La Presa – 1889

The Otay Press of Chula Vista published a lengthy letter-to-the-editor in its issue of April 18, 1889. The letter writer, identified as “Hal,” was touting his home town of La Presa.

“If there is a lovelier spot on the face of nature than the region around La Presa presents today,” Hal began, “it is worth taking a great deal of trouble to see; for certainly the combinations here are enchanting.”

The beautiful scenery “owes but one feature to it,” he wrote. “That feature, however, is important. It is the Sweetwater Reservoir.”

Here, you could say, borrowing a contemporary term, Hal riffed on the reservoir:

“It is dam full of water. I mean it is full of damned water—that is to say that the great dam dams the water and therefore the water is dammed.”

He then goes back to a more traditional message.

“It makes a beautiful lake three miles long by a mile wide. The surface of Spring Valley and the surrounding hills is covered with wild oats…. clover and bespangled with flowers. For a week past the mower has been gliding through the rank vegetation; the horserake following, and thousands of hay cocks are dotting the hillsides and valleys.”

The Sweetwater Dam, which created that reservoir, had been dedicated just one year earlier from the time Hal wrote his letter, and La Presa was just beginning to develop.

“Nearly two months ago Mr. Schaeffer received an appointment of postmaster here,” the letter continued. “He immediately sent on his bonds and there the matter rests. We are patiently waiting for the establishment of our postoffice and a daily mail. In the meantime our mail is forwarded from National City with semi-occasional regularity.”

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A Special Day at Work in Escondido -1895

They stand there, obviously dressed in their best outfits, as people usually did when posing for photographs in the late 19th century, even though in this case they are standing in a packing house, surrounded by orange crates.

The only illumination is the bright Southern California sun coming through a small skylight toward the back of the room. The photo caption, supplied by the Escondido Public Library’s Pioneer Room photo archives identifies the setting as the interior of the “Sechrest Packing House,” circa 1895, “the first Escondido orange packing house and its workers.”

You can find out more about the Sechrest Packing House and the heyday of the citrus industry in Escondido by ordering my book, Valleys of Dreams, from the “My Books” tab on this website.

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sechrest packing house

A Most Noteworthy Event “In The Interior”

It was apparently quite a party for its day.

“Nuevo’s Town Hall” was the headline on an item in the San Diego Union on Saturday, February 24, 1894.

The subject was a dedication celebration for a new town hall two days previously, on Washington’s Birthday.

“It is reported to have been the most noteworthy event that has transpired in the interior for years,” proclaimed the Union article. “There were fully a thousand persons present, including representatives from this city and from every locality within a radius of a half-day’s drive of Nuevo, and all were entertained in a manner that will cause the pretty little town of Nuevo to be remembered.”

To those of you out there who may not quite be able to place the location of the “pretty little town of Nuevo,” here’s another clue from the article: “The hall was donated to the town by Augustus Barnett, a wealthy rancher of the neighborhood, and is to be under the care of a board of trustees selected by the citizens.

Still stumped? Well, you may not recognize the name because the name was changed not long after the building was dedicated. The hall, in fact, survives to this day as the Ramona Town Hall. The hall celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1994 and still functions as a community gathering place, still run by a board of local trustees. It’s also been proclaimed a county, state and national historic landmark, and is well worth a visit. Find out more at the website: http://ramonatownhall.com/ .

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