San Diego in 1850: One “Good and Suitable” Policeman

It was in February of 1850, two years after the end of the Mexican-American War transformed California from a province of Mexico to a territory of the United States, that the territorial legislature began creating the framework for city and county governments.

The first election for a San Diego county government under the U. S. flag took place on April 1, 1850. A total of 157 people voted, according to historic records cited by William Smythe in his 1908 book, History of San Diego: 1542-1908.

If that vote total sounds miniscule, keep in mind that the total non-Indian county population in 1850, according to census figures from the San Diego History Center, was only 798. And of that 798, 650 of them lived in within the confines of the city of San Diego. (The absence of some 10,000 Native American people in the county at the time from the census records is a whole sorry history lesson in itself.)

Elections for a San Diego city government were held on June 16, 1850. Voters elected a mayor, five city council members, a treasurer, an assessor, a city attorney and a marshall. The council had its first meeting the next day, June 17.

I recently learned that the San Diego City Clerk’s office has digitized many of the city’s historical records in its archives, including copies of some of the very first ordinances passed by that new city government. The archive’s website is at http://www.sandiego.gov/digitalarchives/index.shtml .

Not surprisingly, one of the first ordinances passed by the council created “the office of City Interpreter and Translator” to serve “in all cases, where his services may be required on behalf of individuals, or of this council, or of any of the Courts of the City or County.”

Another early ordinance declared that “the ordinances of the late Ayuntamiento [the name of the town council under Mexican rule]…relative to licenses, nuisances and the general government of the said town, shall be and remain in binding force, until other laws are substituted therefor.”

These ordinances were all passed in June and early July, as was another entitled: “An Ordinance relative to creating a Temporary Jail and providing suitable fixtures.” In addition to authorizing the City Marshall to “rent a good and secure room” and other equipment necessary “to keep securely all offenders against the laws,” it also called for the marshall “to employ a good and suitable person as Policeman, whose duty it shall be to report to the Mayor, once a day, or oftener if required.”

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One Landmark Gives Way To Another

“Escondido Picks Old Hotel Site for New Hospital” proclaimed the headline of an article in the June 24, 1945 edition of the San Diego Union.

“Selection of the site of the old Escondido hotel, a well known landmark 25 years ago, as the location of Escondido’s Palomar Memorial Hospital was announced by the hospital committee which is raising funds for the enterprise,” began the article. “The site, on Grand Avenue, is just east of the local civic center.”

The Escondido Hotel, one of the first buildings erected in the then-new town of Escondido, stood on Grand Avenue from 1886 until its demolition in 1925. When the newly-formed Escondido Valley Hospital Association selected the Grand Avenue site for their new complex, they also announced a combination community celebration and fundraiser to be held on the upcoming Fourth of July in Grape Day Park.

Escondido’s annual Grape Day celebration in the park had been on hiatus since Pearl Harbor, and the community may have been glad to get together again in the summer of 1945, with the war in Europe over and peace seeming to be on the horizon in the Pacific. An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people showed up for the event, putting the hospital building fund “well over its goal,” according to the Union of July 5, 1945. Keep in mind that Escondido’s population at that time stood at around 4,500 total.

It sounded from the press coverage like a good old-fashioned community party, with a barbecue, parade, horsemanship exhibitions and other entertainment including dances, singers and “several San Diego radio stars and war plant entertainers,” including “Therman Landreth, world champion top spinner.”

That single hospital on Grand Avenue would evolve into today’s Palomar Pomerado Health District.

Sources for this post included historic Escondido and San Diego newspapers and the history section of the Palomar Pomerado Health website, http://www.palomarhealth.org/about-us/about-us-our-story .

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Hage the Dairyman

Hage creamery

The ad shown above is from the 1915 San Diego City Directory.

Willard B. Hage was born into a dairying family in Wisconsin in 1868. He brought his dairying skills with him when he came to San Diego in 1891.

Starting out delivering milk with his own wagon and a single horse, he did well enough that by the early 1900s he owned creameries in the cities of San Diego, Escondido and Poway.

An article in the January 1, 1916 San Diego Union noted how Hage “became impressed with the possibilities in San Diego’s back country. Backing up his belief, he adopted a novel and liberal policy of supplying modern dairying equipment to back country ranchers and allowing them to pay for it on easy terms.” This, the article stated, “made it possible to develop the dairy industry out in the county in a section that was formerly given over to the raising of grain.”

Interestingly, in both the 1900 and 1910 United States Censuses, Willard Hage lists his occupation as “Dairyman,” while in 1920 he describes himself as “President, ice cream company.”

Willard Hage died in 1925. His business would continue under the family name and ownership and be a San Diego institution until its merger with Foremost Dairies of San Francisco in 1954.

Sources for this post included the 1915 San Diego City Directory, historic San Diego County newspapers, the Los Angeles Times, the United States Census Bureau, and the 1922 book, City of San Diego and San Diego County: The Birthplace of California, by Clarence McGrew.

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The Telephone Comes of Age in San Diego

Hard to imagine now, but the first appearance of a telephone in the city of San Diego occurred in 1877, and that was just a demonstration by a local member of the U. S. Weather Service.

“The first public exhibition of the telephone in San Diego was made by Lieutenant Reade, U. S. Weather Officer, on December 5, 1877,” wrote William Smythe in his 1908 book, History of San Diego: 1542-1908. It wasn’t until May of 1882, according to Smythe, that the San Diego Telephone Company was organized and began stringing phone lines. When the first phone calls were made on June 11 of that year, there were a total of 13 subscribers in the San Diego exchange.

The company was at first not incorporated, Smythe wrote, “but was operated as a mutual affair, as the telephone business was thought to be in an experimental stage.”

In 1890 the San Diego Telephone Company was succeeded by San Francisco-based Sunset Telephone and Telegraph, which began efforts to connect the city of San Diego with the rest of California. Service reached Escondido in June of 1897, but the phone remained a relative novelty in the next few years. For example, Sunset’s 1899 phone directory showed listings for the entire Pacific Coast! There were only 18 telephone numbers in the Escondido exchange, in a city of around 700 people at the time.

In 1926, Sunset’s successor, the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company, threw a party to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the telephone in San Diego, inviting surviving original subscribers and employees. They did it with a sense of humor too, according to an article on the bash in the June 9, 1926 San Diego Union.

“The place cards for the invited guests indicated their seats only by telephone numbers,” the article stated. “A tiny desk telephone was at each place , as was a list of the pioneers and a replica of the first San Diego telephone directory.”

The central table ornament was “a big synthetic birthday cake lighted with 45 telephone switchboard electric lamps,” the Union stated.

One of the invited pioneer subscribers was department store owner George W. Marston. But he began his remarks with an apology for not having his business’s name in the very first directory in 1882.

“He explained,” said the Union article, “that he feared at first that the telephone was only a toy and that it took a year to convince him that it would amount to something here.”

Sources for this post included the Smythe book, historic San Diego and Escondido newspapers, and the archives of the Escondido History Center.

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