What’s In A Name? A Lot of History

There’s a lot of history in San Diego County place and street names. Here are some examples.

If you’re driving around the industrial area of Poway, you’re liable to cross Stowe Road. You might also encounter Kirkham Court, Kirkham Road and Kirkham Way. These roads wind above and around Beeler and Sycamore Canyons. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries these canyons held a little community called Stowe.

Stowe had its own post office from 1889 to 1905 and its own school from 1890 to 1903.

The 1897 Directory of San Diego City and County lists 71 separate towns, with brief descriptions of each and the names of selected residents. Some of the town names are recognizable to us today, such as Chula Vista and Escondido. Others are communities that no longer exist, and haven’t for decades, like Almond, Bostonia, and Stowe. I refer to these places as “the lost towns of San Diego County.”

The 1897 listing for Stowe had this brief description: “Stowe is a farming section, about 23 miles from San Diego and six miles from Poway, on the road from Poway to El Cajon valley.”

That description was followed by the names of 14 residents and their occupations. Eleven of them were men, all farmers. Three were women: two schoolteachers and one postmistress.

Among the farmers was B. F. Kirkham.

Benjamin Franklin Kirkham came to California from Colorado in 1891 with his wife Fredericka and four sons, 10-year-old Frank, 7-year-old twins Isaac and Andrew, and 4-year-old Fred.

Benjamin’s son Andrew grew up to be a hard working farmer, but he was also an amateur historian and writer as well. When he died in November 1964 at the age of 80, an obituary in the Poway News stated that he “kept notebooks crammed with data and humorous anecdotes about Valley goings-on.”

A few years before his death Andrew summarized the information in his notebooks and put it into manuscripts which are now in the archives of the Poway Historical and Memorial Society’s museum. These manuscripts provide a wealth of detail about the Kirkham family and their lives in Stowe and the broader community of Poway into which Stowe was eventually absorbed.

Here’s an undated photo of Andrew Kirkham at work, courtesy of the Poway Historical Museum archives. Andy is on the left:

Andy Kirkham and team

Stowe will be one of the subjects of the next book in my series on the lost towns of San Diego County. If you’d like to order a copy of the first book in the series, The Lost Town of Bernardo, click on https://sandiegohistoryseeker.com/my-books/ .

Resources for this post included the archives of the Poway Historical Museum, historic San Diego newspapers, and the books Goodan Ranch and Sycamore Canyon, by Carol Billhardt Crafts and San Diego County Place Names A to Z, by Leland Fetzer.

Upcoming History Events

The Congress of History of San Diego and Imperial Counties presents their annual two-day conference: “A Half Century of Local History: Past, Present, and Future,” March 7 & 8 at the Marina Village Conference Center (near Sea World). For details visit www.congressofhistory.org/ .

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