A Place Called Apex-But Not For Long

Apex postmaster

Entry for appointment of Charles MacDougall as postmaster of Apex, California from Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-Sept. 30, 1871, National Archives and Records Administration.



If I happen to mention Apex during one of my local history talks, it usually draws puzzled looks. You won’t find it on a map today, but it was a post office in northern San Diego County between 1881 and 1884.

The Apex post office was created in February 1881. Its first postmaster was Charles A. MacDougall. Like a lot of post offices in those days, it was at first located in the postmaster’s home. From coverage in contemporary newspapers, it appears that the post office was on the ranch that MacDougall jointly ran with his brother William.

The MacDougall spread was one of a number of ranches developing at that time as a result of the sale and subdivision of two large Mexican-era ranchos: Los Vallecitos de San Marcos and Rincon del Diablo.

Among the other homesteaders listed as living in the Apex area in 1881 was Gustavus French Merriam. When Merriam arrived to homestead 160 acres in 1875, he christened his property Twin Oaks Ranch after two joined 70-foot oak trees on the grounds. Over the years, that name would be applied to the whole valley encompassing his ranch.

Interesting thing about how fluid place names can be.

In 1883, the Apex post office was still around, but not in the same location. An article in the San Diego Sun of September 9, 1883, mentioning the MacDougall ranch, stated that “The Apex post office was formerly located there but has recently been moved up on the Wolfskill plains to a more central location.”

Where? The reference was to an area further south, in the heart of Rancho Rincon del Diablo, which was then owned by John Wolfskill. John Wolfskill, his brother Josiah, and another partner had purchased the 12,700 acre rancho in 1868. By the time of the 1883 Sun article John Wolfskill was a state senator and apparently doing well raising sheep, cattle, hogs and a variety of fruits.

The article went on to refer to “the new town of Apex…” Apparently, an actual separate post office building had been erected, along with “a store and blacksmith shop, while other improvements indicate a growing prosperity. The branch line of the Southern Pacific has been surveyed through the town, and it will certainly, before many years become a point of considerable importance.”

It would not, however, gain fame as the city of Apex, nor Wolfskill. A San Diego Union column on back country happenings on February 16, 1884 included this item: “The name of the Apex office is to be changed to that of Escondido.”

That name appears to have stuck.

Sources for this post included historic San Diego newspapers, the National Archives of the United States,  and the archives of the Escondido History Center and the San Marcos Historical Society.

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