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A Hot and Stormy Scene

San Diego College of Letters (San Diego History Center Photo 9800)

He came to build a college, a scientific and literary light-house which would guide people into the golden harbor of wealth, culture, character and happiness, but his own passage into this harbor was thrown off course by turbulence in his domestic life. The tabloids of the day spread the rumor that his wife had rediscovered her first love and ‘on by-streets and in moon-lit cover’ had enjoyed ‘enchanting trysts’. She left town, a divorce suit followed, and then came news that she had died. He also organized the local church and became its first minister, and finding himself single again he married the Sunday school pianist, a 16-year-old girl who had once been a playmate of his own sons. After only a few months the yellow press struck again with a story that she had fallen for a youthful instructor at the college and flown the coop. She denied the rumor about the instructor but defended her decision to split, adding that the marriage was through the influence of others, not of her own free will. Another divorce suit followed. This was Pacific Beach in 1889.

Cecil Spencer (C. S.) Sprecher was born in 1846 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where his father Samuel Sprecher was pastor of the Lutheran Church. In 1849 his father became president of Wittenberg College in Springfield, Ohio, serving as president until 1874 and remaining there as a professor until 1884. C. S. Sprecher attended Wittenberg where he received a BA degree in 1868 and a DD degree in 1871. He was ordained a Lutheran minister in 1871 and in 1872, while pastor-elect of the Lutheran Church of Tiffin, Ohio, was married to Irene (Rena) Robinson, of nearby Bucyrus. He later served as pastor in Lutheran churches in Findlay and Ashland in Ohio. In October 1883 The Mail of Stockton, California, reported that Rev. C. S. Sprecher of Ashland had been engaged to occupy the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church in that city and would preach there next Sunday. He had not only moved most of the way across the country but had switched denominations (his older brother Samuel had preceded him to become a prominent Presbyterian minister in Oakland and San Francisco).

C. S. and Irene Sprecher brought four children with them to Stockton; Samuel (born 1873), James (1875), Katherine (1879) and Blanche (1881). In September 1885 ‘Jimmie’ Sprecher was a guest at a 13th birthday party there for Miss Eunice Stacey. Misses Lillie Logan, Maude Gilbert and Myrtle Visher were also among the guests. The next month James and Samuel Sprecher and Misses Logan and Stacey were guests at a surprise party given for Miss Visher. However, the Sprechers’ stay in Stockton was relatively brief; The Mail reported in December 1886 that the Rev. C. S. Sprecher had left town on the steamer Mary Garratt and after spending a few days in San Francisco he would go to Los Angeles to take charge of a church in that city. That church was the Second Presbyterian Church at the corner of Daly and Downey (now North Broadway) in East LA.

The Sprechers’ time in Los Angeles was even shorter. In July 1887 the San Diego Union reported that Rev. C. S. Sprecher, the prominent preacher and educator, had arrived in San Diego and that Professor Davidson, of Springfield, Ohio, would arrive in a few days; ‘these gentlemen are associated with Harr Wagner in locating a high grade college in the vicinity of San Diego’. A month later the San Francisco Examiner reported from Los Angeles that Rev. C. S. Sprecher, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, had resigned to take charge of a new Presbyterian college to be established at San Diego, endowed by a syndicate of capitalists who were building a city on False Bay, north of San Diego. The regents would be C. S. Sprecher, F. P. Davidson and Harr Wagner.

Harr Wagner was editor of the San Diego literary magazine Golden Era which had been promoting a college in San Diego. F. P. Davidson was Sprecher’s brother-in-law, married to his sister Ella. Both Wagner and Davidson were also Wittenberg graduates. The ‘syndicate of capitalists’ mentioned by the Examiner was the Pacific Beach Company and their city on False Bay was to be christened Pacific Beach (False Bay was also to be christened Mission Bay). A prime four-block location in the center of the tract (now Pacific Plaza) was reserved for the college campus. The San Diego College Company was incorporated in August 1887 with Wagner, Sprecher and Davidson as the principal stockholders and directors. In October 1887 college company president Sprecher formally accepted the college campus property from the Pacific Beach Company. Back in Stockton a surprise party was given to Miss Maude Gilbert and the time was pleasantly spent in games and refreshments. Among the young folks present was Miss Eunice Stacey, who would have been 15.

Laying the Cornerstone, San Diego College of Letters, January 28, 1888

The cornerstone for San Diego College of Letters was laid with great ceremony on January 28, 1888. The San Diego Union reported that college president C. S. Sprecher delivered the keynote address on ‘The Influence of the College in opening up the Higher Avenues of Wealth and Happiness’, concluding with the promise that San Diego College would become a ‘scientific and literary light-house, guiding the people of the city and the world into the golden harbor of wealth, culture, character and happiness’. The cornerstone was then loaded with copies of the Union and other local papers, the addresses given on the occasion and a Bible, and lowered into place while Rev. Sprecher declared that ‘we lay the corner-stone of San Diego College – unsectarian but not un-Christian – her faith the faith of Christendom – her hope the hope of the civilized Christian world’. The City Guard Band played the national anthem and the ceremonies were concluded with a benediction (when the college building was razed in 1958 workers reportedly found a tin baking soda can containing old newspapers).

As work on the college continued through the summer of 1888, Rev. Sprecher took the opportunity to spread the influence of the Presbyterian church around the San Diego area. The San Diego Union reported in March that Rev. Sprecher, Rev. Seward and Rev. Noble had organized a Presbyterian church in the school-house at Coronado Beach with twenty-four parishioners and in July the Union reported that Rev. C. S. Sprecher, D.D., of Pacific Beach College, would preach for the Presbyterians at that old school building ‘across the bay’. However, out-of-town papers found more sensational news about Rev. Sprecher to report from San Diego. A July 1888 San Francisco Examiner headline read ‘Not Dimmed by Time’; ‘The affection a minister’s wife retains for her first love’, and ‘Meetings by moonlight’.  According to the Examiner, ‘social circles of San Diego’ and the ‘Presbyterian stratum in particular’, were startled by an announcement that Rev. C. S. Sprecher had applied for a divorce. A little inquiry elicited the fact that the couple were not occupying their home and the estrangement was long standing and permanent.

The Mail from Rev. Sprecher’s recent home of Stockton summarized the news; ‘When the Rev. Mr. Sprecher and his pretty wife left Stockton some time ago and went to San Diego, Mrs. Sprecher was delighted to find a former lover there. The pastor and his wife have now separated, although the matrimonial knot has not as yet been untied by the courts’. The Alameda Daily Argus was more succinct; ‘Rev. Sprecher seeks a divorce. Mrs. S. admires a jeweler’. However, in the Bucyrus Evening Telegraph, the Ohio town where Rev. Sprecher had preached and Irene Robinson had lived, and where they were married in 1872, there was skepticism about the Examiner’s account of the affair in its ‘usual sensational style’. Noting that both Mr. and Mrs. Sprecher were well known there, the Telegraph dismissed the contention that prior to her marriage she had known and loved one J. K. Boyse, ‘which all here know is false’. The Telegraph concluded that the article was ‘probably exceedingly overdrawn’, and the Examiner had ‘drawn upon its imagination in the absence of facts, and at the expense of justice’.

While newspapers across the country were discussing the Sprechers’ marital situation, nothing could be found in the San Diego Union. Instead, an article in September 1888 reported that Rev. Sprecher, again with Revs. Seward and Noble, held a meeting in the reception room of the college at Pacific Beach to organize a Presbyterian church. The Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church, now at the corner of Garnet Avenue and Jewell Street, traces its origins to that meeting, September 9, 1888, and notes that eight members were enrolled that day. These original members included Eunice Stacey and her parents, James and Esther. The first minister was C. S. Sprecher. According to the Union a Sunday school had already been flourishing there with an attendance of 36 on a recent Sunday and among the ‘officers’ listed for the school was Miss Eunice Stacey, pianist.

The San Diego College of Letters opened with 37 students on September 20, 1888 and a month later, October 18, C. S. Sprecher’s father Samuel Sprecher, the long-time president of Wittenberg College, arrived to assume the presidency of the college and was welcomed with an elaborate ceremony. The first term ended before the Christmas holiday. On December 27, 1888, an item in the Brief Mentions column of the San Diego Union mentioned that a marriage license had been granted to Cecil S. Sprecher and Eunice A. Stacey, both of San Diego. The actual marriage license and certificate notes that Eunice A. Stacey was 16 years of age and that James Stacey, her father, described as a resident of Pacific Beach, was present as a witness. On January 3, 1889, The Mail of Stockton reprinted an article from the local Pacific Beach weekly under the headline ‘Married Again; Rev. C. S. Sprecher Takes a Stockton Girl Unto Himself’. According to the Pacific Beach, the wedding occurred at 3 o’clock on December 26 with groom’s father, Dr. Samuel Sprecher, officiating. The happy couple took the 4:20 train for the north at Morena and would spend a week at Elsinore. Their many friends, including the Pacific Beach, wished them a long and happy life. ‘It only remains to add’, wrote The Mail, ‘that the bride formerly resided in Stockton and was of the flock presided over by the reverend gentleman while pastor of the local Presbyterian church’. ‘The former Mrs. Sprecher, it will be remembered, found her previous lover when the couple moved to San Diego from Stockton. Divorce followed, and she married the lover’.

The college opened for its second term on January 3, 1889, and the Union reported on January 6 that Rev. C. S. Sprecher and bride had returned. However, the long and happy life, or at least marriage, that their many friends had wished them did not last for long. On May 4, 1889, the San Francisco Examiner reported from San Diego that ‘The Bird Has Flown; Rev. Dr. Sprecher’s Young Wife Flits From Her Cage’ and ‘Natty Major Birdsall. An Exciting Race and a Stormy Scene – A Divorce Suit Expected’. The Examiner’s bombshell explained that Eunice Stacey Sprecher, wife of the President of the College of Letters at Pacific Beach, took the train for the north accompanied by Major Birdsall, an instructor of military tactics at the college. The affair was thought to have been an elopement until Birdsall returned alone. The young wife, only a few months a bride, was now at home with her parents at Stockton. ‘She has left her reverend spouse, with the determination never to live with him again. What her relations have been with the youthful Major is the subject of much conjecture’.

The story continued that Rev. Dr. Sprecher was nearly fifty years of age and was divorced last summer from his former wife, who uttered all sorts of dreadful complaints against him. She made no defense to his suit for divorce on the ground of desertion, and went away East to her former home, where she died one day last November. On the day following, society was astounded by the announcement that Dr. Sprecher had married Miss Stacey, a beautiful girl of sixteen. It was said that her parents, who are poor people, persuaded her into the unequal match. The couple had resided at the college but the husband was said to have been insanely jealous; the wife permitted too much attention from ‘big boy scholars’, Major Birdsall being of the number and especially favored by her. They would stroll and take rides together.

The Examiner went on to say that Dr. Sprecher moved from his Pacific Beach house to his house downtown but his duties at the college kept him away from home considerably and matters became worse. He tried to break up the growing intimacy with Birdsall but the couple met surreptitiously and took long buggy rides. The account reached a climax when ‘one day last week Mrs. Sprecher drove to a prominent drugstore and the Major stepped out and took a seat in the buggy with her’. The husband was watching and rushed up to interfere, but the couple drove off excitedly with Dr. Sprecher in hot pursuit. He gave up after a chase of nearly a mile through the city and ‘a hot and stormy scene followed at the town residence that night’. In conclusion, it was understood that Dr. Sprecher would seek a divorce and friends of Mrs. Sprecher said that he could have it ‘and welcome’. For his part, ‘young Birdsall denies that he had anything to do with Mrs. Sprecher’s going away’.

Two days after the Examiner story The Mail published a letter to the editor from Mrs. Sprecher herself:

To the Editor of the Mail – Sir: To my great surprise I read in your paper several false statements in the report about my leaving San Diego, so I write this for the public to read as the truth.
I married Mr. Sprecher a few months ago, not of my own free will, but through the influence of others; and being young, I believed that I could be contented, but since then I have not seen a happy day.
I did my best to please him and stood a great deal of misery, because I had married him and thought it my duty. But when things kept growing worse, and he did not seem disposed to change his ways, I decided the best thing would be to separate.
I left San Diego alone, and as for Major Birdsall, there was never anything between us, and as far as I know Major Birdsall had no idea of my leaving San Diego. I am sorry to hear that any one would lower himself enough to start such reports. I wish to say that I was never in a buggy with Major Birdsall, nor had I any such intention, nor did I take any such walks as are reported. Mr. Sprecher never accused me of so doing, as he had no occasion, and I cannot understand how he would allow such a report to be circulated, without correcting it.
Major Birdsall was never seen in a buggy with me, and as for the hot and stormy scene that followed, as the paper states, there was no such a scene.
Examiner please copy.

Eunice Stacey Sprecher
Stockton, May 6th.

The San Diego Union weighed in on May 7 with its own account of Mrs. Sprecher’s departure; ‘Major Birdsall. Denies Emphatically the Charges Made Against Him. He Will Sue the Examiner. The Story of Elopement Said to Be Entirely Without Foundation – True Facts in the Case’.  According to the Union, she had left San Diego on a visit to her parents at Stockton. Mrs. Sprecher was somewhat younger than her husband and this, allied with the fact that she was very popular, had given rise to a scandal appearing in the Examiner which tied Mrs. Sprecher’s departure to ‘undue familiarity with the youths of the college, singling out particularly the name of Major Birdsall as her especial favorite, and charging him with accompanying her a certain distance on her journey home’. The Union ‘detailed one of its representatives to inquire into the matter’, and the result was such as to ‘contradict entirely this version of a very ordinary circumstance’. The officials and others connected with the college had been seen, and all agreed in denouncing the allegations as totally without foundation, and expressing sympathy for the parties so unjustly wronged. The day Mrs. Sprecher left San Diego Major Birdsall was in town all day and was seen in company with many of his numerous friends. The Major belongs to one of the most respectable families in San Diego and has always enjoyed an enviable reputation. He holds his title by virtue of a commission from Governor Waterman, and was for some time Drill Instructor at the Pacific Beach College. Proceedings would be immediately instituted against the Examiner for libel. Much sympathy was expressed in the community on behalf of Professor and Mrs. Sprecher, who have been so unjustly dragged into such unpleasant notoriety.

While the Examiner’s  sensational account of Mrs. Sprecher’s departure from San Diego may have been exaggerated, particularly with respect to Major Birdsall, the Union’s contention that it was a very ordinary circumstance, a visit to her parents, and that the San Francisco paper’s allegations were totally without foundation, turned out to be incorrect. Mrs. Sprecher herself wrote the editor of The Mail that she had been persuaded to marry Mr. Sprecher through the influence of others and that it was her decision to separate after a great deal of misery. The false statements she objected to were about the alleged drama over Major Birdsall and the ‘hot and stormy scene’.

In October 1889 she wrote another letter, this time to Rev. Sprecher:

Stockton Oct. 11, 1889

Mr. C. S. Sprecher:-

I take the liberty to write you a few lines, asking what you are going to do in regard to a divorce, you must certainly know by this time that I will never live with you again. I am able and capable of taking care of my self and I certainly will not live with you.
And it is as little as any man can do when a woman cannot and will not live with him to release her. Now if you will apply no matter what grounds you take I will not say a word but I suppose of course you would have closed doors in court and have no causes published. I am sure that is the way I should do, and if you do not apply I certainly shall and further more it need not be any trouble to you if you will apply I will settle all bills and I am sure that is reasonable.
It will save me a great deal of trouble as I never was in court but I shall certainly go if you do not.
Hoping to hear your answer soon I will close.

Eunice A. Sprecher
257 Washington St.

Mr. Sprecher did file for divorce and this letter was introduced as Exhibit A in testimony taken in October 1890. In other testimony, Rev. Sprecher said that he did not know why his wife had left him other than she claimed she was not happy. They had not quarreled about anything except that he wanted her to stay and she would not. When he remonstrated with her on the proposition of her going away she would not entertain his remonstrance and became a little irritated about that. He denied that he treated her ill in any way and affirmed that he had provided for her, that she had plenty of food and clothing, and that he had ‘exercised such an affection as a man ought to for his wife’. He said that he had written to her shortly after she had gone away and she had replied that she would come back to him if he would move from San Diego. He did make arrangements, business arrangements, to change his location, ‘selling out and everything of that sort’, but when he went to Stockton to have her come with him and live elsewhere she had changed her mind. A few months later she wrote that she would apply for a divorce if he would ‘make no appearance against her’ but he replied that he would most certainly resist it; she had no grounds for divorce and he could not afford to have her apply on false grounds and not appear to vindicate himself.

A number of Mr. Sprecher’s colleagues at the college added testimony that supported the view that Mrs. Sprecher had been treated well and had no reason to leave. Harr Wagner testified that the Sprechers lived at the college and he saw them every day when he went there to teach (he was professor of literature). His observation of the treatment that the defendant received from the plaintiff was that it was very considerate and kindly; he never heard any harsh words or of any ill treatment of any kind. His brother E. R. Wagner, a German professor, testified that he also lived at the College of Letters, in sleeping room 22, and that the Sprechers resided in the suite just adjoining to the south in the same building and on the same floor. He always went to breakfast with them and his observation of Mr. Sprecher’s conduct toward his wife was that it was always gentlemanly and Christian. He endeavored to be very kind, possibly to overstep the boundary by being too kind. They had the best furnished suite and rooms of any one in the college. None of these middle-aged men had anything to say about Major Birdsall or the fact that she was a teenage girl and that he was nearly three times her age with children of her age, or about the suggestion that she had been married against her will. Mrs. Sprecher did not make an appearance and on December 1, 1890, the marriage between C. S. Sprecher and Eunice Sprecher was dissolved and the parties freed and released from the bonds of matrimony.

By then Eunice Stacey Sprecher had apparently resumed a normal life in Stockton. The Mail had reported in March 1890 that the Turn Verein masquerade ball proved to be a very pleasing affair, many of the costumes being quite handsome. Among the maskers was Mrs. Eunice Sprecher, whose costume was a ‘fancy dress’. In April the San Francisco Call reported that Mrs. Eunice Sprecher was home at Stockton from a brief visit to San Francisco. And in July 1891, a little more than half a year after her divorce, The Mail reported that a marriage license had been issued to Frank D. Higginbotham, aged 27 years, of San Francisco, and Eunice A. Stacey, aged 18, of Stockton. He remarried in 1897 but she seems to have disappeared from the printed record.

During the summer of 1890 Harr Wagner, C. S. Sprecher and F. P. Davidson, who owned 99.5% of the stock in the college ‘transferred their interests to eastern parties’. Wagner ‘vacated his chair’ at the college and returned to his position as editor of the Golden Era and Sprecher also resigned and joined him there as associate editor (Davidson also left, to become principal of the Russ high school, later San Diego High). In 1892 Sprecher moved to Los Angeles where he first worked as an agent for the Golden Era and then as an independent publisher and printer. In 1897 he also resigned, or ‘demitted’, from the ministry. After the departure of its founders, the college opened for one more term in the fall of 1890 but then closed for good in 1891.

Major Birdsall also became a printer, for Cosmopolitan magazine and the New York Herald, but before leaving San Diego in about 1893 he was often seen in parades on downtown streets in the uniform of the California National Guard. A roster of guard officers listed Alfred W. Birdsall; Major and Military Instructor Pacific Beach Military College, Jan. 15, 1888; term expired May 26, 1889; appointed 1st Lieut. and Signal Officer 9th Infantry, June 20, 1890. Nearly 30 years later, in 1919, the Union reported that Major Fred W. Birdsall, a native San Diegan who had recently returned from overseas service, was in town for a short visit after an absence of 26 years. According to the Union, Major Birdsall had the distinction of being the first white child born in San Diego, in 1870. He had received his first military training in this city where he was military instructor at Pacific Beach. He had enlisted in the army at the outbreak of the European war and went to France with the first American troops. The Union noted that among his assignments in France was command of an army prison in Finistere. The Union did not mention that he was court martialed there for striking, cursing and abusing prisoners, and was ‘reduced to the foot of the list of majors’ and fined $600. The Union also did not have anything to say about his term as military instructor at Pacific Beach, or why the term ‘expired’ in May of 1889.

PB’s First Black Residents

867 Missouri Street in 2020. This house was built in 1906, the first house in the Ocean Front subdivision. Frank Tate became the first Black homeowner in Pacific Beach when he bought it in 1908.

Pacific Beach was first subdivided and lots offered for sale in 1887. The first residents were attracted to what was expected to be a college community surrounding the San Diego College of Letters, located where Pacific Plaza is now. However, the college closed in 1891 and the community was soon transformed into a center of lemon cultivation. Some of the lemon ranchers came from Southern states and brought their entire households, and even their servants, with them.

In 1899 Mrs. Carrie Belser Linck bought a lemon ranch on acre lot 33, at the northwest corner of Lamont and Chalcedony streets. She came from Tennessee along with her mother, three sisters and brother Charles. When Charles Belser arrived in January 1900 to assume management of his sister’s ranch, the San Diego Evening Tribune noted that ‘Mr. Belser of Nashville Tenn. and his colored man servant had arrived’. In June 1900 the San Diego Union reported that in Pacific Beach Belser & Co., lemon packers, were shipping cars east at the rate of two a week, but residents were complaining that they had seen nothing of the ‘census man’ and hoped he would not forget them. The census man did come around on June 22 and enumerated the Linck household, including 18-year old John Miller, servant, for the 1900 United States census. The census form had a column for ‘color or race’ and John Miller was listed as ‘B’, while Mrs. Linck, the Belsers and the other 200+ residents of Pacific Beach at the time were listed as ‘W’. John Miller may well have been the first Black resident in Pacific Beach.

Mrs. Linck sold the ranch in May 1901 and moved to San Francisco with her sisters, the ‘Misses Belser’, but there was no further news of Charles Belser or John Miller. In 1903 the Tribune reported that Mr. and Mrs. Roberts from Arkansas had moved into the upper Baker ranch; ‘They bring with them a carload of household goods, a colored family for servants besides horses and dogs’ (the upper Baker ranch was on acre lot 30, the northwest corner of Chalcedony and Olney streets). Lettie Lee Roberts died in 1905, Preston Roberts moved downtown in 1907, and there was no additional information about the ‘colored family’ who had accompanied them to Pacific Beach and would presumably have been its first Black family.

In 1900 Fred T. Scripps, brother of newspaper tycoon E. W. Scripps, bought several acres of land along the shore of Mission Bay at the southwest corner of Pacific Beach and by 1901 had completed an imposing bayfront home, Braemar Manor. His wife Sarah, better known as Emma, was an avid gardener who developed the elaborate landscaping on the grounds surrounding their home. An estate like this required domestic help, and the 1905 San Diego City Directory listed ‘Corushia’ Tate as domestic and Frank Tate as coachman for F. T. Scripps. In the 1906 directory Frank Tate was a gardener and Crozier Tate a cook living in Pacific Beach, and the 1908 directory listed Frank as cook for F T Scripps and also James Tate as a gardener in Pacific Beach.

The 1910 United States census attempted to account for everyone in a ‘dwelling’ and to list, among other things, their name, relation, age, ‘color or race’, marital status and number of years married, place of birth and occupation. At the Scripps dwelling, in addition to Frederick T., head, and Sarah E., wife, and their two sons and two daughters, the census also listed James, Josephine, Frank and ‘Crosha’ Tate, servants (as well as Frederick Hagan, chauffeur). James, 49, and Josephine, 50, were from Alabama and had been married 35 years. His occupation was gardener and hers was ‘house’, presumably a maid. Frank was 31 and also from Alabama, and Crozier, 26, was from Missouri. They had been married for 7 years. He was a gardener and she was a cook. Although the data on the census form doesn’t connect all the dots, in fact James and Josephine Tate were Frank Tate’s parents and Crozier was his wife. In the ‘color or race’ column, James, Josephine and Frank Tate were listed as ‘B’ and Crozier was ‘Mu’, presumably meaning Mulatto or a person of mixed White and Black ancestry. Of the 420 other Pacific Beach residents enumerated in the 1910 census, one other entry was listed as ‘B’, 19-year-old Abbey Benjamin, who was from South Carolina. She was a servant in the household of Alfred Pease, an executive of the Folsom Bros. Co., which owned much of Pacific Beach at the time. Everyone else was listed as ‘W’, although 22 had the additional notation on the form that they were ‘Mexican’.

In 1903 F. T. Scripps purchased acre lots 43 and 44 of Pacific Beach, the property between Diamond, Cass and Chalcedony streets and what is now Mission Boulevard, and subdivided it as Ocean Front. Although many lots were sold in the four blocks of the Ocean Front subdivision there were no improvements until Scripps had a house built in 1906 on lots 17 and 18 of block 4, a home that is still standing at 867 Missouri Street. Although Scripps presumably built it as a rental he sold the property to Frank Tate in November 1908 and for more than 20 years it was home to members of the extended Tate family. The 1913 city directory, for example, reported that James Tate and Homer Tate, Frank’s father and brother, lived on ‘Missouri s w cor Bayard’. Homer was a nurseryman, although not for the Scripps but with Cash’s nursery in Pacific Beach.

Frank Tate himself did not live in his house for long. Although city directories from 1908 to 1911 had listed him as cook for F. T. Scripps and living in Pacific Beach, a ‘situation wanted’ ad in the Union in 1912 sought a position in a private family as cook; ‘Good worker, a very fine cook, young colored man. Apply at Scripps bldg. Frank Tate’. In 1914 the city directory listed Tate Frank (Crozier), janitor Scripps Bldg, home 525 C. 525 C Street is the address of the Scripps Building, built by F. T. Scripps in 1907-1908 and still standing at the southwest corner of 6th Avenue downtown. Apparently the janitor position came with living quarters and Frank and Crozier Tate made their home there.

While living downtown, Frank Tate was one of ‘long list of signers’ of a petition to the city council protesting a sign on the front of the Plaza Theatre reading ‘The patronage of white people only solicited’. The petition called the sign ‘out of harmony with the spirit of the best and highest citizenship of this state’, and added that it ‘breeds contempt and prejudice’. As ‘citizens and taxpayers contributing to the upbuilding of the city’ the signers felt ‘unjustly humiliated before the eyes of all classes of citizens’ (there is no indication that the council responded to the petition). Frank Tate was also a baseball player, a member of the San Diego Hornets, which the Evening Tribune noted was a ‘colored outfit’. The sports page of the Union in 1914 included a note that the San Diego Hornets would like a game with any ‘fast’ team at a suburb or in town, ‘notify Frank Tate, Scripps building’. The Hornets were good, defeating the ‘Cycle & Arms nine’ 12 to 5 in August 1914 and claiming the championship of the county. However, the Tribune reported that the ‘darktown heroes’ managed only five hits and made five errors as they were ‘taken down a peg’ in June 1915 by Carmen, 6-3, at Athletic Park.

Frank Tate’s brother Homer died at the age of 29 in 1915 and Frank himself died in 1916, aged 37. His widow, Crozier, made news in 1918 in a Union article about C. Chrisman, a ‘negro fighter’ who was with the ‘Buffaloes’ over in France during World War I. The story included an extract of a letter he had just written to his sister, Mrs. Crozier Tate, of Coronado. Crozier later married Clarence E. Brown and in 1923 C. E. and Crozier Brown sold the property on Missouri Street in Ocean Front to Josephine Tate, Frank’s mother.

In 1911 James Tate’s sister Georgia Pickens had also gone to work for the Scripps as a domestic. The 1912 city directory listed William Edwards, janitor, as residing in Ocean Front, Pacific Beach, presumably meaning the Ocean Front subdivision and presumably in the home owned by Frank Tate, the only home in the subdivision at the time. By 1914 they had married and Mrs. Georgia Edwards was listed as a cook for F. T. Scripps. In the 1918 city directory William Edwards, gardener, Georgia Edwards, laundress, James Tate, gardener, Josephine Tate, cook, Ellen Pickens (James and Georgia’s mother) and Elliott Tate (Ellen’s grandson, James and Georgia’s nephew), were all said to be residing at the ‘south end of Bayard’. This is the same location or address listed in the city directory for F. T. Scripps himself, so the extended family may have been living at Braemar Manor, either under the same roof as the Scripps or in separate buildings on the grounds. The 1920 U. S. Census listed Georgia Edwards, 41, Ellen Pickens, 83, and Elliott Tate, 28, as living in a dwelling on Bayard Street, which could describe the Frank Tate house at the corner of Bayard and Missouri or the Scripps’ property at the foot of Bayard. James and Josephine Tate, both 63, were listed in the same dwelling as the Scripps family. The ‘color or race’ of all five of the Tate relatives was listed in the census as ‘Mu’ (surprisingly, only 57 of the 100 names on the two pages containing their names were ‘W’; 38 others were ‘Jp’ – Japanese).

In 1915 a second house had been built in the Ocean Front subdivision, on lots 31 and 32 of block 3, 936 Diamond Street, and in 1920 it was purchased by Elliott Tate, then working for the city street department. Also in 1921 James and Josephine Tate moved in to the Missouri Street house, joining his mother Ellen Pickens. His sister Georgia Edwards and her husband moved to La Jolla, to Cuvier Street adjacent to the Bishops School.

In 1924 Henry Campbell purchased another property in Ocean Front, lots 35 and 36 of block 4, 812 Diamond, and built a home where he lived with his wife Cath and two children. This property was near the corner of Diamond and Allison streets, a block from the beach (Allison has since been renamed Mission Boulevard). Allison was also the route of the San Diego Electric Railway No. 16 fast streetcar line between downtown and La Jolla, opened in 1924, which stopped at Diamond. The Campbell family was also Black, and like Elliott Tate, Henry Campbell was employed by the city street department. In 1925 he received a building permit for a ‘shed’ on his property and in 1926 he petitioned the city council for a license to operate a dance hall on the site. The petition was protested by the Pacific Beach Chamber of Commerce, which asserted that Diamond Street and vicinity was a strictly residential neighborhood and ‘not adapted to jazz band concerts and Charleston contests’. The license was granted anyway and dances ‘for colored people only’ were held at Campbell’s Pavilion or Campbell’s Beach for several years.

(Kitty McDaniel collection)

Campbell may have held dances on his property even before the pavilion was licensed; on June 20, 1924, the Evening Tribune reported that police led by the local ‘dry’ agent interfered with plans for a ‘negro dance’ near the ocean front at Pacific Beach. Nine ‘negroes’ were arrested and charged with illegal possession of 16 pints of intoxicating liquor. The dance was to have been a celebration of the emancipation of colored residents of Texas on June 19, 1865 – Juneteenth. They were each fined $50 in police court.

The Campbells left Pacific Beach and moved back downtown in 1929. The 1930 census listed nearly 1500 names in Pacific Beach and of these only 9 were identified as ‘Neg’ in the color or race column (there were also 70 ‘Mex’, 50 of whom were located at the brick yard in Rose Canyon, 35 ‘Jp’ and 2 ‘Fil’, Filipinos, the new servants at Braemar Manor). The 9 Black residents included the Elliott Tate family at 936 Diamond, Josephine Tate and Ellen Pickens, then 98 years old, at 867 Missouri, and Jessie Coleman, a 44-year-old female servant working at a home on Los Altos Road. Also included were James and Ella Bass, who lived at 4811 Pendleton Street, then a remote spot at the northeast corner of Pacific Beach overlooking the canyon where Soledad Mountain Road now runs but at the time undeveloped land. The Basses had purchased the property in 1922 and built a board house valued at $600 there in 1925. He had been a janitor at the Spreckels Building downtown but by 1930 was a caretaker for the city play and recreation department. They also raised rabbits on the property.

In 1934 James Bass suffered a leg injury which developed into blood poisoning and required the amputation of the leg. The Pacific Beach chamber of commerce offered to sponsor a series of benefit plays on the school stage in hopes of buying him an artificial leg (the Union reported that Pacific Beach residents were ‘showing a fine and friendly spirit toward James Bass, Negro, who recently had the misfortune to lose a leg’). The benefit plays came up short but friends and fellow playground employees made up the difference and Bass did receive an artificial leg; a photo of the ‘well known colored man’ and his artificial leg appeared in the Union. Ella Bass died in 1937, and James Bass moved away soon after.

James Tate had died in 1927 and Josephine Tate remained in the house at 867 Missouri in Ocean Front until her death in 1931. A White family lived in it for most of the rest of the 1930s but by 1940 it was again occupied by a Black family, Theodore and Elsie Mills and their 3 children. Theodore remarried and moved to the Skyline district about 1965 but Elsie remained at the Missouri Street home into the 1970s.

Elliott Tate and his family also remained in Ocean Front for decades. Ramón Eduardo Ruiz Urueta, later a history professor at UCSD, was born and raised in Pacific Beach during the 1920s and 30s and he devoted a chapter in his 2003 book Memories of a Hyphenated Man to his ‘home town’. He remembered that ‘on almost any day, Mr. Tate, who swept the streets for the city of San Diego, could be seen pushing his two-wheel cart’. The Tates’ daughter Edna was in his grade and ‘took no guff from any of the boys in school’; their son Frank, one of his sister’s classmates, was ‘always courteous’. Mr. Tate and his family were the ‘sole blacks in town’ but as far as he knew no one ‘bothered’ them. ‘Yet by choice or design,’ Dr. Ruiz wrote, ‘the Tates lived on the west end of Diamond Street, far from any neighbors’.

While the Ocean Front subdivision was near its western extremity, Pacific Beach was sparsely settled at the time and the Tate home was actually no farther from its neighbors than many others in the community. The Tate family’s situation had more to do with their association with the Scripps family at Braemar Manor, another home at the west end of the community. F. T. Scripps had originally owned Ocean Front and offered the first house built there, 867 Missouri, to Elliott’s cousin Frank in 1908. In 1920 Elliott Tate bought the second house there, 936 Diamond, half a block away, remaining there until his death in 1966. By then there were few if any vacant lots anywhere in Pacific Beach and he was surrounded by neighbors (including his daughter Edna and her husband Joseph Fields, who lived next door at 944 Diamond into the 1980s). In 1968 the Tate home at 936 Diamond was replaced by an 8-unit Ray Huffman apartment building, appropriately named Tate Manor. The Tate name still identifies the site over a half-century later, although it is now mostly hidden behind a tree.

The Higbees in Pacific Beach

The E. R. Higbee house, 953 Reed Avenue, in 1979 (Pacific Beach Historical Society photo)

The April 2020 Pacific Beach Historical Society newsletter featured a letter describing the migration of the ‘Higbee clan’ from Hillsdale, Michigan, to Pacific Beach in 1906. George Higbee, Carrol Higbee and Lillian Higbee Ward and their families loaded all their worldly goods into a boxcar and embarked on a four-day train trip to San Diego, where they changed trains for the one-hour trip to Pacific Beach. The boxcar arrived in Pacific Beach the next day and the families went on to build homes on Thomas Avenue, some of which are still standing today. Anna Pittman, the author of the letter, was the daughter of Lillian and Edson Ward and would have been about six years old when she made the trip. Her letter noted that two other Higbees had preceded them to Pacific Beach; Herbert Higbee, a carpenter who had arrived about two years earlier and Elbert Rollin Higbee, who she said came to Pacific Beach around 1900. Anna and the ‘clan’ moved on after a few years, to El Cajon and Santee, but Herbert and E. R. Higbee remained residents of the southwestern corner of Pacific Beach for the rest of their lives.

Herbert Higbee was George’s son. In 1901 he had married Ruby May White in Hillsdale and the couple moved to Pacific Beach in 1905. In 1906 Herbert Higbee and Edson Ward, Anna’s father, bought lots in Block 263, the 900 block of Thomas Avenue, and built homes there. A couple of years later, in 1908, George Higbee also built next door to Herbert. Although Ward and George Higbee soon moved away, their houses are still standing, at 935-937 and 961-963 Thomas Avenue, as is a house Ward built and briefly lived in the year before, at 864 Thomas. Ironically, it is Herbert and Ruby Higbee’s house that is no longer there. Ruby’s 1957 obituary noted that she was the widow of Herbert Higbee, who built many of the early-day homes in the beach area but who had died in 1940; she had died in her home at 969 Thomas, where she had  resided for more than half a century. Today 969 Thomas is the address of an apartment building.

E. R. Higbee had been the first of the Higbees in Pacific Beach, acquiring a pair of lots on the shore of False (Mission) Bay in 1896. This property, lots 33 and 34 of Block 387, is now on the grounds of the Catamaran Resort Hotel. It had once been owned by James Poiser, an Englishman who had spent time in Canada and Australia before arriving in the San Diego area. Poiser had purchased a plot of 40 acres in the north end of Pueblo Lot 1803 from Alonzo Horton in 1885 (Pueblo Lot 1803 included everything south and west of what would become the intersection of Pacific Beach Drive and Cass Street, including the peninsula that became Mission Beach). Pacific Beach rancher Wilbur Conover wrote in 1901 that Mr. Poiser owned and pastured this land to thousands of sheep and that his ranch house was down on the bay where there were then some very fine springs.

Conover added that Poiser, the sheep man, had then sold his holdings to the Pacific Beach Company for $50,000. This sale took place in September 1887, a month before the company drew up its subdivision map for Pacific Beach and three months before its opening sale of lots in the new subdivision. The deed described the parcel as 40 acres in the north end of Pueblo Lot 1803 excepting therefrom one acre ‘around the house now occupied by me to be taken off the end of any block that may be laid out to cover said ground’. The house, referenced in this deed months before lots were first offered for sale, was probably the first house ever built in what became Pacific Beach. The acre of land surrounding it was known thereafter as Poiser’s 1 Acre and it went on to pass through the hands of George Sikes and Susie Blackmer in 1894 and A. G. Strandberg in 1897 before being acquired by F. T. Scripps in 1899. Poiser’s 1 Acre was the first of many acres acquired by Scripps for his Braemar Manor estate and for the subdivisions that Scripps eventually developed in this corner of Pacific Beach.

The Pacific Beach Company’s subdivision map of October 1887 laid out a grid of city blocks divided by streets and avenues in the land it had acquired from Poiser and others. Block 387 was north of Hensley Avenue and east of Second Street, and adjacent to Poiser’s 1 Acre, which was ‘off the end’ of Block 391, south and west of Hensley and Second (Hensley Avenue was later closed by the city and absorbed into Scripps’ property; Second Street was renamed Bayard Street in 1900). In 1889 the Pacific Beach Company sold lots 33 and 34 of Block 387, the southwest corner of the block and closest to Poiser’s 1 Acre, to Poiser’s son Richard. In 1894 Richard Poiser sold these lots to George Sikes and it was Sikes who sold them to E. R. Higbee (or Higby) in 1896.

Elbert Rollin Higbee had been born in 1844, three years before his brother George. They lived in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, on the outskirts of Cleveland, where their father was a Free Will Baptist clergyman. According to the 1850 United States census they were neighbors of the Goodman family and their two daughters, Hattie and Celia. After serving in the civil war in the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry regiment he worked as a photographer in Chagrin Falls and in 1887 he and Hattie Goodman were married. They later moved to California and in March 1896 purchased the lots in Block 387 of Pacific Beach, where the San Diego Union reported he was building a three-room cottage. In 1896 their only neighbors would have been a row of three residences built for railway workers in Block 262, on Reed Avenue west of Bayard Street, adjacent to what was then the railway depot (one of these residences is also still standing).

The 1900 United States census listed Elbert and Hattie Higbee as living in Pacific Beach in the same home as her sister Celia Goodman and a lodger, John Rockwood. Elbert Higbee was described as a painter and paper hanger and Rockwood as a miner. The 1900 census also listed a new neighbor, Lida Clarkson, who the Evening Tribune had described as one of the most celebrated women in the country, known far and wide as art editor of The Ladies’ Home Journal and with a world reputation as an artist. She had purchased one of the railway workers’ homes at the corner of Reed and Bayard in February 1900 and was having it remodeled. In July 1900 Lida Clarkson and John Rockwood were married and he moved out of the Higbees’ house and into her remodeled home.

In 1904 the Rockwoods built an apartment building, Rockwood Flats, next to their home on Bayard Street. The Rockwood Flats was the first apartment building in Pacific Beach and was noted for its dining room. The San Diego Union reported in May 1909 that the Monday Night 500 Club was royally entertained by the Braemar 500 Club at the Rockwood Flats on the Ocean Front and that the large dining room was beautifully decorated for the occasion. Among the hosts from the Braemar club were Mr. and Mrs. F. T. Scripps, Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Rockwood, Mrs. H. L. Higbee, Mrs. E. R. Higbee and Miss Celia Goodman.

Celia was still living with the Higbees in 1910, according to that year’s census, and the Rockwoods were still living at Bayard and Reed. The Higbees’ other neighbors in 1910 were the Scripps family, with four children, four servants and a chauffeur, at Braemar Manor directly across Bayard Street. Beginning with the purchase of Poiser’s 1 Acre at the end of 1899, Scripps had accumulated property in that corner of Pacific Beach north to Reed Avenue and east to Dawes (except for the two lots in Block 387 owned by the Higbees) and subdivided it as the Braemar subdivision in 1907. Also in 1907, Scripps, J. M. Rockwood and E. R. Higbee petitioned the city council for grading, sidewalking and curbing Bayard Street from Grand Avenue to Braemar Lane, the work to be done by these property owners under private contract. The curbs and sidewalks that still line Bayard date from this time.

E. R. Higbee died in 1914 and Hattie sold the property, lots 33 and 34 of Block 387, to his nephew Herbert Higbee in 1921. In 1925 Herbert sold it to F. T. Scripps, and with the area between Bayard and Dawes streets then completely under Scripps’ control it was re-subdivided as Braemar Extension in 1926. What had once been Block 387 became Block B of Braemar Extension, bayfront property intended as home sites for the Scripps’ children. To make room for a house for the oldest son, Thomas, the Higbees’ former home was moved to 953 Reed Avenue, where it still exists today (under a more recent second story). The Scripps estate on Mission Bay was itself replaced by the Catamaran resort in 1959 and its Building 700 now occupies the site where the Thomas Scripps and E. R. Higbee families once lived.

Aerial view of the Scripps’ Braemar Manor on the shore of Mission Bay about 1920. Bayard Street, extending from Mission Bay to Grand Avenue to the right of the Braemar estate, is graded and lined with palm trees. The E. R. and Hattie Higbee home is to the right of Bayard, across from the Scripps property. The large building on the left side of Bayard a few blocks further north, between Reed and Thomas avenues, was the Rockwood Flats. (Pacific Beach Historical Society photo)


Spanish Flu in San Diego

Like the rest of the world, San Diego is suffering from the coronavirus pandemic which arrived in North America in early 2020. Once infected with the highly contagious virus, some people may have mild or even no symptoms while others experience severe respiratory distress which may develop into pneumonia and, particularly for the elderly and those with existing health issues, death. As yet there is no vaccine or cure and the only defense against its continued spread is ‘social distancing’. In San Diego and elsewhere this has taken the form of increasingly restrictive orders to prevent gatherings and require people to remain separated by at least six feet. Schools were closed, sports events were cancelled, restaurants and other gathering places were shut down. Only businesses deemed essential remain open, with employees required to wear face masks. People are supposed to stay home, and to wear a mask if they do leave home for essential activities. As of mid-April 2020, social distancing seems to be slowing the rate of infections but at the cost of massive disruption to the economy and to people’s lives. The current coronavirus pandemic and the official response to it is not entirely unprecedented, however. In 1918 the Spanish influenza epidemic entered the United States from Europe and eventually spread to San Diego, where thousands of people were infected and hundreds died. Then, as now, there was no cure for the disease and health authorities resorted to social distancing measures to control it.

The Evening Tribune first reported in mid-September 1918 that extensive epidemics of influenza had occurred at several army camps on the east coast and might be expected to appear in other camps soon. A few days later, an editorial in the San Diego Union noted that Spanish influenza had assumed epidemic proportions of virulent character in Europe and along the eastern coast of the United States, where it was prevalent in military training camps, but had not appeared anywhere in the west except for eleven cases from an army camp in the state of Washington. The Union quoted from a letter sent to a San Diego woman by her brother, a doctor in Berne, Switzerland, where there were 10,000 sick out of a population of 100,000. According to the doctor, the first precaution was to avoid infection by forbidding all assemblies, including theatres, concerts, churches and street crowds. Everyone should converse with their neighbor at a distance (the doctor added that kissing was almost unknown, indulged only by recklessly frivolous persons). The Union added that San Diego’s board of health had received ample warning and were taking every precaution in local camps and communities.

In the fall of 1918 the world was at war, with an alliance led by the British empire and France fighting imperial Germany on the western front in France and Belgium. The United States had entered the war on the side of Britain and France in 1917 and large numbers of troops were trained in camps around the country, including in and around San Diego, before being sent overseas, where they played a major role in bringing World War I to an end on November 11. In San Diego, the navy had taken over Balboa Park for one of these training camps, and since influenza seemed to spread through the movement of recruits through camps the first local precaution against influenza was to place the naval training camp in Balboa Park under a strict quarantine. The quarantine imposed on September 25 would be kept in place until all danger of an epidemic had passed. No civilians would be permitted to enter the grounds and sentries were posted at all the park gates. Although a number of suspected cases had been placed in isolation wards, officers initially declared that no actual cases had been discovered among the 5000 men in camp.

The San Diego area was also the site of a huge new army base; Camp Kearny had been set up in the summer of 1917 as a National Guard training center at a then-remote site that has since become Camp Elliott and the Miramar air station. By September 1918 over 30,000 troops were stationed at the camp, at a time when the civilian population of San Diego was about 75,000. In late September the Union reported that the strictest sort of a watch was being maintained at that camp for anything looking like the Spanish influenza, but that nothing which could be identified as such had appeared. No camp quarantine had been established and the medical authorities were loath to resort to one. On October 9, however, a quarantine was established as a precautionary measure, directing no officer, enlisted man or civilian to leave the camp. The camp still had no cases of Spanish influenza of its own but two cases were brought there by soldiers arriving from an eastern camp where it had been prevalent. They were placed in quarantine and others had had no communications with them.

A partial embargo was also imposed on Fort Rosecrans, the coast artillery base on Point Loma. Officers and men were forbidden to go to Los Angeles or attend theatres or other public gatherings in San Diego. The embargo would be extended to a real quarantine if the ‘menace’ approached any further from the north. Meanwhile, the funeral for the first San Diegan to die of Spanish influenza was held on October 1. Dr. Gordon Courtenay had been commissioned a lieutenant in the navy and had been assigned as chief surgeon on a warship, but the night before his ship was to sail he was suddenly taken ill. He had contracted the disease from ‘bluejackets’ he had been treating in Boston and died in Brooklyn on September 20.

The city board of health issued a bulletin on October 2 stating that the present pandemic seemed to exhibit an unusual virulence and that the gravity of the situation on the eastern seaboard had prompted the board to adopt all measures at their command for its control on this coast. Accordingly, under section 2979 of the political code, influenza was made reportable and all physicians must report cases to the health department immediately. Although no influenza cases had yet been noted in the San Diego newspapers, the board of health moved on October 12 to forbid all public gatherings in San Diego by closing theatres, moving picture shows, schools, dance halls, churches and bath houses. The school board, theatre managers and ministers were said to be in support of the plan and no violations of the order were expected. It was believed that by preventing large bodies of people from congregating indoors all danger of the spread of influenza would soon be eliminated. The order did not affect saloons; the health office stated that ‘men do not congregate in saloons in large numbers’ and the order was to ‘discourage or prevent large gatherings, such as was held last night in the interest of the anti-single tax measure’. A request to hold outdoor church services in Balboa Park was also turned down and the state convention of the Elks in San Diego was cancelled.

By October 14 the health board restrictions were extended to prohibit public funerals; hereafter all burials would be private. High school football games were cancelled for two weeks. Fort Rosecrans and the navy flying school on North Island were put under quarantine. By then 63 cases of influenza, but only one death, had been reported to health authorities, who were optimistic that they would clean up the scourge and schools could reopen the next week. The optimism seemed misplaced, however. The next day’s report was that there had been three deaths and a total of 103 cases, which the Tribune noted were mostly of Mexicans or ‘people of small means’ who were apparently ignorant of the symptoms and made no effort to secure proper treatment. The health department also ordered reading rooms of the public library system to close. Libraries would remain open for books to be issued and returned but all windows in the library buildings would be open and every book returned from a household where a case of influenza had existed would be thoroughly fumigated before putting it back in circulation. The restrictions in place on crowding had one interesting side effect; the Tribune noted that October 16 was the greatest opening day for duck hunting in many years as the influenza quarantine bans about everything other than the healthful field sports.

On October 16 the Tribune reported that only 22 cases had been reported against 26 the day before and that the authorities now believed that the tide had turned and that within a very short time the malady would pass to such an extent that the quarantine could be lifted. However, further precautions were being taken including closing the public market where farmers sold their wares and requiring masks on employees of large stores. The next day, as the influenza situation did not improve, more drastic regulations were imposed. Every server to the public, including clerks, waiters and waitresses, barbers, and bartenders, must wear the gauze face mask. Spectators would be excluded from trials. 56 new cases and 2 deaths were reported, including 4 cases from the navy training camp at Balboa Park. With 212 cases and 10 deaths so far, new regulations were laid down by the board; gatherings of a purely social nature, such as bridge parties, were ‘absolutely taboo’.

As the number of influenza cases grew, existing medical facilities were overwhelmed, and on October 19 it was reported that the Fremont school in Old Town was being made into a temporary receiving hospital. Desks were being removed and the rooms were being overhauled under the direction of the Red Cross. The new hospital would be for receiving and treating influenza patients and would have a capacity of 80 beds. It would be operated under the direction of E. Chartres-Martin, city health officer, assisted by a corps of volunteer physicians and surgeons. When the Fremont hospital opened on October 21 the Tribune reported that it would be designated an isolation hospital and that all influenza cases were to be isolated and treated there with a view to preventing further spread. Meanwhile, the health board reported that the number of new cases had been ‘almost stationary’ over the last several days, with daily totals in the 40s, which suggested that the outbreak would soon be curbed. Still, the board would take steps to strictly enforce precautions to prevent further spread of the malady, particularly the wearing of face masks would be insisted on and enforced, in spite of criticism.

The face mask order took effect on October 26, 1918, and required every individual in any office or place of business where he or she came into contact with the public to wear a gauze face mask. However, with 55 new cases and four deaths, the progress of the disease showed no signs of let-up and the health board urged citizens to continue to take every precaution to combat the disease. One of the new cases was the city health officer, Dr. Chartres-Martin, although his attack was considered mild and he was considerably improved by October 28. When the health department made public figures on October 30 showing 61 new cases of Spanish influenza, the increase was laid almost entirely to growing laxity in the use of the gauze masks. The department warned that unless every preventive measure was carried out, including wearing masks, no effort could be made to lift the quarantine at the different army camps. At Camp Kearny, 36 new cases of influenza were counted, as well as 21 cases of pneumonia and four deaths. There were 750 cases in the base hospital and the total number of influenza cases in camp since the epidemic began was 3242. There had been a total of 50 deaths.

The influenza epidemic continued its spread both at Camp Kearny and in San Diego in the first week of November. In camp on November 9 50 new influenza cases were taken to the base hospital and there were six deaths, making a total of 3404 cases and 64 deaths. In San Diego on November 12 there were 57 new cases and one death. However, Dr. Chartres-Martin did not consider the sudden rise in the number of cases to indicate that the influenza had returned to the epidemic state; ‘On the contrary, that stage has passed and we have now to deal with cases of mild form which will soon be cleared up’.  The quarantine which had closed theatres, churches and schools was set to be lifted on November 18 and Dr. Chartres-Martin maintained that the situation did not warrant its extension. Public schools would remain closed, however, since state law apparently prohibited opening any public schools unless all were opened and the Fremont school was still being used as a hospital from which the 40 or more patients could not be moved. Health authorities had begun fitting and furnishing the office and bottling building of the recently closed Mission Brewery as an isolation hospital for 100 influenza patients and when the building was ready patients at the Fremont school would be moved and schools could be reopened.

Although regulations intended to prevent crowding were still in effect on November 11, news of the armistice ending World War I brought out the largest crowds ever seen in San Diego to that time. According to the San Diego Union, men, women and children, hundreds of them in scant attire, rushed from their homes breathlessly to read the tidings that victory had rewarded the Allied arms. Celebrations continued through the long, exquisite day and far into the night as humanity poured into the streets in innumerable streams, lighted by faces radiant with happiness long deferred. Thousands of homes gave forth their precious occupants, who gravitated to the business section. Aged and stooped men and women and dignified professional men strode the sidewalks shoulder to shoulder with men who wore marks of hard toil. In the afternoon the crowds lined the curbs to cheer units of army, navy and marines marching down Broadway in a hastily organized parade. An official parade was scheduled for November 15 and the Evening Tribune noted the although the flu had prevented other big mass meetings it would not affect this celebratory parade and carnival. However, an accompanying sports carnival was postponed until the Thanksgiving holiday ‘when the flu bans shall be lifted’.

The ‘flu bans’ were lifted on November 18 and by November 23 the local papers were reporting that San Diego was facing the worst week since the outbreak of the disease in early October, with 61 new cases and 4 deaths reported in each of the previous two days and 91 new cases and three deaths the day before that. The authorities did not offer an explanation for the increases but the Union noted that in some circles it was believed due to the termination of the quarantine and in others to several days of rainy weather the previous week. With 70 more new cases and three deaths the next day the authorities suggested that the increases may have been partly explained by the fact that doctors had only recently been making complete reports. Perhaps it would have seemed unpatriotic to suggest that the victory parades could have contributed to the surge of new cases after November 11.

That the epidemic had taken a ‘somewhat alarming course’ was borne out by figures made public November 26, which showed 73 new cases and three deaths the day before, a Monday, and a total of 115 over the preceding weekend. In the six days between November 19 and 25 there were 27 deaths while total deaths from October 31 to November 18 had only been 24. The disease was also spreading geographically, having left the bayfront and the ‘Mexican quarter’, and was breaking out in the ‘better residential sections’. The cases were also of a more serious form than those previously encountered. The idea was advanced that the situation might justify drastic corrective measures; a revival of the quarantine had been hinted at unofficially. Dr. Chartres-Martin said he would urgently request all churches which used the sacramental cup to dispense with it in their services for the present. Meanwhile the health department had practically vacated the Fremont school in favor of the new emergency isolation ward at the old Mission Brewery.

With influenza conditions having taken such a serious turn, plans to reopen the public schools were abandoned. By November 30, with conditions continuing to deteriorate, the health board announced that the quarantine, lifted less than two weeks earlier, would be put into effect again, affecting theatres, churches and other places where crowds gather. When theatre owners announced that they would refuse to comply, and questioned the health board’s authority to enforce the order, the city council met and passed a city ordinance to establish a quarantine, although it didn’t go into effect until December 6 and was limited to four days. Meanwhile, at Camp Kearny, the influenza situation appeared to have stabilized at about 50 new cases a day despite the general liberty granted during the week of Thanksgiving when thousands of soldiers, practically the entire command, mingled with the populace at Los Angeles and San Diego. The new cases were said to be mild and no changes were contemplated in quarantine regulations.

The reintroduction of the quarantine in San Diego on December 6 went smoothly; even the Theatrical Managers Association had a change of heart and voted to lend the health department every assistance in stamping out the epidemic, even offering the services of one man from each theatre each day to assist the board. Most stores were closed and the business district was almost deserted. The San Diego Union reported that there were many minor violations but no arrests, although the police announced that they would not be so lenient in the future. That future soon arrived, with the Tribune reporting on December 9 that the one place in San Diego that had drawn crowds despite the influenza epidemic was police court. The judge entertained representatives from practically every walk of life – ‘Chinese, merchants, white men and women, negroes, the rich, the poor, druggists, trash collectors, chauffeurs, clerks, all sorts’ –  and sent them away $5 poorer in most cases and ‘with an abiding desire to live up in the future to every single influenza law’. The judge handled about 100 of the 300 arrests and the ‘court coin box’ was enriched by about $500. According to the Tribune the outstanding feature of the campaign against those who refused to wear masks was that those individuals were fast disappearing. Mask wearing had become ‘almost general’ among those who entered stores or did business with the public.

When the strict quarantine measures introduced on December 6 expired after December 9 the council adopted a new ordinance effective for another nine days making the wearing of the gauze mask obligatory in all places but the home. The mask should be made from at least four ply surgical gauze, or six ply cheese cloth, or preferably, from at least three ply butter cloth. A person was permitted to remove the mask when eating or if it would render the wearer physically unable to perform his occupation, or while receiving the sacrament. By December 11 the Union reported that San Diegans had faced the ordeal of the gauze mask and grinned and bore it. Whither one looked he saw masks which concealed all vestige of visage but smiling, twinkling eyes. Men, women and little children, even the newsboys running through the streets ‘wore ‘em’. Even the councilmen at city hall were at their desks, masked. On December 12 the news was of an abrupt drop of 64 in the new cases, to 115 yesterday from 179 the day before, the lowest total in 10 days. Authorities were unwilling to say if the sudden drop was due to the enforced wearing of gauze masks or was a product of the recent four-day ban on all business, but it was expected that churches would remain closed.

Over the next few days the number of new cases was substantially lower, in the 20s, and health authorities ventured to say that the epidemic in San Diego was on its last legs. Only two deaths were reported. The emergency hospitals were not so crowded. The authorities were not prepared to say whether the universal wearing of masks was responsible; bright sunshine weather might also have been a factor. At Camp Kearny the influenza conditions also showed continued improvement, with only 11 new cases and one death reported on December 12. The Sunshine and Kearny theatres at the camp would be permitted to reopen, the only exception to the regular order being that patrons must wear gauze masks. By December 16 the Tribune reported that authorities were of the opinion that the decrease in cases and fatalities which began with the adoption of the universal gauze mask ordinance had continued. Only 13 cases had been reported the day before, including two admitted to the old Mission Brewery. Each day showed a wonderful improvement of the situation and led health officials to believe that the epidemic may be entirely stamped out. The continuation of the most rigid precautions, however, was urged. On December 18 only 29 new cases were reported, which the Union claimed was the smallest for any one week day since the outbreak of the epidemic in San Diego. The number of cases was a decrease of 150 compared with December 10, when the universal wearing of the face masks was made compulsory, there being 173 cases that day. Although the face mask ordinance was due to expire on December 18 the council extended if for another week, to December 24.

In the final weeks of 1918 influenza cases in San Diego continued to decline. New cases on December 19 numbered 21, the lowest figure in weeks. Better still, 10 of the cases were in houses where the disease already existed, evidence that it was not spreading except where there had been direct exposure. The wearing of masks since that method of precaution was adopted was given full credit. On December 20 only 9 cases were reported in San Diego. In Camp Kearny, only four cases were reported, and one death. The last previous date on which this low number was reached was October 10. The total since September 25, when the scourge began, was 4654 cases and 145 deaths at the camp.

By December 27 the news was even better. In San Diego only one new case of influenza was reported, making six cases since Christmas eve. For the last five days only 25 cases had been reported, equaling the total number of cases for one day on December 17, when the decline began, and by December 30 the health board was anticipating an early end of the epidemic. On January 1, 1919, the Union claimed that influenza nearly made an exit for the New Year, with only eight new cases and no deaths reported on New Year’s Eve. Schools would reopen on January 6. On January 2 Camp Kearny reported that after a ‘flare-up’ on December 31 new cases fell from 13 that day to five, and one death, the first in nine days.

Influenza did not make an exit for the new year; new cases of influenza, and deaths, continued to be reported in the first weeks of 1919. On January 7, 12 new cases were reported, nearly all young persons, under 40 years old. There had been 12 deaths in the year so far, an average of 2 a day. Readers in San Diego were also informed of notable cases outside of their city. Walter Johnson, pitcher for the Washington Senators (and future Baseball Hall of Famer), had been seriously ill for two weeks with the influenza but was recovering rapidly at his farm in Kansas. Mary Pickford, noted film star, was suffering from Spanish influenza but was also considerably improved, although still confined to her bed at home with two nurses in attendance. The Evening Tribune also claimed that although there had been 20 new cases and three deaths over the last few days, San Diego was favored in mildness of the epidemic compared to Los Angeles, where there were 600 to 700 new cases reported daily. Every effort was being made to prevent importations of flu cases from that city. By January 12, with 24 new cases, four fewer that the previous day, and two deaths, the Union reported that with further improvements being shown in the influenza situation the board of health had made no further effort to adopt another face mask ordinance nor did it order the schools closed.

The influenza epidemic in and around San Diego affected local affairs beyond theatres, churches and schools. San Diego’s highly anticipated direct rail connection to the east, the San Diego & Arizona Railway, had been under construction since 1907 and by the end of 1918 the work had reached its final and most challenging phase, blasting tunnels out of solid rock in Carrizo Gorge in eastern San Diego County. However, work camps in the gorge proved to be ideal incubators for influenza and 215 cases and 28 deaths had been reported among the crew of about 350 men, seriously impacting construction work. By the middle of January 1919, however, the railroad was able to report that influenza had been eradicated in the gorge and labor conditions had become more settled. Excellent progress was reported on tunnel work and everything seemed favorable for completion of the line (a ceremonial golden spike was driven in Carrizo Gorge to complete the line in November 1919). In sports, the San Diego High School football team advanced to the league championship game because six players on the Pomona team, which had earlier beaten the ‘Hilltoppers’, were ‘out of the game’ with influenza and Pomona was forced to forfeit its final game against Fullerton (Fullerton went on to beat San Diego in the championship game).

By the end of January 1919 the Union was reporting that influenza was at a low ebb, only about five new cases a day, better than at any time since the disease first broke out in this city. Each day saw fewer cases and the authorities predicted that the disease would entirely disappear soon. No deaths had been reported in a week. While conditions were slightly improved in Los Angeles they were still bad, around 100 a day. At Camp Kearny, the number of new cases was also the lowest since the epidemic began; only about one a day. It had also been weeks since any deaths were reported at the camp.

The influenza situation continued to improve in February. On February 6 the Union reported that the hospitals were nearly empty and there were few ‘quarantines’; homes where influenza had been reported and the residents were forbidden to leave. On the 9th, Camp Kearny reported that there had been two days which ‘scored zeroes in the three columns in the base hospital report devoted to influenza, pneumonia and death from either of these’, and two consecutive days on which not a single new case of influenza was reported. In fact Camp Kearny had reported only seven new influenza cases, one pneumonia case and one death during the first half of the month. By the middle of the month influenza was also regarded as a ‘dead issue’ by San Diego health authorities; only one case being reported over the last several days. At the end of February there was a report of five new cases, the first in several days, but they appeared in only two families (the report in the Tribune included the families’ names and addresses).

Reporting on the influenza epidemic all but disappeared from local papers after February 1919. While there were still a few new cases they were described as mild and even fewer deaths were reported. By April the only news was the accounting of costs for the recent Spanish influenza epidemic; more than $20,000, due the American Red Cross for operation of the Fremont and Mission Brewery emergency hospitals, most of which was provided by the United States government for caring for sailors at the isolation hospitals.

Spanish influenza had probably arrived in San Diego by October 1918 and by the middle of that month its spread had prompted quarantines of Camp Kearny and other military camps in the area and the closing of schools, churches, theatres and other activities where people gathered in San Diego. Employees of businesses that served the public were required to wear face masks. Churches and theatres, but not schools, were reopened in mid-November when the levels of new cases had seemed to level off, but in early December a renewed rise in cases prompted a four-day total business shutdown followed by a three-week period when all residents were required to wear masks outside the home. Possibly as a result, the number of new cases began to subside around Christmas and schools were reopened in early January 1919. By mid-March the disease had essentially disappeared. It is estimated that nearly 5000 people were infected with the virus in San Diego and 366 deaths were blamed on it.

A few relics of the epidemic still exist in San Diego. Fremont Elementary school, on Congress Street in Old Town, reopened in 1919 and remained active until 2001, although most of the original school was torn down and rebuilt in 1948. It is now a school district training center, although like most other schools and offices it has presumably been closed again during the 2020 pandemic. The Mission Brewery, which had opened in 1913 but closed earlier in 1918 and was used as an isolation hospital for flu patients, reopened as a plant for producing agar from kelp in the early 1920s and operated intermittently until 1987. Now the Mission Brewery Plaza, it is still standing at West Washington and Hancock streets in Middletown and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Marshalls and Hinkles in PB

The Hinkle house, built in 1896 on a lemon ranch a half-block to the east and moved to 1576 Law Street in 1926

On September 16, 1889, two sisters appeared before a notary in Kansas City, Missouri, to sign applications for marriage licenses. Application No. 2511 was filled out for May E. Goff, who solemnly swore that she was of the age of 24 years, single and unmarried, and could lawfully contract and be joined in marriage to Frank J. Marshall, who was also 24, single and unmarried. Application No. 2512 was for Carrie Goff, who swore she was 22, single and unmarried, and could lawfully marry Victor A. Hinkle, who was 32 years of age. The brides were stenographers or ‘typewriters’, living in Kansas City with their widowed mother. The grooms were both salesmen for the Mosler Safe Company, where Frank’s older brother Thomas B. Marshall was manager.

In March 1894 the San Diego Union reported that Frank J. Marshall of Kansas City had bought two ten-acre blocks in Pacific Beach and had them plowed, piped and planted to trees; 1400 lemon trees and also prune, orange, peach, pear and apricot trees. A hedge of Monterey cypress would also be set out all around his land. Mr. Marshall would be returning to Kansas City in April but would return to Pacific Beach early next fall. He would bring his brother with him and each would build a handsome residence. The Union explained that Mr. Marshall had come from Kansas City to Los Angeles and wrote to a San Diego resident for information regarding climate, land, etc. He was advised to come and see for himself and was fully satisfied with what he saw in Pacific Beach.

The ‘ten-acre blocks’ that Frank Marshall purchased in February 1894 were laid out in the amended Pacific Beach subdivision map of 1892, on which the area north of the College Campus (now Pacific Plaza) and Alabama Avenue (now Diamond Street) had been divided into ‘acre lots’ of about 10 acres each, intended for agriculture. Mr. Marshall had paid $2150, or $125 an acre, for acre lots 30 and 53 (which were actually 8.6 acres each). On the map these lots were between 14th (now Olney) and the northern projection of 15th (Pendleton) streets and were separated by Idaho Avenue (Chalcedony Street), with lot 30 extending north to Georgia Avenue (Beryl Street) and lot 53 south to Alabama (Diamond; although the area is now part of the Admiral Hartman Community, where this street no longer exists).

In 1895 the San Diego Directory contained only 37 listings in Pacific Beach, half of whom were described as farmers or ranchers, many of them growing lemons on ranches developed on the acre lots. Lemon ranching was the principal economic activity in Pacific Beach and the Union’s weekly column of news from Pacific Beach regularly reported on developments affecting the lemon business. In February 1895 the column announced that the Marshalls, who owned twenty acres of fine lemon ranch at this place, were preparing to come to California and build on their ranch and make their homes there. In May the news was that the Marshalls expected to have their arrangements completed for removal to this place shortly. Their 20-acre ranch was looking well. They arrived in Pacific Beach in June and the Union reported that they had rented the Wilson house until they could build on their lemon ranch; ‘They come fully equipped for business and pleasure, having brought with them no less than four vehicles, and an abundance of home-making necessities’.

The Marshall lemon ranch on acre lots 53 and 30 of Pacific Beach from the east (San Diego History Center Photo #283)

The Wilson house was the lemon ranch house on Acre Lot 33, a few blocks west of the Marshalls’ property, but the Marshalls didn’t occupy it for long. In September 1895 the Union reported that Mr. Marshall’s new house made a fine showing against the hills (and that Gen. Stearns, an ex-United States senator, had purchased the Wilson place). A few weeks later the paper reported that the Marshalls were moving into their new house and added that Mr. Marshall’s brother and brother-in-law were making arrangements to come to California and would locate at this place. The two families expected to reach Pacific Beach before winter.

Mr. Marshall’s brother arrived in January 1896; according to the San Diego Union T. B. Marshall and family of Kansas City had arrived from the east and were at the Horton House hotel downtown. The February 1, 1896, Union announced that T. B. Marshall was building on his ten-acre tract. Construction must have been rapid because by February 24 the paper noted that several artistic cottages had been built at this place during the year but the architecture of T. B. Marshall’s new house was a decided change. In April the report was that T. B. Marshall had moved his family into his new residence and a month later that Mr. T. B. Marshall’s new home was ‘the finest in our colony’. Photos of house, located at the corner of Olney and Diamond streets, do indicate that the architecture was a decided change from the plain frame houses on other lemon ranches at the time, such as the one built in 1892 on acre lot 34 and still standing at 1860 Law Street. The T. B. Marshall home included Queen Anne-style design features like bay windows and a square tower topped with a decorative widow’s walk.

Thomas B. Marshall home on acre lot 53 (Pacific Beach Historical Society Photo)

Frank Marshall’s brother-in-law, Victor Hinkle, with his wife Carrie, May Marshall’s sister, were the other family that had made arrangements to locate at ‘this place’ and expected to arrive before winter. In December 1895 the Union reported that Mr. and Mrs. Hinkle had moved into the Will Wagner cottage (on Diamond Street a half block west of where the T. B. Marshall house would be built). In February 1896 the Hinkles purchased acre lot 36, 10.2 acres lying between what today are Chalcedony, Ingraham, Beryl and Jewell streets, paying Alzora Haight $2000 or nearly $200 an acre for a developed lemon ranch. Acre lot 36 had originally been purchased by George Tutton in January 1892 but had been owned by Mr. and Mrs. Haight since September 1892. The Haights apparently never built a home on their property; a news item from 1894 reported that Mr. Haight and family had been ‘camping’ on their ten-acre ranch. In May 1896 the news was that Mr. Hinkle, who had bought the Tutton ten acres set to lemons, was building a fine residence there. Early photos show that the architecture of the Hinkles’ new residence was also in the Queen Anne style of the T. B. Marshall home, including a square tower with a decorative widow’s walk.

Frank and Thomas Marshall were joined in Pacific Beach by another brother later in 1896 when Clifford Marshall and his wife took up residence in Martha Dunn Corey’s cottage, also on Diamond Street in the block west of the new T. B. Marshall home. Like most Pacific Beach residents, the extended Marshall family and the Hinkles joined the Presbyterian Church and participated in church and community activities. When Miss Marian Thresher, the soprano in the church choir, departed for Jamul for a year in November 1896 Mrs. Clifford Marshall gave her a farewell party and her place in the choir was taken by Mrs. Hinkle (Miss Thresher was a former student at the San Diego College of Letters in Pacific Beach). Choir practice was held every Saturday afternoon at Mrs. Clifford Marshall’s residence.

Frank Marshall had purchased two Pacific Beach acre lots and had them plowed, piped and planted to trees while he returned to Kansas City, leaving the ranch in charge of Ed Barnes, another local lemon rancher (and another former College of Letters student). It was more than a year later that Frank and his brother Thomas moved from Kansas City with their families and built impressive homes on the ranch, and still much of their time was spent away from Pacific Beach, leaving day-to-day operations of the lemon ranch to others. In April 1897 the local news was that T. B. Marshall and family had returned to their beautiful home and young lemon grove after a prolonged stay in Los Angeles. They had also come down from Los Angeles to spend the holidays at their Manjessa ranch (presumably named for their two daughters, Maude, or Mandy, and Jessie). In July 1897 the news was that T. B. Marshall and family were to leave for Los Angeles for a year and in January 1898 Mr. Dorst and wife moved into T. B. Marshall’s elegantly furnished house. In April and again in July 1899 T. B. Marshall spent a few days in Pacific Beach looking after his interests before returning to Los Angeles, where he was listed in the 1900 census as general agent for Mosler Safe Co.

The lemon business depended on growing and harvesting lemons but also on curing, packing and shipping them to distant markets, mostly in the Midwest. In December 1896 Sterling Honeycutt, also a lemon rancher, made a deal with the Pacific Beach Company in which he acquired the north half of block 239, south of Hornblend between Lamont and Morrell streets, and also the company’s hotel and dance pavilion on the ocean front near the foot of Grand Avenue. The agreement required Honeycutt to move the hotel and pavilion from the beach to block 239, where the hotel ended up at the corner of Hornblend and Lamont and the pavilion at the corner of Hornblend and Morrell, adjacent to the tracks of the San Diego, Pacific Beach and La Jolla railway, which then ran along what is now Balboa Avenue. Honeycutt refurbished and reopened the hotel, but the dance pavilion was converted to a facility for curing and packing lemons and loading them onto railroad cars at the adjacent siding. In November 1897 Honeycutt sold the northeastern quarter of block 239, including the packing plant, to F. J. Marshall and F. W. Barnes, who each acquired an undivided half-interest in the property (F. W. Barnes was Ed Barnes’ father and was also a lemon rancher).

Although Frank Marshall owned a lemon ranch and a half-interest in the community lemon packing plant, he also remained connected to the safe company in Kansas City and at the end of 1897 he returned to resume his former position there (the 1899 Kansas City directory listed Frank and Thomas Marshall, both working for Mosler Safe Co. and living at the same address). Clifford Marshall moved from Dr. Corey’s house into Frank Marshall’s house in January 1898. The Union reported that Mrs. Marshall and daughter Verna would spend the winter in San Diego and would remain until spring, then would return to Pacific Beach to make their future home. In October 1898 Frank Marshall returned from Kansas City to ‘make quite a visit’ and in April 1899 he returned once again ‘with the intention of making his home in San Diego’ (the 1900 federal census listed Frank Marshall, rancher, living with wife May and daughter Birdie at 1460 3rd Street in San Diego). In the absence of the Marshall brothers Mr. Lewis Martin had been in charge of the ranches in 1899 and Mr. Jacobson took over their care in 1900.

In December 1900 Frank and May Marshall sold acre lot 30 as well as their undivided half-interest in the packing plant in block 239 to Robert M. Baker and in 1901 Mr. Baker also bought the adjoining acre lot 30. The Frank Marshalls moved to Los Angeles and later to Riverside. The Thomas Marshalls remained in Los Angeles, although in September 1904 the Evening Tribune reported that T. B. Marshall of the Mosler Safe and Lock Co. was in San Diego to oversee the work of hanging the four big doors upon the vaults of the National Bank of Commerce building. And when T. B. Marshall’s automobile won a prize in the floral parade at the Los Angeles Fiesta in 1906, Mrs. Hinkle of Pacific Beach was a passenger.

Unlike the Marshalls, the Hinkles had adapted to the semi-rural lifestyle of late nineteenth-century Pacific Beach and continued living in their ‘commodious and elegant’ home on acre lot 36 well into the twentieth century. A Horticultural Notes column in the Union in 1899 noted that V. A. Hinkle of Pacific Beach was one of the ranchers who ‘lives on the ranch’ and the result was deep cultivation, fine fruit and clean trees. When lemon ranching became uneconomical after the turn of the century Mr. Hinkle transitioned into general farming but also specialized in beekeeping. In 1911 the city council amended the city bee ordinance to allow hives to be kept to within 100 feet of highways after V. A. Hinkle appeared before it and declared that bees did not use their stingers on people except to protect against interference. It was necessary to bother them at their hive before one could experience the ‘stinging rebuke’ which made them so feared. He placed ads in the Evening Tribune offering to sell ‘strong and healthy’ bees, in addition to ads offering a Jersey cow cheap, a large ranch horse – bargain, and two fine young milk cows.

Mrs. Hinkle became a member and later an officer of the Pacific Beach Reading Club, and often hosted meetings at the Hinkle home. In 1914 the reading club opened the library in its club house to the public and made its collection of books available for circulation. Mrs. Hinkle was appointed to oversee the library and is considered the community’s first librarian. The Hinkles had two daughters, Lucille and Mildred, who went to the Pacific Beach school and, like their parents, were active in community affairs. Lucille, born in 1896, entertained Reading Club meetings with mandolin and guitar selections and later attended Stanford University. Mildred, born in 1899, played the violin and sang and went on to Northwestern College in Chicago.

A January 1921 ad in the San Diego Union listed a house of 8 rooms, bath and sleeping porch for sale – $3000, easy terms, Mrs. V. A. Hinkle, telephone Pacific Beach 264. The home faced south, had a good garage, gas, electricity, fireplace and a fine view. The home did not sell in 1921 but Mr. Hinkle died in January 1922 and in September 1922 Mrs. Hinkle sold acre lot 36, with the Hinkle home, to Lawrence Adams. Mrs. Hinkle moved to New York City where in 1927 Mrs. F. T. Scripps, embarking for England on the Leviathan, spent a few days with friends, among them Mrs. Carrie Hinkle, an oldtime resident of Pacific Beach.

In January 1924 Mr. Adams also bought lots 21-24 of block 87 of Pacific Beach, the northwest corner of Ingraham and Law streets, and in 1926 he had the Hinkle house moved there, where it is still standing today, one of the oldest and best preserved historic homes in Pacific Beach. Adams sold both properties in 1928. In 1947 the portion of acre lot 36 now facing Law Street was subdivided as Chalcedony Terrace and the portion facing Beryl Street became Chalcedony Terrace Addition. The southerly 125 feet, the portion facing Chalcedony Street, has not been subdivided and is still described as acre lot 36, although the lemon trees and bees have long since been replaced by houses and apartments.

The Marshall ranches in acre lots 30 and 53 were among the properties in the eastern portion of Pacific Beach that were taken by the federal government and incorporated into the Bayview Terrace federal housing project for defense workers in 1941. They are now within the Admiral Hartman Community for military families, and although the Frank Marshall family’s house on acre lot 30 is no longer standing the site is still marked by a huge Moreton Bay fig tree that once stood over it. The T. G. Marshall house on acre lot 53, once considered the ‘finest in our colony’, is also no longer standing. It burned to the ground after being struck by lightning on Christmas Eve in 1940.

Pacific Beach Driving Park

Grandstand and clubhouse at the Pacific Beach racetrack about 1906. The central section of Pacific Beach is visible in the background beyond the track, with the former college buildings at top left (San Diego History Center photo #344)

In July 1887 the Southern California Breeders’ Association acquired San Diego Pueblo Lot 1797, a 160 acre half-mile square lot extending from what today is the intersection of Garnet Avenue and Mission Bay Drive at its northeast corner to the southwest corner of the Mission Bay High School campus. At the time this lot and Pacific Beach Company’s property to its west were entirely undeveloped, although the Pacific Beach Company would draw up a subdivision map and hold an opening sale of lots by the end of 1887. The Breeders’ Association announced that its lot would be developed as a racetrack and by September 1887 the San Diego Union reported that they were ‘pushing along operations lively’ in construction of their track and buildings.

Eastern section of 1887 Pacific Beach subdivision map showing location of racetrack and the railroad line to Pacific Beach

The buildings would include a grandstand with a frontage of 150 feet and a depth of 32 feet, a three-story judges’ stand and a club house, a very fine and convenient structure 45- by 32-feet in size, with an attic, two towers and two large bay windows giving the front a very showy appearance. There would also be a shed 100 feet long for the accommodation of teams and fifty stables, each 14 by 14 feet in size. A tight board fence, eight feet high, would surround the track. A month later, in October, the Union reported that the grading of the track and the fence were almost completed, 30 stables had been finished, the grandstand was ready for painting and work would begin the next week on the club house.

Detail from the map shows the locations of the clubhouse, grandstand, judges’ stand and stables

The grandstand had apparently been painted by November 15, 1887, when the Pacific Beach Driving Park was the scene of a baseball game between the San Diegos and the Philadelphias, or Phillies, the same National League franchise that plays there today. That morning’s Union reported that the boys from Philadelphia had arrived on the evening train and the San Diego club would cross bats with them at the Pacific Beach racetrack.  The home team had been in training for several days and the game promised to be an interesting one.  Round trip train tickets and admission to the grandstand, with special accommodations for ladies, would be 75 cents. A special train would leave the California Southern station at 1 o’clock for the park.

The November 16 Union reported that the Philadelphia and San Diego baseball clubs had crossed bats the previous afternoon and the home team was most woefully beaten, 31 – 7. The paper explained that the visitors were athletes who made a profession of playing ball while the San Diego club was a new organization only lately put in the field and the members had practiced together but once. The game was played at the new driving park at Pacific Beach and about 300 lovers of the National game witnessed the exhibition, among the spectators being a number of ladies. The game was interesting only from the fact that the spectators had an opportunity to see a first-class club play on a San Diego ball field.

Pacific Beach Driving Park had been built for racing, however, and in April 1888 the San Diego Union reported that it was being put into condition for the spring meeting. The track, built entirely of ‘made ground’, had been pronounced a good track by prominent horsemen.  The clubhouse, a three-story building of 22 rooms, was just about finished. The Grand Opening of the Pacific Beach Driving Park under the auspices of the Breeders’ Association of Southern California would include three days of racing, May 1, 2 and 3, and $1,250 in purses.

According to the Union, opening day at the new racetrack was a good day for horses, and by noon a large crowd was ‘off for the races’:

The procession which passed through the gates at Pacific Beach Driving Park was a jolly and good-natured, and expectant throng of well-dressed admirers of horse-flesh – and the pools.  They were there, all of them.  Gentlemen of leisure and gentlemen of business.  Ladies too, in their brightest array of spring colors sat in their carriages, and the throng which filled the grandstand was a lively and interested one.  The broad track over which the racers were to fly was smooth as a floor, firm, fast and in fine condition as any race-course could be.

The Union’s report on the second day of racing also emphasized the makeup of the crowd, especially the ‘fair’ members:

From early morning until afternoon the motor trains bore out their loads of merry freight, and the road to the north along the bay, was lined with carriages laden with business men, beaux and beauty, bound for the races at Pacific Park.  Every man who could get away from the busy duties of city life and evade the rules of domestic remonstrances against the seductive attractions of the uncertain pool box, donned his brightest plaid, and with dustproof hat, departed for the track.  Many there were who pleased their wives and at the same time avoided all danger of a cross-examination by taking with them the fair members of the family to enjoy the pleasures of the day.  Long before the bell had sounded the summons for the contending steeds, the carriage space of the Driving Park was well filled with a variety of gay equipages, a happy throng of pedestrian spectators moved to and fro and the grand stand presented a picture of fashion and feminine beauty.  In fact, if not in name, it was “Ladies’ Day” at the races, and the fairest of San Diego’s fair were out in all their style and bright colors of spring costumes.

The third and final day of the first race meeting at Pacific Beach Driving Park proved irresistible, according to the Union, and found the largest crowd of the season at the Pacific Beach Driving Park:

Everybody was there that could get there, and they went without much regard to the manner of their going.  They came in the closed coaches, and in the open cars of the motor, and even crowded upon the flat-cars and came out with the band. Vehicles of all descriptions were brought into use, and a constant stream of carriages poured through the gates of the Park.  There were buggies, phaetons, tandems and more than one four-in-hand in the procession, and even the “one-horse shay” was not missing, while manly equestrians and lovely equestriennes added their skillful grace to the scene of motion.  It was a great day and all had come prepared to enjoy it, so that not a cloud arose to cast its shadow over the field of pleasure – at least not until the unforeseen contingencies of the race course began to drop like a moist blanket upon the spirits of the heavy losers.

A second race meeting was scheduled for the Fall of 1888 and as that meeting approached an advertisement appeared in the Union promoting not only the Fall Race Program!, Four Days of First-Class Racing! Including running races, trotting and pacing, but also Two Extraordinary Special Days!, a Ladies’ Day and the People’s Day, which promised to be ‘the two greatest days in the annals of sport on the Pacific slope’.

As the San Diego Union had promised, People’s Day on Sunday, October 28, 1888, was a great day in the annals of sport, at least for Pacific Beach.  According to the Union, nearly 7,000 people were in attendance (out of a total San Diego population of perhaps 25,000 in late 1888). The crowd first watched a series of footraces and a blindfold wheelbarrow race before a recess was taken at noon for luncheon, ‘served in excellent style in the clubhouse’.  After lunch there were a couple of quarter-mile horse-races before the ‘event of the day’, a mounted sword combat between Captain Wiedemann and the woman who called herself Jaguarina.

Captain Wiedemann was from Germany and a leader of the local Turnverein, a gymnastic movement popular among the German immigrant population in the nineteenth century.   According to the Union he weighed 185 pounds with a chest measurement of 43 inches and biceps measuring 15 inches, and had received a thorough training in fencing. Jaguarina was described as a famous swordswoman now at Ensenada who had participated in (and generally won) similar battles in the past (her fine French military cuirasse, of brass and copper, ‘still bears deep indentations, as marks of respect from Captains Davis, Jennings and Marshal, received in former contests’).

The Union provided a blow-by-blow description of the resulting battle, which was tied after twelve rounds, each contestant having scored five points (no points had been scored in two of the rounds):

When the trumpet called the contestants to the charge for the thirteenth and last time the score stood five to five, and this final attack ended with Wiedemann aiming a cut at Jaguarina in high carte, which she parried and, before he could protect himself, ‘the sound of Jaguarina’s blade was heard on his cuirasse from a vigorous and unmistakable cut in carte’ which ended the contest with a score of six to five in favor of Jaguarina. The victor at once doffed her helmet and cuirasse and received round after round of applause from those present, many of her more enthusiastic friends throwing their caps high in the air.  After a gallop round the track with her second, Jaguarina returned to her dressing room receiving the congratulations of her friends en route.

Pueblo Lot 1797 is located at the foot of Rose Canyon, which drains a wide area extending upstream to beyond Miramar. Rose Creek normally carries the runoff from this area through Pueblo Lot 1797 and into Mission Bay but the racetrack’s location on the banks of the creek made it vulnerable to flooding from winter storms. A particularly severe storm on December 16, 1889, caused extensive flooding that washed out bridges over Rose Creek and wreaked havoc on the track.  According to the December 17 Union:

The Pacific Beach racetrack was demolished by a stream that came down Rose’s Canyon and was deflected across the north side of the grounds across the track, in the neighborhood of the Judges’ stand.  It is estimated that fully one-fourth of a mile of the track has been washed away on the east side, and several hundred feet more on the west side at the grandstand.  The water at one time was five feet deep and backed up the hill to the Pavillion.  Several of the lower sheds, down near the private gates, were also washed down.

The Pacific Beach racetrack was never fully repaired after this flood and racing never entirely recovered, but crowds still came to the grandstand to enjoy other forms of entertainment.  In November 1891 the Union reported that fully 1,000 people visited Pacific Beach to watch as a great balloon flew skyward about 2,000 feet and ‘from that giddy height a woman and monkey descended by means of parachutes’.  A triple parachute jump involving a man, a woman and a monkey and a ‘monstrous’ balloon 75 feet high and 41 feet in diameter was held at the Pacific Beach racetrack on Christmas Day 1891.

In 1890 the Breeders’ Association’s title to Pueblo Lot 1797 was challenged in court and in 1893, after a number of judicial proceedings, the property came under the control of Frederick Schulenburg, a retired lumber magnate from St. Louis. However, Schulenburg died in 1894 and in 1897, apparently in response to unpaid debts, the court ordered his estate to sell it. The Evening Tribune noted what it called ‘A Rare Opportunity’ in January 1898:

Attention is called to the legal notice in this paper offering for sale the 160-acre tract known as the ‘Race Track’ in this city.  The sale, by the administrator of the Schulenburg estate, affords the opportunity of securing a fine acreage adjoining the elegant suburban ranch homes and lemon orchards of Pacific Beach. This land is capable of producing as equally fine orchards, and a portion has been pronounced the best of alfalfa land.  The improvements alone cost more than is asked for the place.

The Union reported in September 1898 that the administrator had sold 160 acres of land belonging to the estate to a Los Angeles man, Dr. J. Mills Boal, who intended to ‘plow up’ the racetrack and set out the property to trees.  However, in November 1898, the news was that Col. A. G. Gassen had outbid Dr. Boal and became the owner of the Pacific Beach racetrack. Gassen had been involved with the Breeders’ Association and also owned other property in the area, including the brickyard in Rose Canyon. The Union added that he would spend about $2,500 for improvements intended to make the racetrack and neighboring property a pleasure resort and summer home for himself and his family.  He was expected to set out about 2,500 eucalyptus trees, build a five-board fence around the track, clear willows and other unnecessary trees and bushes from the creek bed and put part of the land into grain and alfalfa.

In May 1903 the San Diego Union reported a rumor that Col. Gassen had sold the track to A. G. Spalding, the sporting goods magnate then living in Point Loma, noting that the track had at one time been one of the finest speedways on the Pacific coast but had fallen into disrepair and would have to be wholly rehabilitated to become what it once was. Albert Goodwill Spalding was a former professional baseball player who in 1876 had founded the A. G. Spalding & Bros. sporting goods company which made baseballs and, in 1877, the first baseball gloves, which he was one of the first players to wear. Spalding and his second wife, an ardent Theosophist, moved to Point Loma in 1903 to participate in Katherine Tingley’s Lomaland Theosophical community.

Although the rumor of the track’s sale was false, or at least premature, Spalding’s interest apparently inspired Gassen to consider rehabilitating the track. In June 1903 the Union reported that he was having the track overhauled and more stalls built in anticipation of reopening in the fall and winter.  Fifty or sixty fine animals from Kentucky and Illinois would winter there, with the possibility of many more joining them during the cold season. Gassen said it was ‘not improbable’ that there would be a number of meets involving the eastern and local horses. He did not expect that the track would require a great deal of work to put it in proper shape and the fence, which had been out of repair for some time, had been repaired and painted and the grandstand and judges stand had also been fixed up. A new organization, the Belmont Breeders Association, was incorporated and Gassen tried to convince the Santa Fe Railroad to build a siding to the track so that horses could be unloaded at the stables.

The first shipment of the eastern horses arrived in September 1903, but the big news, a few weeks later, was that Spalding had taken over the Belmont Breeders’ Association and the track and stables of the Pacific Beach racetrack. The name was to be changed to the American Saddle-Horse Breeding Farm and the track to be hereafter known as American Park.  The Tribune noted that Mr. Spalding had always been an admirer of the American or Kentucky type of combination gaited saddle and driving animals and ‘the breeding of this high class of horses will be the special purpose of the establishment’. However, the saddle-horse breeding venture was not successful and was abandoned later the same year. Although the newspapers had referred to Spalding’s take-over of Gassen’s Belmont Breeders’ Association as a purchase or buy-out, the transaction apparently did not include the racetrack property itself and there is no record of any actual transfer at the San Diego County Recorder’s office. Gassen had retained ownership and in November 1904 granted ‘all of that certain property known as the Pacific Beach Race Track’ and other property at the mouth of Rose Canyon to U. S. Grant, Jr., son of the Civil War general and former president.

The track continued to be neglected, although in March 1906 the Union reported that while not much had been done with the track of late years it was still in good condition. There was a club house and grandstand on the grounds, the latter having a good seating capacity, and the accommodations at the track were first class in every respect. However, in October of that year another Union headline announced that the Pacific Beach Track had been sold For $75,000.00; this time U. S. Grant, Jr. had sold Pueblo Lot 1797, popularly known as the Pacific Beach race track, and other adjoining property to Archibald Hart, who intended to divide the property into villa lots and city lots. In November 1906 Hart and others incorporated the Mission Bay Park Company to lay out, improve and beautify their acquisition, particularly that part known as the Pacific Beach Race Track. The racetrack itself was to be eliminated; beginning in early 1907 the railroad that had serviced Pacific Beach since 1888 and had originally circled around the track via what today are Mission Bay Drive and Garnet and Balboa avenues (all then called Grand Avenue) was realigned along the route of today’s Grand Avenue (then called Ivy Avenue), cutting through the area where the track had once been.

The map of the Mission Bay Park tract filed in February 1907 subdivided the property in much the same grid pattern as that of the Pacific Beach subdivision to its west, including extensions of Hornblend, Ivy, Thomas, Reed, Oliver and Pacific Avenues from Pacific Beach and new streets like Figueroa Boulevard, Magnolia Avenue and Bond Street. Curiously, the Mission Bay Park subdivision map did not include Rose Creek, a stream which flows through the center of the tract and during wet winters in the recent past had inundated much of it. Today the Rose Creek flood control channel runs through the subdivision on what was originally laid out as Pico Street.

However, the Mission Bay Park Company failed to effectively develop or market its tract and the only property sale recorded was for lots 6, 7 and 8 of block 29 and lots 1, 2, 3 and 30 to 33 of block 32, the locations of the actual structures remaining from the former racetrack; the judges’ stand, club house and grandstand. This parcel was sold in March 1907 to Ye Olde Mission Inn Company, a corporation set up in February 1907 by James H. Babcock and others. The clubhouse became known as the Mission Inn and a year later, in February 1908, it narrowly escaped destruction when volunteers using a garden hose and bucket brigade prevented fire at a nearby shed from spreading to the hotel ‘formerly used by the racetrack people as a club house’. One of the volunteers was former San Diego fire department chief A. B. Cairnes, who lived in a home overlooking the racetrack property and who naturally responded to the sight of smoke and flames. However, the Mission Inn caught fire again later the same year, in November 1908, and was completely destroyed.

Unable to interest prospective buyers in their tract, the Mission Bay Park Company transferred it back to U. S. Grant, Jr. in November 1908, minus the 1.25-acre Mission Inn property, which was auctioned at the courthouse door in February 1912. The structures remaining on the site were abandoned and fell into disrepair. The San Diego Sun reported in 1931 that the ruins of the grandstand and the stables were still to be found ‘almost hidden by the rank vegetation of two score years’.  Aerial photos of the area from 1941 show the outlines of some of the streets laid out in the Mission Bay Park subdivision map but little actual development and no trace of anything resembling the former mile-long oval racecourse.

The Federal Public Housing Authority took over much of the property of the Mission Bay Park tract in 1941 and parts of the Bayview Terrace Project for wartime defense workers and Bayview Terrace (now Barnard) Elementary School were built on the western portions.  The southern portion of Pueblo Lot 1797 eventually became Mission Bay High School, the Mission Bay Athletic Fields and the back nine of the Mission Bay Golf Course.  One structure from the track itself, a three-story wooden judges’ stand, remained standing and was incorporated into the Rancho 101 Motel on Pacific Highway (Mission Bay Drive) in 1947.  The motel (and judges’ stand) was finally demolished in 1968, eliminating the last remaining trace of the former racetrack in Pacific Beach. The block west of Mission Bay Drive between Magnolia Avenue and Hornblend Street where the club house, grandstand and judges’ stand once stood and where thousands of nineteenth century San Diego sports fans once gathered to enjoy races, baseball games, mounted sword combat and parachute drops is now (2020) occupied by an automobile dealership.


Hidden History in Acre Lot 50

Acre Lot 50, Pacific Beach, in the 1930s (San Diego History Center 83:14603-1)

In February 1892 R. C. Wilson and G. M. D. Bowers, brothers-in-law and business partners from Henning, Tennessee, purchased Acre Lots 34 and 50 of Pacific Beach and in March 1892 added Acre Lot 33, lots that met at the corner of what are now Chalcedony and Lamont streets. The price was $100 an acre; $1850 for lots 34 and 50 and $990 for lot 33. These acre lots originated in an amended subdivision map recorded by the Pacific Beach Company in January 1892 that partitioned Pacific Beach north of Diamond Street (and south of Reed Avenue) into ‘acreage lots’ of approximately 10 acres, intended for agricultural use. By the end of March 1892 a six-inch water main had been laid up Lamont as far as Chalcedony and the San Diego Union reported that Wilson and Bowers were having 4,000 feet of water pipe laid over their 30-acre tract. The Union added that the property was to be put in lemons during the next few weeks. Other purchasers also acquired acre lots in the vicinity and Pacific Beach soon became a thriving center of lemon cultivation. On Acre Lot 34, west of Lamont between Chalcedony and Beryl streets, the Bowers built the first lemon ranch house in Pacific Beach in 1892, a house which is still standing at 1860 Law Street. The Wilsons built in 1893 on Acre Lot 33, on the other side of Lamont. Their ranch house was razed in the 1940s but a large Moreton Bay fig tree that once stood over it still marks its location.

In 1895, having developed their properties into a profitable lemon ranch, the partners sold them and returned to Tennessee. Lot 33, including the Wilsons’ home, was sold for $5500, lot 34, with the Bowers’ home, also sold for $5500 and lot 50, with no improvements at the time, went for $3000. The purchasers of Acre Lot 50, east of Lamont Street between Chalcedony and Diamond streets, were Lewis and Elizabeth Coffeen, recent arrivals from Michigan. They built a ‘fine cottage’ on their new possession which the city assessed at $100 and in December 1895 the Union reported that they had moved into their new house. This house is also still standing, at 1932 Diamond Street. However, the Coffeens did not live in the fine new cottage for long; he was compelled to return east for business reasons and the ranch was sold in March 1897 to Major William D. and Henrietta Hall.

According to the Union, Maj. Hall, a new arrival who spent three years in Phoenix, Ariz. seeking restoration to health, was induced to visit Pacific Beach to examine a ten-acre improved tract by an advertisement in the Union. Three days after first sight, Maj. Hall was the proud possessor of a four-year-old lemon grove, beautiful for situation, commanding a view of Mission Bay, the breakers at Ocean Beach, Point Loma, San Diego city and Coronado. He had already erected a curing house and had a hundred boxes of lemons packed therein. Maj. Hall was reportedly delighted in the soil, location, climate and environment and especially the price of water, for which he said he paid as much for his ten acres as he would have paid for an acre and a half in Phoenix. At the end of 1897 the Union reported that Maj. Hall had received $200 from the abandoned orchard that he took charge of ten months earlier and in June 1899 it reported that he netted $100 from a picking of four acres of lemons. Presumably he used the proceeds for the ‘quite important additions and improvements’ made to his house in December.

On New Year’s Day the San Diego Union regularly featured articles celebrating each of the outlying communities and on January 1, 1900, the article from Pacific Beach was written by Wm. D. Hall. According to Maj. Hall, Moses’ view of the promised land from Mount Pisgah could not be compared with the view of Pacific Beach from Point Loma, and nearly in the center of this beautiful spot were clustered about three hundred acres of lemon groves from three to seven years old and from 2 ½ to 10 acres, dotted here and there with fine residences with well kept yards, beautiful with every variety of flowers and in bloom all year round. He noted that the Pacific Beach lemon groves were not only attractive but productive; during the past year thirty carloads of lemons (and two of oranges) had been raised and shipped. However, like Wilson and Bowers, Maj. Hall apparently decided that there was more profit to be made selling the groves than the lemons and in 1899 the Halls sold about half of Acre Lot 50, the northern 298 feet, with 12 rows of trees running east and west, to A. F. and Margaret Roxburgh. In 1901 the Halls sold the other half, the southern 322 feet including their home, to R. M. Baker.

The Roxburghs were from Scotland and had come to Pacific Beach to join her brother William Kyle who had established a poultry ranch in Pacific Beach, specializing in ducks. Kyle was also an elder and Sunday School superintendent at the Pacific Beach church; the Union reported that the Santa Claus who entered through a church window and distributed gifts to the children on Christmas Eve in 1896 had a broad Scotch accent. His sister and her husband arrived in February 1899 and in June of that year Mr. Kyle’s and Mrs. Roxburgh’s mother also arrived from Scotland. Kyle, his mother and the Roxburghs initially rented rooms at the College Inn, originally the home of the San Diego College of Letters but used as a rooming house after the demise of the college in 1891. Once they had acquired their ranch in the north half of Acre Lot 50 the Roxburghs moved out of the inn and for several years lived in houses on neighboring lemon ranches including Mary Rowe’s on Acre Lot 49 in 1900, R. P. Dammond’s in Block 180 in 1902 and Harold Scott’s on Acre Lot 35 in 1903. In 1904 they built a house on their own ranch which the Evening Tribune described as both substantial and artistic looking, being built largely of stone. This house is also still standing, at 4775 Lamont, although it is set back from the street and nearly hidden by surrounding structures.

The Roxburghs did not live in their new home for long either; in 1906 they sold their portion of Acre Lot 50 to M. F. Chesnut, a real estate investor, who sold it the following year to Folsom Bros. Co. At the time Folsom Bros. owned most of the property in Pacific Beach and was engaged in improvement projects, particularly grading streets and pouring concrete sidewalks, which they hoped would attract purchasers and increase the value of their holdings. In 1912 the property was purchased by Alfred Hatch Brown, who also extended his ranch with a strip of land 125 by 250 feet just across Chalcedony Street in Acre Lot 33. Mr. Brown and his wife St. Claire Brown lived in the stone ranch house until they moved downtown in 1918, after which they rented out the house and land. The lemon boom had faded years earlier but this irrigated ranch land was ideal for vegetables and the tenants were mostly truck farmers, some of them Japanese immigrants. Arthur Yamaguchi occupied the house in 1920 and Yatoro Yamaguchi and his family lived there between 1929 to 1931, paying $40 a month rent. The Y. Yamaguchis and their American-born children were still living in Pacific Beach in 1942 and were among those sent to the Poston relocation center for ‘enemy aliens’ in Arizona during World War II.

The south half of Acre Lot 50 had been sold in 1901 to R. M. Baker, who had also acquired two other lemon ranches and a half-interest in the main lemon packing plant on the Pacific Beach and La Jolla railway line at the corner of Hornblend and Morrell streets. However, he also didn’t hold that property for long and in July 1902 sold it to Peter and Mary Vessels. In May 1908 the San Diego Union reported that Mrs. Vessels attended a city council meeting and spent half an hour asserting her rights over the removal of a hedge fence which stood in the way of the grading of Lamont Street being carried out by Folsom Bros. Co.  According to the San Diego Union she told the councilmen that she would position herself on the fence and the only way they could get her off would be to push her off and plow her under. After a ‘spicy encounter’ between the fence owner and the vice-president of Folsom Bros. and a ‘long and tiresome debate with Mrs. Vessels in the lead’, the council passed a resolution directing the city engineer to enforce the grading of Lamont Street to the full width thereof including the sidewalks (and presumably any hedge fences that encroached on it). Lamont Street was graded, apparently without injury to Mrs. Vessels, and in October 1909 cement sidewalks were laid along Lamont, including a section in front of the Vessels property between Diamond and Missouri streets that still exists today .

In 1911 the Vessels began selling off portions of their property in the south half of Acre Lot 50, first the southeastern quarter and then the northeastern corner. Unlike most other acre lots in Pacific Beach, Acre Lot 50 was not re-subdivided into blocks and lots and these transfers were described as the easterly 275 feet of the southerly 135 feet and the easterly 100 feet of the northerly 135 feet of the southerly 270 feet of Acre Lot 50 (most property within Acre Lot 50 is still described in this manner). In 1916 the Vessels granted the city a strip of land 52 feet wide at the northern edge of their property, intended as a continuation of Missouri Street. The city did not receive a corresponding grant from the owner of the north half of the lot and as a result the continuation of Missouri Street today is not aligned with the street to the west and is much narrower (also, unlike most Pacific Beach blocks, there is no alley in the south half of Acre Lot 50). In 1917 the Vessels sold the southwestern 200 feet along Diamond Street and the northwestern 455 feet along Missouri Street, about three-quarters of their property, to Jesse and Lena Pritchard, leaving the Vessels with a 105-foot lot on Diamond which went to their daughter Blanche Vessels Lane. The house originally built for the Coffeens was included in the southwestern 200 feet of the lot but the Pritchards did not live in it. Instead it was rented, including, in 1919, to Yataro Yamaguchi, the Japanese truck farmer who later moved into the Roxburgh house.

In 1920 the southwest corner of the acre lot, including the Coffeen ranch house, was sold to George and Mary Churchman, who took up residence there and remained for over fifty years. George Churchman was a San Diego police officer who began with the bicycle detail and advanced to be head of substations in Ocean Beach and La Jolla and for a time during the prohibition era was in charge of the police vice squad. In one sensational 1921 incident (‘Bluecoat shoots 2 in dark store’), Patrolman Churchman shot a pair of burglars, killing one, after being struck in the head by a tire iron and threatened by a shotgun, which fortunately wasn’t loaded. While trying to ‘dry up’ the Sunset Supper Club while in charge of the Ocean Beach substation in 1925 Sergeant Churchman found a 23-year-old woman sitting on a bottle of gin and a 26-year-old woman with a bottle of gin ‘parked’ between her feet. A 26-year-old man approached, showed him a roll of bills, and offered him $50 to ‘forget about it’. All three were placed under arrest.

In April 1929 Churchman was elevated from sergeant to lieutenant and put in charge of the vice detail. A few months later, in August, the ‘dry squad’ led by Lt. Churchman raided a storeroom downtown and seized 4500 quarts of whisky, gin and other liquors worth $27,000. The illicit beverages had apparently been brought in for an American Legion state convention and there was a widespread belief that the Legion’s ‘irrigation committee’ thought that the police had been ‘fixed’. At the trial a witness testified that ‘someone got sore at the Legion’ and gave a tip to Churchman; if the tip had gone to the mayor or the chief of police the raid would never have happened. Churchman also led a raid that uncovered an illicit 200-gallon still and two 800-gallon mash vats in a house in Loma Portal.

However, in 1931 the vice squad came under attack by the bar association after a woman was arrested and held in jail over the weekend without being permitted to post bail. The San Diego Union reported that Lt. George Churchman, head of the vice squad, had determined that she was a ‘woman of a disreputable character’ and deemed it wise to hold her without bail until he could check up on her story (she was eventually charged with vagrancy but the charge was dismissed). The bar association threatened damage suits against the vice squad members, including Churchman, involved in what it called illegal arrests. Two members of the city council joined in denouncing the police department and demanded a general vice cleanup. The police chief resigned, claiming that his job had been made impossible by political interference, and Churchman was reassigned to head the La Jolla substation. After he also resigned from the police department he continued to be involved in security work, including the security of Camp Callan, on Torrey Pines Mesa, during the war years. He also continued to live in Acre Lot 50 until the early 1970s when he moved a block down the street to the new Plaza apartments.

By the mid-1930s the south half of Acre Lot 50 had been divided into a number of separate parcels and there were 5 residences existing along Diamond, Lamont and Missouri streets. However, the northern half had remained intact with the Roxburgh ranch house as the only residence. In 1937 the northern 125 feet, including the house, was sold to a construction company, but no additional homes were built until the 1940s. In 1940 Consolidated Aircraft began production of its B-24 Liberator bomber and hired tens of thousands of workers for its factories around the San Diego airport, creating a  demand for housing in nearby areas like Pacific Beach. In 1941 the federal government built over 1000 temporary homes in the Bayview housing project just a few blocks east of Acre Lot 50 and commercial developers also began building affordable homes in the area for the new workers. There were still only 9 homes in Acre Lot 50 in 1941, 4 on Diamond, 2 on Lamont and 3 on Missouri but 6 more were built by 1945. By 1950 there were 20 homes, 9 on Diamond, 5 on Lamont and 6 on Missouri, but still none on the south side of Chalcedony Street. In 1950 Pacific Beach contractor Stanley Picard acquired this property, the northern 125 feet of Acre Lot 50 except for the 75-by-130 foot space around the Roxburgh ranch house, and in 1950 this parcel was subdivided as Picard Terrace. By 1955 eight homes had been built along Chalcedony Street in Picard Terrace and more than 20 addresses were listed in the 1900 block of Missouri. Like most of the rest of Pacific Beach, Acre Lot 50 was fully built out before 1960 and since then many of the first generation of single-family residences have been converted to multi-unit apartments and condos, but Acre Lot 50 has the distinction of having preserved not one but two of its original lemon ranch houses, even if they are well hidden.

Acre Lot 50 today (Google Maps satellite view)

The Implausible Railroad

Last month the Pacific Southwest Railroad Museum staged a reenactment of what was considered the greatest event in the history of San Diego when it took place a century ago. On November 15, 1919, in a remote desert canyon, J. D. Spreckels, founder and president of the San Diego & Arizona Railroad, drove the golden spike that symbolized completion of a new rail line linking San Diego with the Imperial Valley and points east. Speakers impersonating the dignitaries who spoke at the original ceremony emphasized the difficulties involved in building the line, which had already become known as the ‘impossible railroad’, and praised Spreckels for his determination in leading the effort that finally overcame the many challenges – for doing the impossible.

Work on the SD & A had begun in 1907 but a number of difficulties, principally the challenging terrain along the planned route, had stretched construction out for over twelve years. The most challenging section of the route was in Carrizo Gorge, north of Jacumba, where for 11 miles the SD & A right-of-way was blasted out of a sheer canyon wall, requiring 17 tunnels totaling 2 ½ miles in length and 14 wood trestle bridges. In November 1919 construction crews laying track from both ends of Carrizo Gorge finally came together and Spreckels and a trainload of the city’s leading citizens congregated there to celebrate his triumph by driving in the last spike. However, the 2019 reenactment of this historic occasion did not occur at Carrizo Gorge, which has been closed to passenger rail service for nearly 70 years, but instead at a railway museum in Campo where railroad enthusiasts can still ride in vintage coaches with SD & A lettering over the few miles of the route that are still open. The audience was well aware that the reenactors’ tributes to Spreckels for doing the impossible were ironic, and that the railroad turned out to be impossible after all.

Passenger service over the new railroad line was inaugurated on December 1, 1919, but after only six weeks, in January 1920, the San Diego Union (which was also owned by Spreckels) reported that a rock slide, not large enough to do any ‘real damage’ but just large enough to prevent temporarily the passage of trains, occurred on the SD & A in Carrizo Gorge. The landslide was just west of Tunnel No. 13 and the railway stated that this particular point had been questionable for some time and dynamiting had been considered, so the slide actually relieved the company of this trouble. The Evening Tribune (also owned by Spreckels) added that although nature had ‘saved the powder’ the line was still blocked and passengers on the westbound train No. 3 and eastbound train No. 4, which had arrived at opposite ends of the slide, had to be ‘transported’ around the slide to the other train, which then reversed course and took them on to their destinations. Despite this inconvenience, the railway company emphasized that the track through Carrizo Gorge was becoming more settled each day and was in a very satisfactory condition, and there should be no trouble from this time on. This optimistic assessment was reinforced a month later, in February 1920, when the Union reported that rainfall in the mountain regions was heavy enough in Carrizo Gorge to put the new roadbed to the test that had been awaited by railroad officers. The many precipitous water courses that the rails passed over flowed strongly during the storm but since the many tunnels, cuts and trestles successfully withstood the forces of the first big storm no future trouble of any kind was looked for.

Future trouble occurred anyway, and it was of the kind that did cause real damage. The Union reported in May 1920 that a slide on the side of a mountain over tunnel No. 7 in Carrizo Gorge would probably put the San Diego & Arizona railway out of commission temporarily; although the tunnel was open and trains could be operated through it that was not considered advisable until the part that had given way was removed, which would require several days. Arrangements had been made to transfer passengers between Campo and El Centro by automobile. According to the railway this was the only tunnel through the gorge that had given trouble of any consequence. Two days later, however, the report was that a rift in the rock formation had caused a shift of a huge mass of rock and earth bearing down on the west end of tunnel No. 7. A section of the mountainside 590 feet long, 200 feet high and 200 feet wide at the west portal of the tunnel was unstable and was sliding downhill, crushing 128 feet of the tunnel and 480 feet of track leading to the tunnel. Blasting would be required to break down practically the entire side of the mountain. This would close down the line for a period of five weeks and cost the company approximately $250,000 but, on the plus side, would make impossible any recurrence of the trouble and make the tunnel absolutely safe for all time. A big steam shovel with a force of about 100 men was already at work on the west end of slide. Another shovel with its crew, based a few miles west of the slide, had started a roundabout trip of about 430 miles via Colton and El Centro in order to reach the east end of the slide.

Blasting off the side of the mountain required miners to sink three shafts 25 to 35 feet deep near the top of the slide and oil-drilling rigs to drill six holes 50 to 60 feet deep near the roadbed.  These were filled with 50 to 60 tons of black powder and dynamite and in early June J. D. Spreckels himself made the trip to Carrizo Gorge by special train to throw the switch setting off the blast. According to the Evening Tribune, there followed a heavy roar with a concussion that rocked the ground. Vast clouds of dust were sent skyward and thousands of tons of rocks and boulders went hurtling and bounding into the canyon below. Good results were obtained, although not entirely up to expectations, and no accidents of any kind were recorded. A film crew was on hand when the big blast occurred and a few weeks later citizens of San Diego were able to watch it on the big screen; the ad in the Union read ‘Blown Up! A Whole Mountain to Make Carriso Gorge Safe on the S. D. & A. Railroad. See the Big Blast at the Cabrillo. Now — This Week.

However, debris from the Big Blast and a subsequent shot still had to be cleared away and the tunnel rebuilt and two months later the railroad reported that progress had been much slower than expected. Four steam shovels were working two full shifts and the obstruction had been cleared up to approximately 100 feet from the tunnel portal. The railroad predicted that the line should be handling traffic by the end of August and denied a statement in the Los Angeles Examiner that the blasts had been a complete fiasco since the many tons of earth and rock thrown clear of the roadbed had reduced the material to be handled by the steam shovels. The end of August came and went and in October the railroad announced that although the slide had been cleared and the roadbed widened it would still be necessary to drive 166 feet of new tunnel to connect with the present tunnel, possibly by mid-November.  When the line did reopen on Thanksgiving Day after being closed for seven months an editorial in the Union declared that every possibility of future delay by reason of similar obstruction had been permanently removed and henceforward San Diego would serve as the Pacific terminal of a direct transcontinental railway.

Actually, other possibilities for delays still existed and in August 1921, less than a year later, the line was closed for several days after heavy and sudden rain hit the western side of Imperial Valley. The terrific downpour had caused 20 washouts along a stretch of about nine miles there leaving a much weakened roadbed in its path. After another storm in December 1921 good progress was reported on repairs to the SD & A roadbed at washed-out points between Tijuana and Carrizo Gorge, although several more days would be required to open the line to through traffic. Through service was restored early in January 1922 but trains were required to travel slowly over three of the washouts so the train making a connection with the Golden State at Yuma would have to leave San Diego an hour earlier than regularly scheduled (at Yuma a sleeper car from the SD & A train was switched to the Southern Pacific’s Los Angeles to Chicago Golden State Limited so that a passenger could go all the way from San Diego to Chicago in the same car). Closures of several days also occurred in December 1926 at the edge of Imperial Valley, February 1927 between San Diego and Tijuana, and September 1929, when 11 miles of track in Carrizo Gorge and 18 miles in the desert approach to the gorge had to be repaired after a cloudburst.

1932 turned out to be an even worse year for the SD & A. In January a fire was discovered in Tunnel No. 3, located south of the Mexican border between Tecate and Campo. Heavy smoke and heat from the flames prevented fire crews from entering and the railroad announced that all traffic would be diverted through Los Angeles until the fire burned itself out, possibly after several days. When the fire had burned out and the tunnel cooled crews began removing debris and installing new timbers, around 1,500,000 board feet of redwood, which had arrived by ship from Northern California. One shipment of nearly 1,000,000 feet from Fort Bragg, including huge squared balks of redwood, four-by-sixes and planking, was unloaded at Pier 1 in San Diego and taken to the tunnel on 50 flat cars. Tunnel No. 3 had originally been 1296 feet long but a section near the east end had collapsed as a result of the fire, ‘daylighting’ that section and dividing the tunnel into two sections, to be named Tunnels No. 3 and 3 ½. Crews finished retimbering the tunnels at the beginning of March 1932 and service was resumed after six weeks and an estimated cost of $100,000, not counting loss of revenue.

In late March 1932, three weeks after the line was reopened at Tunnel No. 3, a slide apparently due to heavy mountain rains blocked the line of the SD & A at the east portal of Tunnel No. 15 in Carrizo Gorge and traffic was again rerouted through Los Angeles. Although the initial report was that the trouble was temporary and service would soon be resumed, the mountain continued to slide and it became apparent that Tunnel No. 15 could not be repaired and the tracks would have to be realigned around it. The realignment would include a new, shorter Tunnel No. 15 and a curved trestle bridge 633 feet long and 185 feet above the canyon floor. The trestle was also built of redwood and is said by some to be the largest curved wood trestle in the world. It is certainly spectacular and has since become a symbol of the SD & A line.

Construction work on the Tunnel No. 15 realignment was completed and the line reopened in early July. However, in October 1932 the railroad experienced another tunnel fire, this time in Tunnel No. 7 in Carrizo Gorge, the same tunnel that had caused problems in 1920. Again there was no possibility of fighting the fire and instead both entrances to the tunnel were sealed in an effort to snuff it out, and traffic was rerouted through Los Angeles. Once the fire had burned out and the tunnel cooled enough for inspection, railroad officials determined that it too was beyond repair and would have to be abandoned. The roadbed was realigned in a series of sharp curves 2200 feet long that bypassed the abandoned tunnel and the line reopened in January 1933 after having been closed for more than half of 1932.

J. D. Spreckels had founded and initially owned the SD & A but had required financial support from the Southern Pacific railroad for its construction. In 1916 the Southern Pacific recovered a portion of this outlay by taking a half-interest in the SD & A. Spreckels died in 1926 and in 1932 his estate’s remaining half-interest was also acquired by the Southern Pacific. While wholly owned by the Southern Pacific, the railroad was operated as a separate unit and renamed the San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway, or SD & AE. The sale was finalized in February 1933 and the SD & AE operated relatively successfully for a number of years thereafter, particularly during the war years of the early 1940s when there was a heavy flow of materiel and military personnel to the port and military bases around San Diego. However, more people were driving cars and more and better highways were being built, including US Route 80 which duplicated the route of the SD & AE between San Diego, the Imperial Valley and the east. Commercial aviation was also improving and attracting growing numbers of passengers. In the years after the end of the war in 1945 traffic on the SD & AE declined and in 1952 passenger service was abandoned.

Freight service continued, although not without incident, especially in Carrizo Gorge, where the rough road and sharp curves made the line prone to derailments. One particularly memorable derailment occurred in May 1965 and closed the line for several days. According to the San Diego Union, one car loaded with wine from New York state was destroyed to prevent looting and two truck trailers with 72,000 cans of beer slid from a flat car 600 feet into Carrizo Gorge (in the following months 24 persons were apprehended in quest of free beer).

In September 1976 tropical storm Kathleen drenched San Diego’s east county and the Union reported that a torrent of water ripped through Carrizo Gorge to destroy portions of three bridges supporting the SD & AE railway. Two trains had been turned back and it would be at least two weeks before rail service was restored. In fact service was not restored until December 1982, over six years later. In the meantime the Southern Pacific sold the railway to San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit Development Board which wanted the SD & AE’s suburban rights of way for the light rail system that became the San Diego Trolley. One of the conditions of sale was that the Southern Pacific had to restore the line to service, but just a week after service was restored another storm dropped 2 inches of rain on the desert approach to Carrizo Gorge near Ocotillo and blocked the route again with tons of rocks and landslides. Six months after that damage was cleared a brush fire in June 1983 burned two trestles and threatened a tunnel in Carrizo Gorge. Although the tunnel did not sustain serious damage, the trestles were destroyed. Fires in tunnels No. 16 in 1986 and No. 8 in 1988 further damaged the line in Carrizo Gorge and Tunnel No. 3 in Mexico caught fire again in 1999. This damage was eventually patched up (Tunnel No. 3 was ‘daylighted’) and the line was open for occasional freight service between 2004 and 2008, but it is now inactive except for the short excursions around Campo. The ‘impossible railroad’ still has its boosters, however, and J. D. Spreckels would have been proud to hear one of the speakers at the centennial celebration declare that the line would be open again next year.

Hauser’s Subdivision in PB

Aerial photo showing Hauser’s subdivision (and military academy barracks) in the 1930s  (from San Diego History Center photo 83:14603-1)

In October 1889 the San Diego Union reported that Mrs. Mary E. Rowe and her charming daughters Miss Mabel and Eva were stopping at the Horton House hotel downtown. The Rowes were on their way to Pacific Beach, where the girls, then in their mid-teens, would become students at the San Diego College of Letters. Pacific Beach had been founded in 1887 and was not even two years old at the time. The college, which the founders hoped would become the nucleus of a refined and cultured community, had opened in 1888 and was beginning its second year. It was located on what was then College (now Garnet) Avenue where the Pacific Plaza shopping center is today.

The Rowe family had spent years in India, where Mrs. Rowe’s husband served as a missionary and where Evangeline (Eva) and her younger sister Nellore (Nellie) and brother Percy had been born. They returned to the United States after Rev. Rowe died of typhoid, and once in Pacific Beach acquired a home on the ocean front at the foot of College (the site that was later Maynard’s bar and is now the See the Sea condominiums). In the summer of 1890 the college newspaper reported that the students were enjoying their vacations in ‘divers and sundry ways’, including an evening passed pleasantly telling ghost stories at Mrs. Rowe’s ‘cottage by the sea’, with Misses Mabel and Evangeline doing the honors.

However, the college’s second year turned out to be its last. Its financial position had deteriorated and many in the administration and faculty resigned over the summer. The college did begin the fall term in September 1890 but it never reopened after the Christmas holidays. After the collapse of the college many of the people it had attracted to Pacific Beach moved on, but some remained and were instrumental in relaunching Pacific Beach as a center of lemon cultivation. One who remained was E. C. Thorpe, whose daughter Lulo had also been a student (and whose wife, Rose Hartwick Thorpe, was famous as the author of the poem Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight). Mr. Thorpe remembered those times in an article for the San Diego Union in 1896:

At the close of the college as an institution of learning in 1890 many of those to whom this had been the attraction moved away, and the following year but three or four families remained in the college settlement. In the fall of 1891 the tract was placed upon the market as acreage property, and in a few weeks a force of workmen were clearing the first hundred acres preparatory to planting lemon orchards. Rabbits and rattlesnakes were driven back to mesa and canyon, and the sunny southern slopes were soon clothed in fragrant lemon foliage.

Among those families from the former college settlement that settled on the sunny southern slopes and became lemon ranchers was the Rowe family. As Thorpe had recalled, an amended map of Pacific Beach was filed in 1892 that re-subdivided most of Pacific Beach north of what is now Diamond Street (and south of Reed Avenue) into ‘acre lots’ of about 10 acres. In April 1892 Mrs. Rowe purchased one of these acre lots, Lot 49, containing 8 6/10 acres, for $860 or $100 an acre. Acre Lot 49 was located between what are now Diamond and Chalcedony streets and west of Lamont. Mrs. Rowe also apparently had her ‘cottage by the sea’ moved onto her new property; the $400 improvement assessed on her lots in block 226 in 1893 was no longer there in 1894 but there was a $400 improvement assessed on Acre Lot 49.

The ’sunny slopes’ north of the college campus turned out to be ideal for lemon cultivation and the lemon ranches established there flourished. The Union reported in 1895 that Mrs. Rowe was daily improving her place (and also that the society of her daughters was much sought after on account of their charming qualities). A Horticultural Notes column in 1897 included the note that Mrs. Mary E. Rowe had a ranch that from the raw condition had been developed to one now valued at $9,000; ‘The ladies of Pacific Beach are justly proud of their ranches’. In 1900 the report from the Union was that Percy Rowe was in charge of the ranch and had recently done much to improve its condition; ‘It is no little task for a lad to tackle a ranch which needs so much renervation, but pluck and industry generally win’ (Percy would have been about 20 at the time).

The Rowe girls had come to Pacific Beach for an education and after the college closed they continued their studies in the public schools. The only high school in San Diego at the time was the Russ School downtown (now San Diego High), and students from Pacific Beach could take the train from the station at the corner of Lamont Street and Grand Avenue, a few blocks from the Rowe ranch. Evangeline Rowe appeared in the second row in a photo of the Russ School graduating class of 1894. After graduation Mabel and Evangeline Rowe went to Los Angeles to further their educations. Evangeline attended the College of Medicine at the University of Southern California where she met and married Dr. Charles Caven. Evangeline Rowe Caven graduated with a medical degree in 1898 and the couple briefly returned to Pacific Beach before moving back to Los Angeles, then on to Bisbee in the Arizona Territory.

In 1898 the Jowett family had purchased the lemon ranch on Acre Lot 34, which lay across Chalcedony Street on the north side of the Rowes’ ranch. The Jowetts also had children of about the same ages as the Rowes and the neighborhood kids often got together. On one occasion the Union reported that a wagon-load of sea moss with its surface bristling with young people from Pacific Beach had arrived and had dinner on the rocks at La Jolla, after which a musical program was rendered at the pavilion, followed by dancing. The party returned home at a late hour; those present included the Misses Nellore Rowe and Ruth Jowett and Messrs Percy Rowe and Oliver Jowett. Although Mabel Rowe was missing from this particular party (she was studying in Los Angeles), she did return home on occasion and apparently became acquainted with Oliver Jowett. They were married in Los Angeles in 1900, although they later divorced and ‘O. J.’ remarried in 1909.

Nellore Rowe graduated from the Russ School in 1898, was certified as a kindergarten teacher in 1899, and was teaching school in National City in 1900. She later moved to Bisbee, where her sister Evangeline was practicing medicine, and in 1908 married William Gohring, superintendent of mines for the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company. The Gohrings moved to Phoenix in 1918, where he was an executive of the Arizona Copper Company.

The Cavens came back to San Diego in 1910, living in a house on Quince Street at the western end of the Quince Street footbridge (which had been finished in 1907). When the Panama-California Exposition opened in Balboa Park in 1915 Dr. Charles Caven was appointed the official physician and while there he made the news as perhaps the first opioid overdose victim in San Diego history. According to the Evening Tribune he was found in a semi-conscious condition in a garden near the California Building and taken to the Exposition hospital where he died of what the attending physicians determined to be an overdose of morphine (friends said he had no reason to be taking morphine and they believed he took it by mistake). Evangeline remained in San Diego and in 1919 joined a group of doctors, nurses and child welfare workers who traveled to Serbia to assist orphans from World War I. She eventually returned to San Diego where she purchased property overlooking a canyon at the corner of Brant and Upas streets and lived in the home now known as the Evangeline Caven bungalow. She later moved to Los Angeles where she lived with her sister Mabel.

Back in Pacific Beach, Mary E. Rowe had sold Acre Lot 49 with her home and lemon ranch in July 1903 to John and Julia Hauser. By 1903 the lemon era had run its course and real estate developers hoping to sell residential lots were converting acre lots back into the residential blocks originally laid out in the Pacific Beach subdivision map of 1887.  F. T. Scripps, for example, had created the Ocean Front subdivision between Mission Boulevard (then Allison Street), Diamond, Chalcedony and Cass streets from Acre Lots 43 and 44 in 1903. The Hausers also followed this model, drawing up a map for Hauser’s Subdivision of Acre Lot 49 that divided the 8.6 acre lot into two blocks of 40 lots each, separated by Missouri Street (like in the original 1887 map). The city council accepted the Hauser’s subdivision map and the dedication of its streets and alleys for public use at the end of September 1904.

A couple of weeks after Hauser’s subdivision had been accepted by the city an ad appeared in the Evening Tribune for a Big Bargain, house and ten lots $2500 or whole block of 40 lots for $5000; apply to owner, John Hauser.  Apparently this ad produced an offer and he sold all of block 1, which included the Rowe ranch house, to John S. Hoagland. In 1906 Hoagland sold lots 31-34, where the ranch house was located, as well as lots 7-10, across the alley from the house and fronting on Chalcedony Street, to D. C. Shively. The Hausers continued to own block 2 and in 1906 they built a home for themselves on the northeast corner, in lots 17-20.

In 1910 the Hausers sold their home to Sterling Honeycutt, a prominent Pacific Beach real estate operator, and moved away from the subdivision. At the same time they sold lots 21-24, at the southeast corner of block 2, fronting on Diamond Street, to Kate Woodman (Mrs. Woodman already owned the block across Diamond Street, the eastern half of Acre Lot 64). However, the rest of the property in block 2 remained in the Hauser name for many years after that. Julia Hauser died in 1937 and in 1939 John Hauser married Martha Smiley. When he died in 1947, Martha Hauser assumed ownership and was still selling lots into the 1950s.

Sterling Honeycutt had also purchased the property with the Rowes’ former ranch house from D. C. Shively in 1910 and in 1911 he sold it to Emma Wood. Between 1917 and 1937 the house served as the parsonage for the Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church, occupied by Rev. J. William Millar until 1927 and then by Rev. William McCoy. In 1912 Honeycutt also sold the Hauser’s former home in block 2, which changed hands several more times before being acquired in 1922 by H. A. Hodge. D. C. Shively continued to own the lots on Chalcedony Street and he built a home there in 1910. This property, with the only other house in the subdivision to this time, was sold to E. R. Rounds in 1924 and Shively moved into another home he had built in the adjoining Acre Lot 48, a home that is still standing at 1782 Missouri.

Capt. Thomas Davis had founded the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in 1910 on the former college campus, located a block south of Hauser’s subdivision between Garnet Avenue and Emerald Street. The academy grew and in 1923 he extended the campus a block north by acquiring the eastern portion of Acre Lot 64, between Emerald and Diamond, from Kate Woodman. Also in 1923, a new elementary school was built for Pacific Beach at the corner of Emerald and Ingraham streets and Capt. Davis had the former wooden schoolhouse moved from Garnet Avenue to a site on the expanded campus near the corner of Emerald and Lamont streets, where it became the academy’s junior school. Davis hired Lt. E. H. Mohan to be principal of the junior school and in 1927 Lt. Mohan purchased lots 33-36 in block 2 of Hauser’s subdivision from the Hausers and built a Spanish revival home there on Diamond Street, across from his junior school. These houses, the Mohan home, the former Hauser home, the Rowe ranch house and the home built by D. C. Shively on Chalcedony street remained the only structures in Hauser’s subdivision throughout the 1930s.

In 1940 there were still only the four homes in Hauser’s subdivision, but Pacific Beach was on the verge of a population explosion brought about by Consolidated Aircraft’s move to San Diego in 1935 and the military buildup during World War II. In 1941 the federal government expropriated most of Pacific Beach east of Olney Street to build a housing project for defense workers made up of temporary ‘demountable’ homes (this land has never been returned to private ownership and is now the Admiral Hartman Community for military families). In other areas of Pacific Beach, like Hauser’s subdivision, only three blocks away from that housing project, private developers also began building homes for defense workers and military personnel. 14 new homes were built in Hauser’s subdivision in 1941, 5 on Chalcedony, 5 on the north side of Missouri and 4 on Lamont. In 1947 five more homes were built on Missouri Street, four of them on the south side. However, there were still no homes on Diamond Street other than the Mohan home.

My family arrived in Pacific Beach in 1947 and were living at the De Luxe trailer park on Cass Street. In 1950 my parents and the family in the trailer next door went looking for more permanent homes and found what they were looking for in Hauser’s subdivision of Acre Lot 49. They bought adjoining lots at the southwest corner of block 2, on Diamond Street, where they had homes built and continued to live as neighbors. Our home was on lots 39 and 40, theirs was on lots 37 and 38. The deeds were granted by Martha H. Hauser, and Mrs. Hauser also included an easement over lot 6 for a water pipe to the main in Missouri Street until the city got around to installing one in Diamond Street. My grandmother later bought the neighbor’s house. Both houses are still standing, although both have been renovated over the years.

By 1955 Hauser’s subdivision was built out, mostly with 2-and-3 bedroom homes on double lots but also a few duplexes on single lots. The Rowes’ former ranch house still stood at 1828 Missouri and I remember it was the polling station for the neighborhood in the early 1950s. It finally met its end in 1957 and the Hausers’ former home was also razed in 1965, both replaced by multi-unit apartments. The Mohan’s Spanish-style house on Diamond Street lasted until the late 1970s before it was torn down and replaced by a town home. Today, most of the first generation of detached homes built during the 1940s and 1950s have also been supplanted by apartment complexes or town homes. The only sign of the past remaining in Hauser’s subdivision is a large palm tree standing alone in front of the apartment buildings at 1828 and 1840 ½ Missouri Street, a tree that once stood in the front yard of the Rowes’ ranch house when it stood alone in Acre Lot 49.

Google Maps satellite view of Hauser’s subdivision today

San Diego’s Wheelmen

A recent front-page article in the San Diego Union-Tribune highlighted San Diego’s difficulties in accommodating a new form of personal transportation. In February 2018 hundreds of electric scooters appeared on downtown streets. A rider could activate a scooter using a smart-phone app, ride it to work or a restaurant, and leave it on the street where it could be activated by another rider. The city initially welcomed this ‘micro-mobility’ option as a way to get people out of their cars and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but as the numbers grew so did what the U-T called a ‘wild west’ scooter environment, primarily speeding and riding on sidewalks, annoying and endangering pedestrians. The city eventually responded by passing regulations that included a requirement that scooters have a ‘no sidewalk’ warning sticker and the smart-phone apps have a warning about the city prohibition against riding on sidewalks. The scooters were also supposed to include ‘geofencing’ technology that automatically limits speeds in certain areas. The U-T reported that since the regulations were put into effect in July nearly 500 tickets have been written for scooter violations, most for riding on sidewalks.

This sudden surge of two-wheeled vehicles on city streets, and sidewalks, recalls an earlier era when the streets and sidewalks were invaded by ‘wheelmen’, riders of ‘wheels’, or bicycles. Advertisements for bicycles had appeared in the San Diego Union as early as 1884 and in 1891 an item in the Union’s Local Intelligence column noted that about twenty wheelmen were out on a tour last evening, gliding swiftly and silently along the streets. By 1893 there were three businesses listed under Bicycles in the San Diego city directory and enough bicycles were on the streets that the Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance regulating their use. Ordinance 227 made it unlawful to ride a bicycle on any public sidewalks or to ride after dark without a lantern or light attached to the front of the bicycle. Also in 1893, a Wheelmen’s Club was started in San Diego with plans for at least 70 wheelmen to decorate their wheels and participate in a lantern parade on the evening of Memorial Day.

The growing number of bicycles on the streets also prompted other policy changes by city officials. In the 1890s the streets were unpaved and were also traveled by horse-drawn conveyances and pedestrians. During the dry season the horse-drawn traffic stirred up dust which the city attempted to control by sprinkling the streets with water from the bay. While wet streets were of little concern to horses and buggies or wagons they were not ideal for bicycles and in 1895 the street superintendent ordered the street sprinklers to leave dry the centers of D Street (now Broadway) from Fourth Street to the bay as well as Fourth Street from A to Ivy and Fifth Street from A to the bay for the accommodation of wheelmen.

However, bicycles could also be ridden faster than pedestrians or other vehicles on the streets in the 1890s, and were perceived by some to be dangerous. A column in the Union in 1895 noted that an ordinance being proposed for San Francisco would limit the speed of wheelmen to six miles an hour at intersections and from riding ‘immoderately, carelessly or negligently’, and with a strict prohibition of ‘scorching’. The Union suggested that some features of this ordinance, particularly the prohibition on scorching, might be adopted with advantage in San Diego and that a rule requiring wheelmen to slow down to six miles an hour at crossings would also meet general approval. However, no speed limits on bicycles were adopted in San Diego. Instead the existing bicycle ordinance was amended in 1896 by dropping the requirement for a light or lantern after dark while retaining the prohibition against riding on sidewalks.

Scorching continued to be a subject of concern, however, and in an 1897 article about the ‘Scorching Nuisance’ the Union insisted that it was high time San Diego had an ordinance against scorching, especially as it was practiced in the crowded business streets. The evil had become an actual menace to pedestrians; within the past day or two several so-called ‘accidents’ had occurred through the recklessness of wheelmen, who had no more right to traverse the streets at high rates of speed than had teamsters or occupants of any kind of vehicles drawn by horses. In some respects, the scorching wheelman was actually more dangerous than a runaway team or rapidly driven wagon, which gave warning by the noise they made, while the bicycle rider commonly gave no sign of his approach.

There is a class of wheelmen who seem to take pride in riding at high rate of speed through crowded streets, trusting to their skill to avoid breaking their own bones or imperiling the lives of pedestrians. If the foolish wheelmen themselves were the only sufferers, the general public would not care much. But it is the unfortunate pedestrian that usually gets the bruises. This evil has reached such proportions that it is time severe measures were taken to put an end to it.

The Union article added that wheelmen as a rule were not given to scorching on the streets but were outspoken in condemnation of this foolhardy practice and it would confer a favor on the entire community if they would exert their influence toward passage of a proper ordinance on the subject and seeing that it was properly enforced.

Although the city never passed a proper ordinance on the subject of scorching, bicycle riding continued to be governed by the 1896 ordinance prohibiting riding on sidewalks and the police occasionally conducted operations to enforce this ordinance. In 1902 the Union complained that the police were again arresting wheelmen for riding on sidewalks, this time in what were then the ‘suburbs’ (Logan Avenue) where there were scarcely any pedestrians (the Union contended that the officers went to the suburbs to pick up a few ‘innocents’ in order to scare the real offenders). In September 1903 the Union reported that the latest victim of the activity of the police looking to the suppression of the habit of riding bicycles on sidewalks was a newspaper carrier who had been under the impression that carriers were specially privileged. Unfortunately, he had been delivering in the same neighborhood where another wheelman had collided with and knocked over an old lady while riding on the sidewalk, prompting a show of force by the police.

The Wheelmen’s Club had become an important advocacy group for the rights of bicyclists and in November 1899 it held a meeting ‘to take a united stand to remedy the rank injustice to the riders of wheels who had been victimized by police officers enforcing the ordinance prohibiting bicycle riding on sidewalks’. The wheelmen did not object to the ordinance itself but, according to the Union, they had just cause for complaint against the condition of the streets which in places made it necessary to infringe on the sidewalks. If the streets were in proper condition there would be less necessity for wheelmen to take to the sidewalks for their own safety. The Union added that there were hundreds of wheelmen and they were entitled to some consideration; they were thoroughly in earnest in this matter and threatened to carry it into politics if they could get no relief. A letter to the editor a few weeks later claimed that there were about 2,000 bicycles in San Diego and most were used for business and not pleasure or exercise; ‘You see about 2 bicycles for every buggy or wagon’. This writer’s complaint was that the sidewalk ordinance applied to the whole city, most of which didn’t even have sidewalks or improved streets and very little traffic. He suggested creation of a district downtown where it would make sense to restrict riding on sidewalks and to eliminate the restrictions in other remote places, like Sorrento Valley.

While the papers tended to be sympathetic to wheelmen’s use of the sidewalks, at least when the streets were muddy, scorching was still universally condemned. A 1903 column in the Union claimed that while accidents – collisions between wheelmen and vehicles or pedestrians – were not an everyday occurrence they were still sufficiently frequent to make plain the need of an ordinance to minimize the danger. Youngsters could be seen flying through the more crowded streets just missing collision with a vehicle and the next moment giving some citizen on foot a narrow escape. There was no municipal regulation to prevent the most harebrained, reckless boys from riding through the streets at a pace that makes life and limb precarious to pedestrians. The bicycle menace should be done away with. San Diego had outgrown the times where bicycle riders could scorch through the streets. The city should have a proper bicycle ordinance forbidding high rates of speed.

The city never did pass a proper speed limit ordinance for bicycles but the sidewalk prohibition remained on the books, and was enforced, for years. In 1907 two men appeared in police court and stated that they would plead that while technically guilty they had a ‘moral right’ to ride on the walk of Sixteenth Street for the reason that the street was torn up for paving purposes. In January 1910, after the police arrested two men for riding on the sidewalks, the Evening Tribune explained that the Superintendent of Police was determined to put a stop to men, boys and young women riding bicycles on sidewalks when the streets were not muddy. The Tribune explained that there was no objection to wheelmen using the sidewalks in inclement weather, provided that they shared equally with pedestrians, but there was no excuse when the unpaved streets were not muddy, as was the condition on this occasion.

Scorching and riding on the sidewalk weren’t the only sources of accidents attributed to bicycles. The Union reported in 1903 that a horse and light buggy were standing in front of a store when it was frightened by a bicycle which had been insecurely stood up in a rack near the curb and had fallen over. Fortunately, the only occupant of the buggy, a lady, got the horse under control within a block, showing much skill and coolness. According to the Union, the same cause was responsible for another runaway on Fourth Street a little earlier, and the construction of some of the racks about town with bars placed too wide apart made it practically impossible to securely stand up a wheel in them.

No-one knows how today’s ‘wild west’ scooter situation will turn out but ‘scorching’ and the ‘bicycle menace’ in San Diego’s actual wild west days faded away after D. C. Collier purchased San Diego’s first automobile in February 1900 and ‘wheelmen’ increasingly became ‘automobilists’. Back in 1893, when the ‘wheel’ had appeared be the future of personal transportation, San Diego’s wheelmen had organized a Wheelmen’s Club to celebrate and promote their mutual interest. In the new century, with the automobile age on the horizon, it had become more of a social club, one of the fastest growing in the city. In 1903 members of the Wheelmen’s Club acknowledged the changing circumstances and voted to change their name to the Cabrillo Club.