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!”
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 firstname.lastname@example.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,