What’s In A Name? Bear Valley to Valley to….

Picturesque San Diego Bear Valley

Photo titled “View near Entrance to Bear Valley,” from the 1887 book, Picturesque San Diego.

“There will be some lively threshing done in the Bear Valley section this season,” began an item in the San Diego Union on May 7, 1874. “Sam’l Stripling & Co. are going to run a twelve-horse power steam threshing machine out there, and will do a ‘land-office business.’”

Yes, Bear Valley was a busy farming area in 1874, producing grain, hogs, bacon and honey among other things. The Striplings, Davises and Adamses were among a growing community of homesteaders in that section, 40 miles north of San Diego city on the way to Julian.

A little problem arose, though, when John T. Adams applied for a post office to be set up in the store he’d set up at his homestead. The U. S. Post Office Department’s Appointment Office replied to his application with the following statement, underscored: “The name of a post office must not be the name of any other office in the State: and you should aim to select a name not appropriated to any office in the United States.” In the margins of the application they wrote: “There is a Bear Valley in Mariposa County.”

Mr. Adams got his post office, and an appointment as postmaster, in October, 1874. But the name chosen for the office was simply, “Valley”. How much attention got paid to that name, other than on mail delivery days, isn’t clear. In 1876, when a local branch of the Grange was established, it was set up as the “Bear Valley Grange.”

In 1878, the p. o.’s name was changed to Valley Centre, and in 1887 that spelling was amended to the name we’ve known it by ever since, Valley Center.

Sources for this post include historic San Diego newspapers and the books, Picturesque San Diego by Douglas Gunn, and Once Upon A Time in Valley Center, compiled by the Friends of the Valley Center Library and the Valley Center Historical Society.

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2 thoughts on “What’s In A Name? Bear Valley to Valley to….

  1. I understood the “bear” in the valley was an “important” grizzly. Was it the biggest or the last grizzly killed in California?

    • It was declared the biggest grizzly ever killed in California, weighing in at 2,200 pounds when it was hoisted on to a rancher’s cattle scales after it was killed in 1866. That’s according to the website of the Valley Center Historical Society. The last grizzly killed in California was shot in 1922, again according to the Valley Center website.

      Thanks for your interest!

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