Starting at San Diego High School and running south to Broadway, 13th Street slopes downward at a sharp angle. Two blocks below the gray Castle, between A and B Streets, there is perched on the hillside an aged three story house, white with brown trim.
From behind the house, on a still higher knoll, City College looks down on the old home. Apartment buildings surround her, blocking off part of her view. From her front porch, however, the skyscraper horizon of modern downtown San Diego is visible. From the front porch, also, one may watch giant passenger jets ease toward a landing at Lindberg Field, or gaze at a harbor which berths the latest in nuclear powered naval vessels.
The house, now almost 100 years old, has seen many changes. Its days of viewing progress made at its own front doorstep, though, almost are over.
When the old lady was young, dressed in her brown and white garb, she watched over a far different San Diego. There were bare hills above her and to the sides. Below her lay a tiny town with a few houses bunched together here and there. Horse-drawn vehicles raised the dust on unpaved streets. Many yards contained water wells. In fashion were high button shoes, snuff boxes, porcelain lamp shades and steam trains with shrill whistles. At this time, in her youth, she received a claim to fame, from which came a nickname she has retained ever since. “The Stonewall Jackson House,” is what she has been called.
The old home derived her name from the fact that she at one time was owned and occupied by members of the family of Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan, “Stonewall,” Jackson, the famous Confederate General. The house now is owned and occupied by Mrs. Alpha Marsh Cary, who is over eighty years old and who has been around San Diego for most of that time. Her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Charles E. Marsh, bought the property in 1908.
Mrs. Cary estimates the age of the house at close to one hundred years. She has in her possession the deeds to the home going back to 1888. From them she has been able to sort out the facts concerning the background of the residence and the Jackson part in its history.
“Stonewall” Jackson himself achieved fame as a superb Confederate officer, drafted from his teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute, to serve in the Civil War.
His fame soared upward in spectacular meteor fashion until his brilliant career was ended by a sudden bizarre event. At the Battle of Chancellorsville, May 2, 1863, while reconnoitering between the lines, as was his custom, he was mortally wounded by his own men in an expensive case of mistaken identity.
The South won the battle, but lost its hero, who did not live to see the first great defeat of his Confederate Army, at the Battle of Gettysberg, on the following July 1st,
He left his widow with four daughters. Among them was a girl named Ann. Ann Jackson, when grown, married a man named W. E. Christian. The Christians moved to San Diego sometime in the 1880’s. With financial assistance from the general’s widow, in 1888, they bought a house situated at 1245 13th Street. The seller was Thomas Murphy. Together with their small daughter they moved into the home and were joined by Mrs. Stonewall Jackson, who lived with them for a year and a half.
In the brown and white house was born a son, whom the Christians named Thomas Stonewall Christian. He later received an appointment to West Point.
Evidence in Mrs. Cary’s possession indicates that the Christians later separated. In a court agreement negotiated in 1890, in North Carolina, where Mrs. Jackson lived, Mr. Christian received a sum of money in return for deeding the house over to Mrs. Jackson. The house then was placed in trust for the two minor grandchildren of the general.
In 1889 the house changed hands again. The property was purchased by an L. L. Lockling and his wife, Helen M. Lockling, who it is noted on the deed, were residents of Bridgeport, Connecticut. An M. A. Jackson, trustee, negotiated the transaction.
According to Mrs. Cary the area around her home was once known as “Lockling Estates.”
Mrs. Christian and her children moved to Los Angeles. Mrs. Cary has no information on what happened to them after that. (If any reader knows we’d be glad to hear… )
In 1904 the house was sold by the Locklings to a Frances E. Whann, who, in turn, in 1908, sold it to the Marsh family, Dr. Marsh bought the place for a “reported consideration of $4500.” The agency of J, H. Vorhes, at 1328 E Street, handled the transaction. Newspaper accounts of the Marsh purchase state that at that time young T. Stonewall Christian was attending West Point.
The Marsh family had been living in San Diego since 1893. Dr. Marsh had paid his first visit to the little community in May, 1887. He went from San Diego to Pasadena, where he and his wife lived until 1890, Mrs. Cary explained. She was born in Pasadena.
From her first home in Pasadena, Mrs. Cary relates, her mother and father moved to Salt Lake City, in 1890. It was from Salt Lake City that they returned to San Diego in 1893.
“It was a homey little town,” she says.
She recalls that she and her parents first lived at 11th and J or K streets, “in a nice neighborhood, with a little grammar school right behind the house.”
Later they moved to 11th and A streets.
“Young Ed Fletcher,” she remembers, “went back east to get married. He bought the property next door, and he and his bride lived there. We knew them well. There was a big well in their yard…”
The previous owner of that property was K. D. Packard, “an old beau of my mother’s sister,” she recalls. “He married Edna Forward.”
“At that time I started kindergarten at the ‘Little Pink School,’ on B Street and had Mrs. Porter for a teacher,” she added.
She attended Sunday School at First Congregational Church, where George Marston was superintendent.
“From 11th and A we moved to 1440 First Street, in a house that had three flats,” she remembers. “I went to Middletown School. I can remember walking down C Street to Fourth. Henry Burbick’s Drug Store was on one corner and Mayrhofer’s Saloon and Beer Garden was on another. It was a busy corner.”
It was the custom in those days, she explained, that a doctor treating a patient sometimes lived with the family or went with them on trips that were considered of benefit to the patient’s health. When her father journeyed to Honolulu with a patient, she and her mother moved to Third and Cedar, across from the old Hawthorne Hotel. When her father returned they moved back to First Street.
“They’re all torn down now,” she mused. “Every house I lived in is torn down?but this one. It will be next…”
She attended the old San Diego High School.
“I can remember riding up the hill to school in a horse and buggy that belonged to my wealthy friends,” she laughed. “The old high school sat on bare hills. I was taught German by Lawrence W. Carr, the father of San Diego High’s present principal, Lawrence W, Carr, Jr.”
“I was in the last graduating class of the old high school, in February, 1907. Harriette Marston (Bade) was in that class. The June graduating class was from the new San Diego High School, That was the year before my parents bought the property.”
Later Mrs. Cary was graduated from State Normal School.
After purchasing the Stonewall Jackson House the Marsh family moved east for two years, then moved back to San Diego in 1910. Mrs. Cary was married in the house in 1910, in “the room with the big bay window.”
She married Frederick Bernard Cary, who worked for Benbough’s Furniture Store. Forty-six years later her husband died in the same room in which they had been married.
“There was no gas or electricity in the house when we moved in,” she remembers. “Finally we got gas for lighting, but for many years we used kerosene for cooking and heating.”
“In 1911,” she related, “the year after my marriage, the old San Diego High School burned down. Such excitement?the smoke was all over and the fire engines clanged up the hill. We ran up the hill, too. Everybody did. I saw Albert Kroff there.” (Albert Kroff is another of San Diego’s senior citizens, now past ninety, who continues to live in his old home down the block from Mrs. Cary. )
“I saved this from the fire,” she smiled as she displayed a piece of charred wood, the size of her thumb.
Her father had left shortly after her marriage to go to Guadalajara, Mexico, where he stayed for one year with a patient. When he returned his daughter and son-in-law made him a proposition.
“We told him the place should be converted to apartments,” she said. “We told him ‘Everybody’s doing it all over town.'”
Dr. Marsh at last consented. The single story home was raised and another floor was added underneath. The basement was improved and the home was converted to apartments.
For years her father had offices in the old Methodist Church Building at Fifth and Beech Streets. When the building was torn down, the heavy duty linoleum from the church was put down in the second floor kitchens of the Marsh home. Wood from the pews was used to construct the back porch stair rails. Both the linoleum and the rails are still in use in the home.
The Carys were away from San Diego for many years, living “around Los Angeles.” At last they returned to San Diego “for good,” and resumed residence in her old home.
Since her husband’s death Mrs. Cary has lived by herself in one of the upstairs flats?the one in which he passed away. She has continued to rent the other apartments.
“One tenant was with me for thirty years,” she remembers.
Today Mrs. Cary is looking for another home. The Stonewall Jackson House, the old lady dressed for so long in white with brown trim, sits smack in the center of the 5.88 acre area selected for urban renewal purposes in order that City College may expand. As was the fate of all the other homes of Mrs. Cary, this one soon will be torn down.
Mrs. Cary, still with the pink and white complexion and the style which a lady never loses, worries most about finding another place which will be suitable for her four-year-old calico cat, “Bucky.”
“I’ve got to find a place where she’ll be happy,” she declared.
She looked around the home, filled with the tokens of many years, some of which she has already donated to the San Diego History Center.
“It’s not easy to move,” she murmured, “not when you have so many things…and so many memories. When I was young you could see all over town from here?clear to the park…It’s been a comfortable place…an interesting home…”