Historical Snapshot: A Rancher and A Doctor

Today a brief historical snapshot of the risks of ranching life and the duties of a doctor in San Diego County in 1874.

A brief item in the “Local Intelligence” column of the San Diego Union on Thursday, July 23, 1874 began: “At San Pasqual, on Monday last, James P. Jones, who keeps a bee ranch in the valley, was seriously injured by the premature explosion of a blast while engaging in removing some rocks.

“A portion of one of his hands was carried away and the forearm was fractured. Dr. Remondino was sent for and went out and brought the man in. Yesterday [Wednesday, July 22nd] the arm was amputated by Dr. Remondino, assisted by Drs. Gregg, Fenn and Winder.”

Mr. Jones survived his horrific accident and injuries, as shown by the fact that he turns up six years later in the 1880 United States Census, listed as an “apiarist,” on his north county farm.

Dr. Peter Remondino, the man who saved Mr. Jones’ life, had recently opened a medical office on Fifth Avenue between B and C Streets downtown. He would go on to have a distinguished career as a surgeon, medical lecturer and author and entrepreneur. He helped many people in his life as a skilled and compassionate physician, practicing medicine until just two years before his death in 1926 at the age of 80.

Sources for this post included The Journal of San Diego History, historic San Diego County newspapers and the 1880 United States Census.

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Why We Need Librarians

The San Diego Public Library formally opened for business on July 15, 1882. In its first few years, the library was housed in donated space in the rooms of different local businesses. By the end of the decade, the new library was doing quite well, according to the book, An Illustrated History of Southern California, published in 1890, which included a report on the library as part of its chapter on San Diego City and County.

“During the year 1889 this institution has been installed in new and commodious quarters in the Consolidated Bank building. The quarters are comfortably furnished, and well lighted and heated. There are reading rooms for ladies and gentlemen, and in this department alone the record shows the use of 4,717 books during the latter seven months of the year, since these rooms have been opened.”

That’s not a bad figure in a city with, at that time, a total population of around 16,000 people.

The book noted, diplomatically, that one of the features of the library’s new headquarters was “the presence of attendants to issue the books, instead of the old system by which the patrons were allowed access to the shelves for that purpose, which was most conducive to the loss of books, now stopped almost entirely.”

“Fiction is the branch most sought by the patrons of the library,” the report concluded, with historical and biographical works holding a good second. The present number of volumes is 7,000, or 1,500 more than last year, and this library supplies more reading matter in proportion to its size than any other in the State.”

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Zenas Sikes

Below is a page from the list of registered voters in San Diego County for the year 1873. It shows the listing for Zenas Sikes. The columns to the right of his name show that he was 39 years old at the time, and had been born in Massachusetts. His occupation was “farmer” and his legal residence was San Pascual (Pasqual), meaning then the area served by the San Pasqual post office, which included the San Pasqual Valley and immediately adjacent areas.

Below that list is the 1880 voter register. Zenas Sikes is still on there. He is now 50 years old but he continues to be a farmer. Right above him is Harry Sikes, 21 years old and also a farmer. Harry is Zenas’ son, born in Michigan when his father and mother briefly visited that state on the journey that would eventually bring them to California. Zenas and Eliza Sikes and their six children moved to San Diego County in 1868.

 Zenas Sikes San Pascual

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zenas Sikes Bernardo

Courtesy California State Library, Sacramento.

In the “Legal Residence” column Harry is listed as living in “Bernardo,” where Zenas is listed as residing as well. Had Zenas Sikes moved since his name appeared on the 1872 voter register?

Not at all. The Sikes family’s address changed but they were all living on the same place, a 2,400 acre farm that had formerly been part of the former Mexican land grant Rancho San Bernardo. Zenas’ purchase was the beginning of the subdivision of the great rancho, which sprawled over 17,000 acres 23 miles north of San Diego city.

By the early 1870s, references to “Bernardo Valley” or “the Bernardo” or “San Bernardo tract” had begun appearing in local newspapers. A sizable enough community had formed to require their own post office. The Bernardo Post Office was officially established on December 3, 1872. The first postmaster of Bernardo was Zenas Sikes, and the post office was in his home.

Bernardo would eventually have a stand-alone post office building, along with a blacksmith shop and several other buildings. Those buildings are all gone but the Sikes house still stands, now part of the San Dieguito River Park. It’s open to the public for tours and for special events. To find out more, go to http://www.sdrp.org/projects/sikes.htm .

To find out more about The Lost Town of Bernardo, you can order my book by going to the website https://sandiegohistoryseeker.com/ and pressing the “My Books” tab.

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Occupation: Cowboy

1900 Henry Fenton census

Excerpt of page from the 1900 United States Census for Jamul Township, San Diego County, showing household of Henry Fenton.

You can learn a lot from census figures, whether you’re researching someone’s family history or the history of San Diego County. As one who does both for a living, I can vouch for what you can learn about a person, or about life at a particular time or place, from looking at basic records like censuses.

Case in point, the 1900 United States Census for a part of San Diego County then called Jamul Township, and the household of one Henry Fenton.

For those not familiar with census forms, the enumeration for each household begins with the head of the household, and in 1900 Henry Fenton is the head of a household under which some 19 other names were listed. This might seem extraordinary at first glance, especially when one notes that under marital status, Henry is listed with an “S” (for single). But under occupation, Henry is listed as a farmer, and reading further along, one sees that Henry is a renter, rather than an owner, of this particular farm.

Going down to the next line will provide further clarification on this quite populous household. The next resident name, Albert More, is listed as a “boarder,” and his occupation is described as “cowboy.”

Of the next 18 names, 15 are listed as boarders and three as servants, including the lone female in the group, Nannie Van Cleave, whose occupation is listed as “House keeper.”

Of the remaining names for this household, twelve are listed as farm laborers, three as teamsters, one as a cook, and one a gardener. This census asked each occupant’s birthplace, and in the case of this ranch the places of origin of the boarders and servants ranged from Indiana to Mexico to China.

Henry Fenton would come to own a lot of farmland in the county during his life. For now let us note the range of occupations it took to run one farm in San Diego County in 1900. Let’s also note that ethnic and racial diversity in the county is nothing new.

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