“The Major”

The San Diego Union’s “Local Brevities” column of September 19, 1883 included this item:

“Mr. W. W. Stewart laid on our table yesterday three magnificent clusters of white Muscat grapes, of the raisin variety, grown entirely without irrigation, in the vineyard of Maj. G. F. Merriam, of Apex. Maj. Merriam has one of the finest vineyards in the county. These grapes are in every respect the choices Muscats we have seen this season.”

Gustavus French Merriam served in the Union Army during the Civil War, rising to the rank of major. He would prefer to be addressed as “major” for the rest of his life. That was one of a number of interesting facts about this man. Among others: he was the first European-American settler in what we know today as the Twin Oaks Valley district in San Marcos; that valley and the range of mountains surrounding it owe their names to Merriam.

One more fact about him: he almost didn’t get to grow grapes or to lend his name to anyplace in the area, because he was almost run off his land by a local land baron.

If you’re interested in learning more about that part of the major’s story, you can learn about it by attending my upcoming OASIS talk, “San Diego North County – A Look Back,” Wednesday, July 8 at 3 p.m. at Cypress Court in Escondido. For more information and to register for the talk, visit the website http://www.oasisnet.org/San-Diego-CA/Classes and type the class name or the class number (710) in the “Search” box.

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