What’s in a name? It can get complicated.

Take George A. Cowles, whose name today is marked by the highest mountain in the city of San Diego. That honor, however, would come decades after his death.

Born in 1836 in Connecticut, George Cowles was by the age of 33 a wealthy cotton broker and mill owner. But poor health led him to seek milder climates. He and his wife Jennie first visited San Diego County in the early 1870s, and they apparently liked it. In 1877 Cowles purchased 4,000 acres in the El Cajon Valley He was soon a successful grower of muscat grapes, olives, and other crops, as well as a cattle rancher. He got into banking and railroad development as well.

Not surprisingly, Cowlestown was the name of the post office and then a town that grew up around George’s ranch. But not for all that long. George Cowles died in 1887 at the age of 51. Three years later his widow Jennie remarried, taking as her new husband a realtor and surveyor named Milton Santee.

The rest as they say, is history. At least George’s name lives on in the mountain.

Sources for this post included the 1888 book, The City and County of San Diego Illustrated, and Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Pioneers, by T. S. Van Dyke, San Diego County Place Names A To Z, by Leland Fetzer, and the website of the City of Santee.

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