The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1989, Volume 35, Number 3
Thomas L. Scharf, Editor

Book Review

Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor

Maps of the Pueblo Lands of San Diego, 1602-1874.

By Neal Harlow. Los Angeles: Dawson’s Book Shop, 1987. Appendices, Bibliography. Maps. Bibliography. 244 Pages. $150.00

Reviewed by Ronald V. May, Director of Archaeology of the Fort Guijarros Museum Foundation, editor of the Fort Guijarros Quarterly, and a member of the staff of the San Diego County Department of Planning and Land Use.

In Maps of the Pueblo Lands of San Diego, 1602-1874, Neal Harlow provides evidence relating to a number of the most confusing land ownership issues pertaining to the early formation of the City of San Diego and its Pueblo Lands. Scholars familiar with the writings of Ephraim W. Morse, Daniel Cleveland, and Alonzo E. Horton have long struggled with the mysteries of the pre-Civil War land auctions and their relationship to the 1874 patent that erased some holdings and enabled others to become rich. Harlow provides solutions to these problems with careful analysis and exposition of General Land Office Records, subsequent government and private surveys and recorded maps.

Although the parts of the book pertaining to pueblo land titles and the military reservation lands may be the most unique and significant sections, they are but a small part of the book. Overall, Maps of the Pueblo Lands of San Diego provides a history of the mapping — and information about and often copies of the maps themselves — of the San Diego area, from the first European map of 1602 through the early European and then American visitors, and finally, the settlers of modern San Diego. The book includes a variety of things: a table of contents; a key to place names; a four part historical account which discusses early visitors and mappers, plus the history of some of the key maps of the early United States period; appendices on Coronado Island and the military reservation; an extensive bibliography; and detailed endnotes. The core of the book is a listing of the seventy nine maps Harlow has chosen for the period. Each listing includes information on the map’s creator, the map’s title, description, context and date, area covered, features noted, sources, places listed and reproduced, plus extensive research notes. All of this makes the book a major source for maps and mapping of San Diego from the first Spanish explorations through settlement and the eventual American takeover and development.

The book is the third in a series which culminates over forty years of research done by Neal Harlow while he was Librarian at the University of California in Berkeley, and Dean of Graduate Studies in Library Science at Rutgers University. Benefitting from critical review of his earlier works, the author has focused this book upon federal, state and locally recorded documentary record of the Pueblo lands.

One of the important issues regarding land titles and the extent of the pueblo lands in early San Diego had to do with the creation of a United States government military reservation on part of Point Loma. Harlow devotes considerable space to sorting out this issue, and in providing new documentary records regarding the problem. The problem began in 1846 when United States Army officials asked for establishment of a military reservation where Spanish-Mexican fortifications had been. Despite the fact that Mexican authorities had never made such a distinction regarding the public lands of San Diego, the United States government persisted in its claims and in 1852 a military reservation was designated by presidential order. The area was not, however, formally surveyed, and private development in the area continued. When federal officials began to get concerned about fortifications toward the end of the Civil War, the issue arose again and in 1864 Congress defined the boundary for pueblo and military lands as high tide mark. This caused seventy eight private parties to file lawsuits with the Government Land Office to protect their interests. At the same time, the City of San Diego re-surveyed and made plat corrections in the pueblo lands. In December of 1870, the Government Land Office sided with federal authorities and private parties occupying land on Point Loma south of Colorado Street were evicted by 1873. Harlow’s treatment of this complicated legal tangle is commendable.

Maps of the Pueblo Lands of San Diego is not a book for the avocational historian or for persons unfamiliar with the knotty problems of early San Diego exploration, mapping and real estate history. The awkward arrangement of the book requires that scholars flip from text to endnotes at the expense of the flow of the storyline. A major disappointment for future readers will be the failure to print facsimiles of all seventy-nine maps listed in the text. Scholars serious enough to purchase the book will be forced to track down the other maps in archives all over the land. The Clayton and Hesse map on pages 114 and 115 is marred by the page binding. Given the attention to the Military Reservation on Point Loma in the appendices, it is puzzling why the 1851 United States Coast Survey map was not singled out from a lumping of published maps. The actual field map produced in 1851 clearly illustrated the ruins of the military fortification that played so prominently in Hallack’s recommendation for the “continuation” of military uses. More glaring is the omission of the 1867 United States Army Corps of Engineers map of Ballast Point that notes the “Ruins of Spanish Barracks” on Ballast Point, which is in the United States National Archives and copies are on file at Cabrillo National Monument. These problems aside, this monumental work belongs in the private and public libraries of all scholars and land use professionals concerned with the growth of the City of San Diego. The greatest pity is that Dawson’s Book Shop only elected to publish 375 copies for public distribution.