Hosmer and Fannie McKoon: 19th Century Power Couple

Hosmer P McKoon Land of Sunshine page

Excerpt from tribute to Hosmer McKoon on his death, published in June 1894 issue of the magazine Land of Sunshine.


For the week of September 8, I wrote a post called “Raisins and Real Estate” which talked about efforts in the late 19th century to promote San Diego County. It described the county’s exhibit at the California Midwinter Exposition in San Francisco in 1894 which included displays of the county’s produce and distribution of free samples of raisins as an added incentive.

One of the movers behind San Diego’s exhibit was Hosmer P. McKoon. The San Diego Chamber of Commerce was a prime sponsor of San Diego’s exhibit and McKoon was chamber president. He was also elected president of the “County Commissioners Club,” an organization of representatives of the various exhibiting counties.

Hosmer McKoon appears to have been a real go-getter, which is why he was chosen to lead various civic groups like the chamber and to represent the county at various conferences on development-related subjects in the late 1880s and early 1890s.

McKoon was a practicing attorney, having earned a law degree in his home state of New York before moving to San Francisco in 1876, where his clients included the Southern Pacific Railroad. He must have done pretty well because when he moved to San Diego County in 1885 he was able to purchase 9,500 acres in the El Cajon Valley. He named his spread Fanita Ranch, in honor of his wife Fannie. She, also a college graduate and native of New York State, married Hosmer in 1873. Two sons, Hosmer, Jr., and Henry, were born to them while they were living in San Francisco, and came south with them in 1885.

Like many movers and shakers in the county back then, Hosmer was serious about real estate. He regularly ran large ads offering parts of his ranch for sale. “I have sold within the last 30 days four tracts of ten acres each,” he wrote in an ad October 13, 1885 issue of the San Diego Union, “upon which four houses have been built and are now occupied by the purchasers. I will sell four other tracts of the choicest bottom lands in El Cajon Valley at $50 per acre to purchasers who will improve the same this season.”

At the same time, he also farmed. An article in the Union of September 5, 1889 on the first major exhibit of the newly-formed El Cajon Horticultural Society included this entry: “Hosmer P. McKoon exhibits some fine products of his famous Fanita Rancho. Among them are Boston Field….Black Wax, Mohawk and Marble beans, some splendid early Rose and Peerless potatoes of thirteen weeks’ growth, without irrigation; also some Southern Queen (sweet) potatoes. Two samples of the soil of Mr. McKoon’s ranch attracted attention for its great fertility.”

Hosmer led an active life, but a sadly short one. He died of Bright’s disease at the age of 49 in 1894. His widow Fannie recovered from her own illness and grief, raising her two sons and also taking over the business interests that her husband left behind, including property in the city of San Diego as well as Fanita Rancho.

She also was active in the local movement for women’s suffrage. In 1896, at an Equal Suffrage event, asked the question “Why should mothers want to vote?” Fanny gave this eloquent response to a Poway newspaper: “Mothers need the power of the ballot to protect their children after they have grown out of her arms and beyond the reach of their hands. For ages ‘mothers influence’ has battled with ‘effects.’ With the power of the ballot in her hand she can reach ‘causes’…”

During the last years of her life she lived in the city of San Diego, where she died in 1917 at the age of 66.

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History Happenings-Upcoming Events in the Local History Community

Author Carol Fitzpatrick will speak on “Meriwether Lewis- Debunking the Myths of His Suicide,” at the next meeting of the Temecula Valley Historical Society, Monday, September 22, 6 p.m. at the Little Temecula History Center. Free and open to the public. For details call Rebecca Farnbach at 951-699-5148.

Rancho BEERnardo Festival at the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead, Saturday, September 27 from 3-6 p.m. Enjoy tastings choices from some of San Diego’s best craft breweries, live music food, and tours of the historic farmstead. 15 tastings for $30. Proceeds benefit local charities supported by the Rancho Bernardo Sunrise Rotary plus the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead. For further info visit http://ranchobeernardofestival.com/ .

Join the Escondido History Center for their 4th annual Adobe Home Tour, Sunday, October 5 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year’s tour includes a ranch house (Bandy Canyon Ranch) and suggested finale at Hacienda de Vega restaurant, which was originally one of the first mid-century adobe homes in the area. Tickets $25 in advance, $30 day of tour. For further info visit http://www.adobehometour.com/ .


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