The Journal of San Diego History
Fall 1974, Volume 20, Number 4

Book Reviews

David J. Weber, Book Review Editor

The Pilgrim Church in California. By Rev. Francis J. Weber. Los Angeles: Dawson’s Book Shop, 1973. Illustrations. Index. 252 pages. $12.00.

Reviewed by Sister Catherine McShane, Professor of History, University of San Diego.

Father Weber has gathered together in this small volume a number of short articles previously published in newspaper columns. The range is wide, the subjects so varied as to be almost haphazard. Consequently the reader seeks in vain for the unifying thread. The average article is a page and a half in length, hardly sufficient to identify the subject much less give any adequate evaluation.

Of the one hundred fifty essays, sixty-nine treat of personages, seventeen bishops, twenty-five priests, twenty-seven lay men and lay women. No distinction is made in the treatment given between such well-known giants of California church history as Serra, Alemany, Cantwell and the obscure layman or priest. The remaining articles, eighty-one in number, are loosely grouped under the headings: “Pastoral Scenes,” “Missionary Enterprises,” “The Church in Action.” Here are gathered bits of information and/or folklore which will possibly attract the casual reader, for this is obviously a work meant for the popular audience. This fact may explain, if not excuse, the total absence of bibliography and footnotes. The latter omission is all the more amazing as the pages abound in quotations, none of which is acknowledged.

Some information concerning the persons and events connected with the development of the Church in California can certainly be gleaned from this book, but little new is added and that little is of small significance. All in all the work lacks critical analysis; the style is often trite; the: grouping of the articles is forced. For example under the heading, “Pastoral Scenes,” are listed such topics as “The Golden State’s Flags,” “The Centenary of Vatican I,” “The Spanish Influenza of 1918,” “The National Association for the Advancement of the Colored People,” “Mexico’s Bicentennial Stamp,” “Some Artistic Paperweights”-pastoral scenes?

The format, however, is good-the whole neatly divided into six sections each preceded by a sketch of a California mission.

In conclusion, this is a disappointing book, one unworthy of the real scholarship of the author and of this publisher. One closes it with a sense of dissatisfaction and frustration. Surely the Pilgrim Church in California is deserving of a deeper, more adequate treatment.

Yesterdays in Escondido. Text by Frances B. Ryan, sketches by Lewis C. Ryan. Escondido, Ca.: Frances and Lewis Ryan, 1973. 190 pages. $8.95.

Reviewed by Eloise Perkins, columnist for the Escondido Daily Times-Advocate. Mrs. Perkins is the author of Buffalo Bill, the Life of William F. Cody and Kit Carson, the Scout Who Led the Way.

The book is a sequal to Early Days in Escondido, which Mrs. Ryan, a native of Escondido, and her husband published in the same format in 1970.

Probably the most interesting section to historians is that entitled “Water … power… The best rains down from heaven.” In it Mrs. Ryan writes of her father, Albert Beven, and his involvement in the development of the Escondido Mutual Water Company (EMWCO.)

Besides her father, she had uncles, aunts and other relatives taking part in this phase of Escondido Valley’s history. Since much of her knowledge is firsthand, or at worst only secondhand, she should write with authority.

The section on water opens in 1906 at the time EMWCO was taken to court by the city of Escondido, which insisted that the company was a public utility and had to serve water users whether or not they owned stock in the company. EMWCO won that one.

Today the company and the city still are involved in litigation, this time as co-defendants. Several bands of North County Indians are suing them to secure additional water delivery, storage rights, and damages for all the years water has been diverted from the San Luis Rey River.

The building of the company’s Rodriquez Tunnel (1910-13), which included blasting through 1,900 feet of solid rock with dynamite, using manual labor, and candles to see that the tunnel was straight, proved a major feat in early-day engineering. To gain time, both ends of the tunnel were worked, alternating blasts and settlings. The two sections met within inches. The tunnel, six feet high and five feet wide, has never clogged in the years since water was diverted into it in January of 1913.

Water, however, is not the only phase of Escondido life in the first half of the 20th century described in the book. There are sections on transportation, landmarks, schools, churches, home life, businesses, entertainments, pageants, and Grape Days. The latter was Escondido’s yearly celebration when vineyards covered much of the area. Attended by thousands from throughout the Southwest, it was said to be second in importance only to the Tournament of Roses at Pasadena.

Avocados replaced grapes as the leading agricultural product of the region and the festival became a thing of the past.

This book gives one a taste of life in another era, but unfortunately hasn’t room enough to give much data on any one thing. As a springboard for a researcher, to give a hint of the variety of important happenings in the area, the book is a valuable work.