Rufus King Porter was born in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, August 9, 1820. A “goldrusher,” he crossed the plains and arrived at Sacramento on September 1, 1849. He went to work in the San Francisco post office as a clerk-working until 1857 when the opportunity came to engage in mining in Baja California.
He passed through San Diego bound for San Pedro in 1863-returning to San Diego two years later where he went into the stock and dairy business. He began ranching at the old Ensworth home when the Judge passed away. Porter wrote, “We had all the valley to ourselves, and the whole country round was public property so far as stock was concerned.” When the valley became too crowded and fencing was required, Porter sold out to Hubert Howe Bancroft on October 15, 1885.
Porter had an unusual bent for news, and a skilled hand with a pen. As early as 1866 he was writing copy for such papers as the San Francisco Bulletin, but not in any way limiting himself to local news. His experiences as a miner, railroad worker, watchmaker, and postal clerk, gave him a good insight into local affairs. Reproduced here are some examples of his efforts as a correspondent for the newspapers-bits of local news of interest related to San Diego.
From the San Francisco Bulletin:
September 7, 1867 — The steamer Pacific came in last evening about dark and left this afternoon, one day later than the company advertised. It is a great disappointment to people living at a distance from here to never know when to come for their freight. This Company do not come on time like the old one, but they may improve.
September 7, 1867 — As usual the “Haight” ticket gained the day at the election. in this town by a large majority, but no one was deceived, as it is customary for the “Dimmycrats” to carry all before them in these parts. The election passed off quietly here, no disputes worthy of notice, and no drunken rows, though considerable of the “critters” was made way with during the day. The vote was large for this town, and straight voting was the order of the day.
February 16, 1868 — The whalers at Playa have been doing a fine business, one company, that of Capt. Packard, having taken 18 whales, all extra fat. They are still doing something, and if the weather be not severe, he will undoubtedly get six or eight more.
December 9, 1869 — Old San Diego is not behindhand in improvements, and is possessed of a vitality that was not expected of her before. The Franklin House is to be greatly enlarged and improved by her enterprising proprietors, Cullen & Todman, for they are overrun with customers. In addition to the Franklin and the American, there are three good restaurants, and yet the accommodations are not sufficient. A good restaurant would be a great desideratum.
January 3, 1870 — In spite of the drought building goes on lively in New Town and at National City. Stores and saloons in New San Diego are opening in all the business streets, the latter having famous names, such as the “Alhambra,” “Bed Rock Saloon … .. Fashion,” “Overland,” “Occidental,” etc. If the people who run these numerous drinking places make a living, there is more cash in town than I had any idea of. It would not pay to keep such a place unless the receipts were at least $10 a day; and as there must be nearly 40 in and about New Town $400 daily may be said to go out of the pockets of our people every day for whiskey and other kindred spirits. Old Town is pretty full of saloons, but they seem to be poorly sustained, and were it not for the card-tables, which in some of them are occupied both day and night, part of them would dry up, Old San Diego is very dull these days, not even the arrival of the steamer seeming to enliven things.