. . . vision of greatness
Proponents of William Heath Davis as the “real” founder of New San Diego argue with conviction that the fiasco of “Davis’ Folly” was a matter of wrong timing and nothing more. Those who date the establishment of the city from the arrival of Alonzo Erastus Horton counter, with equal (and sometimes heated) conviction, that Horton’s success where Davis had failed was due to his greater persistence and driving energy. Both arguments are probably grounded in considerable truth.
The cover illustrations show each man at the time of his most strenuous efforts to build a new city. Davis was not yet 29 when he undertook his great venture—Horton was a much more mature 54 when he became the new owner of 960 acres of San Diego Pueblo lands.
Of the two men, Davis is the more romantic, Horton the more compelling figure.
One can easily be persuaded that the Davis countenance reflects a flair for living and a nature that is sensitive, creative, complex—while the direct, penetrating gaze and firm-set jaw of Horton fairly shout with determination and singleness of purpose.
Whether Horton would have failed in Davis’ time, or Davis have succeeded in Horton’s, will provide fascinating conjecture for historians for as long as there is a San Diego. Our purpose in this issue is to give our readers a brief sketch of each man and the times in which he strove, both in terms of self-evaluation and of historical assay.
The Davis period is re-created in the article by Col. Ruhlen on the San Diego Barracks, and in the recorded interview with Davis himself. The Horton era’s beginnings, and the man himself, are vividly portrayed through a variety of historical sources, admirably synthesized and articulated by Ward T. Donley.
The title of this issue is not meant as a direct comparison between Davis and Horton, nor does it seek to imply sinew over sensitivity, determination over desire, or brawn over brilliance. At most, the intent is to suggest some possible differences in the motivations of two widely different personalities.
The dream of Davis and the vision of Horton were essentially the same; the methods and motivations of pursuit were different, and may or may not contain a clue to why San Diego’s history reads as it does.