Carlsbad’s Agricultural History

There was a special section on Carlsbad in the January 1, 1916 edition of the San Diego Union. The focus of the section wasn’t about mineral springs or tourism, but about agriculture. Photos and text commented on how the community’s soil and climate were yielding abundant winter crops.

“Winter tomatoes, cucumber, chili peppers, rhubarb, pes and similar crops mature at ‘off-season’ dates in Carlsbad,” stated one article in the section. “Kitchen gardens in this vicinity have yielded fancy winter vegetables year after year. In fact Carlsbad will compare favorably with the best protected foothill sections—it is a veritable ‘winter garden.’”

The Union also noted an up-and-coming crop in the local fields, so new they had to refer to it by two names: “During the last five years the avocado (alligator pear) has held a commanding postion in the limelight with Southern California orchardists. Being of tropical origin, it is extremely sensible to extreme heat or cold. Carlbad has been pronounced the ideal spot to raise this fruit. S. Thompson, one of the first citrus men in the state to take up the avocado as a commercial proposition, is now setting out an orchard of eighteen acres. An adjoining tract, eight acres, is being used as a nursery, for avocado trees.”

In a few years Sam Thompson would help found the Carlsbad Avocado Growers Club. In October, 1923 the club sponsored the first Avocado Day, which became an annual event in the town until the eve of World War II. Avocados would be a major crop in Carlsbad until the late 1940s.

Sources for this post included historic San Diego County newspapers, the 1994 book, Carlsbad: The Village by the Sea, by Charles Wesley Orton, and the 1982 book, Seekers of the Spring: A History of Carlsbad, by Marje Howard-Jones.

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The Elevator in the Barn, or “Ground Floor, Cows and Horses”

In a 1922 book on the history of San Diego City and County, historian Clarence Alan McGrew referred to Chula Vista as “one of the most attractive sections of San Diego County.” At that point in time the town had a population of around 2,000 people, and many of them were engaged in farming. McGrew referred to the city at that point as “the center of a great citrus-growing section, about 3,000 acres being devoted to that end and doing much to give the San Diego County high rank among the lemon producing districts of the United States.”

One of those lemon growers was William G. Brown, who had moved to Chula Vista in 1920 with his wife Emma and three young children. The family was well-traveled, having previously lived in Atlanta, New Orleans and the island of Cuba, where William Brown, a chemical engineer for the United Fruit Company, had served as a “General Superintendant of Sugar Manufacturing,” as his daughter Anita would note years later in an account for the Chula Vista Historical Society.

I mention them being well traveled as background for the anecdote of Anita’s which follows. Because the children, having experienced travel to a number of places while their father was on business, would have known something about city life as well as farm life. So here’s Anita’s anecdote, coming from a period when she would have been between about 8 and say, 15 or so, talking about play time with her slightly older and four-years-younger brothers:

“We had space all around us to play, but our favorite play area was the barn. There we could pretend we were on an elevator. We tied a thick stick to one end of a heavy rope. We sat on the stick and tossed the other end over a big beam in the hayloft. We took turns lowering each other down to the floor through the hay chute into the horse stall while calling out numbers of imaginary floors we passed going down. We enjoyed the activity until we grew too heavy for one another to handle, and we didn’t fit in the hay chute any more.”

An interesting snapshot of child’s play in one particular family in San Diego County in the early decades of the 20th century.

Sources for this post:

  1. McGrew, Clarence Alan, City of San Diego and San Diego County: Birthplace of California, Volume I, Chicago and New York, American Historical Society, 1922.
  2. Black, Samuel F., San Diego County, California: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement, Volume I, S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913.
  3. The Chula Vista Historical Society Presents: Family, Friends and Homes, Chula Vista, Chula Vista Historical Society, 1991.

Face to Face with Early History

Apologies to my readers for the delay in blog posts recently. The demands of the “day job” took up all available time. Then the need to get off the treadmill led my wife and I to seize some time off: a driving trip to Arizona, which brought me back to a face-to-face with history again! The photo below was taken outside the Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix. It shows part of an adobe compound constructed by indigenous peoples some 2,000 years ago. Such structures reflect the kinds of communities found by the first Europeans to arrive in what we today call the American Southwest.

I was reminded of examples of masonry practiced by the original indigenous residents of San Diego County. The people we now know as the Kumeyaay inhabited San Diego County and the Baja Peninsula when the first Europeans came in 1769. These indigenous people had been on the local scene for approximately 2,700 years prior.

You can learn more about this early history of San Diego County this Saturday at the Rancho Bernardo History Museum in the Bernardo Winery. One of my duties as a volunteer at the Rancho Bernardo Historical Society is coordinating the society’s monthly Speakers Series. Our speaker on June 8 will be Cindy Stankowski, executive director of the San Diego Archaeological Center. Her topic will be: “10,000 Years: The Prehistory of the San Diego Region.” Admission is free to the public.  For more info visit https://rbhistory.org/events/speakers/ ,

The Lost Town of Barham

On April 22, 1884, the San Diego Union’s column on happenings in “San Luis Rey Valley and Vicinity” included this item:

The “Barham” referred to John Barham, a farmer and feed store owner who was also trying to develop a little town around his homestead and that of his father James. A post office named Barham had opened in May of 1883. By 1884 the town of Barham’s feed store had been joined by a blacksmith shop and a weekly newspaper, The Plain Truth. The newspaper’s editor, William Webster Borden, was also the town postmaster.

Barham is one of the places I’ll be talking about this Friday in my Oasis class, “What’s In A Name? Origins of San Diego County Place Names,” at 1:30 at the Ramona Community Library. To register for the class, go to https://www.oasisnet.org/San-Diego-CA/Classes and type in class number 798.

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Mr. Sherman and his Heights

 

Photo of Matthew Sherman from the book, History of San Diego 1542-1908, by William E. Smythe.

An item in the San Diego Union of March 13, 1872 on deeds filed included one for “Matthew Sherman to W. H. Lowery, lots 10 and 11, block 26 in Sherman’s Addition.”

Matthew Sherman was then a 45-year-old Civil War veteran. A native of Massachusetts, he’d been stationed in San Diego while serving in the Union army during the war and, taking a liking to the place, returned here to live after his discharge from the army in 1865. In 1867 Sherman bought 160 acres on a hilly area looking down on San Diego Bay. He built a small cottage for himself and his wife Augusta and proceeded to raise vegetables and keep a flock of sheep. He also began subdividing his land into lots which he offered for sale to others. The deed transaction indicates that he was having some success at that.

Sherman’s original cottage stood on what is today the northwest corner of 19th and J Streets. The crops and sheep are long gone but the neighborhood is still identified on maps as Sherman Heights.

Sources for this post included the books History of San Diego 1542-1908 by William Smythe,, San Diego County Place Names A to Z, by Leland Fetzer, and the online archives of the San Diego History Center.

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San Diego County’s Farming Heritage

The above item is from the Poway Progress newspaper’s May 4, 1894 issue. Its report on the hay and grain crop in Merle (now part of Leucadia) offers a glimpse of local agriculture during that period. A few years earlier, in December of 1888, the San Diego Union reported that “barley, oats and wheat are growing with great rapidity in Merle,” and that “grass and grain are over fifteen inches high” and reaching twenty inches in some places, insuring “plenty of feed for stock.”

One finds similar reports about communities all over San Diego County in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time when the livestock population literally outnumbered the people, and barley and grain hadn’t yet given way to citrus and avocados.

You can find out more by attending my Oasis class, More Livestock Than People: San Diego’s Agricultural Heritage, in April at the Grossmont Learning Center.

If you’d like to sign up or just find out more, go to the Oasis website, https://www.oasisnet.org/San-Diego-CA , click on “Take A Class,” and type in 416.

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He came for the climate, then started a city.

 

 

 

Photo of Frank Kimball from the 1908 book, “History of San Diego 1542-1908”, by William Smythe.

Frank Kimball and his three brothers came to San Francisco in 1861 from New Hampshire, where their family had a business as building contractors. They started the same business in San Francisco and did quite well. However, Frank’s health began to deteriorate and his doctor urged him to seek a warmer, drier climate, so he and his brothers packed up and moved to San Diego County. The move did wonders for Frank’s health and also for his worklife. He and his brothers bought a former Mexican rancho just south of the city of San Diego. Originally called Rancho del Rey in homage to the king of Spain, the ranch was renamed Rancho de la Nacion when Mexico won its independence from Spain, reflecting the shifting of loyalty from kings to the newly independent nation of Mexico.

The Kimballs improvised on that name, seeking to develop their new town as National City. The rest, as they often say, is history.

Frank Kimball’s story is one of the topics covered in To Your Health! Tourism Comes to San Diego, a talk I’m giving on March 27 for San Diego Oasis at the Grossmont Center. To register for the class, visit https://www.oasisnet.org/San-Diego-CA/Classes and type in the class name.

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