By Anna Marie Hager and Everett Gordon Hager
EDITOR’S NOTE: No greater service to historians could be performed than that of Mr. and Mrs. Hager, members of the San Diego History Center who live in San Pedro. With their monumental Topical Index, of all of the publications of the Historical Society of Southern California from 1884 to 1957 completed, they have tackled a similar chore; they are indexing that gold-mine of Southern California history, Westways, and its predecessor, Touring Topics. In their wide search for historical data they have been working over the files of the San Pedro Shipping Gazette, which covered San Diego news — with at times rather biting comment — by boarding north-bound ships, and by clipping local papers. Among the items which they have sent for our own files are the following:
December 15, 1883
Capt. Wheeler, of the schooner Serena Thayer, Capt. Peterson, of the schooner Halcyon, and W. W. Bowers, ex-Collector of Customs, of San Diego, came up to Wilmington.
The steamer Orizaba had in tow the Mexican gunboat, Juraza taking her to San Francisco for repairs. She steamed and sailed within fifty miles of San Francisco. But encountered a heavy north-west gale, blowing away all her sails compelling her to hard up and run back to San Diego.
W. W. Bowers, late U. S. Collector for San Diego, is building a monster hotel called the Florance (sic). It is 136 feet long, he already has used up 177,000 feet of lumber and will be open on the 15th of January. He is now on his way per Orizaba to San Francisco, to buy furniture. It is a pity our big houses did not bid for it. San Diego has no love for Los Angeles.
San Diego News
The British steel bark Valdivia, Capt. Halliday, eighty-two days from Newcastle, New South Wales, arrived yesterday at the heads. Her cargo consists of fifteen hundred tons of coal, consigned to Mr. A. Wentscher, which have been disposed of to Mr. T. Larson and the gas company. Capt. Dunnells boarded the Valdivia and will bring her into port as the tide permits. The Valdivia is 877 tons register.
Many spectators watched with interest … as she slowly entered the harbor and dropped anchor off Jorres’ wharf. A SUN representative immediately procured a boat and was soon on board in search of items. A careful examination of the log-book failed to disclose anything noteworthy outside of a fine passage … One of the sailors had his left foot badly injured by a shark after it was captured in midocean with a hook and line and hauled on deck … No ships were sooken during the voyage and only one came in sight … Mr. A. Wentscher will furnish a return cargo for the bark, including wheat, flour and abalane (sic) shells, amounting to 1,450 tons. The Valdivia will proceed to Cork, Ireland, for orders.
February 16, 1884
The SAN DIEGO SUN publishes an interview between a business man and the editor of the EVENING REPUBLICAN, setting forth the advantages of San Pedro harbor. The SUN takes up the gauntlet for San Diego and writes the following:
There is a depth of twenty-two feet of water on the bar… The width of the channel over the bar, carrying the foregoing depth, is about six hundred yards… The depth of San Diego bar compares favorably with the depth on the entrances to Atlantic harbors. Boston has about 18 feet, New York 23 1/2, Philadelphia 18 1/2, Charleston, Mobile and New Orleans less than 18 feet. There is a noteworthy fact in relation to the depth of water on the bar of San Diego bay — a comparison of the surveys of Dalrymple in 1782 and Vancouver in 1793, and the last United States coast survey examinations, shows no change to have taken place since the former date…
The SUN is quite right. San Diego has a far better harbor than San Pedro, and is the only port of refuge south of San Francisco… Now for San Pedro, which receives more lumber, coal, and merchandise, exports more, receives more customs duties on one year than San Diego does in five years. You have the advantages of having less water, more cactus, more deserts, more alkali, dryer seasons, less money, no farming lands, no minerals to speak of, less energy, a small population and a large class of them worthless, more faith in San Diego’s future. Hang on like hell to your property, that you will never get back half what you paid for it … The only salvation of your country is, buy Lower California, annex it to you, raise a fillibustering army, with Major Horace Bell as leader, take the peninsula, make San Diego the southern district for the customs, with Madgelena Bay (sic) and Los Paz (sic) tributary to her. Then San Diego will become rich in minerals, stock-raising, mines, colonization schemes and wild-cat railroad speculations… But don’t try to make some mush-head of a Congressman make an ass of himself in pitting San Diego against San Pedro and Los Angeles.
February 23, 1884
San Diego is having a hard time trying to get a railroad through. The courts have decided that the bonds she issued are worthless, and the lawyer who got them to go to Washington got left. Now they have found that railroad monopolies are not such fine things as people are led to believe. San Diego gave the railroads half her land; now she wants it back, and says, “You broke faith with us and robbed us.” But in the same issue of the 14th the SUN says, “At last we are going to get a railroad.” Look out, San Diegoans, that the next band of railroad thieves don’t sell you out altogether. Don’t put your trust in railroads. Invest it in whale and seal fisheries; there is more profit in them.