County Fair Ag Exhibit

A visit to the San Diego County Fair is an annual routine for my household, as it is for many. If you go, I hope you’ll check out the agricultural exhibits, to see where a lot of your food comes from, and the role that agriculture still plays in our county.

The ag hall also includes a great historical section mounted by the Friends of Farming, a group of farmers and farm supporters formed to support the efforts of the San Diego County Farm Bureau.

The county farm bureau celebrated its 103rd birthday earlier this year.

It was early in 1914 that Congress passed an act creating a Cooperative Extension Service under the Department of Agriculture. This act offered to hire local advisors, working with agricultural colleges (like the then new UC Davis), to provide advice on up-to-date farming methods.

“A county farm bureau representing 20 percent of the farmers in a county had to be operating before a farm advisor could be appointed for the county,” according to one of the county fair exhibit placards.

San Diego farmers were soon flocking to the idea of setting up their own organization. Farmers in individual communities met to form local branch clubs which would then meet to form a countywide bureau.

On February 20, 1914 over 1,500 farmers, many with their families, showed up at the Spreckels Theater. In morning and afternoon sessions they elected bureau officers and heard speakers such as two deans from the University of California’s Agriculture Program, Thomas Hunt and H.E. Van Norman (the latter also a president of the National Dairy Association), and B. H. Crocheron, state leader of the new agricultural extension program.

“This is beyond comparison the biggest piece of agricultural business that has ever been put through in San Diego County,” reported the San Diego Union on February 21. “It means that the farmers scattered over miles of territory have at last united under one banner, that the farming industry has taken unto itself a backbone, and that from now on the progress of one will in a large measure mean the progress of all.”

And the Farm Bureau is still going strong. Check out their exhibit at the fair.

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“San Diego Gets First Sight of Farmerette”

That was the headline of an article on page 2 of the San Diego Evening Tribune of August 20, 1918.

“Enter the farmerette!” began the article. “She isn’t new, in some sections of California, but her appearance here yesterday was the signal for many questions about the branch of the service to which she belongs.”

“Farmerettes” were the nickname for members of the Woman’s Land Army of America (WLA). The WLA was established in 1917 in the wake of America’s entrance into the First World War one hundred years ago. It was one of a number of public and private efforts to promote food production and conservation during the war

The WLA was established “by a consortium of women’s organizations—including gardening clubs, suffrage societies, women’s colleges, civic groups and the YWCA,” according to a 2009 article written by Elaine Weiss for Smithsonian Magazine.

From 1917 to 1919, the WLA trained and sent more than 20,000 city and town women to rural America.

Here’s an undated photo from the Library of Congress archives of a California WLA member driving a tractor:

The farmerettes referred to in the August 1918 Tribune article had “hiked down from the farmerette camp at Elsinore” on “a four-day furlough from their government work, which consists of planting tomatoes, tending the ground and plants, harvesting the crop….and canning the product for the consumption of the United States soldiers and sailors….”

The visitors clearly made an impression. A few weeks later, on September 16, one of the Tribune’s social columns included this item: “Miss Hulda VanWagenen, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. D. B. VanWagenen, has gone north to join the woman’s land army. Miss VanWagenen left with a group of workers from Los Angeles today for Saticoy, Ventura County, to pick plums.”

Ten days later, another Tribune article noted “A number of local girls and women have joined the woman’s land army.”

“Like Rosie the Riveter a generation later,” wrote Weiss in Smithsonian, “the Land Army farmerette became a wartime icon.”

Sources for this post included historic San Diego newspapers, Smithsonian Magazine, and Legacies, magazine of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

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Poway Then and Now: Two Photos Tell the Story

The photo above is courtesy of the archives of the Poway Historical and Memorial Society. It was taken in 1916 and it shows what was then called the Poway Methodist Episcopal Church. Please note the building’s isolation, surrounded by grassy meadows on all sides. Note also the dirt road running by in the foreground.

Now note the next shot, courtesy of yours truly, taken recently:

That photo shows the same building, known today as the Community Church of Poway. The surrounding meadows are now filled with homes, apartments, and shopping centers. And that dirt road has become the paved and busy Community Road, in the heart of a bustling city.

In 1916 the Poway Valley was an unincorporated rural area populated by a few hundred people. It remained sparsely populated and predominantly rural until 1954, when its residents voted to connect to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which brought a steadier water supply courtesy of the Colorado River.

How much of a difference did that new water supply make? Four years after the Colorado River water started flowing in, Poway’s population had jumped from less than 400 to 2,800. Two years later in 1962, it was up to 4,700. Poway was incorporated as a city in 1970.

The abundant water supply made all the difference. The pictures tell the story.

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10,000 Years of History in One Building

While speaking to a tour group at the Rancho Bernardo Museum last week, I mentioned the San Diego Archaeological Center and got some puzzled expressions. So I mention the center this week as it remains one of the hidden gems of the county’s historical community and deserves to be known to a wider public.

Founded in 1998, the non-profit San Diego Archaeological Center functions as both a museum and an active curation facility. Its stated mission, listed on the center’s website, is “to preserve archaeological collections and promote their educational, scientific and cultural use to benefit a diverse public.”

The 10,000 years of history referred to in the title of today’s post refers to the history of human habitation in San Diego County, from the original Native Americans to the settlers from all continents who came after. As a result of that history, there are upwards of 17,000 archaeological sites in the county, more than in some entire states.

As you can well imagine, this wealth of buried history faces destruction by the demands of development. That’s why regulations such as the California Environmental Quality Act were created to ensure excavation and removal of historically significant artifacts from development sites.

Unfortunately while these regulation provided funding for digging up and removing artifacts, they didn’t fund equally for curation: the preservation and use of the artifacts after excavation.

That’s where SDAC came in. This single building, a converted elementary school in the San Pasqual Valley, is a repository and exhibit space for San Diego County’s heritage.

They started out with 10 boxes of artifacts in 1998. Today, “We have over 1,008 collections representing 2,876 archaeological sites,” said Cindi Stankowski, Center Executive Director in a recent interview. “Altogether they total 5,014 cubic feet. We can take up to 10,000 so we still have room,” she said optimistically.

The center is open to the public, with regular exhibits as well as classes and special events. So you can go see examples of pieces of our human past, from Native American stone tools to adobe bricks and oxen yokes used by 19th century American farmers, or harpoons used by whalers of the same era.

Below are just a few examples of exhibits from a visit I made last weekend.

 


 

 

 

To find out more about this special place, check out their website, http://sandiegoarchaeology.org/ . You can also find them on facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SDArchCenter , and on twitter, https://twitter.com/sdac .

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Bays-False and Otherwise

For a few hundred years there was a body of water near San Diego Bay called “False Bay.” Interesting to find references to it in maps and history books from the 1800s until at least the early 1920s.

The origin of the name traces back to the first European to sail into San Diego Harbor, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. A 1908 history book describes members of Cabrillo’s party, shortly after landing, wandering the then-heavily wooded hills at what would come to be called Point Loma.

The book cited a quote from the journal of one of the Spaniards: “The high ground commanded a view of the whole harbor, which appeared spacious, convenient, and well sheltered…”

The journal also noted that “to the northwest of the wood is another harbor.” Some members of the group would subsequently gather along the banks of this “False Bay” by mistake, thinking they were actually at the main harbor, before finding their way back.

False Bay was a tidal marsh fed by wanderings of the San Diego River. I say “wanderings” because the river, in its course down from the inland mountain areas to the sea, sometimes flowed down to San Diego Bay, and other times diverted into False Bay.

Beginning in the 1800s concerns about flood control and the possible silting up of San Diego Bay led to the building of dikes, which in the beginning were not successful.

From the late 1800s through the 1940s False Bay was mainly known as a great place for duck hunters and fisherman, although the facilities they used were subject to destruction from flooding.

City and state authorities began a concentrated effort to develop the site in the 1940s. Levees brought better flood control, and the dredging of marshlands formed small islands that offered greater recreational opportunities. This more desirable-looking body of water also gained, in the words of another historian, “the more dignified name of Mission Bay.”

Sources for this post included Volume I of William Smythe’s book, History of San Diego: 1542-1908, Volume I of Clarence Alan McGrew’s City of San Diego and San Diego County:The Birthplace of California, published in 1922, and the website of the City of San Diego.

 

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The Buddies of Barracks 1089

In my last post I described San Diego County’s reaction to the announcement of the United States entry into the First World War on April 6, 1917. So the month of April marks the 100th anniversary of America’s entrance into that war.

That anniversary will be commemorated later this month by the Rancho Bernardo History Museum. The museum, in the Bernardo Winery, will be mounting an exhibit on Barracks 1089. Officially it was Barracks 1089, Veterans of World War I of the USA, Inc.

Barracks were the names of the local units of a national group originally founded in 1948 as “War 1 Buddies.” It had been almost 50 years since the war but there were enough surviving veterans to found their own unique organization, and they chose to officially address each other as “Buddy” to mark their particular experience and spirit.

That spirit surfaced on the West Coast a little over a decade and a half later in the then-new community of Rancho Bernardo. Carved out of a former working cattle ranch in the early 1960s, Rancho Bernardo had only a few thousand residents in 1965. But in February of that year, when local veterans of World War I were invited to start their own organization, an overflow crowd showed up.

The first meeting was called at a club room at the Seven Oaks Community Center. But as the community center’s February 1965 newsletter reported: “The number of individuals attending the first meeting was so large that future meetings will be held in the auditorium, rather than in one of the clubrooms.”

Barracks 1089 would count 140 members at its peak. The stories of some of those members and their organization will be on display at the museum in a few weeks. I would urge all my readers to check it out. It’s an excellent example of the preservation of a community’s history by the volunteers of our local museums and historical societies.

Source for this post was the archives of the Rancho Bernardo History Museum.

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San Diego Goes to War

On April 6, 1917, the U. S, Congress voted to affirm President Woodrow Wilson’s request for a declaration of war against Germany. This brought the United States into the First World War, which had been raging in Europe since June 1914.

When news of the vote reached San Diego, Mayor Edwin Capps issued a proclamation calling on all citizens to gather in “a great patriotic rally and demonstration” on the afternoon of Monday, April 9, “in the exposition grounds at the organ pavilion.”

According to the proclamation, printed in the April 6 San Diego Evening Tribune, the event was to be arranged “under the auspices of the United Spanish war veterans, that organization now being established by congressional recognition as the nation’s ranking civilian patriotic body since the retirement of the G.A.R. from active official participation in patriotic work.”

At that point in time, the Spanish-American War had been fought just 19 years previously. The initials G.A.R. stood for Grand Army of the Republic, which was the organization of Civil War veterans. So that reference in the proclamation tells us something about the state of those two veterans organizations.

It would be the first of many rallies. In just the first week after the declaration of war local papers reported rallies in San Diego, Coronado, Escondido and Chula Vista. Some 6,000 people participated in a mass meeting April 12 outside the U. S. Grant Hotel, where many signed up to volunteer at a naval recruiting office.

“Not since the early days of the Spanish-American war has this city witnessed such an outburst of patriotism,” stated an article in the April 12 San Diego Union. “Recruiting offices were crowded all day, bands played, flags fluttered, automobiles filled with sailors or soldiers wheeled through the streets exhorting the sons of the Southland to rally to the defense of their country…”

Sources for this post included historic San Diego newspapers and chronologies of World War I from the CNN Library and Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary.