A Job For The Times

Below is part of a listing for Lakeside in a 1901 San Diego County directory:

I chose it because of the occupations listed for each resident. Most of them are jobs you’d readily expect for the time and place, like rancher, well digger, beekeeper and schoolteacher. But please note the occupation at the very bottom: poundmaster.

A pound back then was an enclosure, often by stone fencing, to house stray livestock that had been found wandering about the local area. The poundmaster or poundkeeper was charged with oversight of such animals, trying to find their owners. If no one came to claim the animals, the poundmaster was empowered to sell them at auction.

This had to be a big responsibility in San Diego County in 1901. The economy was predominantly agricultural, and the livestock population–cattle, sheep, horses, pigs, chickens–far outnumberd the humans.

Figures from the census and county surveys in 1887 showed 270,000 head of livestock compared to 30,000 people. Things hadn’t changed that much by 1901. An item in the San Diego Union on March 28 of that year began, “The farmers in the vicinity of El Cajon valley are feeling quite happy nowadays. The crops, trees and vines are all doing well, and there is plenty of pasturage for their livestock.”

This would be the predominant way of life in the county for at least another 40 years.

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“A Sight Worth Seeing”

I came across this ad in a 1914 San Diego city directory and was fascinated. My mental image of log rafts had been confined to Huck and Jim lashing a few logs together. But four million feet of logs comprising a raft over 600 feet long?

I did a little digging and discovered that this was a regular part of traffic in San Diego harbor every summer from the early 1900s to the early 1940s. At the facilities of the Benson Lumber Company in Oregon, thousands of harvested tree logs were fastened together with tons of metal chains into literal floating islands an acre or more in length. Then they were towed by tugboats on down the coast to Benson’s docks in San Diego.

“Third Big Log Raft Arrives in Harbor” was the headline of an article on page 5 of the August 1, 1905 San Diego Union, reporting that the third such raft of the season “crawled into the harbor yesterday in tow of the powerful sea-going steel tug Dauntless, and came to anchor off the foot of Sixteenth street at 2 p. m.”

The raft, which took 17 days to complete the trip, was described as “practically the same dimensions as its predecessor” at 720 feet long, 50 feet wide, drawing “between 23 and 24 feet of water” and “containing approximately 4,500,000 feet of logs,” according to the article.

For further background, including some old postcard photos of these behemoths, here’s a link to a 2012 article on the website Offbeat Oregon :

http://www.offbeatoregon.com/1202c-benson-log-rafts-built-city-of-san-diego.html

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