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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