The Journal of San Diego History
June 1965, Volume 11, Number 3
Ray Brandes, Managing Editor

The Diaries of Dr. George McKinstry

On a cool Sunday morning, December 19, 1858, Dr. George McKinstry Jr., left San Francisco on the steamer Senator arriving in San Diego on the 22nd during daylight hours. Such is an entry in the front of a diary — one of a series in the possession of the San Diego History Center.

Parents of Dr. McKinstry

Photographs taken at Hudson, New York
of the father and mother of
Dr. McKinstry. date unknown.

Dr. McKinstry had, however, lived in San Diego earlier for he had been counsel for the Indian chief Antonio Garra during a trial for his role in the infamous uprising. The San Diego Herald also reported him in Old San Diego as early as 1852.

According to the census report on file in the Historical Society library in the Serra Museum, George McKinstry Jr., was born in Canada about 1815, his family moving to Hudson in New York shortly thereafter.

Biographical data is sparse but it is known that in 1846 or 1847, McKinstry crossed the plains and Rockies, to be appointed as California’s first sheriff in 1847 by the alcalde of Sacramento. In 1847, he wrote in the San Francisco Star of his role in the relief party which went to the aid of the stricken Donner party in the high Sierras.

Other bits of information can be gleaned from newspapers of the period; of his role as a sort of roving reporter for the San Diego Herald; of his property near the asistencia of Santa Ysabel, and of his travels in the northern states of Mexico.

While he was a physician, holding forth in the Wrightington building on San Diego Avenue, Dr. McKinstry traveled throughout the County to meet the needs of the ailing. Much of his adventures are reflected in the diaries which cover the period 1858 to 1879 — page after page reflecting data about San Diegans, notes on weather conditions, instructions on how to mend chinaware, or data on distances from place to place.

Reproduced here is but a cover, and several pages taken from his diaries which one day ought to be annotated and published in their entirety for the content they hold. The Historical Society offers this bit of information about an important San Diegan who did much for the community but who remains essentially to this day an enigma.

Dr. George McKinstry Jr

Dr. George McKinstry Jr., photo taken at
Santa Ana, California in January 1880
by A. L. Pellegrin, photographer.