Back Country Bounty

Periodically I like to remind readers of the days when San Diego County was a largely rural, sparsely populated area where the main occupations were farming and livestock raising. Here are two photos providing visual evidence of what much of the county looked like in 1887. They’re from the book, Picturesque San Diego, which was published in the fall of that year.The caption for the first one reads: “Escondido—Old Ranch House and Orange Orchard.”

 

 

Then here’s one labeled: “View in Poway Valley”

Things hadn’t changed that much a couple of decades after those photos were taken.

“Thousands of Acres are Sown to Grain” proclaimed the headline of an article on page 5 of the San Diego Evening Tribune on August 9, 1909. The article dealt with agricultural output in the “back country,” which in those days was the name applied to any part of San Diego County north of Old Town.

The article presented some statistics summarizing argricultural production over the previous year.

The report focused on “the country in the vicinity of Escondido and Ramona.” But it showed how clearly intertwined those towns were with adjacent communities by explaining that the “statistics on the Escondido portion of the county cover Escondido valley, Bernardo, Poway, San Pasqual and several smaller communities.” At that time, Escondido was the only incorporated city north of the city of San Diego. Bernardo, Poway and San Pasqual were unincorporated farming villages.

The article reported that “about 6,000 acres have been sown to barley” while “almost twice as many acres are in hay while the balance of the land is divided between wheat and oats.”

But a new set of crops was moving in on the grain fields, as indicated by reported shipment out of Escondido of “seventy-eight cars of lemons, forty seven cars of oranges and ten cars of honey.”

That was railroad cars they were talking about, and of those 135 railroad cars of produce rolling out of Escondido’s rail hub, “not more than five carloads” went to San Diego. The rest went to Los Angeles.

In addition to Picturesque San Diego, sources for this post included historic San Diego county newspapers and the book, History of San Diego 1542-1908, by William E. Smythe.

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