The Journal of San Diego History
January 1958, Volume 4, Number 1
Jerry MacMullen, Editor

DON LUIS SERRANO drove a stage-coach between Old Town and Los Angeles in the 1860s. In 1933, when he was 87, he was inter- viewed by Albert G. Davis, son of the noted William Heath Davis, and the interview notes were given to George W. Marston for the San Diego History Center’s files. Don Luis’ story is as follows:

“Frank Shaw and I were the drivers for Seeley’s stages. We left at seven a.m., one from here and the other from Los Angeles; the distance was then 145 miles. We drove four horse Concord coaches. The office was in the Bandini House, although in later years it was moved, with barns and equipment, to New Town. The first stop and change of horses was at Oceanside, the second at Capistrano, the third and last at Santa Ana. The trip took twelve hours. The horses were tough mustangs, about half-broken, and as soon as they were hitched we were off on a run. Shaw and I would meet at San Luis Rey, and always saluted each other with a vigorous crack of our whips. I drove two years without an accident, due no doubt to the efficacy of prayer. I don’t think Shaw had so much faith in prayer, as he had mishaps. The most serious one was the robbery of the Wells, Fargo & Co. strong box.

“Shaw was proceeding along a new road which he thought he would try, thereby, he thought, saving a few miles. I had the laugh on him, because the robbers made him wait a while before proceeding. The loss must have been considerable, as Shaw remarked to the attendant when the box was handed to him at the office, as it had been far heavier than usual. The drivers never knew how much they carried.”


Speeding was a problem

As evidence of the fact that speeding in our streets is not a new problem, the following letter appeared in the San Diego Union for April 1, 1881. The correspondent was a visitor who had departed, perhaps in some haste.


“Editor Union: It may sometime be a question of life or death in your city if serious results flow from the practice of fast driving and riding now all too common in San Diego. If there is a law regarding such recklessness, I suggest that it be enforced. I am moved to write you this chiefly for the reason that I saw a woman and her child who had a narrow escape the other evening from being run over by a reckless horseman, and to warn others before it is too late. It is a pretty pass your city has come to if such recklessness is allowed to go unrebuked.”

[the following came after obit column but seems to go better here]


A DISMAL VIEW OF OLD TOWN was taken by the French explorer Capitaine A. Duhaut-Cilly, who visited here in 1827 and called the harbor the best in all of California. Ashore, his enthusiasm waned, and he described the Presideo as “A sad place … the saddest of all we visited in California, except San Pedro. It is a shapeless mass of houses, all the more gloomy because of the dark color of the bricks of which they are rudely constructed. Under the presideo on a sandy plain are seen thirty or forty scattered houses of poor appearance and a few gardens badly cultivated.”

(Smythe: History of San Diego, 134)