History of San Diego, 1542-1908

PART THREE: CHAPTER 5: Some Aspects of Local Life

The first hotel of the Morton period was known as “New San Diego Hotel” and was kept by Captain S. S. Dunnells. It was located in one of the ready-framed buildings of 1850, and still stands on the northeast corner of State and F Streets. Mrs. Dunnells says of the town at the time of their arrival:

“The only water in the place was in a well near where the court house now stands. The soldiers’ burying ground was back of where the Horton House was afterwards built. The bodies were later moved to the military cemetery. Some Indians had their huts on what is now Florence Heights. Mrs. Mathew Sherman was our only neighbor; she lived near her present residence. There was also a German in charge of Mannasse & Schiller’s lumber yards. One day Mrs. Horton took me out to show me the great improvements that were being made. It was a party of two men, cutting brush up near where the Horton House stood in later days.”

The first school was taught by Mrs. H. H. Dougherty, in the old government barracks building. The first religious service was also held in the same place, in 1868, by Rev. Sidney Wilbur. A number of the early comers lived in this old building for a short time after their arrival, until accommodations could be provided for them elsewhere.

The “Exposition Circus Company,” which arrived January 19, 1869, gave the first exhibition of the kind at new San Diego. They pitched their tent on State Street, near the New San Diego Hotel.

Joseph Nash opened the first general store in new San Diego, in a building still standing on the southeast corner of State and G Streets, now occupied by H. Kerber. The first drug store was also in this building. Mr. Nash, on his opening day, gave each lady in new San Diego a dress pattern. Among his clerks were Charles S. Hamilton, George W. Marston, and A. B. McKean. He continued in business at San Diego many years, and is well remembered by old inhabitants. He is supposed to be still living, in San Francisco.

The first building erected in Horton’s Addition was the one-story frame building still standing on the east side of Sixth Street below J, numbered 357. It was first used by Mr. Horton as an office, and is now used as a Chinese laundry.

FIFTH AND B STREETS IN 1875. The large building shown in the picture stood on the northwest corner and face south on B Street.

The post office at Horton’s Addition was established in May, 1869, and Dr. Jacob Allen was the first postmaster. The post office was a one-story frame building, on Fifth below F. It was officially known as “South San Diego” for several years. The change to plain San Diego was due to John G. Capron, who personally saw the assistant postmaster-general at Washington, and the manager of the express company, at New York, and had the change made, and at the same time changed Old San Diego to “North San Diego.” The people were surprised when these changes were made, and it was a long time before it was known how they were brought about.

The first public gathering of importance in new San Diego was the celebration of the Fourth of July, in 1569. This was an occasion long remembered by the inhabitants. The celebration was kept up for three days and nights, and “commenced on Saturday last at South San Diego and terminated in dancing and merrymaking at Monument City and Old Town on Monday night, or rather, on Tuesday morning. From the commencement to the close there has been, so far as we could hear, but one idea prevailing—to express genuine feelings of patriotism and have a good time. We believe the people of this city have given more time and had more real pleasure the past three days than has ever been known here before.”

NORTH SIDE OF K STREET. Between Fifth and Sixth in the early ’70s.

The celebration at South San Diego was held in the large warerooms of Mr. Horton. Cannon were fired and there was a procession. G. W. B. McDonald was president of the day, Rev. Sidney Wilbur offered the prayer, the Declaration of Independence was read by Captain Mathew Sherman, and the oration was by Daniel Cleveland. The Union says:

“The oration of Mr. Cleveland was at once calm, dispassionate, thoughtful, and scholarly. Rapidly reviewing the history of the country from its first settlement to the war for independence, and thence on up to the present time, he clearly stated the lessons taught us in the birth agonies and fearful life struggles from time to time of our noble war-scarred Republic; and in setting forth Patriotism, Love of Country, and fidelity to her constituted authorities, as a religious duty, imposed by God himself, and from which no earthly power can free us, he struck a chord which met with an answering response in every true patriot’s heart.”

In April, 1870, there were ten stores in new San Diego Joseph Nash, J. S. Mannasse & Co., McDonald & Co., A. Pauly & Sons, Bush & Hinds, Lowenstein & Co., J. Connell, Whaley & Crosthwaite, Steiner & Klauber, and A. B. McKean & Co.

In May of this year occurred the opening of Horton’s Hall as a theater. In the following July, Rosario Hall was opened, with a ball.

VIEW TAKEN FROM THE CORNER OF SEVENTH AND A STREETS IN 1875. The one-story building in the foreground at the left is still standing. The present site of the B Street School adjoins it on the south.

On April 27, 1871, the Union says:

“We are called upon to chronicle this week the first wreck which has ever occurred in San Diego Bay. During the gale on Sunday afternoon, the “Cosay” bath house broke from its moorings at Horton’s wharf and drifted out to deep water, where it foundered and went to pieces in a very few moments.”

In October, 1871, the city cemetery, Mount Hope, so named by Mrs. Sherman, was set aside for its use by the trustees. The tract contains about 200 acres, and is on the mesa east of the end of M Street.

In this month occurred the first murder in the history of new San Diego. Alexander J. Fenwick shot and killed Charles Wilson, in Mannasse’s lumber yard. Wilson had an Indian wife whom he accused of infidelity with Fenwick. The murderer was tried, and found guilty; the case was appealed, and early in 1873 the Supreme Court affirmed the decision. Fenwick found means to secure poison, which he took, and died in the jail March 24, 1873—the day set for his execution. Mrs. Wilson also killed herself with poison.

In February, 1872, the assessor’s books showed the following list of substantial citizens:

A. E. Horton was assessed for $124,971
John Forster 87,681
Kimball Bros 52,849
Sublett, Felsenheld & Co. 42,156
San Diego & Gila R. R. Co. 41,899
Heirs of Miguel de Pedrorena,   deceased 36,766
Louis Rose 36,330
P. W. Smith 35,700
J. S. Mannasse & Co. 38,566
Cave J. Coots 26,122
Bank of San Diego 20,000
A. F. Hinchman 16,195
Joseph Nash 15,720
Refugio Olivera (Santa María rancho) 15,374
E. W. Morse 14,840
John Wolfskill 14,559
Levi Chase 14,100
Hawthorn & Wilcox 13,465
Estate of José Antonio Aguirre, deceased 21,500
Robert Allison 13,238
Estate of James Hill, deceased 11,616
S. S. Culverwell 11,113
McDonald & Co. 10,165
Juan Salazar 10,000
Louis Hauck 9,099

As an interesting picture of conditions at the time, the following list of business men advertising in the World in its first number (July 25, 1872), has been preserved:

“R. R. Morrison, watchmaker and jeweler.
E. D. Switzer, dealer in watches, etc.
J. A. Shepherd, Notary Public and Insurance Agent.
A. P. Frary, proprietor of Frary’s Addition to New San Diego.
John H. Richardson, painter and carpet upholsterer.
A. E. Horton, proprietor of Horton’s extension of New Town.
Briant & Lowell, feed and sale stables.
J. A. Allen & Son, pioneer drug store.
J. M. Matthias, general merchandise and commission.
C. P. Fessenden, photographs.
The Horton House.
Steiner & Klauber, general merchandise.
Dr. D. B. Hoffman, has resumed full practice.
J. C. Hayes & Co., real estate agents.
Hathaway & Foster, dealers in house builders goods.
Smith & Craigue, wholesale wines, liquors and cigars.
Linforth, Kellogg & Co., San Francisco, hardware & machinery.
Collins, Wheaton & Luhrs, San Francisco, provisions.
Marshall & Haight, San Francisco, provisions.
Murphy, Grant & Co., San Francisco, dry goods.
J. W. Gale, general merchandise.
United States Restaurant.
J. Nash, general merchandise.
Culverwell & Jorres, commission, feed and grain.
E. W. Morse, insurance agent.
Era House, Wm. Townsley, proprietor.
Luckett’s Station on the Julian Road; George Kendall, prop.
Allen’s Lung Balsam; Redington, Hostetter & Co., agents San Francisco.
Gordon & Hazzard, general merchandise, National City.
A. Pauly & Sons, general merchandise.
A. J. Chase, real estate.
Clark & Harbison, bees.
Pacific Mail Steamship Co., C. P. Taggart, agent.
N. P. Transportation Co., Culverwell & Jorres, agents.
Smith & Craigue, wines and liquors.
The Florence Sewing Machine, Samuel Hill, agent, San Francisco.
Grover & Baker’s Sewing Machine, H. B. Hirschey, agent for San Diego.”

LOOKING UP FIFTH STREET FROM K ABOUT 1875. This very interesting picture is a good representation of the main thoroughfare as it appeared some thirty years ago. It also shows that part of the business section of the city east of Fifth Street, as it then appeared.

Major Ben. C. Truman, writing in the World, states a number of matters humorously, thus:

“The bulk of our population are invalids; the rest realize Burke’s description of the French revolutionists. He characterized these worthies as “calculators, sophists, and economists.” The phrase “sophisters” may be justly elided, because our people have all come here with a sagacious provision of the future.

“Apropos of coming here, pretty much everybody has come to San Diego some time or other. In the innocence of your heart, you mention some illustrious or notorious name to a San Diegan; and, instantly, he begins, “When so-and-so lived here,” etc. The stranger is astonished at the range of this inventory of famous people. It includes such names as those of Sherman, Thomas, Rosecrans, Kearny, Magruder, and an endless list of other military celebrities. Wm. H. Seward has hob-nobbed with our citizens, and Old Town is still redolent of the jokes of the brightest spirits that have lived in the land, from “John Phoenix” to J. Bankhead Magruder and his corporal, Johnny Murray. We have the old time people, who used to sit ’round with John Phoenix and crack royal quips. Many of these old stagers don’t believe in their souls that we shall ever have a railroad. They play “pitch” and “seven-up” and look pityingly upon the poor dupes who expect to ever see a railroad approach our bay. They have seen so many fizzles that they really believe that the mighty Railroad King is as big a “Jeremy Diddler” as John Charles Frémont. They have all obeyed the injunction to “laugh and grow fat,” and they are all repositories of the juiciest stories ever told on earth. On the whole, San Diego has a good, strong, humorous, cultivated, and devil-may-care population, which is worthy of the best fortune can do for them, and can sustain the worst.”

Probably the genial Major was thinking, at the time he wrote this, of a few of the more convivial residents of Old Town, who were somewhat noted for their ability to drink long and deep.

Mrs. F. L. Nash wrote concerning her experience in San Diego, during the “Tom Scott” boom:

“A more congenial, delightful class of people would be hard to find. Out-of-door excursions were even more common than at present, and the picnic basket was always within easy reach, ready to be filled at a moment’s notice. Point Loma, Coronado, La Jolla, Rose Canyon, and El Cajon were just as popular resorts as at present.”

Early in December, 1875, a gang of Sonorran bandits made a raid on the town of Campo and tried to plunder the store of the Gaskill brothers. A bloody fight ensued, in which the Gaskills killed one of the robbers, wounded three others, and were themselves badly wounded. (Bancroft says that Luman H. Gaskill was killed; as a matter of fact, he is alive and well, today.) The citizens of Campo hanged two of the captured bandits. This attack was so bold and in such force, that considerable excitement was caused throughout San Diego County. A public meeting was held in San Diego, and a guard sent for the protection of the settlers at Campo. A few days later, General Scofield sent a company of cavalry there, and the trouble blew over.

In February, 1876, little Grace Frary, daughter of Captain A. P. Frary, became lost while the family were moving, and remained out wandering about all night. The next day she was found by a company of cavalry which had been ordered out to aid in the search, asleep at the foot of the bluffs, near the salt works.

The Chinese came to San Diego in considerable numbers, at an early day. From the early 70’s, they were practically the only help employed in the hotels, and, as is their custom, they soon built up a “Chinatown.” At the time of the anti-Chinese riots in other parts of the state in 1877, an effort was made to provoke an attack upon the Chinese quarters in San Diego. A written agreement pledging the signers to assist in ridding the town of the Chinese was circulated, and persons refusing to sign were threatened and even assaulted. The better class of citizens, becoming aware of this, took prompt action. A meeting was held, addresses made, a committee of public safety enrolled, and a watch kept. General McDowell ordered that this committee should have the use of any government arms they might need. These energetic measures entirely squelched the threatened riot.

One of the earliest elements in the rivalry between old and new San Diego was the question of the removal of the county seat, and the seat of the city government, to the new town. This agitation began early in 1869. On June 23d, the Union, which was then published at Old Town, said that “the county is $90,000 in debt and there is not a decent public building in it.” There was a general agreement that new public buildings were needed, but the question was, where should they be built? The contest grew hot. On the one side were the residents and property owners of Old Town, who felt that such a change meant ruin for them, and on the other, the ambitious newcomers to Horton’s Addition, who soon began to outnumber their opponents. On July 9, 1870, the board of supervisors ordered the removal of the county records from the old town to the new. Judge Morrison, of the district court, immediately required the clerk to make all writs issued from his court returnable in Old Town. County Judge Thomas H. Bush issued an order directing the sheriff to use force, if necessary, to prevent the removal of the records, and a posse of citizens was summoned to aid the sheriff, a cannon planted and guard mounted in front of the jail. The Union put it that Old Town had seceded, and that “Lieut.-Gen. Bush, in command of the artillery, threw up earthworks in front of the jail and placed the field piece in position,…. and now the immortal Bush, seated astride of the plaza cannon, his soul glowing with heroic emotion, exclaims: ‘This rock shall fly from its firm base as soon as I!’ ”

VIEW TAKEN FROM FIRST AND C ABOUT 1875. At the left of the picture is shown the old Court House as it appeared at its reconstruction.

The supervisors at the time were Joseph C. Riley, E. D. French, and G. W. B. McDonald. In September, 1870, Judge Bush removed them from office and appointed Charles Thomas, J. S. Mannasse, and William E. Flynn in their places. Suit was brought to restrain the old supervisors from acting, and an appeal taken to the supreme court, the case being entitled Houck vs. French, et al. On January 27, 1871, the supreme court decided that Judge Bush had no power to remove the old supervisors or appoint new ones. In the meantime, George A. Pendleton, the old county clerk and recorder, who had been most active in trying to prevent the removal of the county seat and records, failed in health, and died March 3rd, and Judge Morrison died about the same time. The supervisors immediately appointed Chalmers Scott to the vacant position, and Scott lost no time in moving the records. With a party of two or three friends, he went to Old Town one evening, loaded the records into express wagons, carried them to Horton’s Addition, and the following morning (April 1, 1871) was ready for business at the new place. The supervisors had rented the brick building on the northwest corner of Sixth and G Streets, now occupied by Vermillion’s grocery, and this was used as a court house until a new building was constructed and ready for occupancy. This was the end of the court controversy and the end of the predominance of Old San Diego in the political affairs of the community.

Contracts were quickly let for the construction of a new court house, on a block donated by Mr. Horton. The ceremonies of laying the cornerstone took place on August 12, 1871. The speakers were Hon. Horace Maynard of Ohio and Judge W. T. McNealy. The structure was completed and turned over to the county early in June, 1872, and dedicated with a grand ball on the evening of the 4th of that month, as befitted the first public building in new San Diego. The building was 60 feet wide, 100 feet deep, and 48 feet high, and had twelve rooms, including the jail. It was of brick, finished with plaster. The contractor was William Jorres. The cost was $55,000, paid in 20 year 7 per cent bonds.

The old building having been outgrown, its enlargement and reconstruction were begun on July 19, 1888. It was practically two years under construction, being turned over to the supervisors on July 7, 1890. It is built of brick in the Italian Renaissance style and is a substantial building. The cost was $200,000. It has a frontage of 106 ½ feet and a depth, including the jail, of 110 feet. The height, from base to dome, is 126 feet. It houses comfortably the two superior courts and all the county officials and records and is surrounded by a large, well-kept yard.

GORDON & HAZZARD’S STORE. On the corner of Sixth and H Streets, the present site of the Steele Block.

The source of San Diego’s title to its pueblo or city lands is very unusual. Upon the organization of the town in 1835, it became entitled, under the Spanish and Mexican laws, to a grant of four square leagues of land. The formalities necessary to secure this grant were not completed, however, until ten years later, when Captain Henry D. Fitch surveyed the boundaries of the lands claimed and made a map. This map was submitted to and approved by Santiago Argüello, the sub-prefect of San Diego, and by Governor Pio Pico, and thereupon the lands shown on this map became the common property of the citizens of the pueblo, and the officials acquired power to make grants and did make many.

As this method of acquiring title was unusual, however, there was much misunderstanding, after the American occupation, and the validity of the city’s title was frequently called in question. Steps were therefore taken to have it confirmed by every possible court and authority, which extended over more than twenty years, and resulted in the issuance of the patent in 1874 which settled the question forever. An extract from the report of the commissioner of the General Land Office, in the case of the contested survey of the pueblo lands of San Diego, dated December 17, 1870, will make this clearer.

The presidio of San Diego was established in May, 1769, and the pueblo organized in 1835, but no official survey of the pueblo lands appears to have been made until 1845, such survey having been then executed by the proper authorities, assisted by citizens, among the latter being Captain Henry D. Fitch, who prepared the map of the survey. This map was approved by the prefect, who ordered and supervised the survey, and was also subsequently approved by the governor, and countersigned by the secretary of the state government of the department.


On the 14th of February, 1853, the president and board of trustees of the city of San Diego filed with the board of land commissioners their petition for confirmation of the claim of said city to the aforesaid pueblo lands as delineated and described on the map prepared by Henry D. Fitch, which map accompanied the said petition, the opinion and decree of the board being as follows: “It is admitted by stipulation in this case that the present petitioners were created a body-corporate, with the above name and style, by the legislature of the State of California, on the 28th of April, 1852, and as such succeeded to all the right and claim which the city or pueblo of San Diego may have had to lands formerly belonging to the said pueblo of San Diego. A traced copy of an espediente from the archives in the custody of the United States Surveyor General, duly certified by that officer, is filed in the case, from which it appears that by order of the territorial government of California, the ancient presidio of San Diego was erected into a pueblo, with a regular municipal government, in the latter part of the year 1834 and the commencement of 1835. It is also in proof that said town continued its existence as an organized corporation until the 7th day of July, 1846, when the Americans took possession of the country. It appears further, from the depositions of Santiago Argüello and José Matias Moreno, that in the year 1845 the boundaries of the lands assigned to said pueblo were surveyed and marked out under the superintendence of the former, who then filled the office of sub-prefect, and the two alcaldes of the town. That the lands were surveyed and a map of them made by Captain Henry D. Fitch, since deceased, which map was submitted to Governor Pio Pico, and duly approved by him…


Upon the claim coming before the United States district court, for the Southern District of California, at its June term, 1857, the appeal taken by the United States, in conformity with the requirements of law, was dismissed and the decree of the board of commissioners rendered final….A survey was made of the pueblo lands of San Diego by John C. Hays, in July, 1858, under instructions from the United States Surveyor General of California, said survey containing 48,556.69 acres, or nearly eleven square leagues, and being based upon the map prepared by Henry D. Fitch…resembling the same in its inclusion of the more prominent landmarks, but not covering so large an area as the said map is shown to include by the position of said landmarks thereon and the scale laid down on its margin. This survey was approved by the surveyor general under date of Dec. 4, 1858, was advertised in supposed conformity with the act of June 14, 1860, re-advertised under the act of July 1, 1864, in view of the ruling of the Department in similar cases and the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of the United States vs. Sepulveda, and now comes before this office for examination and decision upon objections thereto filed…


It is the opinion of this office that…said survey, after having been amended, should receive the final approval of the Department.

The amendment suggested related to the exclusion of the military reservation on Point Loma. The scope of this decision was merely to define the correct boundaries of the lands to which the city was entitled. The Secretary of the Interior soon after rendered a final decision affirming the city’s title to eleven square leagues of land, and on April 1, 1874, the United States issued a patent accordingly, since which there has never been any serious question raised as to the validity of the title. It is based upon the title of the Mexican government, which passed to the United States by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, subject to the following provision:

“Mexicans now established in territories previously belonging to Mexico, and which remain for the future within the limits of the United States shall…retain the property which they possess…or disposing thereof, remove the proceeds wherever they please, without being subjected to any contribution, tax, or charge whatever.”

Return to Books.


Main Page
Author’s Foreword
Introduction: The Historical Pre-Eminence of San Diego

PART ONE:   Period of Discovery and Mission Rule

  1. The Spanish Explorers
  2. Beginning of the Mission Epoch
  3. The Taming of the Indian
  4. The Day of Mission Greatness
  5. The End of Franciscan Rule
    Priests of San Diego Mission

PART TWO:   When Old Town Was San Diego

  1. Life on Presidio Hill Under the Spanish Flag
    List of Spanish and Mexican commandants
  2. Beginnings of Agriculture and Commerce
    List of Ranchos in San Diego County
  3. Political Life in Mexican Days
  4. Early Homes, Visitors and Families
  5. Pleasant Memories of Social Life
  6. Prominent Spanish Families
  7. The Indians’ Relations With the Settlers
    List of Mission Indian Lands
  8. San Diego in the Mexican War
  9. Public Affairs After the War
  10. Accounts of Early Visitors and Settlers
  11. Annals of the Close of Old San Diego
  12. American Families of the Early Time
  13. The Journalism of Old San Diego
  14. Abortive Attempt to Establish New San Diego

PART THREE:   The Horton Period

  1. The Founder of the Modern City
  2. Horton’s Own Story
  3. Early Railroad Efforts, Including the Texas and Pacific
  4. San Diego’s First Boom
  5. Some Aspects of Social Life

PART FOUR:   Period of “The Great Boom”

  1. Coming of the Santa Fe
  2. Phenomena of the The Great Boom
  3. Growth of Public Utilities
  4. Water Development

PART FIVE:   The Last Two Decades

  1. Local Annals, After the Boom
  2. Political Affairs and Municipal Campaigns
  3. Later Journalism and Literature [new material in second edition]
  4. The Disaster to the Bennington
  5. The Twentieth Century Days
  6. John D. Spreckels Solves the Railroad Problem

PART SIX:   Institutions of Civic Life

  1. Churches and Religious Life
  2. Schools and Education
  3. Records of the Bench and Bar
  4. Growth of the Medical Profession
  5. The Public Library
  6. Story of the City Parks
  7. The Chamber of Commerce
  8. Banks and Banking
  9. Secret, Fraternal and Other Societies
  10. Account of the Fire Department

PART SEVEN:   Miscellaneous Topics

  1. History of the San Diego Climate
  2. San Diego Bay, Harbor and River
  3. Governmental Activities
  4. The Suburbs of San Diego

Political Roster, City of San Diego
Political Roster, San Diego County