
As far east as Phoenix, the land fared no better. Yuma was flooded in three-quarters of the town and many houses were washed away. The Gila River rose twelve feet in one night and the Colorado River was three miles wide at Yuma.
It was during the flood period that the no-fence law was put to one of its violent tests at San Luis Rey. In mid-February, Patrick A. Graham, a rancher, picked up a stray horse from his property and put it in the public corral. When a neighboring rancher, J. Wild, sent his ranch hand, George Blanchard, to go after it, Graham told him he would have to pay the 50-cent feed bill. Blanchard pulled a pistol and shot Graham in the neck, critically wounding him. William Blounts Couts, justice of the peace, arrested Blanchard and set the bail at $5000. Blanchard never had a chance to raise bail. He was found hanged to a tree the next morning on the banks of the San Luis Rey River. A woolen gag had been tied in his mouth and fastened with a rawhide thong behind his head.
Near the end of February word came from the Stonewall Mine that nine days of continuous rainfall followed by a fifteen-inch snowfall had brought everything in the Cuyamaca Mountains to a stop. By mid-March the rivers were still running full. A second ferry had gone into operation at the Old Town crossing of the San Diego River and both were doing a good business. A Los Angeles and San Diego stage coach tried to cross the river near Old Town and was nearly lost when the horses and the coach bogged down in soft sand. The stage was saved by quick use of boats and long ropes.
It was not until the end of March that the first freight wagons were able to haul their loads to the mountain mines. Spring burst onto the scene and San Diego blossomed into a solid carpet of wildflowers. Campo sent its rainfall figures into town for the five months of November through March. There had been more than thirty inches of rain, including ten inches that had fallen in February.
While the economic scene in San Diego remained rather quiet during the spring, the town of Banner was a scene of furious activity. New construction began almost as soon as the freight wagons could move through the deep mud. By mid-May two stores were under construction, one owned by “The Count,” of Julian, and another by A.P. Frary and Solomon Shulz. A Mrs. Koehn was building a two-story hotel; three saloon buildings were under construction and an addition was being put on another building. Two stamp mills were operating full time, the Bailey Mill and the McMechan Mill, and a third mill, the Chariot, was shut down for installation of heavier steam machinery. Within two months the settlement of a few cabins at Banner had grown to a community of forty buildings. Its residents celebrated the Fourth of July with a thirty-eight-gun cannon salute, some thirteen more salutes when the American flag was raised, had a parade and picnic, and finished off with another thirteen-gun salute when the flag was lowered at sunset.
Julian had developed into a settled community. By the summer of 1872 it had about fifty houses, three hotels, four stores, two restaurants, and a schoolhouse, plus saloons. The unpainted hotel and saloon buildings of Julian and Banner were not the large structures common to the raw towns of the Western Plains. Instead of the dust of the windy plains there was the mud of fierce mountain storms. There were no big gambling halls, with their ornate lamps, mirrors, polished bars and elegantly-clothed and painted ladies. Miners and prospectors dealt cards around unfinished tables in front of roughly planked bars. In Chariot Canyon the miners lived in cave-like houses erected with rock slabs and which outlasted most of the mines themselves. There were Indian women of all work and the willing Chinese. As in the North and in other mining towns of the Far West, the Chinese were assigned to the most exposed areas and the meanest of shacks.
Schools, churches and family life appeared much sooner in Julian and Banner than in the mining camps and towns of the Sierra Nevada during the Gold Rush. It was a score of years later and a new generation had come to stay and not just to gamble for sudden riches. A hundred years later unmarked mounds could be traced on a rise of ground across the creek that ran alongside the town of Banner. It was a “boot hill” of forgotten men who cheated history by dying of whiskey instead of bullets.
Horace Fenton Wilcox in his recollections said:
“During the gold rush Julian and Banner was pretty tough places, but I reckon they wasn’t any tougher’n most mining camps of that time. Every other place of business was a saloon, a gamblin’ joint, or a dance hall. But on the whole things was pretty orderly. We never had much shootin’.”
The Wilcox toll road had been carved down Banner Canyon, from Julian to Banner, and the rate was $1 a wagon, and 25 cents for a burro and prospector, if they could catch them. Before its construction heavy equipment had been lowered 1000 feet down the hills in what were called “stone sleds.” Joe Swycaffer built a wagon road to the Golden Chariot mine far up Chariot Canyon. The year of 1873 was a good one. The San Diego Daily World remarked that the county was developing into a first class mining district even though not a dollar of outside capital had as yet been invested in the mines.
Late in 1873 Don Juan Machado, of the old San Diego family, came in from his ranch in Lower California with a handful of rubies found in the diggings of Japa, 100 miles from San Diego. In February 1874 placer diggings were discovered in San Vicente Creek, forty miles from San Diego, on a headwater of the San Diego River, and the belief that a large vein of gold quartz somewhere in the surrounding hills was the source, drew a great many prospectors to the area.
As a result of the heavy storm damage to the road to the mines, the County Board of Supervisors hired A. P. Frary to build a new road to Julian by way of San Vicente Canyon. On June 11 The San Diego Union published a letter from Frary saying that he and his crew of twenty-four men had the road half-finished, but warned that miners had been cutting timber in the Julian area, taking the choice pieces they wanted and leaving the trunks to rot on the ground. If the waste of timber were not stopped, said Frary, “there will not be a stick of wood within five miles of Julian three years from now.”
The prominent New Town merchant and civic leader, J.T. Nash, announced on May 14 that he had made a huge gold and silver strike near the foot of Smith Mountain, forty-five miles northeast of San Diego, and later known as Palomar Mountain. Nash said he had opened four veins of gold ore and three of silver. He named the gold strikes Shenandoah, Flying Dutchman, Rising Sun and Fleetwing. Two of the silver strikes were the Black Eagle and Silver Rule.
A few days later the Helvetia Mine Company of Julian announced that it had incorporated for $3,600,000, with its chief stockholders as “Count” Dwarkowski and Solomon Shulz, Julian merchants; Thomas C. Stockton, August Burkhardt and Oliver Sanford, all prominent men in Julian and Banner mining ventures. They said work would begin immediately to install new and more powerful machinery at the mine.
On July 18 the Hamilton Express Company reached Julian with the first wagon load of freight over the new road. The War Department ran short of funds and work halted on the construction of the new fort by Ballast Point. Nothing more was done for twenty-three years. By August work had ceased on the Texas and Pacific roadbed in San Diego. Scott announced that he would make no application for a government subsidy, at least until the next winter. The financial panic and the growing public resentment over the vast land grants for railroad promotions were making the Congress wary of financing Scott’s railroad venture, and he faced formidable opposition in Collis P. Huntington, one of the original “Big Four” of California who still intended to dominate the Pacific Coast from the Columbia River to the Gulf of California.
The Chamber of Commerce in 1874 published a pamphlet listing the natural advantages of San Diego, stressing its commercial as well as agricultural possibilities, to counteract what it called false pictures which “are sometimes drawn by jealous and adversely interested parties, many of whom have never seen, and are profoundly ignorant of, the object of their jealousy.”
The publication spoke of the Texas and Pacific Railroad, as if nothing had changed, and of the proposed Southern Pacific route to Yuma and the possibilities both held for San Diego as the gateway to the Southwest. But the character of the new arrivals would change. The speculators were leaving and in time they would be replaced by settlers who sought not money but climate. The Chamber of Commerce publication took note of this, and stated:
“As a national sanitarium, San Diego is unsurpassed. Hundreds of invalids have been restored to health, or greatly benefited, by our health-giving climate…the late Prof. Agassiz whose testimony is worthy of the highest consideration, after spending some weeks in San Diego, thus expressed his opinion with regard to the climate, at a public meeting: “There is one advantage that I, as a scientific man, may lay more stress upon than is necessary; but I hardly think it possible. It is the question of latitude. You are here upon the 32nd parallel, beyond the reach of the severe winters of the higher altitudes. This is your capital, and it is worth millions to you.” “
Prof Louis Agassiz, an internationally known scientist of Swiss birth, had visited San Diego at the same time as had Scott and the Texas and Pacific officials, as a member of an expedition aboard the United States Coast Survey steamer Hassler. He had collected a large number of sea specimens from San Diego’s Chinese fishermen.
Not all persons in San Diego believed that its future lay with its climate, or that San Diegans would ever be provident enough to be satisfied with less than the glories which they had glimpsed.
J.A. Shepherd, Horton’s bookkeeper, wrote to his relative in England that “it is a standing joke at our expense, all over California that San Diego has lived on ‘harbor’ and ‘climate’ for six years, and at last the people are getting starved out.”
The population of San Diego began to decline. Horton no longer seemed to have the enthusiasm of the earlier days. He, more than anyone, probably felt that direct trains from the East would never arrive. It had been a long way from Hortonville in Wisconsin to San Diego in California, and a success beyond his dreams had been within his grasp, but now it was slipping away. He had sold his wharf and had been forced to further mortgage his hotel. Taxes ate away at the unsold lands he had obtained for 27 1/2 cents an acre just seven years before. In a letter, David M. Berry wrote that “San Diego is bankrupt…Horton is busted and property nearly worthless.”
The San Diego Union carried long lists of property sold by the County Assessor for failure to pay delinquent taxes. From April 1873 to April 1874 the lists included 468 parcels in sizes ranging from twenty-five-foot lots up to parcels of 400 acres. For the same twelve-month period of 1874 to 1875 the assessor sold 336 more parcels ranging up to 300 acres, a total of 804 parcels in twenty-four months, belonging to more than 450 individuals.
The no-fence law was bringing ruin to many cattlemen, and on June 10, 1874, Cave J. Couts died in the Horton House, shorn at the end of much of the wealth he had acquired over two decades. Once a lieutenant in the United States Dragoons, he resigned to marry a daughter of Don Juan Bandini and built one of Southern California’s most famed homes, at Guajome Rancho east of Oceanside. He acquired two more of the original Spanish-Mexican ranchos, Buena Vista and San Marcos, for a total of 20,000 acres, and sent huge herds of cattle to San Francisco during the Gold Rush. But his world, a baronial one typical of the early days of the American period, was vanishing and his burial was reported in only a few inches of newspaper notice.
Despite the new flurry of prospecting, and even though some outside capital was beginning to appear, the peak of gold production in San Diego County had been reached. Though there were twenty-three mines being worked, eleven of them considered very valuable, and there were mills with a total of seventy-five stamps, production was down sharply in 1874. It was due in some measure to the severe weather. Gold brought out of the Julian and Banner districts in that year was valued at only $193,000, compared to the $500,000 of the previous year. The slump in mining intensified and Rossiter W. Raymond in the United States Mineral Resources Report of 1875 reported that “most of these mills are idle and none of the mining operations have proven permanently profitable.”
The depression rolled across the country and slowly settled on California. By the summer of 1875 many banks were in trouble and a run started on the Bank of California, in San Francisco, the most important financial institution in the state. Waves of frenzied people pounded on the closed doors and glass windows demanding their money. William C. Ralston, known as “the man who built San Francisco,” and president of the bank, ostensibly went for his usual swim, and waded into the ocean, and died.
The town that had grown from a population of several hundred to 4000 in seven years and had seen the erection of nearly 1000 homes, now slipped back to a population of about 2000. Horton was struggling to save what he could, and his bookkeeper, or business agent, Shepherd, informed him that it was imperative he mortgage his best property to meet pressing debts of more than $17,000, and suggested that he not bring his niece, Mary, out to San Diego until the Spring as it would add at least $35 a month to his expenses. The Kimballs turned to raising sheep on the National Ranch and set out 400 orange trees in the Sweetwater Valley. Fr. Antonio Ubach in 1874 laid out the new Catholic cemetery on the hill above Old Town, where many of the builders of San Diego’s first boom would find their final resting places. In the same year, in April, San Diego finally received the patent to its pueblo lands, twenty-eight years after the American conquest when assurances were given that all titles would be quickly and properly recognized.
The idea of a railroad was not entirely dead. The issue in Congress was now whether the Texas and Pacific would be allowed to build to Yuma and through the San Gorgonio Pass, and then to San Diego by way of Temecula Canyon, or whether the Southern Pacific should extend through to Yuma, cross Arizona and meet Scott’s line coming west. Huntington, of the original “Big Four” of the Central Pacific, bested Scott at every turn.
A compromise of the railroad battle was in the air, which provided that the Texas and Pacific would build from Fort Worth to El Paso, and thence 100 miles into New Mexico to form a junction with the Southern Pacific, and that the Southern Pacific was to acquire all the rights and lands of the Texas and Pacific in San Diego County and have the right to build from San Diego to San Gorgonio Pass, to connect with its main line to Fort Yuma. As the compromise did not require the Southern Pacific to build the connection, San Diego decided it had been abandoned, or at best, would never be more than a branch-line town. The San Diego Committee of Forty sent Scott the following telegram:
“The citizens of San Diego rely implicitly upon your honor and good faith for the consummation of your oft-repeated pledges. You promised that if the route directly east proved feasible it should be constructed. Fulfill your pledge. The direct line is the only route upon which a competing railroad should enter San Diego and they will unanimously oppose any compromise that will not secure that line.”
Scott’s reply placed the full burden on San Diego:
“Have used my utmost efforts to secure San Diego a railroad line on such route as can best effect the object; and if you can effect it in any better shape than I can, I should be very glad to have you take it up and adjust it with any party, or on any terms that you may think best. But in taking these steps, I shall expect you to relieve me of any possible obligation.”
San Diego bombarded Congress with appeals to fulfill its promises to the people of San Diego, and sent Horton, David Felsenheld and Col. Thomas S. Sedgwick to assist its congressman, S. O. Houghton, in the wearying and obviously losing struggle. Horton and other citizens induced Huntington and Crocker of the Southern Pacific to visit San Diego, in the hope they could be persuaded to put San Diego on the main line. They asked if San Diego would be willing to donate half as much land as had been given to Scott, and when this proposal was rejected, lost interest.
San Diego’s case was summed up in a final and prophetic telegram sent by the Board of Trustees to Col. Sedgwick in Washington. The people saw all too clearly the fate that was rushing upon the town and its port. It read:
“It is the deliberate and unchangeable conviction of San Diego, that the proposed connection north of here, in the hands of the Southern Pacific Company, would be an injury instead of a benefit to us, because:
“1. It places in control of one corporation for all time every approach to our harbor.
“2. Trade and population would be taken away from, instead of brought here, while the road is building. It is now moving from the northern part of the county to Colton.
“3. By occupying the only passes it would prevent extension of Utah Southern road and connection with Union Pacific.
“4. It would supersede construction of direct line from Anaheim, increasing our distance from San Francisco to 650 miles.
“5. It would increase the distance from Yuma by 60 miles.
“6. Experience has taught us that the strongest promises in a bill do not protect us against subsequent amendments at the desire of the corporations. Legislation that fails to require immediate beginning at this end, and construction of so much road before next session of Congress as to remove the temptation to amend bill, is worse than worthless.
“7. Whatever supposed guarantees may be put in the bill making the road a “highway” it is well known by all engineers that the company building the road holds in fact control of it; and no other company can have equal use, or will build parallel road.
“8. Southern Pacific Company one year ago agreed to build on direct line, provided San Diego would consent that it should have the western end.
“So far from a San Diego standpoint: But we hold no petty local view; we supplicate no favors. The interest of San Diego is here bound up with the national interest. We submit to impartial statesmen the conceded truth that the proposed compromise diverts the Nation’s bounty from the original purpose of the Southern transcontinental legislation; deprives all the millions east of San Diego of direct access to their nearest Pacific harbor and destroys competition for all time. San Diego’s natural advantages are such, that in asking the Nation’s aid for the construction of a railroad to her port, she asks it upon a line, and upon terms that will contribute to the Nation’s support and wealth for all time to come; while the compromise plan will be an intolerable and interminable national burden. For these reasons San Diego prefers no bill, rather than the San Gorgonio branch.”
Many San Diegans suspected that Huntington had offered a connection with the Southern Pacific only as insurance against the entrance of Scott, and that as the Texas and Pacific was on the verge of defeat, he was under no pressure to please San Diego. Though Huntington was quoted in later years as saying that “grass could grow in the streets” of San Diego for all he cared, Morse, as chairman of the committee which met with the Southern Pacific people, and Horton recalled that they were courteous and sympathetic but not much interested. They indicated the Southern Pacific was not anxious to compete with water transportation on the coast.
An entirely different account of the attitude of the Southern Pacific was given a decade later in a letter written by Frank Kimball. He stated that Crocker, one of the “Big Four,” had told him:
“You will never live long enough to see a railroad laid to the Bay of San Diego, nor one laid in the state by a transcontinental railroad which we do not lay…I have my foot on the neck of San Diego and I’m going to keep it there.”
Los Angeles sealed the fate of a transcontinental road for San Diego when it and San Pedro gave the Southern Pacific a site for a depot and $600,000 to bring the line directly into Los Angeles through the Tehachapi Pass from the north and through the San Gorgonio Pass from the east. Los Angeles, not San Diego, was left to challenge San Francisco’s dominating position in the commerce of California. By May of 1877 the well-financed Southern Pacific, subsidized with 7,500,000 acres of California agricultural land, had reached Yuma and the Colorado River, and before it stretched the land grants originally given to the Texas and Pacific by Arizona and New Mexico. Huntington picked them up.
Once more San Diegans talked of building their own railroad, as they had planned years before, between San Diego and Los Angeles, or San Diego and San Bernardino, and then San Diego and Utah to connect with the Union Pacific, but nothing came of them. Taxpayer suits were filed against Scott and the Texas and Pacific to recover the more than 8000 acres of lands which had been granted as subsidy. The Southern Pacific was driven across the country to El Paso and eventually to New Orleans.
Though San Diego, in its dream of railroad riches, had not been inclined to pay too much attention to the advice of the late Prof. Agassiz, to build its future on its climate, there soon came an end to the loss of population, and a renewed trickle of settlers were attracted by the warm sun and a mild life. These would be the quiet years, but nevertheless, growing ones.
George W. Marston was beginning his climb to a position of civic leadership. He had left his job in the Horton House to work as a clerk for A. Pauly & Sons and then in the general store of Joseph Nash. There he met Charles S. Hamilton, who also was a clerk, and in the spring of 1873 they had joined forces to buy the store for $10,000. Hamilton gave a promissory note for $5000 at twelve percent interest, and Marston $5000 in cash advanced by his father, also at twelve percent interest. This was just a few months before the railroad bubble burst, but their partnership survived the depression, and in five years they had paid off their debts. In 1878 Marston established his own store in a small wood structure on the northwest corner of what is now Fifth Avenue and Broadway.
The San Diego of that period is best described by Van Dyke:
“The real estate offices were deserted; the hotels had more waiters than guests; empty stores and houses became numerous on all sides. Day after day and year after year the bright sun shone upon quiet streets and storekeepers staring out of the door at our almost unbroken vacancy.”
There were many like Marston and Hamilton who were to look back on those years not with bitterness, but with some nostalgia. Sixty years later Marston was to write:
“The Tom Scott railroad had failed and we were still living mainly on Great Expectations. Steamer and stage lines were in good running order, we had a daily newspaper, water supply was rather scant, streets unpaved, muddy in winter, dusty in summer. It was a frontier town, but not of the western plains type. Rather rough compared to present standards, but having a charm and picturesque quality that is happily remembered by the pioneers. I believe that cultural and moral standards were quite as high as they are today.”
Horton had become more petulant with each disappointment, and leadership was slowly slipping from his hands. He had built a town but not a city. The trains would come but in his lifetime they would not bring the goods of America to be traded across the waterfront for the riches of the Orient.
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