“Remittance Men”

Your San Diego History Seeker first came across the phrase “remittance man” when researching the history of the Ellis Hotel. This building had been a prominent landmark in downtown Fallbrook for almost 70 years until its demolition in 1958. In its heyday from 1911 to the early 1920s it was a popular venue for county, civic and business events and drew visitors from across the nation and the world.

The handsome structure included a veranda winding around the front of the first floor. Here’s an undated photo from the archives of the Fallbrook Historical Society:

Hotel Ellis

According to local papers at the time, among those often staying at the hotel or just stopping by to spend some time on its veranda were so-called “remittance boys.” As one former Fallbrook resident familiar with the situation described it, it was the custom of the English gentry “to give the eldest son property and the youngest a given income [remittance] each year.” Some of these young men migrated to Australia, Canada, or the United States. According to the Fallbrook Enterprise, some who were “ranching” in the Fallbrook area used to “ride into town on their horses” and sit on the veranda to “pass the time of day.”

It seems that there were a lot of “remittance” boys and men in San Diego County in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, if references in local papers are any indication. The references weren’t always positive. A May 1912 San Diego Union article on one C.V. Humphries, arrested for passing bad checks downtown, stated “The police believe Humphries is a ‘remittance man’ who is under restraint in the drawing of funds.”

“Humphries is said to have admitted that he was the ‘black sheep’ of a wealthy family of high social standing,” reported the Union, adding “Officers expect that relatives will make the check deficiencies good, in which event the losers say they will not prosecute.”

That same year, the remittance boys of Fallbrook made a much nicer impression, recalled some years later in the Fallbrook Enterprise. A Mr. Stinton, on a driving trip from San Diego to Santa Monica with his wife and young son, hit a heavy rainstorm which caused the car’s fabric roof to leak. They pulled into Fallbrook to ride out the storm, checking into the Ellis, and wound up staying two days.

Cars were still rare enough that the Mr. Stinton’s Locomobile attracted a lot of attention. The newspaper reported that “the remittance-men and their friends relaxing on the veranda of the hotel all asked for rides and Stintin obliged.”

On the day of his departure, Stinton was presented with “$12 in payment for the Locomobile rides.” He must have appreciated the hospitality, because Stinton ultimately moved to Fallbrook.

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Sources for this post included the archives of the Fallbrook Historical Society and historic San Diego newspapers.

History Happenings-Upcoming Events in the Local History Community

Escondido History Center and Escondido Citizens Ecology Committee co-sponsor Tuesday evening walking tours of historic city sites twice a month from April through August. For details visit: http://www.escondidohistory.org/2014_walking_tour_brochure.pdf .

 

 

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