The Journal of San Diego History
Spring 1983, Volume 29, Number 2
Thomas L. Scharf, Managing Editor


Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor

Seekers of the Spring: a History of Carlsbad. By Marje Howard-Jones. Carlsbad, California: The Friends of the Carlsbad Library, 1982. Bibliography. Illustrations. Index. Maps. 177 pages. $8.50 paper. $25.00 cloth.

Reviewed by Stephen A. Colston, Director, San Diego History Research Center, San Diego State University, who has worked on Carlsbad history under a National Endownment for the Humanities grant.

In the 1880s, a group of entrepreneurs promoted settlement of a town in San Diego’s North County that was adjacent to a recently completed rail line linking San Diego with points north and east. Mineral water had been discovered in the area, and the developers selected a name for the nascent settlement so as to identify it with the famed Bohemian spa, Karlsbad. The present study surveys the history of Carlsbad and its environs from the Spanish period to 1952 when the city was incorporated.

On July 16, 1769, when Father Junípero Serra was delivering a mass at Presidio Hill, an event that marked the founding of San Diego, an expedition under the command of Gaspar de Portolá entered the greater Carlsbad region. However, it was to be some three decades before Spanish colonial officials laid the cornerstone of settlement of this area with the founding of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia. Father Antonio Peyrí was given the responsibility of supervising the Mission for nearly 40 years and, through his energetic and capable leadership, he developed San Luis Rey into the wealthiest mission establishment in California. The secularization of the California missions by the government of the Republic of Mexico in the 1830s ushered in the era of ranchos. In 1842, Juan María Marrón was granted Rancho Agua Hedionda (“stinking water”) which was comprised of some 13,000 acres formerly under the jurisdiction of the Mission San Luis Rey.

The rancho was acquired in 1860 by Francis Hinton who bequeathed the lands on his death in 1870 to his manager, Robert Kelly. Kelly donated 40 coastal acres to the Arizona Eastern Railroad and these lands, together with the acreage acquired by John A. Frazier, formed the nucleus around which Carlsbad was to develop. Frazier constructed a well tower on his land to tap an underground stream of mineral water, and while “Frazier’s Station” became a popular stop along the right-of-way, it was not until Samuel Church Smith and Gerhard Schutte founded the Carlsbad Land and Mineral Water company that Carlsbad experienced its first “boom.”

The availability of water was the principal determinant of the vitality of the community’s economic life which, until the middle of this century, centered largely on the cultivation of beans, peas, lettuce, avocados, and flowers. Following the Mexican Revolution of 1910-17, Mexican migrants worked Carlsbad’s fields and established their residencies in a section of the community that was to be known as “Barrio Carlos.” It was during the same period that Japanese vegetable growers immigrated to the area. In spite of economic depression, the town’s population doubled during the 1930s. Carlsbad experienced an even greater increase in its population after World War II, and in 1952 residents voted to incorporate the city.

The book is enhanced by the inclusion of 6 maps and some 100 photographs, a number of which have been reproduced from private collections. The author drew largely from newspaper accounts, city directories, and interviews for the narrative. These sources are occasionally identified in the text but the absence of footnotes is regretted. Biographical vignettes of select residents and historical sketches of numerous structures have been sprinkled liberally throughout the text, and this practice all too often creates a disjointed narrative. But the most serious flaw of the book is that its chronological scope is not sufficiently comprehensive. Carlsbad has grown dramatically during the last three decades—as have other North County communities—and this latest chapter in the city’s history has been woefully omitted in this work.

In spite of these blemishes, the book does provide a detailed chronicle of Carlsbad’s development, and the limited material in print on North County history makes this volume particularly useful.