It was Christmas Day in 1919 that I first saw San
Dieguito stone tools, stated Malcolm J. Rogers. I was hunting
Indian artifacts on a sandy-loam ridge about a mile and a half west
of Escondido. Since I was well aware of the kind of tools left behind
by historical Indians, and the people of the La Jollan culture before
them, I knew immediately that these tools were of a still earlier people.
From this site in Escondido, Rogers, an archaeologist and former director
of the San Diego Museum of Man, launched a lifetime study of documenting
human inhabitants of San Diego County. He estimated that these ancient
inhabitants came into this area 10,000 years ago.
In other studies, Rogers suggested that the contemporary
division of Native American culture and territory was established one
thousand years ago when the Shoshonean groups of the Great Basin migrated
to southwest California and originated the San Luis Rey culture. The
Indians had long established villages and campsites along the Escondido
Creek and in the north and north central portions of present-day Escondido.
The Native American Kumeyaay
were Yumans who migrated from the Colorado River area and occupied San
Pasqual Valley and sites along water sources in the southern and western
portions of Escondido, especially along the San Dieguito River. Both
the Luiseño and Kumeyaay camps and villages derived an economic
base from neighboring natural resources. Notable village or camp areas
were located around riparian corridors such as Orange Glen, Kit Carson
Park, Felicita Park, Indian Rock Springs and Moosa Canyon. Most of these
sites have been destroyed by agricultural uses and development. Luiseño
and Kumeyaay adapted to European agricultural methods and were considered
competent farmers. After the establishment of Indian Reservations, many
Indian farmers were forced off their land and onto reservations; others
remained in the greater Escondido area and continued to farm.
The Luiseño place name for Escondido, Mehel-om-pom-pavo,
did not remain into the Mexican or American period. The official naming
of Escondido has been buried in folklore. The name has been connected
to numerous myths set both in the Spanish colonization period as well
as the Mexican rancho era. Before the city of Escondido was founded,
the area was known by it rancho name, Rancho Rincon del Diablo.
In 1843 Juan Bautista Alvarado was granted 12,653 acres of land, and
Alvarados grown children occupied the rancho in two separate areas.
Several adobe structures were built at the southeast end of the rancho
near present-day Bear Valley Parkway and San Pasqual Valley Road. Another
adobe and a planting of trees were located on section of land on the
west side of the rancho known as San Geronimo.
On December 6, 1846 the course of history for Escondido
took a dramatic turn when soldiers of the United States Army attacked
Mexican forces of Alta California in the neighboring San Pasqual valley.
A number of American soldiers died or were wounded. The events of the
of San Pasqual have been memorialized many times in Escondido in
a pageant called, Felicita.
From 1926 until 1931, the productions story centered on the daughter
of San Pasqual Indian chief, Panto and her love of a wounded American
soldier. The folk play was revised in several times and as recently
as Spring, 2002.
Within a few years of the Battle of San Pasqual, in 1850,
California was annexed into the Union. Early in the American period,
the ranch was sold to Oliver S. Witherby, a San Diego Judge. Witherby
continued the cattle business and began mining gold on this property
in 1860. The following year a small gold rush ensued, and the name Escondido
appeared on legal records with the gold claim filing of Escondido
Mining Company. Attempts at gold mining in that portion of the
city continued into the 1920s. No remains of these historic landmarks
have been preserved.
Witherby sold the ranch to the Wolfskill brothers in 1868.
Part owner and ranch manager, John Wolfskill, occupied the southeast
part of the ranch and employed San Pasqual Indians. Cattle herds were
reduced as the Wolfskills built a sheep ranch. Eventually, Wolfskill
moved the ranch headquarters to the northwest end of the rancho near
Dene Park. He referred to the location of his ranch as el
valle Escondido. John Wolfskill remained on the Mexican rancho
for sixteen years during which time it was known as Wolfskill
Plains. The Wolfskills in due time planted grapes and orange groves
and pursued other forms of agriculture.
On March 1, 1886 Richard Thomas and his four brothers,
along with several other investors, created a land boom for the development
of Escondido. These investors, already experienced in Southern California
land boom promotions, organized a land survey of the old rancho. They
wanted Escondido to be more than an ordinary frontier town. Free land
was donated for churches, a 100-room hotel was constructed and a branch
of the University of Southern California was established. Banks were
opened, a weekly paper was published and Escondido was linked by railroad
to the rest of the country. The little boomtown of the Escondido Land
and Town Company was incorporated as the City of Escondido on October
Supplies such as brick and lumber were needed to build
the town; so was labor. Chinese workers were brought to Escondido to
make bricks and to build schools, churches and other buildings. When
construction was completed, the Chinese workers found employment in
restaurants, laundries and small farming. The flood of 1916 devoured
their community located in downtown Escondido along the creek. Flooding
continued to be a problem, and in 1970, out of concern for future flooding
of downtown, the Escondido Creek was directed into a concrete channel.
Land promoters sold Escondidos climate as ideal
for crop growing and varied agriculture. The Citys fate, however,
was dependent on the availability of water. In 1889 the Escondido Irrigation
District was formed. Later, another water district was created to guarantee
a stable water supply for the city. Water was collected miles away through
a system of canals, ditches and flumes through the Rincon
and La Jolla Indian Reservations. This action had long-range effects
on the relationship between Escondidos water rights and those
of the Native American reservations; many years of litigation ensued.
The growth of Escondidos agriculture depended on
the construction of the Bear Valley Dam (Lake
Wohlford), and the expansion of a water system was completed in
1895. In time the formation of the Escondido Mutual Water Company stabilized
the availability of water to most ranches, farms and homes that functioned
without wells. The Escondido Mutual Water Company designed a great water
plan. With water, the grape industry expanded.
So proud was the agricultural community, that on September
9, 1908 Grape Day was established and celebrated with a
parade, a custom associated with Escondido for many years to come. Grapes
remained an important industry until the prohibition era of the 1920s.
The Grape Day festivities continued until 1947 when numerous grape fields
were turned into citrus. Years later, Grape Day was revived and is now
hosted annually by the
Historical Society at their headquarters in Grape Day Park.
The land promotion and publicity about Escondidos
climate proved successful. Farmers, tradesmen and merchants moved from
colder climates to farm in the idyllic setting promoted world wide on
the Thomas Show Ranch. Early 20th century censuses reflect an influx
of farmers from numerous places, but especially from the Eastern through
the Midwestern United States and Europe. The influx of an immigrant
population was so steady that one descendant of a pioneer family, Paul
Hatch, recalled that when his father asked him to pick up mail, the
postmaster asked if I spoke English, and I said, No! I speak
Escondidos agricultural community of ranches, groves
and packing houses required a diversity of labor sources. Larger farms
and ranches relied on hired men in addition to family members. New sources
of men and women laborers were needed to meet the expanded levels of
agriculture that produced trainloads of grapes, citrus, raisins, poultry,
livestock, grains, fruits and nuts for export.
Persons of many ethnic backgrounds - Chinese, Native American,
Jamaican, Filipino, Mexican, Mexican-American - worked for a limited
time in the growing and packing areas. In 1906 rancher Albert Beven
employed as many as fifty Japanese in the citrus groves of his Eureka
Ranch. His daughter, local historian Frances Beven Ryan, described the
east end of town as having a Little Tokyo for over a decade.
Migration of Escondidos Japanese is uncertain. During World War
II, however, Frances Beven traveled to Manzanar
and taught Japanese children while they were detained at the internment
camp. The Times-Advocate
reported a fruit picker strike in the spring of 1927 when 120 Filipino
workers threatened to quit work over a pay dispute. The Escondido Lemon
Association and Escondido Orange Association continued to hire Filipino
labor, however, and during World War II, numerous Mexican Nationals
as well as Jamaicans were employed in agriculture when many local men
and women were drafted into the war effort.
A labor camp located on Quince and Valley parkway could
house nearly two hundred workers. Many Latino families remember the
camp as the place of origin of their Escondido past. Max Atilano, foreman
for the Fruit Growers Association and best remembered as an entertainer,
penned music for a corrido about life at the camp. In the 1970s the
citrus industry declined as Escondido grew and land was converted into
other uses. Today, the remaining agribusiness and other food related
labor markets continue to attract recent Mexican immigrants to Escondido.
Agriculture helped Escondido residents survive financially
through the depression of the late 20s and early 1930s.
The same was true for World War II. Egg production, dairy and many other
food products sustained local and regional communities in addition to
providing food to the military base at Camp Kearney. Early in the 20th
century, avocado groves would compete with citrus groves for available
farmland. The avocado
industry evolved from a single tree planted in 1892 to an organized
and promoted effort of expansion in the 1920s. Already experienced
in the avocado industry, rancher C.C. Henry developed his own variety
of avocado, named Henry Select, for commercial production.
Eventually, the family-owned business expanded throughout Southern California.
As with other agriculture in the County, the industry had years of ups
and downs as pest, weather, market competition and land development
affected its survival. In 2001 Gil Henry of the Henry Avocado Packing
Corporation described the avocado industry in the greater Escondido
area as an expanding business. Henry Avocado, Cal-Flavor, and Giumarra
produce of San Pasqual Valley are three large avocado packers in this
While many city dwellers enjoyed visiting groves, ranches
and farms, tourism was not a growth industry in Escondido. The town
was a place for day trips or a place to stop while en route to somewhere
else. Once the Mount
Palomar Observatory was completed in 1935, however, overnight guests
increased. The Escondido Chamber of Commerce promoted the city as the
gateway to Palomar.
In addition, hunting, fishing at the surrounding lakes,
and mountain wilderness were slated as tourist attractions. Tourism
to Palomar Mountain was not matched and surpassed until the opening
of the Wild
Animal Park on May 10, 1972. Businesses along San Diego Boulevard
(Escondido Avenue) provided motel and gas station services for visitors.
Later during Work War II and as a post-war highway construction program
attracted many more visitors to eat, sleep and stay, services were constructed
along Highway 395 (Centre City Parkway). Many buildings from this era
are still seen along both streets.
As Escondido grew so did City management. In 1938 a WPA
adobe building was constructed to house a new City Hall on Palomar Medical
Center hill. It would be fifty years before City government would out
grow this site City boundaries also grew. Every few years after 1950
many neighborhoods were annexed into the city limits. Escondido shoppers
were treated to one of Californias first indoor shopping malls
when, in 1964, the Escondido Mall was built near Rose and East Valley
Parkway. In the 1980s land was set aside in the Kit
Carson Park area for construction of the largest shopping mall in
San Diego county. In 1985 North County Fair (Westfield
Shoppingtown - North County) opened for business.
Traffic and circulation in Escondido changed dramatically
when the construction of Interstate 15 by-passed the center of town.
When the final phase of freeway construction ended in 1980, Escondido
attracted urban dwellers. In addition to the rural landscapes they sought,
they found ease of freeway access, a Center
for the Arts, a spacious Civic
Center and all the benefits of city living including California's
largest public hospital district, Palomar
Pomerado Health. By the year 2000, housing
developments, shopping centers and light industry had replaced most
agribusiness. Fortunately, however, some rural acreage remains, and
the City of
Escondido continues to plan for city growth while enhancing the
beauty and comfort of the citys historic and rural landscapes.
©2002 The Pioneer Room. All Rights Reserved.
All photographs are Copyright © The Pioneer Room.
Please contact The Pioneer Room Archivist for more information:
All material compiled from holdings of the Escondido Public
Library Pioneer Room:
Escondido Then and Now Nick and Shirley
Escondido A Pictorial History Bill Fark
Escondido Through Time - Teachers Resource Material Susan
Journal of San Diego History San Diego Historical Society
Hidden Valley Heritage Alan B. McGrew
Newspaper Clipping Files - Pioneer Room
Frances Beven Ryan, Manuscript Collection.
History of Agriculture. . . for the La Jolla, Pala, Pauma,
Rincon, and San Pasqual Indians of So. Ca. Florence C. Shipek
William Wolfskill 1798-1866 Iris Higbie Wilson
Memories of Escondido J. Paul Hatch. An Oral History from
the Escondido Historical Society Collection
Francis B. Ryan Collection
Scott Hilliard Postcard Collection
Shades of California
Bill Rutledge Collection
Escondido Police Department Collection
Pioneer Room Postcard Collection
Graphic Production: Michelle Morgan