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

By Rufus K. Porter

Again we turn to the letters of Rufus K. Porter to the editor of the San Francisco Bulletin, for news of San Diego. Porter, a Spring Valley pioneer, continued his coverage of local news even after the Union started in the autumn of 1868. In the following items he chronicles the passing of prominent residents of both San Diego and Baja California.

Our San Diego correspondent under date of December 22d, (1869) writes:

Death has been busy among the old and noted citizens of this county and Lower California. Don Matias Moreno, for some time Comandante, (sic) or Gefe, (sic) of the frontier of Lower California, died suddenly at his Guadalupe Rancho formerly owned and improved by the late Juan Bandini. Don Matias started for the City of Mexico some months ago and took with him a good many documents from the citizens of the southern frontier in order to lay them before the Mexican Government. He also took plenty of money from all parties interested, as without money but very little can be done in any government. He was struck with paralysis in the city and his life despaired of, but having the best of medical advice and the best of attention, he so far recovered as to return here with his wife and children, who went to the city to take care of him. He spoke confidently of his ultimate recovery, and was very prudent in his eating and drinking, as he generally was, even in good health. He went to Guadalupe, some 70 miles from here, and there he was attacked and fatally. For the past 30 years the deceased had more influence with the La Paz authorities than any other man outside the Territory, and was probably the cause of more bloodshed than any other man in California. While he remained safely in San Diego, and was generally respected here, his letters and emissaries were playing the very deuce among the Mexicans below the line. He was the cause of the murder of General Castro beyond a doubt, and his representations to the authorities at Mazatlan caused the defeat and flight of Esparza, whose greatest crime was that he would not tolerate thieves, murderers and robbers in that portion of the Territory under his command. His life was an eventful one, and his autobiography would be one of the most interesting of modern times, and I am inclined to the opinion that such a document exists among his papers.

Another Mexican, well known to all whaling Captains who have visited the bay of San Quentin, (sic) Lower California, during the past forty years, Don Jose Espinosa, recently departed this life in a very foolish manner.

He dried a great deal of the fruit which grows on the famous ex-Mission of Santo Domingo, such as figs and grapes. Coyotes are very destructive near the Mission, and to kill off some of the venturesome scamps strychnine had been put in some meat, and the meat put carefully on boards near the house. Afterward the same boards were used to dry figs, and of course poor old Espinosa was the first one who ate some of the dried figs with poison on them. Many a barrel of fine wine I have bought of the old gentleman, and much of his fruit was disposed of among my workmen at the San Quentin (sic) salt works.

In New San Diego several deaths have occurred within a few days, and generally very suddenly. Dr. Chas. De Wolf died suddenly of paralysis a few days ago, and persisted even to the very last in bequeathing his remains to anatomists for dissection. Mrs. De Wolf has carried out his wishes, as I understand. He was an eccentric man, very benevolent, and even tender hearted where he took a fancy; but a bitter, unrelenting enemy when he though himself injured. Mr. A. E. Horton and Dr. De Wolf were bosom friends when the latter first came to San Diego, but from some misunderstanding which no outsider can understand, they became sworn enemies as far as De Wolf was concerned, and he did everything he possibly could to injure Horton.