October 1, 1961
EFFORTS TO PATCH UP our “Historical Blind-Spot” no doubt are going to take a lot more time.
From the time that the Herald suspended publication on April 7, 1860, until the Union began on October 10, 1868, San Diego was without a newspaper — a fact which has brought sorrow and frustration to historians, for the period, of course, took in the entire Civil War. The only printed word about San Diego appears to have been in the letters written to the Bulletin, in San Francisco, by Capt. Rufus K. Porter. There is a scrap-book of these letters in the library of the Serra Museum; unhappily, many of them are un-dated, not even the year being given.
The solution would appear to be a complete search of the Bulletin files, and this is not as easy as it sounds. The Bancroft Library of the University of California has all of the Bulletin on microfilm, and as members of the staff have found themselves in Berkeley, they have been pecking away at these files.
The results have not been too satisfactory. The last identifiable item in the file for 1860 is “Letter from San Diego — From a regular Correspondent” and is late in May. From then on until the end of 1860, however, there appear from time to time letters from various other places, which appear to be in Porter’s style. These letters have date-lines which include Mazatlan, San Blas, Manzanillo and Mexico City to the south, Stockton, Washoe, and Salem, Ore., to the north, and Fort Buchanan, A.T., to the east. Taken in consideration with the absence of San Diego letters, it would appear that the Bulletin’s local “stringer” had taken to the road.
Anyhow, the Bulletin files from Dec. 31, 1860 and on for another eight years, await the attention of researchers having spare time in Berkeley.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY’S OWN “GOLD RUSH” was of sufficient importance to attract the notice of San Francisco newspapers, both editorially and in the matter of advertising. An advertisement for the Coast Line Stage Company in the Daily Alta California for March 26, 1870, is captioned “For The San Diego Gold Mines” and announces that the company’s southbound stage would leave Gilroy “. . . on to Los Angeles via Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and
San Buenaventura (now just plain Ventura) and at Los Angeles would connect with a stage for San Diego’s gold mines.
For the benefit of those doing research on the Julian country, the Alta carried Page One stories about Julian, in its issues of March 24, 25 and 26, 1870. The California State Library has these files on microfilm, and they are available to public lbraries on an inter-library loan basis.
WAS COPPER MINED IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY? An item in the Union for Nov. 29, 1881, lists the cargo being rounded up by A. Wentscher, local merchant, for the German bark Jupiter. In addition to wheat (no longer produced in this county, incidentally) the largest single item of cargo is listed as 180,000 pounds of copper ore.
IS THERE A YACHTING HISTORIAN in the house? Spiro Bennis, according to the Union for June 3, 1881, was, as of that date, building a yacht “. . . on Fourth street”. The yacht, we are told, was 25 feet on the keel, and had “. . . a capacity of seven tons”. This raises interesting questions – such as, how many yachtsmen to a ton? And just who was Spiro Bennis? He is not in the 1886 City Directory, which is the earliest one, although there is a Marco Bennis, who is listed as the proprietor of the Railroad Coffee Saloon at Fifth and J streets; he was a native of Austria, and lived on the premises. If Spiro built San Diego’s first yacht, why are not our local yachtsmen putting up a bronze plaque “. . . on Fourth Street” to mark the site?
HART HOOK & LADDER NO. 2 continues to be a tantalizing mystery. This volunteer company was located in the wilds of Logan Heights and is alleged to have been made up of young men who, when not going to fires, were two-fisted drinkers and, moreover, played a wicked game of poker. Efforts to find photographic or other records have turned up, so far, only a faded invitation to their Grand Ball, in 1884. Even the public benefactor who no doubt gave them at least their their belts and helmets is unidentified. The City Directory grudgingly admits that A. Hart, real estate dealer, lived at Twenty-first and E, but fails to connect him with the hook-and-laddermen of Twenty-sixth and Julian. Do any of our members have the answer?