The Kents were a pioneering farming family in the Poway Valley in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The “Poway Points” column in the Poway Press newspaper for Saturday, July 28, 1894 included this item: “H. Kent and sons, P.E. Kent, L. E. Kent and W. S. Kent, have been busily engaged in drying apricots. They expect also to have 15 or 20 tons of peaches to dry.”
Further down the same column noted that family patriarch Horace Kent “was in San Diego Wednesday with a load of magnificent peaches of the Alexander and Hale varieties. No place in California produces better peaches than Poway.”
Horace and all his sons, like many ranching families in the valley, made bi-monthly trips over the Poway grade into San Diego to sell their wares.
People who write about “sleepy” farming towns in the rural past should take a closer read of old newspapers and other accounts like the book, San Diego Back Country 1901, by Gordon Stuart. The book was self-published in 1966 by Stuart, a longtime Poway resident and charter member of the Poway Historical and Memorial Society.
Stuart was also a nephew of Lewis Kent, and accompanied his uncle on some of those trips over the Poway Grade, hauling produce in a wagon pulled by a team of horses.
The day before the trip, the family worked picking and packing the fresh peaches. Sometimes, they might also “take along a crate of chickens for sale; or a crate of eggs…. “
Over 60 years later, Stuart wrote “I can now hear Aunt Effie and Uncle Lew going through the chicken pens at night, with a lantern, selecting marketable fowls.”
Lewis Kent would awake at one o’clock the next morning, have breakfast “and start out; the horses going at a walking pace,” Stuart wrote, adding, “The horses were not much for the idea of being awakened at 1 a. m. There was nothing the horses could do in the city but sleep and eat. They could do that at home.”
It took seven hours to get up and over the grade before they arrived at “the first delivery stop, a grocery store in the suburbs up on University Heights.”
Stuart wrote that his uncle “always had his load sold before delivery, and that was that. If a dealer asked for a lug more than he had ordered the answer was, ‘Sorry.’ Uncle Lew played hard to get, and got away with it.”
“Most of the other growers peddled out their loads and were at a great disadvantage,” noted Stuart. “If all of their load was not sold, they dumped the remainder at a commission house, where returns were uncertain. On the open market, the grower received one cent per pound for his peaches–$10.00 for the load.”
After the last delivery had been made, Kent and his nephew would eat “a second breakfast” at one of the places around Fifth or Sixth and D Streets. Then they’d corral the wagon in a stable for the evening, sleeping under it or, if they’d done a little better, spending the night in a hotel before setting out the next day for the long journey home.
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