Banner

Once there was a town in San Diego County called Banner. Here’s a photo of its public school as it looked in 1887, from the book Picturesque San Diego:

Banner school

Looks idyllically rural, doesn’t it? Well, it was rural, but most of its residents made their living in a pretty gritty (in the most meaningful sense of the word), noisy and dangerous environment. Of course, it could be lucrative work too. It was gold mining country.

“Banner is the leading mining center of San Diego County,” began the description for the town’s listing in the 1897 Directory of San Diego City and County. “It is in the Julian country, four miles east of Julian and 64 miles north-east from San Diego, on the desert side of the mountain range.”

That description was followed by a list of 50 residents and their occupations. Of the 50, 36 were miners. Four were mine owners, the remaining ten farmers, stockmen and a merchant.

The four mine owners were brothers, the Baileys, who established the mine they named Ready Relief in 1870. The name is said to have come from the fact that one of the brothers, Drury D. Bailey, was down on his luck when they struck gold while digging near Banner Canyon. That change of fortune turned into a successful mining and milling operation during the heyday of mining in the Julian area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“The Ready Relief Mining Company is engaged in getting its new pumping apparatus and hosting machinery into place in the Redman mine,” noted an item in the San Diego Union on April 11, 1895. “All the machinery will be in place in a few days and will be operated by water power from the plant at the Ready Relief.”

The Redman mine was owned by Louis Redman, whose discovery of gold in 1870 in what was called Chariot Canyon triggered a rush of other diggers like the Baileys to the country east of Julian. Redman is said to have planted a banner to mark his discovery, which is why the canyon and mining town wound up being called Banner rather than Redman. That’s history for you.

Sources for this post included historic San Diego newspapers and two books by Richard Fetzer, San Diego County Place Names A to Z, and A Good Camp: Gold Mines of Julian and the Cuyamacas.

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