Going Over The Grade


#165 kent ranch,midland rd 1900Photo of Horace Kent ranch, circa 1900. Courtesy Poway Historical and Memorial Society.


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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7 thoughts on “Going Over The Grade

    • There’s a chapter in my book “Valleys of Dreams” about the Poway Road Station, which draws on information from your grandmother’s book, “As I Remember Poway.” I own that book and it’s been a great source of information for other local history stories in my books as well as for talks I’ve given on local history. When I was asked to speak at the Poway Historical and Memorial Society’s anniversary celebration last September, I mentioned Mary van Dam as one of the people who helped preserve the history of her community.
      Thank you for contacting me. “Valleys of Dreams” is available for sale on this site. I also hope you’ll become a follower of my blog. Thank you for your interest.

  1. If I wanted to hike the old Poway Grade today, where should I start? Is this possible? I want to do it and take a bunch of pictures.

    And do you know what the main purpose of the road was? Was the road mainly used by Poweigans going in to the Mission Valley/New Town area, or vice versa?

    Thanks in advance for answering my stupid questions!

    • My understanding, from reading and from talking to people at the Poway Historical and Memorial Society, is that the grade was rerouted sometime in the late nineteenth and possibly again in the early twentieth century. The accounts vary. The original grade led off of what is today Old Pomerado Road. The area today is pretty much private residential development. You might want to check with the city of Poway for any trail information. You could also get more detail on the history of the grade from the Poway Historical and Memorial Society. You cam google that name to get their website for contact info. I think there might be some maps and photos linked to that site or adjacent sites from other longtime Poway residents. Thanks for your interest!

      • Thanks a lot!

        I actually went out there a couple days ago and it was pretty interesting.

        Drove around Old Pomerado Rd and couldn’t see much. Lots of houses there so I was just cruising by looking little dirt paths that came off New Pomerado Road, looking for clues to the old rd (although not the original route.)

        The most interesting was going South on Creek Road. There’s a sharp corner where Creek turns into Beeler Canyon Rd, but if you stay to the right you’ll be on a gravel trail that will lead you on the original route, somewhat. It goes about for about a kilometer before Stonebridge Pkwy (modern road) interrupts the historic route…the Grade went straight through, whereas today the trail banks off to the Southwest.

        There is no official entrance to get back on the route. I’d have to hop a fence and make my way down, but the route up to the Poway Grade Summit is visible from Stonebridge Pkwy.

        I drove around to Spring Canyon Rd and found a locked gate. There was a notice that had fallen off the gate and was being anchored to the ground with a rock. It was called a “NOTICE OF APPLICATION FOR A CERTIFICATE OF PUBLIC CONVENIENCE AND NECESSITY.”

        “SDG&E proposed to construct and operate a new 230 kilovolt transmission line between the existing Sycamore Canyon and Penasquitos Substations. The proposed Project is located within existing SDG&E right-of-way (ROW), where SDG&E currently maintains and operates existing and electric transmission, power, distribution and substation facilities, and City of San Diego franchise position.”

        Basically, SDG&E owns and/or operates the land, and it is gated off where Spring Canyon turns into “Sycamore Test” Rd. They plan to put in 8.3 miles of transmission lines on steel poles, 2.8 miles of underground wiring, and installing a few new conductors.

        Unfortunate…I think it would make for an awesome hike with a little historical background to it. I think I will try to hike up to the summit from the start of the Creek Rd trail. Hopefully I won’t get stopped.

        I’ll let you know how that goes!

      • Thanks sharing your observations. As to your earlier question about the main purpose of the grade, I’d say it was, for a while at least, one of the main commercial routes connecting the city of San Diego with north county, and as such would have been utilized by stagecoach lines as well as individual farmers between the city of San Diego and Poway, Escondido, Julian, etc.

  2. Interesting.

    Hey, in the picture at the heading, that looks like Twin Peaks Mountains looking from the east! Are any of those houses in the picture the Flint Farm house (sold by the Kent’s to the Flint
    s) at 14452 Midland Rd? Where do you think this picture was taken from?

    If I had to guess, I would say this is taken from the mountain in front of the 14452 Midland Rd house. If you search the house 14264 Tierra Bonita Rd, that house is on top of the mountain I believe this picture was taken from.

    AMAZING. I’m all for progress but I wish Poway would have stayed a ranching community.

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