The Journal of San Diego History
April 1967, Volume 13, Number 2
Elvira L. Wittenberg, Editor

By Ward T. Donley

Images from the article

Ed. Note: Ward T. Donley here makes his debut as a contributor to The Journal of San Diego History. The present article is an excerpt from Mr. Donley s thesis, Alonzo Norton, Founder of Modern San Diego, submitted to the Faculty of the Department of History, San Diego State College, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Arts. The thesis was written in 1952.

Mr. Donley, a member of the San Diego History Center, is Director of Special Projects for the Sweetwater Union High School District. He lives in La Mesa with his wife, Jane, sons George, 9, and Tom, 16, and daughter Ellen, 12.

On 15 April 1867 the steamer Pacific, her sidewheel flailing the blue ocean waters, steamed through the Silver Gate and past La Playa and Old Town, then moved up the harbor until she reached the old Davis wharf and there dropped anchor. Alonzo Erastus Horton clambered ashore that day and scanned the area that he was to transform into a great coastal metropolis. His eye swept in the land; barren, mesquite-covered, gently sloping up and away from the shore. The scene was broken only by an occasional decaying structure, lone survivors of another day, and mute testimony of the failure of others to establish a town.

It was the custom in those days to dispatch a wagon from Old Town to pick up the steamers’ passengers and take them to Old Town for lodging. While awaiting transportation, Horton wandered over the same ground on which Davis and Gray had expended their time and energies some years earlier. He trod the adobe that had slumbered undisturbed for countless ages. It was not easy to turn back, and he continued walking until he found himself on a knoll commanding a view of the bay and surrounding hills. The panorama that stretched below must have convinced him that nature had indeed done her work well, and that it only remained for the work of man to fashion a city upon this legacy so unselfishly handed down to him. In his own words, it seemed a" heaven-on-earth." The magnificent land-locked bay, with its waters gently caressing the shore, brought visualizations of a great Pacific port. The land, softened by the blooming chaparral and swept over by mild sea breezes, appeared a most wonderful site on which to build a city. Reluctant to leave, but realizing that he must go to Old Town, Horton descended the slope and returned to the shore.

He did not yet know of the Gray-Davis fiasco. On returning to the shore he learned of the abortive attempt to establish a new town and thus accounted for the tottering remains that dotted the shore and immediate area.l If ever he had any misgivings as to the success of his projected enterprise it must have been then, for Horton at no later time appears to evince any doubt as to the ultimate success of his venture. Learning of the failure of Davis and Gray may have given him cause to reflect, but certainly not to deter him. Arriving at Old Town, Horton critically surveyed the drowsy settlement. He found it lying on a flat between the bay and Presidio Hill, consisting mostly of old adobe buildings. Inactivity characterized the town, and the inhabitants were confirmed believers in the word manana.2 Even after its acquisition by the United States, Old Town remained principally a Mexican town. Spanish was still the main language spoken, and the tinkle of the guitar, the jingle of spurs, and the clink of the coin on the monte blanket were the principal sounds of civilization.3

Morgan, the Wells, Fargo and Company’s agent, asked Horton:

"Well, Horton, how do you like the looks of San Diego?"

"Is this the great San Diego you were talking so much about?" asked Horton.

"Yes."" Look here, are you telling me the truth?"

"Sure; this is San Diego; what do you think of it?"

" I would not give you five dollars for a deed to the whole of it—I would not take it as a gift. It doesn’t lie right. Never in the world can you have a city here."

Ephraim W. Morse, who had moved his merchandising establishment from Graytown some years before and was now a prominent merchant of Old Town, was standing nearby and overheard this conversation. His curiosity piqued by this newcomer who was outspoken in regard to the proper location of the town, he asked Horton:

"Where do you think the city ought to be?"

"Right down there by the wharf," replied Horton. " I have been nearly all over the United States, and that is the prettiest place for a city I ever saw. Is there any land for sale there? "

As he posed the question, Horton was hoping he could buy perhaps twenty or forty acres of land that lay close to the water and near the old wharf; and Morse answered:

"Yes, you can buy property there, by having it put up and sold at auction."

Horton discovered, however, that no regular election had been held for some time and that the trustees of the pueblo lands had been holding over in office. As a result, any property transferred by them might carry a clouded title and hence be in legal jeopardy, and Horton was too shrewd and conservative a business man to risk his money in a land contract that was open to a successful challenge in the courts. The only answer to the problem was to have a special election called and to elect new trustees—then purchase the land. Morse pointed out George A. Pendleton, then County Clerk (at the moment on the other side of the Plaza), and told Horton that he was the man to see in order to have a special election called. Horton approached Pendleton, and said:

" Mr. Pendleton, I came down here to buy some land and help you build up a town, but I find the old town trustees are holding over and cannot do anything legally, so I want you to call an election."

" I shan’t do it, sir. The town owes me enough, already." (The trustees currently owed Pendleton a mere two dollars.)

" Mr. Pendleton, how much would it cost for you to call an election?"

" Not less than five dollars."

Horton’s hand went into his pocket and came out with ten dollars, which he handed to Pendleton, saying:

"Here is ten dollars; now call the election."

Pendleton was somewhat taken aback, but accepted the money and set about writing up three notices, which he posted in conspicuous places.4

Ten days notice had to be given before the special election could be held. In the meantime, Horton, who held Morse in high regard from almost the first moment of meeting, prevailed upon him to accompany him on a tour of the land. Morse complied willingly and proved his worth to Horton by pointing out the more desirable land that he might buy in the coming sale. In time, the two became such fast friends that they were virtually business partners and on occasions were such. Recent scholarship has demonstrated that Morse’s interest in building a city on the old Graytown site was almost as great as Horton’s.5 It is of course difficult now to ascertain Morse’s initial interest in the new town during those early days; perhaps it was Horton’s unbounded enthusiasm and confidence in the scheme that brought Morse in; or it might have been that Morse, too, recognized the infinite possibilities for the success of the venture. In any event, the two men found much in common and spent long evenings together at Morse’s general store in Old Town making plans for the future.6

On the first Sunday that Horton spent in Old Town, he attended services at the Catholic church. Father Ubach, the faithful and ever-present minister to the spiritual needs of the people of the San Diego for many years, was the priest in charge. When the collection plate was passed around, Horton observed that the contributions were exceedingly small, the largest being ten cents. Horton placed five dollars in silver on the plate. Needless to say, this attracted considerable attention from the congregation, and Father Ubach noticed the large contribution, too. After the services the priest sought out Horton to learn something about him.

When asked if he was a Catholic, Horton answered no; as to what church he belonged, none; but to the question concerning Horton’s being there, he had more to offer in reply. Horton told about his desire to purchase land and about the impending election and land sale. Father Ubach wanted to know if Horton had wanted anyone in particular to be a trustee. With the exception of Morse, Horton knew only slightly Joseph S. Mannasse and Thomas H. Bush, but felt that these men would be satisfactory to him. To this the priest replied: "You can have them," and presumably exerted influence in securing these men as trustees.7

The trio of Morse, Mannasse, and Bush garnered thirty-two votes each in the election, suggesting that they captured every vote cast. The way now appeared clear for Horton to purchase the land.

The land that was to go on sale had been surveyed into 160-acre tracts by Charles H. Poole, a United States Government surveyor.8 In the absence of McCoy, the sheriff, Morse, who was deputy, took over the role of auctioneer. The first tract to go on the block extended from Broadway and Front southward to the water front, and east to Fifteenth Street. Horton was the first to bid, and his offer of one hundred dollars brought giggles and guffaws from the onlookers. At first he thought they were laughing at him because he had bid too low. How great must have been his surprise to learn that he had bid too high! He was told that it was customary to bid twenty dollars if the land was smooth, and certainly fifteen dollars was enough if it was rough. Horton abruptly revised his estimates in the bidding.

Horton was the lone bidder on all the parcels of land, except one, and his total purchases amounted to 960 acres, for which he paid an estimated twenty-seven and one-half cents per acre.9 In his statement Horton tells about the bidding for a fractional section in which Judge Hollister engaged with him in the bidding. Horton was probably puzzled and perhaps irritated by the judge’s actions, for by now Horton was clearly aware of the slight worth that the others placed on the land—so when the judge overbid him five dollars on the property he told the judge he could have it. For Hollister it was an unexpected turn in events. He had no intention whatever of buying the land, only of goading Horton to bid higher. Now he was thoroughly frightened and turned to Horton to plead with him to bid again. Horton relented and bid over the judge by twenty-five cents. Hollister, of course, would not bid any higher, but said:

"You can have it. I wouldn’t give you a mill an acre for all you’ve bought. That land has lain there a million years, and nobody has built a city on it yet."

"Yes," answered Horton, "and it would lay there a million years longer without any city being built on it, if it depended upon you to do it."

Horton immediately had the deed recorded in order to secure further his title to the land.10

Before attempting to start building, Horton hied back to San Francisco to close out what business remained there and also to attempt to interest people in the merits of his projected enterprise. He knew the value of publicity and for this purpose opened a land office on Montgomery Street to disseminate information about his prospective metropolis.11

However, sales of lots and blocks in Horton’s Addition to San Diego, as he himself named it, were exceedingly slow. Lieutenant George Derby, USA, (John Phoenix), in his flippant description of the city as "Sandyago" probably had not favorably publicized the place, and there may have been many in the north who were little inclined to believe Horton when he described his land in glowing terms.12 Yet, according to Horton "large crowds" gathered to hear him tell about San Diego and what he proposed to do. He was known as the man with the "tin horn," because of the tin map case he carried with him everywhere and which contained maps of his addition.13

Horton pursued his selling task with missionary zeal and talked to all who would listen. One of those who stopped to listen was General William S. Rosecrans, who had under consideration a plan to build a railroad to California and who displayed real interest in what Horton related. He revealed to Horton the railroad plan, and talked over the possibility of building eastward from San Diego. The result was that the general took passage with Horton when the latter returned to San Diego.14

Immediately upon arriving, preparations were made for an inspection of the land to the east of San Diego to determine the feasibility of a railroad route. Morse and Mannasse collaborated to furnish the inspecting parties with teams and provisions for the trip. The party first headed south, passing through Tijuana, and from there turned eastward and traveled a hundred miles to Jacumba Pass, where they could look out across the desert. Horton quotes Rosecrans as saying to him: "Horton, this is the best route for a railroad through the mountains that I have ever seen in California." It was at this time that Rosecrans intimated to Horton that his property was well worth a million dollars.15 For Horton this was a very pleasant picture to contemplate, especially in view of the fact the original investment amounted to a mere $265.00!

On the return to San Diego, Rosecrans, now probably as enthused about the prospects of Horton’s holdings as Horton himself, pointed to a parcel of land and declared that if ever he held any San Diego property he would like to have that particular section. (After the land was surveyed it turned out to be Block 70, bounded by Fifth and Sixth, F and G.) Horton promised to remember him after the survey was completed, and did, by giving the block outright to Rosecrans. Horton is quick to point out that the general had asked for nothing, and had not expected to be paid, but he did thank Horton for the gift.

Two years later, Horton paid Rosecrans the sum of $4,000 in order to get the block back; but he in turn sold half of it for more than that amount.

The inspection completed, the two men returned to San Francisco, where Horton embarked on another land-selling campaign. Shortly thereafter, Rosecrans approached him and told him that there were two men who wanted to buy him out. Horton condescended to meet them and Rosecrans brought the interested parties to see him. Rosecrans briefly described the property to the prospective buyers after which Horton engaged in a three-quarter hour long discussion with them. Almost immediately they posed a figure of $100,000. This served to put Horton on his guard, for as he relates, he quickly surmised that they would certainly go much higher than this figure. Thus, he was reluctant to commit himself to a price at any level. Rosecrans broke in at this point to say that the property was unquestionably worth a million dollars, and the buyers raised their price to $200,000, then to $250,000. But Horton refused to sell, even at this attractive price, and for two reasons: one, he questioned the ability of the buyers to see their agreement through, and two, he was fairly certain that if they would bid that much for the property it must surely be worth that much and more. Later, Rosecrans expressed surprise at Horton’s refusal to sell, feeling that he had given up an opportunity to live the rest of his days in grand style. But Horton, even though well along in years (he was fifty-five) was disdainful of ‘the easy life and the challenge to build a city only served to excite further his dynamic nature.16

The attractive offer for his lands assured Horton of their value and he became even more optimistic concerning the outlook. Still, his real estate business in San Francisco was not encouraging; his total business for the entire year of 1867 netted him but $3,000.17 There were things to be done in San Diego so he again headed south.

Of utmost urgency was the surveying necessary to designate the various lots and blocks. (The land was still marked off only in 160-acre tracts.) If he intended to sell property he would certainly be obliged to indicate where it lay. Horton had the able and willing help of his close friend, Morse, in laying out the sections. In those early days the two could be seen working together among the thickets, surveying and marking, with tapeline and little flags18

In the meantime, Horton had the good fortune of finding a man who wanted to start a hotel. Horton wanted a hotel so that newcomers might not be obliged to travel to Old Town to obtain lodging. In additon, it would serve better to acquaint them with the new town and the activities taking place there. Horton had purchased from William Davis a lot with a building on it. The building was one of those holding over from the days of Graytown and cost Horton but one hundred dollars (to the best of his memory). The hotel enterpriser was a Captain S.S. Dunnells, a retired sea captain. Dunnells purchased the lot and building from Horton for $1,000, and proceeded to furnish it to accommodate guests.19 His hotel was the first in San Diego, and was very properly named the "New San Diego Hotel."20

The budding settlement sorely needed a wharf and its construction was of prime consideration. Horton sped north to secure a contractor for the job. In December 1867, Morse received word from a business associate that Horton had negotiated a contract for the construction of a wharf with a Lansing Haight. Apparently it was felt that a cooperative effort would best serve in the building of the wharf, for the three men entered into a corporate agreement. Haight, a man of some means, the owner of timber lands and a sawmill at Santa Cruz, California, had agreed to furnish the materials for the job. However, he presently decided not to go through with the agreement and withdrew. Meanwhile, in January 1868, Horton succeeded in procuring a franchise from the State Legislature for the construction of a wharf in San Diego.21

With Haight out of the wharf contract, Horton sought another man. He wrote Morse from San Francisco on 22 June 1868, that a man named Simpson from the bay city had agreed to do the job under substantially the same terms as the previous contract. But the rumors that had circulated about the foolhardiness of the venture in San Diego had hurt the enterprise severely, and Simpson, too, withdrew. Many of Simpson’s friends painted a discouraging picture of the prospects of San Diego, and it was their work that was primarily responsible for dissuading Simpson from going through with the agreement. Horton was reluctant to lose the services of Simpson because he believed him to be worth half a million dollars, and Horton was endeavoring to interest people of wealth to come to San Diego. As he wrote Morse, "What we want in San Diego is capital."22

Deeply disappointed in Simpson, Horton resigned himself to going it alone. With characteristic energy he engaged still another contractor and pressed the building of the wharf as vigorously as he could. The Union of 10 October 1868 commented that " Horton’s wharf now reaches out into the bay 500 feet, and the piles have been driven to a distance of some eightly or ninety feet beyond the wharf. The contractor, Mr. Stevens, was busily engaged in shoving the work as rapidly as possible. The pile-driver is raised by a windlass, worked by hand; and, although the driving appears slow and tedious, the wharf is approaching completion with a rapidity beyond our anticipations. " The wharf was completed in a short while — the first in new San Diego23

On one of his trips to San Francisco, Horton met Joseph Nash, a young Englisman who had accumulated a small fortune in Australia and New Zealand. Nash was so impressed by Horton’s enthusiasm and rosy forecast that he decided to locate in New San Diego. In October of 1868 he established the first general store in New San Diego. Charles S. Hamilton and George W. Marston, both to become prominent civic-minded businessmen, began their careers as clerks for Nash. Hamilton began in the fall of 1869 and Marston one year later.24

In a relatively short time Horton’s Addition had acquired a number of valuable facilities — a hotel, a wharf, and a general store. But San Diego was short on population and Horton realized that unless he could draw people to San Diego, his would be another Graytown.

He left for San Francisco on another landselling trip and arrived there brimming with enthusiasm and optimism. He fairly effervesced when describing San Diego, and his infinite confidence in the undertaking was infectious. He did not confine his activities to San Francisco but even invaded nearby San Jose. Anxious to put property into the hands of people, he would give lots to those who promised to improve them. Usually he asked that they build a house on the lot. Horton’s work was now beginning to tell—despite the fact that there were still many skeptics — and his sales of San Diego property began to mount.

Before returning to San Diego, Horton purchased from A.L. Bancroft, the leading bookseller of San Francisco, a library of about 2,000 volumes which were intended to form a nucleus of the library for the new town. The volumes, it has been said, were selected by Bancroft himself from his old and surplus stock. The price agreed upon at the time was reported to be $1500. Bancroft received in payment two blocks and a number of lots which are located today in the business section of San Diego and worth perhaps many thousands of times the original price paid for the books. Unfortunately, these literary items never carried out their intended purpose and their fate is unknown to this day.25

Horton boarded the Orizaba for the return to San Diego, and on board he was as active a salesman as he had been on land, seeking to interest the passengers in his real estate bargains. He was everywhere on the ship with his tin map case, being without it only at the dining table. Horton may not have been the first to extoll San Diego’s beauty, climate, and prospects for future greatness, but certainly he was the most zealous and persevering, and his enthusiasm often bordered on impetuosity. He told the passengers of his dreams of the greatness of San Diego Bay, which in the very near future was to be the terminus of a great transcontinental railroad (stemming from Rosecrans’ encouragement, no doubt), and the site of one of the world’s greatest seaports, second only, if at all, to New York.26 Whenever he could get the ear of someone, he would draw his map from the cylinder, spread it out, and begin to tell of the improvements already made and those yet to come. He would point out the wharf at the foot of Fifth Street, Nash’s general store, and the new San Diego Hotel as facilities already realized; and then would show the plans for the new city hall and the court house — and the grandest of edifices — the Horton House. More than a few of the passengers bought into San Diego on the strength of these proposed plans.27

In San Diego, Horton still had to cope with the opposition of Old Town. An interesting sidelight to the construction of the wharf was provided by Judge Hollister, who had bid against Horton at the auction of the pueblo lands and who later derided him for having bought such "worthless" land. Hollister was the assessor at the time and assessed Horton’s wharf at $60,000 (the true cost was $45,000), and attempted to compel payment on that valuation. Horton, however, resolved to take the matter to higher authorities to secure justice. When the true cost of the wharf was proved the assessment was cancelled and Horton had repulsed another thrust by Old Town.28

It is interesting to note that Judge Hollister typified the attitude and sentiment toward new San Diego. The original antagonism of Old Town, engendered by the efforts of Gray and Davis, had remained like a smoldering ember, only to be fanned into flame again by the work of Horton. A contemporary tells of the strong feeling that prevailed and relates an anecdote that portrays how keenly some of the Old Town residents felt about new San Diego:29

Throughout the whole of the year of 1869 the people of Old Town had and expressed a feeling of bitter antagonism towards the new settlement three and a half miles further south. The general, I might almost say, the universal feeling and judgment of the residents of Old Town was that the newer settlement would soon come to grief, and be abandoned, as was the fate of the attempted settlement at new San Diego in 1850.

The following incident illustrates this feeling. About January 1869, the wife of A.L. Seeley, the U.S. mail contractor and stage owner, received from England a legacy of $8,000. Seeley announced his intention to spend this money in the building of a hotel at Old Town. Mr. Horton, hearing of this offered to give Seeley the whole block of land in Horton’s Addition, lying between Fourth and Fifth, and E and F Streets as a bonus if Seeley would expend this money in New Town. Seeley declined saying, sarcastically, " Old Town is the town, the real San Diego; your mushroom town of new San Diego soon will peter out. All the people who want to travel will have to come to Old Town to take the stage. My Old Town hotel will be kept "full." Seeley spent his wife’s $8,000 in putting a second story on the old adobe building at the south-east corner of the plaza at Old Town. Poor Seeley. . . was forced finally to sell his Old Town hotel building for a fraction of the money he had invested.

This was but a small part of the opposition that Horton had to brook from Old Town, but he was a fighter, and an unremitting one, and the open hostility of Old Town failed to discourage him. On the contrary, its enmity only crystallized his resolution to make San Diego the city he knew it could be. He even began to recruit people for his addition from among the very populace of that inhospitable settlement, and to a degree was successful, probably very much to the dismay of the diehards. In the Union of 29 May 1928, Frank Parsons of Old Town, reminiscing, recalled that, " Horton came out here and coaxed folks to move to San Diego – my father, for instance. Father was one of the pioneer black-smiths in Old Town. Father Horton wanted him to move his shop to San Diego. In consideration for making the move, father was given a lot on the corner of Fifth and I Streets, and there he set up his blacksmith business." Horton even persuaded the Union, by convincing it that it was to its best interests, to move from Old Town to new San Diego. He had withheld his advertising patronage from the Union so long as it remained in Old Town. The Union had the promise of his full support if it changed its location. The Union announced on 23 June 1870 that it would soon remove to the new town and the next edition, on 30 June 1870 (it was a weekly then), was the first one issued in new San Diego. Horton was having all the best of it with the slower moving Old Town.30

However, ridicule and skepticism were not confined to the local scene. For some unaccountable reason the attempt to start a new city at San Diego invited much adverse criticism from various quarters up and down the coast. The story is told of a sea-captain once giving fifty cents to an acquaintance who was on his way to San Diego, telling him to buy out Horton’s Addition with this sum, and after the purchase had been made he might retain the surplus change in payment for his trouble. General Halleck, then commanding the Department of the Pacific, and General Alien, adjutant general of the State of California, both were amused at Horton’s real estate purchase and termed it "worthless land."31

Yet, Horton, completely bereft of pessimistic thoughts, must have been ready for the last comment —as soon as the opportunity came to voice it. Although he had to bide his time before he could point to the soundness of his thinking, the day was not in the too distant future. Slowly but surely his work in the north began to pay off. The future that Horton had told everyone was in store for San Diego now seemed more assured, and people began buying San Diego property in ever-increasing amounts. As early as May 1868, real estate in San Diego was moving. Morse, in a letter to a John Van Alst, wanted to know if Van Alst wished to sell his block in Middletown as "lots are selling again in San Diego." In time, the insignificant stream of people that had trickled into Horton’s Addition developed into a veritable deluge, and the steamers destined for San Diego were more than filled to capacity. A historian of another day and a contemporary of the period, describes the general scene of 1869:32

The author has a vivid recollection of a voyage down the coast on the "Senator" in October, 1869. Every berth had been sold for a week before the vessel sailed, and then the agents of the company sold standing room. The steamer’s cooks and waiters commenced feeding the passengers about six o’clock in the morning and kept it up with slight interruptions till nine in the morning. The dining salon was small and the crowd on board necessitated the setting of the tables many times. When all had been fed the tables were cleared, the passengers without berths bunked on the tables, or wherever they could spread out their blankets. All or nearly all were bound for San Diego to buy lots.

If Horton had wanted to chirp about his bonanza — and certainly it was that — he had no time for it. He no longer had to give away lots to induce people to come and populate his community. He was besieged by a plethora of buyers. The throngs that clamored to secure San Diego property almost exasperated him at times in their scuffling to give him their money. On occasion he would plead with them to maintain some semblance of order during the buying. Oftentimes he was heard to plead, " Stand back there, gentlemen, you must take your turn. Mr. Morse, please put that gentleman’s name down for lot (no.)."33 Often the money came in so fast he tired of handling it.34

But the land office business that Horton was doing in New Town real estate was not without some disquieting action by the diehards from Old Town. Toward the close of 1869 it was apparent that the enterprise was a success, and that Horton’s material well-being was due to be enriched considerably. This pricked the jealousy of the inhabitants of Old Town, many of whom were probably berating themselves for lacking foresight and not buying into the venture when it began. The result was that a number of suits were brought for the purpose of setting aside the deed from the trustees to Horton. The most celebrated case was that of Charles DeWolf  versus Horton, Morse, and Bush, brought in September, 1869.

In the suit that DeWolf brought against Horton and the others, he charged that the trustees were especially empowered to sell the pueblo lands " only for the payment of actual indebtedness due and owing said city." He then pointed out that at the time of the sale the city was out of debt for any "just liability." He implied that there had been collusion between Morse and Horton in the sale of the pueblo lands. He declared that, "said defendant Morse was greatly interested in said sale, . . . and has received and is receiving from day to day his share in the proceeds of said purchase." In sum, then, he was declaring that the deed was a fraud and therefore null and void.35

The Union, unable to remain silent, commented:36

In the advertising column will be found the complaint of Charles De Wolf vs. Morse, et al. This paper is inserted in the " Union" as any other legal advertisement, for pay. It is all hosh to say that the insertion of a paper of this sort, the truth of which must be shown in a court of law, will injure our place. It is known by every reader of this paper that we have been lavish in our praises of Mr. Horton and his addition to the city. Nearly everything we have in the way of worldly goods is invested in Hortonville and we are willing to put in the rest, notwithstanding this sickly complaint of Charles DeWolf. But while we run a paper any advertisement couched in proper language and not libelous that is handed to us, with the money will be inserted.

In addition to the suit by DeWolf, the owners of the ex-mission rancho brought suit to extend their boundaries over Horton’s Addition, contending that the pueblo lands should comprise only four leagues, instead of eleven.37 To add insult to injury in the round of suits against Horton, the statement by DeWolf that there had been collusion between the parties in the land sale was fruitful in producing the ugly rumor that the whole proceeding leading up to the sale of the pueblo lands was nothing more than a grand conspiracy. It was vigorously bruited about that the trustees had profited handsomely. Feeling ran high for a moment and "land jumping" began; but the people of San Diego rose to the occasion, destroyed the fences erected by the "jumpers," and throttled their nefarious ambitions.38 All this activity by both sides was very unnecessary, however, as the courts sustained Horton’s title to the land; and this virtually extinguished all active opposition to the work at Horton’s Addition.39

Horton’s title was given final and unequivocal confirmation when on 23 February 1872 the State Legislature passed an act whereby all prior conveyances of lands by the municipal powers of San Diego were legalized, ratified, and confirmed.40

Horton had weathered well the attempts by others to undermine his venture; he had settled accounts with Old Town, and had proved to outsiders the soundness of his plans. No longer did people ridicule the efforts or doubt the sincerity of Alonzo Horton. Many now sought passage to the new-born settlement, and the ships that entered San Diego harbor were deep in the water with newcomers. The shores of the bay became strewn with materials of all description, destined to become a part of the town or a part of its living. Activity filled the air and daily buildings were being brought to completion. The Union of 21 November 1868 reported that "the evidences of improvement, progress, and prosperity are visible on every side. Buildings are in the process of erection in all directions. Lots are being cleared rapidly in Horton’s Addition. Mr. Horton is selling $600 to $1,000 worth of lots every day. Restaurants, bakeries, livery stables, furniture stores, blacksmith shops, hotels, doctors’ offices, wholesale and retail stores, saloons and residences are going up. . ."

On Horton’s Addition a city had been born.


1 Smythe, San Diego, Horton Statement, 331.

2 George R. Stewart, Jr., John Phoenix, Esq., The Veritable Squibob, A Life of Capt. George H. Derby, U.S.A., 95.Hereinafter referred to as John Phoenix.

3 T.S. Van Dyke, Sara Diego, 18.

4 Smythe, op. cit., Horton Statement, 331-332.

5 Morse not only loaned Horton $123.22 with which to complete payment for the lands he purchased, but also assured Horton of his full support in the undertaking. Earl S. McGhee, E. W. Morse, Pioneer Merchant and Co-founder of San Diego, 43. Hereinafter referred to as Morse.

6 Loc. cit.

7 Smythe, op. cit., Horton Statement, 333-334.

8 H.C. Hopkins, History of San Diego — Its Pueblo Lands and Water, 193. Hereinafter referred to as San Diego.

9 Horton contended that he was the only bidder on all the parcels of land, except one, yet the minutes of the special meeting that was held after the auction to confirm the sale and issue the deed reveal that two others present on 10 May 1867 purchased land. Horton might have meant that he was the only bidder on the land that he bought, and not necessarily on all the land. See bill of sale, opposite page27.

10 Smythe, op. cit., 336.

11 Bancroft, California, VII, 745.

12 Derby depicted San Diego thus: "(In San Diego) cactus and mixed desert shrub came up to the back doors, the streets were mixed sand and horse-droppings, the Virgin Mary alone was responsible for sanitation, and anyone who minded the mingled smell of chiles, frijoles, and general filth including the paisanos had better camp well out in the sage brush." Stewart, John Phoenix, 93.

13 Horton’s treasured tin map case resides today among other Horton mementoes, in the Junipero Serra Museum, San Diego, California.

14 Clarence A. McGrew, City of San Diego and San Diego County, 119. Hereinafter referred to as San Diego.

15 Smythe, op. cit., Horton Statement, 336-337.

16 Mrs. Sidney Hill (nee Vine Bowers), niece of Horton, and one who knew him many years, reveals that even in later years he was eager to accomplish things, and seemed even then indefatigable. Life held much for Alonzo Horton and he worked to avail himself of all that it offered. Interview with Mrs. Hill, 15 January 1952.

17 J.M. Guinn, A History of California and an Extended History of Its Southern Coast Counties, I, 277. Hereinafter referred to as California.

18 San Diego Union, 11 June 1890. Judge Benjamin Hayes, reminiscing.

19 Smythe, op. cit., Horton Statement, 337-338.

20 In the first issue of the San Diego Union, 10 October 1868, Dunnells advertised his establishment as a "splendid, first-class hotel," with new furniture throughout. He invited attention to its convenient situation "near the steamer landing," and assured his clientele that "the table is constantly supplied with the best the market affords." The structure has survived to the present day, although its foundation and sides have been bolstered with brick.

21 Letter, Chase to Morse, dated 16 December 1867. From E. W. Morse, Correspondence, Merchandise File. To be found in the Pioneer Collection, Junipero Serra Museum, San Diego, California.

22 Letter, Horton to Morse, dated 22 June 1868. From Horton Biographical Files. To be found in the Pioneer Collection, Junipero Serra Museum, San Diego, California.

23 Although the first wharf completed in San Diego, strangely enough it was not the first one begun. That distinction belonged to the Culverwell Wharf, which was the result of a partnership formed by William Jorres and S.S. Culverwell. Their wharf was wider by some twenty feet and thus required a longer time to complete. It was located at the foot of F Street. Guinn, op. cit., 277.

24 San Diego Union, 29 November 1925. Daniel Cleveland’s Memoirs.

25 Loc. cit

26 Horton was not the only one to foresee the potential of the harbor of San Diego. David M. Berry wrote that, "The harbor of S.D. (sic) is a beauty. . . The largest vessels can come here except perhaps the Great Eastern and the Vanderbilt when heavily loaded. The Panama steamers usually draw from 10 ft. to 15 ft. of water. The largest of them have been five miles up the harbor and could have gone further." David M. Berry to Thomas Bach Elliott, 31 August 1873. (Berry was a promoter in Pasadena in the seventies; Elliott was his patron.) Glenn S. Dumke, The Boom of the Eighties, 134-135.

27 San Diego Union, 29 November 1925, Daniel Cleveland Memoirs.

28 Smythe, op. cit., Horton Statement, 339.

29 San Diego Union, 13 December 1925, Daniel Cleveland Memoirs.

30 The loss of the Union was a more severe blow than any of the previous removals of civic stalwarts. At the moment a bitter fight was being waged over the location of the county seat. It was presently located in Old Town, but there was much agitation from the people of new San Diego to have it removed to the faster growing town. The Union had supported Old Town in the fight, mainly because its editor, Jeff Gatewood, was also attorney for the people of Old Town and necessarily supported their side of the contention. However, conceding that it was a losing fight, and with an eye toward the increased advertising patronage to be had in the new addition, the Union decided to move. Smythe, op. cit., 482-483.

31 San Diego Union, 29 November 1925, Daniel Cleveland Memoirs.

32 Guinn, op. cit., I, 279.

33 History of San Diego County, California, with Illustrations, 124.

34 Smythe, op. cit., Horton Statement, 340.

35 San Diego Union, 29 September 1869.

36 Loc. cit.

37 The order that recognized the establishment of San Diego as a pueblo was dated 22 March 1791, and read, in part: "Considering the extent of four common leagues necessary from the center of the presidio, namely, two leagues in every direction, to be sufficient for the new pueblo to be formed at San Diego." However, on 22 February 1856 the United States Land Commission for California confirmed the City of San Diego’s claim to eleven square leagues of pueblo lands. Hopkins, op. cit, 222.

38 The following excerpt from the Union illustrates the typical fate of "land jumpers": On Wednesday last, an individual named Stapleton, recently from San Francisco, fenced in a block of land in Horton’s Addition, on F Street, between First and Second Streets. On Thursday morning the news spread through town that a block had been jumped, and about nine o’clock some two hundred citizens made their appearance rather suddenly in the vicinity of the new fence. A man who was at work on the enclosure suspended operations with great expedition, while the citizens proceeded to tear down the fence. The lumber was in a short time piled in the centre of the block, five gallons of coal oil poured upon it, a match applied, and in a few minutes nothing remained of the jumper’s labor save a heap of ashes and some empty post holes. Union, 16 December 1869.

39 Smythe, op. cit., 351.

40 San Diego Union, 1 March 1872.