Early Encinitas

It was described, in a San Diego Union article on February 24, 1882, as “This embryo town,” consisting of little more than a railroad station. But the California Southern Railroad had marked the opening of the little station with newspaper ads a few days previously proclaiming, to mark Washington’s birthday, the “First Grand Excursion” to Encinitas and back. Not surprisingly, members of the local press were among the first “excursionists.”

“The soil is very rich in this vicinity,” stated the Union article, “and a number of small ranch houses have already appeared, and more are preparing to build…”

But the Union found that “the most inviting feature of this locality is perhaps, its proximity to the ocean,” describing “a magnificent beach” where “the excursionists spent the day, which was a novel experience to some and refreshing to all.”

A few months later that same year, Encinitas got its first post office. And in August 1882 the California Southern inaugurated weekly excursion trips there.

In January 1894, another Union article described Encinitas as “a prosperous village, with a population of about 200 people, two hotels, three general stores, a drug store, livery stable, blacksmith shop, a weekly newspaper, etc., and while there is no prohibitory clause in the real estate transfers, no saloon has been enabled to gain a foothold.”

The saloons would come later, but in the meantime people were coming to enjoy the seashore and, in increasing numbers, to settle and farm.

In February 1894, a correspondent supplying copy to the Poway Progress newspaper’s “Encinitas” column, wrote “It is early, but we have been planting corn.” In addition, the reporter noted that “Twelve quarts of luscious plums of the Burbank variety is what E. Farrar boasts of for one of his small three-year-old trees on the high dry mesa.”

Townspeople were also contributing to build up what we today call the local infrastructure.

“The bids are in for the building of the San Elijo bridge,” stated the Progress. Nine bids were presented to the board of supervisors, ranging widely in amounts. The work will probably not take very long to finish after it is once commenced. Then people can travel the coast road, which is shorter, without the danger and inconvenience of the present, especially when tides are high.”

Sources for this post included historic San Diego county newspapers, the book San Diego County Place Names A to Z by Leland Fetzer, and the National Archives and Records Administration’s database U.S. Appointments of Postmasters 1832-1971.

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“Vasey Ville”

I’ve written before about how a lot of San Diego County communities began with a general store and post office. Often, one person might run the operation for decades. A good example can be gathered by perusing notices in historic newspapers.

From the early 1900s until around 1940, election notices giving polling locations for the Miramar area would often list “Store of John W. Vasey,” or “room adjacent to the post office,” which was in the same building as the general store. If Vasey’s store wasn’t the location for a particular election, you can bet that his name would still appear as an election inspector in his district.

John Wycliff Vasey and his wife Elizabeth immigrated from England to San Diego County in 1884. After first living in the city they moved in 1889 to the then very-rural Miramar area.

John and Elizabeth opened a general store while also engaging in farming, livestock raising, and apiary. John Vasey would be Miramar’s postmaster from 1919 until 1940.

The Vaseys raised a large family and by 1914 they had erected several houses in addition to their own, forming the basis of a close-knit community. A book on Miramar history by a longtime resident noted that “For about seven years the central group of houses were called Vasey Ville,” and that “A Vasey connection was in every one of the houses off and on until 1950.”

There’s an illustration of that connection in a list of polling places in the San Diego Union of October 10, 1950. John and Elizabeth Vasey had each passed away a few years before, but the polling place, adjacent to the post office, included Louise M. Vassey as an election judge and Charlotte Vasey as one of two polling clerks.

Sources for this post included historic San Diego newspapers, the 1984 book, Miramar Before the Planes, by Ruby Peters and the National Archives and Records Administration’s database U.S. Appointments of Postmasters 1832-1971.

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A Dry Season for Crops, But Not for Candidates

The Poway Valley in August of 1894 was dealing with an apparently severe dry season, as shown in the “Poway Points” column from the Poway Progress newspaper of August 4 which noted the movement of some long-time residents out of the valley.

“Mr. and Mrs. Belcher took their leave of Poway on Wednesday morning and started on their way for their former home in New Mexico,” stated the column, which added “They go by wagon the long distance in order to take along their horses and farm wagon at little expense and go provided with a good supply of provender [dry food for livestock] and water, two or three barrels to hold the latter, being rigged on the sides of the wagon. They expect to be six weeks on the way, following the line of the S. P. R. R.”

The same column noted that “Ernest Rickey has concluded to try life in another part of the world and has accompanied Mr. Belcher into the wilds of New Mexico in the region of the large cattle ranches. We trust his best anticipations will materialize.”

Some other residents were holding on.

“Dr. Hilleary is hauling water from his spring for his orchard trees,” stated the column, “and Mr. Savage is treating his orchard in a similar manner with water from Mr. Griswold’s tank.”

The column then closed with some characteristic humor, or commentary, or maybe both.

“Though the dryness of the season is likely to prove the occasion of a considerable shortage of crops in some lines of production, there is quite a crop hereabouts in the candidate line of goods. We are credibly informed that at least four candidates for the office of Supervisor for the Fourth district have sprouted and grown considerable, and expect to be in condition to be presented for consideration at the coming Republican county convention….”

Ah, history repeats itself.

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The Wide Open Spaces of Old San Diego County

It may be hard to imagine San Diego County as a sparsely populated rural district. But a good illustration can be found in the following excerpt from a report in the San Diego Union of July 25, 1872 about a meeting the previous day of the county board of supervisors.

Among the items passed by the board that day was this: “Ordered that a new school district, to be known as “Bear Valley School District,” be formed…”

Some readers may recognize “Bear Valley” as the original name of today’s Valley Center. But check out the boundary lines for the Bear Valley district laid out by the supervisors back then: “Commencing at the N. W. corner of Wolfskill’s Ranch, then East to the dividing line between Wolfskill’s and San Bernardo Ranches until the same reaches San Bernardo River, thence up said river through San Pasqual Valley to the mouth of Pama canyon, thence up the canyon to the head of Pama Valley, thence in a westerly course taking in the whole of Smith’s mountain west of said line, thence south to the place of beginning.”

Then and now, that’s a pretty big chunk of real estate. “Wolfskill’s Ranch” is today the city of Escondido, “San Bernardo” is Rancho Bernardo.” The “Pama” refers to Pamo Valley, which is today part of Ramona. And “Smith Mountain” later became Palomar Mountain.

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The Evolution of “Fall Brook”

It’s become a cliché to say that so many San Diegans came from someplace else. That even goes for some of our place names. Here’s one example.

An item in the January 18, 1876 San Diego Union described the rapid growth of “Fall Brook, a beautiful little spot in the upland midway between San Luis Rey and Temecula.” Just a year before, the Union reported, “there were three families and less than twenty persons all told there. Now there are fourteen families and a total population of sixty persons. A school district has been organized and a public school has been taught for some time in a house of one of the settlers.”

By early 1879 there was a separate “Fall Brook Notes” column in the Union, which included this entry: “Mr. C. V. Reche is trying to build up a little town here, He keeps a well stocked store.”

Vital Reche, originally from Canada and later Rochester, New York, had come to California with the Gold Rush and made some money running hotels in San Francisco and San Jose. But in 1867, he and his in-laws were back east, running a coal business in a Pennsylvania town called Fall Brook, named after Fall Creek, a nearby tributary of the Tioga River.

Reche seemed destined to live out his life there when, in 1869, he was diagnosed with cancer. The diagnosis was considered terminal, but his doctor suggested a milder climate might prolong his life.

Reche came to San Diego County and after settling briefly near Pala, he fell in love with some land further to the west down the San Luis Rey River. He homesteaded 160 acres that included a stand of live oak trees and had a creek running through it. Vital chose to name the creek, and later his homestead, after the Pennsylvania creek that had fatefully linked his business and family life: Fall Brook.

His health renewed, Reche was soon growing alfalfa, fruit and honey. He also established a hotel and general store.

Vital would live another 25 years beyond his terminal cancer diagnosis, and the name Fall Brook would be adopted by a school district, post office, and, changed to a single word, the whole surrounding community.

Sources for this post included historic San Diego newspapers and the archives of the Fallbrook Historical Society.

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