By Clarence A. McGrew
Only a few weeks ago a newcomer in San Diego, seeking a convenient way to an address on Point Loma, asked about the much traveled road known as Rosecrans Street, running from Old Town to the government reservation at the end of Point Loma. How did it get that name? Of course the street was named for General William S. Rosecrans of Civil War fame, who, commanding the Army of the Cumberland, did very well in the early part of the war, but ran up against hard luck later when the Confederate forces whipped him badly at the battle of Chickamauga, costing the Northern general his command.
General Rosecrans was in San Diego soon after “Father” A. E. Horton came here and became so enthusiastic about the place, the climate, the harbor and other attractions, that he decided to cast his fortune here. Fifty years ago Horton told about it to William E. Smythe, who then was preparing his excellent history of San Diego. General Rosecrans met Horton in 1867 soon after the latter’s return to San Francisco, where he had done well as a merchant, and was delivering free lectures in which he extolled the attractions of San Diego. Rosecrans heard one of Horton’s talks and went around to see him and get more information; the General said he would like to see the place. Horton agreed to go south with him, and the two came here by steamer, hired a couple of wagons and the horses to draw them, one for the passengers, the other for supplies. They went first to Tijuana, thence east to the Imperial Valley. The General soon made it evident that his main idea was to find a feasible railroad route straight east from San Diego, or as near as possible in that direction. He said such a railway would be wonderful. And, of course, he was right.
It was many years before the railroad for which Rosecrans had planned actually came into being, for the General had other irons in the fire. He had resigned from the army and was eager to get some gainful employment. Not long after his visit here he received the appointment as United States Minister to Mexico, a post which he held until some time in 1869. Meanwhile, however, he bought a whole block of San Diego business property, his purchase being Lot 70 of Horton’s addition, bounded by F and G Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues. He evidently decided to make his home permanently in San Rafael, in Marin County, and sold his San Diego lot to his friend Horton in 1869 for $2000, “gold coin of the United States of America,” as set forth in the deed, which, incidently, was notarized by E. W. Morse, one of San Diego’s civic leaders of that period. The deed was bought at auction by a local man recently to form part of his historical collection.
Block 70 is in what was once considered a good business section, although business showed a tendency to extend north. Part of the lot was once occupied by Charles S. Hardy’s Bay City Market, diagonally across Fifth Avenue from the old city hall.
The General, affectionately called “Old Rosy” by the veterans who fought under him, represented a northern congressional district at Washington from 1885 to 1893. He died in 1898.