The Journal of San Diego History
Fall 1993, Volume 39, Number 4
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

Book Review

Julian City and Cuyamaca Country: A History and Guide to the Past and Present.

By Charles R. LeMenager. Ramona, CA: Eagle Peak Publishing Company, 1992. Bibliography. Illustrations. Maps. Index. 255 pages.

Reviewed by Karna Webster, M.A. history, University of San Diego and author of Chula Vista Heritage, 1986.

Julian City and Cuyamaca Country by Charles R. LeMenager is the third book in his “historical trilogy” about San Diego’s back country. Previous volumes were Off the Main Road, which covered San Vicente and Barona Valley, and Ramona and Round About, a history of the Santa Maria and Santa Ysabel ranchos and the area in between. This latest book in the series presents the histories of Julian City, Banner, Cuyamaca Rancho/Cuyamaca State Park and nearby areas. It carries the reader from the time of the Indians up to 1992.

An interesting chapter about the Indians and their lifestyle lists the twelve Kumeyaay villages that once existed within the boundaries of what is now Cuyamaca State Park. It provides details about eleven of them; a map shows the general location of each. The author relates the story of the discovery of gold during the winter of 1869-1870 and the founding of Julian City by ex-Confederate soldiers. From his own new research, LeMenager contributes details about the Confederate military service of the Bailey brothers and Mike and Webb Julian, pioneers of the Julian area. He also discusses in detail the prolonged Cuyamaca Grant court battle whereby the grant owners tried to “float” the northern boundary of the grant northward to include the Julian mining district and Julian City. They hoped to collect royalties on every ton of ore mined in the district, but in the end could not prove their court case. San Diego’s Judge Benjamin Hayes represented the miners.

In the chapter, “Fact ‘n’ Fiction,” LeMenager presents some evidence that the tale about Julian City challenging San Diego in the 1870s for the county seat is probably untrue. According to the author, he could not find any newspaper articles written in the 1870s that reported such a challenge or any public document that would suggest this story could be true. Also, Julian City did not have a population as large as was claimed. LeMenager has traced the story to the accounts told by at least four Julian pioneers, with the first written in 1928. It should be noted here that Clarence Alan McGrew’s City of San Diego and San Diego County, published in 1922, contains a version of this tale. The story probably became popular folklore in Julian long before that.

Another chapter with maps tells of the various historical trails that traversed the Julian area and of the attempts to build roads to this mountain town. Much of the last part of the book covers topics such as “Apples”, “The Flume”, “Schools”, “Park Trails”, and so on. The last section, “Back Country 1992”, consists of current photographs of people, events, and businesses.

This book is a welcome addition to the many recent publications about various communities in San Diego County. Books like this help popularize the unique history of these areas and tend to increase public awareness of the local heritage. Julian City and Cuyamaca Country will be of interest to the people who live in Julian as well as the many visitors to the town and to Cuyamaca State Park. It is nicely illustrated with a number of photographs, drawings and maps. Since the author indicates that he expects to have another printing of this book, a thorough proof-reading and editing is suggested. The many typographical or spelling errors and non-standard punctuation in places tend to distract the reader. The index needs checking, too, since some listings are not on the pages shown.

Buy this book from
You get Amazon’s low price and the
San Diego Historical Society
gets credit when you buy through this link.