The Stowe Literary Society

In an earlier post I mentioned the community of Stowe, which was located in the Beeler and Sycamore Canyon areas of what is today southeastern Poway.

It was a small farming community with a one-room school and one post office and, for a time, a literary society.

Andy Kirkham, farmer and chronicler of the early 20th century Poway Valley, wrote of “our literary society club which was every other Saturday night at the Stowe school house.”

The Stowe Literary Society may have had a short life which came as Stowe itself was disappearing. The post office closed in 1905, the school in 1906, and references to the town in San Diego newspapers end after 1911. But for at least a year during 1904 the people of Stowe met regularly for cultural education as well as a good time.

“The Stowe Literary society met on the night of January 30,” began an item in the San Diego Union of February 2, 1904. “The programme consisted of music, selections from Dickens, and the reading of the Stowe Journal.”

Each meeting included discussion of the works of a well-known author–Dickens at one meeting, Washington Irving at another. Then members would get a chance to read or recite their own work. The evening would end with a “basket social” (auctioning off baskets of homemade goodies), or a formal home-cooked supper, or a dance.

The member recitations might include work by local school students. The meeting held on February 27, 1904, declared a “leap year social,” included the reading by schoolteacher Margaret Woods of “seven original stories written by her pupils,” with the audience then selecting the winner, according to the Union.

The local teachers and their students of all ages, as well as many of the town’s adults appear to have been regular participants. Andy Kirkham, who was then 20, served as the society president for a time.

“We would have debates on different subjects,” wrote Kirkham in a journal reminiscence years later, “like which has more value, fire or water, and would hold mock courts and appoint officers for the mock court for the evening.”

Each meeting also included a reading from the Stowe Journal, which sounds like it may have been a sort of literary community newsletter.

There were also, of course, spelling bees. Again we can thank Andy Kirkham for the details.

“We were lucky to have a man in our neighborhood by the name of William Hoyt,” wrote Kirkham. “If it wasn’t for him, we couldn’t have got to first base. Mr. Hoyt and the school teacher were the two main persons in our activity. In debates, Mr. Hoyt was the winner. Mock courts? Mr. Hoyt the winner. In spelling bees, Mr. Hoyt and the teacher would be the last two standing and—Pop Went The Weasel—Mr. Hoyt the winner!”

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

 

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History Happenings-Upcoming Events in the Local History Community

A replica of the original creamery building at the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead in Escondido will be dedicated on Wednesday, June 4 at 4 p.m. Free to the public. Events include ribbon-cutting, refreshments, tours and a sample of freshly churned butter. For further details email anne@sdrp.org or call 760-432-8318.

 

SOHO (Save Our Heritage Organization) historic home tour of San Diego’s North Park neighborhood Sunday, June 8, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For ticket info visit www.SOHOsandiego.org or call 619-297-9327,

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“The Cowboy Violinist”

The violin in his hands is a thing of life. His playing is always enchanting, developing new beauties, and never fails to hold his audience entranced to the end.

The San Diego Union, writing about the playing of Robert Hargrave in 1908.

Here’s a 1914 photo of violinist Robert Hargrave:

Bob Hargrave with fiddle 1914

 

Hargrave played in places like the International Order of Good Templars Hall in Poway and at halls and homes all over San Diego County. A week in 1901 found him playing at a ball in Oceanside on Thursday night and another in Valley Center on Friday.

More than a fiddler, he was also acclaimed as a composer, music teacher and a band organizer / leader.

“San Marcos seems to be destined to become a sort of Mecca for the musicians of the surrounding country,” wrote the San Diego Union in November, 1901, at a time when Hargrave was living there. “Al A. Freeman, the famous fiddler of San Luis Rey, and his brother, William E. Freeman, together with Everett Nulton, the guitar player of Escondido, spent Sunday on ‘Hargrave’s Musical Mount’.”

So who was Robert Hargrave?

For starters, he was a native Texan, born in 1858 in the town of Sulphur Bluff in northeast Texas. An 1895 souvenir booklet produced by a local paper, the Sulphur Springs Gazette, said his “childhood was a precocious one,” with Robert playing violin in ballrooms at the age of seven.

He was still a child when his family pulled up stakes and moved west, but he grew up fast, “serving in the double capacity of ‘teamster’ and ‘cowboy’ for several years,” according to the booklet. Through this experience, Hargrave gained “a wide reputation through New Mexico, Arizona and California as the ‘Cow Boy’ violinist.” In the process, he also became “a splendid rider, a dead shot and an expert with the lasso.”

But from the age of sixteen, his first love was music. In the 1880 United States Census Hargrave, then 21, was living with his parents in the Los Angeles area. While his father’s occupation is listed as “Farmer,” son Robert’s is given as “Violinist.”

In 1900 Hargrave, 41 years old, was living in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) with his wife and two daughters and working as a music teacher.

By 1901 he was back in San Diego County. He moved around southern California a great deal, perhaps reflecting the itinerant life of a musician in those days. Still, he left his mark on audiences and his fellow musicians.

An October 1908 San Diego Union article reported that Hargrave was “temporarily located in Fallbrook, where he is instructing the recently organized Fallbrook Cornet Band.” The article also described him as having been “prominent in the organization of the City Guard band back in the 80’s…”

As late as 1917, he was posting newspaper ads offering music lessons from his residence at the Southern Hotel in San Bernardino.

Robert Hargrave’s personal music ended with his death in San Bernardino County in 1923 at the age of 64. But he left a melodic legacy with fellow musicians, audiences and music students all over southern California.

 

Sources for this post included historic San Diego and Texas newspapers, U.S. census records and the archives of the Poway Historical and Memorial Society.

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History Happenings-Upcoming Events in the Local History Community

Rancho Bernardo Historical Society’s Speakers Series presents Dr. Ray Ashley of the Maritime Museum of San Diego on Wednesday, May 21 at 10 a.m. at the Rancho Bernardo Museum in the Bernardo Winery. Dr. Ashley will speak about the museum’s project to build a replica of the San Salvador, the galleon on which Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542. Free to the public.

Also, Rancho Bernardo Historical Society presents its annual Pancake Breakfast Saturday, May 24 from 8 a.m. to Noon. Cost $7 per person; veterans, current military and children under 3 free. In addition to breakfast, there will be music, tile painting, a bounce house, raffle and prizes

For further information on both events visit http://www.rbhistoricalsociety.org/ .

 

Picturesque San Diego: Contrasting Views

I began this blog back in January with a look at the 1887 book Picturesque San Diego, which offered fascinating verbal and visual impressions of San Diego County in a bygone era. I said I’d be returning to it periodically for its facts, impressions, and sometimes its contradictions.

The book was written by Douglas Gunn, a former editor and publisher of The San Diego Union who was also a strong promoter of, and investor in, the development of San Diego. He hired a prominent Los Angeles-based photographer, Herve Friend, to work with him.

Friend’s photos vividly capture the rural nature of San Diego County in 1887. Here’s one example. The caption reads: “View near Entrance to Bear Valley.”

Picturesque San Diego Bear Valley

Gunn began his narrative about the valley by referring to the name of its post office, which is the name by which we know the community today, Valley Center.

“A very productive section, about 40 miles north of San Diego,” Gunn wrote. “Population about 1,000. Store, blacksmith shop, school-house, brick church. Productions: Fine stock, hogs, bacon and grain; some honey is also made.”

Gunn then went on to state “The rainfall in this valley is more than three times as great as on the coast, and a crop failure has never been known here.”

Well, maybe not up to 1887, but a little over a decade later a drought would ravage the community. One resident, Abel Davis, in a memoir written many years later, told of how he and his siblings were among those who “saw no future in Valley Center farming,” and “began to scatter to other parts of the world.” In Abel Davis’ case, that meant Los Angeles and then Orange County.

Gunn could get overly boosterish in some of his descriptions. Valley Center wasn’t the only area he claimed to be perpetually free from drought or bad weather. To be fair, his life was cut short before severe drought conditions came.

And, he got some things very right.

In a section of the book on agricultural production, Gunn wrote, “The leading products of the County in point of value are, at the present time, Wheat, Wool and Honey, in the order named. We say, at the present time, because Fruit and Vine growing is rapidly becoming the chief interest in this County, as nature designed it to be.”

Here’s a photo from the book of the home and orchard of one James Madison in Julian:

Picturesque San Diego Julian

“San Diego can compete with the world in the successful production of perfect Apples,” wrote Gunn. He went on to salute Madison and other apple growers in Julian and then said, “What has been said of Apples in the mountain section is equally true of the Pear, the Cherry and the Plum.”

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History Happenings-Upcoming Events in the Local History Community

Rancho Bernardo Historical Society’s Speakers Series presents Dr. Ray Ashley of the Maritime Museum of San Diego on Wednesday, May 21 at 10 a.m. at the Rancho Bernardo Museum in the Bernardo Winery. Dr. Ashley will speak about the museum’s project to build a replica of the San Salvador, the galleon on which Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542. Free to the public. For further information visit http://www.rbhistoricalsociety.org/ .

Foster: Quite Literally A Boom Town

Below is a timetable which ran regularly in San Diego County newspapers in the mid to late 1890s:

San Diego, Cuyamaca and Eastern schedule

It’s for the San Diego, Cuyamaca and Eastern Railroad, one of a cluster of lines formed during an 1880s land boom in southern California. The road’s name indicates an ambitious goal of forging a rail link from San Diego to points east, specifically to join up with other railroads coming from the eastern United States.

It turns out that eastern San Diego County was as far east as the SD, C & E ever got, but that’s a whole other story. For now, please note the station listed at the end of the line. Foster is another lost town from San Diego County history.

Foster had its own railroad depot from 1889 to 1916, and its own post office from 1893 to 1916.

Here’s the listing for Foster in the 1897 Directory of San Diego City and County (it covered parts of two pages):

1897 directory page for Foster

There were a total of 40 people listed, with occupations ranging from ranchers and apiarists to a locomotive engineer, brakeman, quarryman and stonecutter.

The town was situated on a ranch owned by Joseph Foster, the only resident whose listing is in boldface and all caps. In addition to being a rancher and hotel owner, Foster also was co-proprietor of a stagecoach line. People disembarking from the train at Foster could ride the stage on to Ramona, Ballena (now part of Ramona), Warner Springs and Julian.

Farming, railroading and quarrying made Foster a busy place, and a noisy one too.

“Some heavy blasting is going on at Foster’s quarries these days,” noted an item in the June 30, 1894 Poway Progress. “One explosion in the evening shook things like unto an earthquake, and made windows rattle lively some seven miles away. It was thought at first the magazine had exploded.”

The quarries were a source of rock for construction. And they were almost the little town’s undoing in 1904.

“People at Foster, a quarrying town at the end of the S.D., C. & E railway, twenty-five miles northeast of this city, had a hard battle with brush fires early yesterday morning,” reported the San Diego Union of October 27, 1904.

The entire town’s population turned out en masse to fight the fires which came within two hundred feet of the railroad depot and hotel, wrote the Union.

In addition to fighting the flames, the townsfolk had to deal with dynamite stored in a house belonging to one of the quarries. The Union reported that “the citizens decided to move it and bury it in the bed” of the nearby San Diego River. “They took great risk in this removal, for there was more than a ton of the stuff.”

Their efforts, aided by a change in the wind, saved the town.

The great San Diego County flood of 1916 wiped out the railroad line to Foster, never to be rebuilt. The flood also sounded the death knell for the post office.

The Foster townsite is today at the foot of the San Vicente Dam and is considered part of Lakeside. The area is presumably much quieter now than in what might be called its noisier, and potentially explosive, heyday.

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Sources for this post included historic San Diego and Poway newspapers, the website of the Lakeside Historical Society, and the book, Ramona and Roundabout, by Charles R. LeMenager.

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History Happenings-Upcoming Events in the Local History Community

Explore 10,000 years of history at the San Diego Archaeological Center. The center’s museum offers changing exhibits and hands-on activities revealing San Diego County history through the archaeological record, from the earliest Native American residents through the many immigrants and groups which followed. For more info visit http://www.sandiegoarchaeology.org/ .

The San Marcos Historical Society offers a variety of programs for elementary students. Tours and activities are designed to fit the grade level of the students participating. For more information call 760-744-9025.

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 .