Over the years, San Diegans have honored many of the early citizens of the area. Strangely, Philip Crosthwaite has received little recognition despite the fact that he played an active role in civic affairs from his arrival in 1845 until 1874, when he moved to his Baja California ranch. Even after 1874 Crosthwaite, who paid numerous visits to the city, continued to enliven the San Diego scene with his tales of pioneer days.
Crosthwaite came to San Diego by accident. The son of Edward and Rachel Crosthwaite, Philip was born on December 27, 1825, in Athy, County Kildare, Ireland, while his parents, residents of the United States, visited their homeland. On their return to America, Edward and Rachel left their young son in the care of his grandmother. At the age of seventeen he entered Trinity College in Dublin. In 1845 he traveled to the United States to visit his mother before completing his course at Trinity. While in Rhode Island, Philip and another student signed aboard the schooner Hopewell for a short voyage to the Newfoundland fishing banks. The college lark turned into a more serious matter when the youths discovered the true destination of the Hopewell, San Francisco. The two adventurers left the ship when it reached San Diego on October 16, 1845. The only eastbound ship in the port had but one berth available so the friends tossed a coin for the space. Crosthwaite lost and remained on the west coast for the rest of his life.1
Like other foreigners in Mexican San Diego, Crosthwaite turned to otter hunting and became fairly successful. Sea otter abounded along the coast of Baja California and around the islands, and prime skins brought $40 each to the hunter. While on a hunt with four other Americans in 1846, Crosthwaite learned that war had broken out between Mexico and the United States. The group returned to San Diego and all five enlisted in the service of the United States for a period of three months. Crosthwaite served at the battle of San Pasqual, December 6, 1846, in a company with about twenty other volunteers. The Americans captured one prisoner, Vejar, in the fight. Philip saved the life of the prisoner late that day when an Indian with the United States force tried to kill Vejar.2
In 1847 Crosthwaite served as second Alcalde for San Diego. The next year he married María Josefa López and leased the San Diego mission property. When news of the gold strike in northern California reached San Diego, Philip went to the gold fields leaving Bonifacio Ignacio López, his father-in-law, in charge of the mission lands. None of the San Diegans who went north found their fortunes, but Philip did take out forty-seven ounces of the precious metal. When he returned home in August, 1849, Crosthwaite discovered that the infantry had taken possession of the mission despite his 1848 lease which still had two years to run. The census taken in 1850 listed Crosthwaite as Fillipe Cruz, occupation laborer, and showed that Philip, María, and their son lived with her family.3
San Diego County held its first election on April 1, 1850. Crosthwaite opposed Agoston Haraszthy for the position of County Sheriff. Haraszthy won the election by a vote of 107 to 47. Although defeated for County Sheriff, Crosthwaite became the first County Treasurer when Juan Bandini declined the position.4 Years later, Ephrim W. Morse liked to relate the following story about Crosthwaite’s term as County Treasurer:
…the law then required each county treasurer to appear in person in Sacramento and pay over the money due the State and settle with the State treasurer, so [Crosthwaite] proceeded to Sacramento at the required time, paid over the funds due the State (somewhat less than $200. His traveling fees amounting to $300. He returned with more money than he took up. …) But it is said the State treasurer suggested to him that under similar conditions it would be more satisfactory to the State if he should play the role of the embezzler and run away with the State funds before settlement day.5
The City of San Diego conducted elections on June 16, 1850. The voters elected Charles P. Noell to a seat on the first City Council. Noell resigned on August 24, 1850, and the mayor called a special election which Crosthwaite won. He presented a certificate of election and took his seat, which carried no salary, at the Council meeting of September 9, 1850. Although Crosthwaite did not propose any significant legislation, he participated in a majority of the weekly Council meetings until the end of the term in January 1851.6
In November 1851, after Sheriff Haraszthy gave the Cupeños notice that their herds would be confiscated for non-payment of taxes, the Indians of the back country rose up under the leadership of Antonio Garra. As soon as Jonathan Warner rode into San Diego and reported raids on his ranch and on the Hot Springs, a Volunteer Company formed to put down the uprising. Crosthwaite served as Second Sergeant in the Company. With four other volunteers, he brought a herd of horses, which Joaquin Ortega had offered to the Company, into town from the Santa Maria Rancho without encountering any hostiles.7
At the first signs of trouble the San Diegans had appealed to the governor for help. The Hounds of San Francisco, a ruffian group, answered the call. The soldiers stationed in San Diego and the local volunteers restored quiet in the county before this motley crew left San Francisco. The Hounds knew this, but sailed for San Diego anyway as they had already hired a steamer. The citizens of San Diego received the group hospitably, and the Hounds went into camp in Mission Valley. Before long, reports circulated among the residents that the Hounds had begun to collect horses, some said by theft, for an unknown expedition.8
The San Diego Volunteers had not yet disbanded when, on New Year’s Eve 1851, several of them attended a dance. Around midnight Cave Couts, Captain of the Volunteers, told Crosthwaite that some of the Hounds had come into town, probably to steal horses. Couts ordered Crosthwaite to take a few men and arrest any thieves they could find. Before long, they caught a man with a mule that belonged to Juan Bandini. The man, a Hound, admitted that the group planned to go into Baja California on a filibustering expedition with Isaac Van Ness as their guide. Crosthwaite detailed one man to guard the prisoner and with the other Volunteers continued to look for horse thieves. At the edge of the river, they found Van Ness and a man who identified himself as Sergeant Thomas of the Hounds. The patrol did not detain Van Ness, but decided to lock Thomas up in the Court House, the temporary jail, with the man captured earlier.9
On the way to the jail, the group met the Captain and the First Lieutenant of the Hounds. When they asked why the Volunteers had arrested Thomas, Crosthwaite replied that Couts had ordered the arrest of any Hounds in town because they stood accused of the theft of horses and other property. The Captain tried to have Thomas turned over to him, but Crosthwaite refused, and the two prisoners remained confined for the rest of the night. At daybreak, the Captain went to the court house and demanded the release of his men. Once more, Crosthwaite refused. The Captain then threatened to take over the town and sent a man to Mission Valley to bring in the rest of the Hounds.10
At this point, Crosthwaite learned that Lieutenant Thomas Sweeny and a company of United States Infantry had bivouacked at La Playa. Fearing the worst from the Hounds, Crosthwaite rode to the camp and asked for assistance. Sweeny placed his men under arms, then selected a sergeant and eighteen men to accompany him into town. Crosthwaite returned to town ahead of Sweeny.11
When they arrived in town, Sweeny and his men found Crosthwaite in the Plaza with Judge James Robinson making arrangements for the court martial of the two prisoners. Sweeny placed his men in a building at the edge of the square and walked into the Plaza alone. At this moment, Lieutenant Watkins of the Hounds approached Crosthwaite and asked if he had not stated the night before that Couts had ordered the arrest of the men. Crosthwaite answered, “Yes”. As he replied, Watkins called him a liar and struck at Crosthwaite, but he dodged the blow. Watkins then drew a pistol, leveled it at Crosthwaite and squeezed the trigger. The cap failed to explode. Crosthwaite grabbed a pistol from under his coat and shot Watkins in the thigh. At this, the rest of the Hounds opened fire on Crosthwaite from various points in the Plaza. One of the shots struck him in the pelvis, but he continued shooting until his gun jammed. When this happened, Doctor Ogden ran into the Plaza, picked up Crosthwaite, and carried him into a store. As the Hounds made a rush for the building, Sweeny signaled his men. They charged into the Plaza, and the Hounds slunk away. Watkins’ right leg later had to be amputated. On January 24, 1852, the San Diego Herald announced that Crosthwaite “has so far recovered as to be considered out of danger.” The Hounds, meanwhile, had returned to San Francisco on another chartered vessel.12
After the departure of the Hounds life in San Diego returned to normal and the San Diego Volunteers disbanded. Crosthwaite continued his duties as County Treasurer and as Deputy County Clerk, a position he had assumed on May 23, 1851. His term as County Treasurer was not untroubled. On April 12, 1852, the Herald ran a letter signed “a taxpayer” which demanded an accounting of the fiscal affairs of the county, but no probe resulted. In 1852 Crosthwaite held all the San Diego County offices for a short time. Al1 the other officials deputized him to act on their behalf while they attended a bull and bear fight out of the county.13
Crosthwaite ran for County Clerk in 1853 but lost the election. That same year he opened a general store. On September 6, 1854, the voters elected him a School Commissioner. Then, in April 1855, he made a successful bid for the vacant post of Justice of the Peace, winning by just three votes. On October 8, 1855, Sheriff Joseph Reiner appointed Crosthwaite Deputy Sheriff for San Diego County. In 1857 he waged an unsuccessful campaign for the position of County Sheriff.14
In addition to his civic and political involvement, Crosthwaite played an active role in San Diego’s Masonic Lodge. He entered the Masonic Order on July 28, 1852, passed to the degree of fellow-craftsman on September 17, and to the sublime degree of Master Mason on November 4 of that same year. Late in 1853, San Diego Lodge No. 35 received its charter, after operating under a dispensation for over two years. Crosthwaite became the first Worshipful Master elected under the charter; his installation took place on December 27, 1853. The members of Lodge No. 35 elected Crosthwaite Senior Warden in 1855, when the army transferred Captain George Derby, the first Senior Warden, to the east coast.15
In 1861 Crosthwaite left San Diego and took up residence at his newly purchased San Miguel Rancho near Ensenada, Baja California. He remained there, except for occasional trips to San Diego, until 1868 when he returned to the city to re-establish his residence. In the spring of that year, he visited his sister in San Andreas, California, where her husband Jeff Gatewood published the San Andreas Register. Crosthwaite proposed that Gatewood move his operation to San Diego which did not have a newspaper. Gatewood travelled to San Diego and found the people responsive to the idea. His press arrived on September 19, 1868, and the first issue of the San Diego Union went on sale on October 10, 1868.16
Crosthwaite took on civic responsibilities soon after he returned to San Diego. On January 21, 1869, George A. Pendleton, the County Clerk, appointed Crosthwaite Deputy County Clerk. Then in September 1869, the City Board of Trustees appointed him Chief of Police at a salary of $60 per month, payable in gold coin.17
In February 1869, Crosthwaite bought out the general store stock of Ephrim W. Morse and entered into partnership with Thomas Whaley. On February 27, 1869, the firm of Whaley and Crosthwaite placed an ad in the Union in which they announced themselves as the successors to Morse “at the old stand on the Plaza.” That same week Crosthwaite visited San Francisco to purchase goods for the new enterprise. Apparently, Crosthwaite took quite a while to settle accounts with Morse, for the letters which Morse received from his San Francisco agents, Breed and Chase, between March and July 1869, contained many inquiries as to the state of the financial arrangement. Whaley and Crosthwaite did not do well in Old Town and after a year, in March 1870, moved to Horton’s Addition. They still did not prosper, and, in April 1872, the enterprise failed.18
On February 20, 1871, when he signed the Great Register, Crosthwaite listed his occupation as “under Sheriff “. He retained this position until he left San Diego for Baja California in August 1874. He returned to San Diego for a short time and then, in October 1874, moved his family to their Baja California ranch.19
Crosthwaite spent the next years building up the ranch, although he did make numerous trips to San Diego. On September 28, 1878, the Union reported that Crosthwaite had 700 head of cattle. In July 1882 he traveled to San Diego to receive a shipment of three white ducks and two peacocks for the ranch, and late in 1883 he had a number of windmills erected. A story in the Union on November 2, 1891, stated that Crosthwaite and three of his sons owned 45,000 acres on which they had 5,000 cattle and 400 horses, and that for the past five years the Crosthwaites had furnished all the cattle butchered for the Ensenada market. In December 1894, Crosthwaite appeared before the Equity league as part of a program on early San Diego. He spoke about his arrival in San Diego and about the Battle of San Pasqual.20 He visited Del Mar on May 29, 1900 accompanied by one of his sons. The next day the Union reported the visit and said:
Mr. Crosthwaite has a family of seven sons and three daughters, six daughters-in-law, three sons-in-law and forty-seven grandchildren. His home is in Lower California and from his house for thirty-five miles every house one sees on the road is a Crosthwaite.21
Crosthwaite died in San Diego on February 19, 1903, at the age of seventy-seven and was buried in an unmarked plot in the Masonic section of Mount Hope Cemetery. In 1968 the members of Masonic Lodge No. 35 decided to locate the grave and place a memorial headstone. After a thorough search of old maps and papers they identified the plot as Lot 7, Grave 5, Section M. On June 8, 1968, the Masons placed a rectangular marker of polished rainbow granite on the site in honor of Philip Crosthwaite, the man who had played such an active role in the early history of Lodge No. 35 and of San Diego.22
1. San Diego Union. February 20, 1903. The Hopewell captained by George Littlefield sailed out of Warren, Rhode Island. It is not clear whether they deserted or whether Littlefield allowed them to leave. As Crosthwaite told the story years later, upon discovering the destination of the Hopewell the two students begged to be put ashore, and the captain agreed to transfer them to the first inbound ship. But they did not see another vessel until the Hopewell reached San Diego. William E. Smythe, History of San Diego, I. (San Diego: The History Company, 108), 269-270. This would indicate that possibly the captain allowed them to leave the schooner, but a story in the San Diego Union on December 29, 1894, indicates that the youths deserted with six other men.
2. In notes prepared in 1885 Crosthwaite indicated that beside himself the foreign settlers in San Diego were: H.D. Fitch, Edward Stokes, Joseph Snook, Captain Stevens, John S. Barker, J.J. Warner, J.C. Stewart, Thomas Russel, C. Walker, John Brown, William Williams, Enos A. Wall, John Post, Albert B. Smith, Thomas Wrightington, William Curley, Peter Wilder, an English carpenter known as Chips, and two Negroes, Allen B. Light and Richard Freeman. San Diego Union. March 29, 1885, December 29, 1894. According to the San Diego Union, February 20, 1903, the other hunters were Julian Ames, John Post, John C. Stewart, and William Curley. Walter Clifford Smith, The Story of San Diego (San Diego: City Printing Company, 1892), 87-88. Smythe, History of San Diego. I, 271. Despite numerous affidavits from San Diegans, including Juan Osuna, Sylvester Marron, and Ramona Williams, Crosthwaite could never prove that he had served and the Bureau of Pensions would not grant him a pension. Crosthwaite File, San Diego History Center, Serra Museum, San Diego, California.
3. Smith, Story of San Diego. 52 and 94. María Josefa López, born in California in 1833 or 1834, was the daughter of Bonifacio López and his first wife, Maria de los Dolores Rosas. María Josefa died in Ensenada in 1905. Crosthwaite File, San Diego History Center. United States Congress. House of Representatives, Ex. Doc. 17, 31st Congress, 1st Session, 596. Bonifacio López. son of Ignacio, served as Juez de Campo at San Diego in 1835 and as a Grand Juror in September 1850. Biographical Files, San Diego History Center. Marjorie Tisdale Wolcott, ed., Pioneer Notes from the Diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes. (Los Angeles: By the Editor, 1929), 295. There is little doubt that Fillipe Cruz and Philip Crosthwaite were one and the same. The information in regard to his spouse and child would fit Crosthwaite, although the census listed his place of birth as England because Ireland did not achieve independence from England until 1922. “1850 Census”. (microfilm), University of San Diego, San Diego. California.
4. Agoston Haraszthy came to the United States from Hungary in 1840 and settled in Wisconsin. In 1849 he, his wife, and their six children moved to San Diego. They left San Diego for Sonoma in 1856 and began the California wine industry. Haraszthy disappeared in 1871 while on a visit to Nicaragua. Smythe, History of San Diego, 231-232. Juan Bandini, born in Lima in 1800, came to San Diego with his father Jose shortly after the revolution in Peru. Juan served as a member of the Assembly 1827-28, as sub-comisario of revenues 1828-31, and as a Congressman in Mexico in 1833. From 1845 to 1846 Bandini was secretary to Governor Pico. In 1850 he left San Diego for Baja California and resumed Mexican citizenship, but he had to leave Mexico for political reasons in 1855. Bandini died in Los Angeles in November 1859. San Diego Historical Society.
5. San Diego Union, June 1, 1900.
6. Charles P. Noell, born in Virginia February 20, 1812, moved to San Francisco in 1848 and kept a store there. He came to San Diego in February 1850 and ran a general store with John Hays. In the late 1860s he went to South America, then to Texas. Noell returned to San Diego in 1873 and from 1880 to 1886 conducted a real estate business with Morse and Whaley. He died on December 30, 1887. Smythe, History of San Diego. Minutes of the Common Council of the City of San Diego. (microfilm), Roll 1, at University of San Diego.
7. Antonio Garra, a chief of the Cupeños, lived near Warner’s Ranch. He had been educated at the San Luis Rey Mission and owned large herds of cattle and horses. Garra was executed at San Diego on January 10, 1852, for his role in the uprising. Smythe, History of San Diego. Jonathan T. Warner, better known as Juan Jose Warner, was born in Lyme, Connecticut, on November 20, 1807. He settled at Los Angeles in 1831 and married Anita Gale in 1836. On November 28, 1844, he received the grant to Rancho San Jose Del Valle. Warner served as San Diego’s first State Senator, 1850-52. He spent his later years in Los Angeles where he died on April 27, 1895. Wolcott, Pioneer Notes. The other volunteers were Albert Smith, Enos Wall, John Stewart and a Doctor Ogden. Smith, Story of San Diego. 102-103.
8. It is doubtful that the group that came to San Diego was the notorious gang that called itself the Hounds, or Regulators. and terrorized San Francisco in 1849. A citizens’ court had banished most of them from San Francisco in July, 1849. The group that came to San Diego probably was a newly formed gang that had taken the name during the renewed violence of 1851. Smith, Story of San Diego. 103-104.
9. Cave Johnson Couts, born in Springfield, Tennessee, on November 11, 1821, graduated from West Point in 1843. He served in San Diego from 1848 to 1851 when he resigned from the army and married Isidora Bandini. Couts served as a member of the first Grand Jury in 1850 and as County Judge in 1854. In 1853 he moved his family to Rancho Guajome. Couts died in San Diego on July 10, 1874. Iris Wilson Engstrand and Thomas Scharf, “Rancho Guajome: A California Legacy Preserved”, Journal of San Diego History, Vol. XX (1974), 1-14. Isaac Van Ness appeared on the list of the first taxpayers of San Diego County in 1850. He was killed in March 1852 in Baja California under mysterious circumstances. Biographical Files, San Diego History Center.
10. Smith, Story of San Diego, 104-107.
11. Lieutenant Thomas Sweeny, a New Yorker who served in the Mexican War, was stationed at Fort Yuma in the early 1850s. Biographical Files, San Diego Historical Society. Arthur Woodward, ed., Journal of Lt. Thomas W. Sweeny. (Los Angeles: Westernlore Press, 1956), 143.
12. Judge James W. Robinson, a native of Ohio, served as Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Texas in 1835. In 1836 he received his commission as a judge. Robinson moved his wife and son to San Diego in 1850. He died in October 1857. Smythe, History of San Diego. Smith, Story of San Diego, 107-108. Woodward, ed., Journal of Lt. Thomas W. Sweeny, 144.
13. Crosthwaite File. San Diego History Center. Smith, Story of San Diego, 101.
14. San Diego Herald August 24, 1853. Crosthwaite File, San Diego Historical Society. The voters also elected J. W. Robinson and W. C. Ferrell as School Commissioners. San Diego Herald, September 9, 1854, April 7 and October 13, 1855, July 18 and September 5, 1857. Joseph Reiner, born in Hungary, served as a Special Inspector of Customs for the Port of San Diego in January and February 1853 and as lighthouse keeper in 1860. Biographical Files. Crosthwaite File, San Diego History Center.
15. George Derby, born April 3, 1823, in Dedham. Massachusetts, graduated from West Point in 1846 and served in the Mexican War, and in April 1849 began duty in California with the Topographical Corps. While in San Diego he wrote humorous stories as John Phoenix and Squibob. After leaving California, Derby was employed in the erection of lighthouses in Florida and Alabama. He died on May 15, 1861. Biographical Files, San Diego History Center. Crosthwaite received the honorary degree of Mark Mason on May 17, 1892, and also attained Royal Arch Mason that year. San Diego Union, February 20, 1903.
16. Crosthwaite File. San Diego History Center. William Jefferson Gatewood. born in 1830 in Illinois, studied law then moved to California in 1848 where he served as District Attorney of Calaveras County. After publishing the San Andreas Register he moved to San Diego and began the Union, but sold his interest in May 1869, and returned to the practice of law. He served as president of the San Diego and Gila Railroad Company in 1869. Gatewood founded the Daily World in July 1872 and was San Diego city attorney from 1874 to 1876. He died on March 27. 1888 on a schooner in San Diego Bay. Smythe, History of San Diego.
17. George A. Pendleton was a classmate of Cave Couts at West Point. He saw little active service in the Mexican War and resigned his commission to settle at Sonoma. In 1849 Pendleton represented the San Joaquin district in the State Constitutional Convention. He came to San Diego in 1855 and held the position of County Clerk from 1857 until his death in March, 1871. Smythe. History of San Diego. San Diego Union. September 29, 1869.
18. Ephrim W. Morse, born October 16, 1823, at Amesbury, Massachusetts, worked as a farmer and as a school teacher before going to San Francisco in July 1849. In 1850 he moved to San Diego where he kept a general store, first with Slack, then with Thomas Whaley, and finally, alone. In 1869 he moved his business to Horton’s Addition. Morse, a prime mover in the organization of the San Diego and Gila Railroad, served as Secretary of the Board of Trade for twelve years and as County Treasurer twice, 1858-1859 and 1861-1863. He died on January 17, 1906. Smythe, History of San Diego. Thomas Whaley, born October 5, 1823, in New York City, was educated at the Washington Institution and travelled in Europe. He arrived in California in July 1849 and in San Diego in October 1851 . In 1859 be went to Alaska for a time, but returned to San Diego. Then in 1873 Whaley went to New York for five years, returning to San Diego in 1878. In 1880 he entered into the real estate business with Morse and Noels. Whaley retired in 1888 and died on December 14, 1890. Robert Wells Hagen, “Thomas Whaley”. (Unpublished Master’s Thesis, San Diego State College. 1963). Letter from Breed and Chase to E. W. Morse dated February 26, 1869, Morse Letter File. San Diego History Center. San Diego Union, March 17, 1870.
19. “The Great Register 1866-1873”, California Room, San Diego Public Library, San Diego. San Diego Union. August 22, and October 4, 1874.
20. San Diego Union, July 19, 1882; November 18, 1883; December 29, 1894. Since a steamer ran from San Diego to Ensenada it was not really necessary for Crosthwaite to pick up the fowl himself. One can speculate that Crosthwaite enjoyed visiting with old friends and used the shipment as an “excuse” to travel to the city.
21. San Diego Union, May 30, 1900. 22. San Diego Union, June 2, 1968.
Pamela Tamplain , born in New Orleans, came to San Diego in 1958. She received a B.A. degree in History from the University of San Diego. and is currently working toward a Master’s degree in History at USD, where she has served as President of the Phi Alpha Theta Chapter. Her article published here was an award-winning paper presented at the San Diego History Center’s 1974 Institute of History.
Illustrations are from the Historical Collections, Title Insurance and Trust Company. San Diego. and the San Diego History Center.