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 San Diego County California

San Diego County. Organized in 1850. Bounded north by Los Angeles and San Bernardino, east by the Colorado River, separating it from Arizona; south by Lower California, and west by the Pacific Ocean. Area, l5,156 square miles. Assessed valuation of property for 1875, $3,264,000. Population reported by Assessor in 1874, 10,000.

County seat, San Diego. Principal towns, Julian, Old San Diego, National City. Of the total area of more than eight millions of land in this county, the Colorado Desert on the east has nearly 2,250,000 acres, leaving nearly 6,000,000 of acres of mountain and valley land adapted to grazing and diversified agriculture. Two mountain ranges run through the county nearly north and south, dividing it into three districts, each possessing peculiarities of climate and soil. The section lying between the mountains and the sea is exceedingly fertile, and has two-thirds of the population and exhibits most of the development of the county. This belt averages from fifteen to forty miles in width, and is about seventy-five miles in length; comprising a series of low, rolling hills, or mesa lands, plains, and valleys, drained by the Tia Juana, Sweetwater, San Diego, San Bernardo, San Luis Rey, and Santa Margarita Rivers, and several other small streams. These streams are nearly all dry in the summer months, for several miles from their outlets; the San Diego is the largest, and in the winter and spring is often unfordable.

The most important feature of this division is the Bay of San Diego, a large and handsome sheet of water, twenty miles in length by three in width, of easy entrance and safe anchorage, making it one of the finest harbors in the world. The middle division of the county lies mainly between the two mountain ranges, and comprises numerous broad and fertile valleys and plains, over which thousands of sheep and cattle graze all the year, and in the mountains are rich mines and extensive forests of timber. The natural wealth of this great division of the county is inexhaustible. In the richness and diversity of its resources it is surpassed by no equal area of country in California. It is only within the last three or four years that the extent and importance of this section of San Diego County has become known, and the work of development is now (1874) but just beginning there. The third, or desert division, lies east of the second, or San Jacinto range of mountains. The peak of San Jacinto, at the northern end of the range, is the highest land south of Mount San Bernardino, and rises precipitously to the height of nearly 8,000 feet and its snow-covered summit appears in strange contrast to the sweltering desert which it overlooks. Along the eastern base of this range extends the great Coahuila Valley, fifty miles in length by ten in width, connecting southerly with the valley of New River, which flows from the Colorado in time of freshets and fructifies the fertile lands of the desert it touches. This was once, and comparatively at a late period, covered with water, as shells on the surface, and water-marks on the side of the mountains, plainly Show. The soil is of exceeding fertility, but the burning heat and almost perpetual drought render it a barren waste. The known fertility of the soil has given rise to various schemes for the irrigation of large portions of the desert, by bringing in the waters of the Colorado, and several reconnaissance and surveys have been made with reference to these projects.

The military post of Fort Yuma, in the extreme southeastern corner of the State, is situated on the San Diego side of the Colorado River. On the opposite bank, in Arizona, stands the town of Yuma, a place of growing importance, being, from its location, the chief distributing point for the Territory. The northeastern portion of the county is mountainous and forbidding in character. Along the Colorado is much fertile land, but unproductive without irrigation or overflow from the river, as the rains through this region are insufficient to produce vegetation. The leading resources of San Diego County are its farming lands, its mines, its sheep pastures and bee-ranges. Until within the last three years scarcely anything has been attempted in agriculture. But the rate of progress since the abolition of the protective stock laws in 1871, has been marvelous. The wheat crop in 1874 was 200,000 centals, against 228 centals in 1869; more than 400,000 pounds of honey was exported in 1874, while the total production of the county in 1869 was but 1,500 pounds; the quantity of wool exported from the port in 1874 was over 1,500,000 pounds, against a total clip in 1869 of less than 25,000 pounds; the total number of sheep owned in the county in 1874 was over 250,000, against about 20,000 in 1869.

The production of honey has become a very important industry, the advantages of climate, range, etc., being peculiar. The greater portion of the crop finds its market in the east, being shipped from San Diego by steamer to San Francisco, and thence by rail. A single beekeeper of this county forwarded several car-loads of comb honey in September and October, 1874. The farming interest is growing rapidly; not only the cereals, but every variety of fruit, are successfully cultivated. The area of cultivation has hitherto been almost wholly confined to the coast belt of country, but is now extending backward into the extensive valleys and plains of the great middle division, the development of the agricultural resources of that section, being stimulated by the opening of the gold mines in the mountains.

These mines have drawn thither, since 1870, a considerable population, which is constantly increasing. That portion of the county lying between the Coast Mountains and the San Bernardino line is capable of sustaining a population of more than 100,000 souls. The rains of this section are most always sufficient to insure full crops, and the soil is of exhaustless fertility. There are many thousands of acres of Government land open to settlement in this broad belt, than which there is no finer farming land in the world, while the forests of timber in the mountains will supply lumber and fuel for a century to come. If the Texas and Pacific Railroad is built to the Bay of San Diego upon its surveyed route through the San Gorgonio Pass, it will run through the heart of this section, and the development of the "back country" will proceed with wonderful rapidity. The mining interest of San Diego county merits more extended notice than can be given in a brief summary of this kind.

As early as 1828 gold was shipped in considerable quantities from the Bay of San Diego, and the old inhabitants assert that it was taken from the earth at a distance of not more than forty miles from the shore. Years before the discovery at Sutter's Fort, gold was known to exist in the mountain ranges of this county. In the year 1859 a gold-bearing quartz ledge was discovered on the "Escondido," now known as the Wolfskill Rancho, some thirty-five miles northwest of the city, by a Negro named Jesse, who for some time worked the ore in an arastra. A Los Angeles company subsequently worked the ledge and took out over $40,000. In 1864 the first quartz mill in Southern California was erected on this mine, and the rock taken out during the two years the mill was run averaged thirty-three dollars per ton. Altogether upwards of $100,000 was taken from the Escondido mine. The failure of the company and final closing down of the works was caused by "want of capital and disagreement among the owners." Enough had been done to show that a good mining property exists there, and that with the necessary capital and proper machinery a prosperous mining camp would spring up on the Escondido. The failure at that time, however, put an end to mining enterprise for some years. The population of the county then numbered but a few hundred souls. It was at a time when the great Santa Margarita Rancho, of 90,000 acres, was offered for $20,000 without a purchaser, and the splendid San Bernardo Rancho was actually sold for $4,000, an unfavorable time for development.

In 1868-9, when the revival of the Southern Pacific Railroad enterprise brought population to the Bay of San Diego, a new spirit came over the land. In June, 1869, Mr. Edward Henck, a scientific miner, (then Deputy County Clerk, and now deceased), contributed a paper to the San Diego Union, giving the result or his observations on an exploring tour in the mountains of the county. He said: "The first metal I found, leaving the coast going west, was copper; the next silver, and the next gold, which extends up and across the range of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Between Warner's Rancho and the Desert, I found the largest deposits of gold and silver. This tract extends from the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains down to Lower California, and is full of rich minerals, including iron and mercury. It is well watered and timbered, and the climate is so uniform that work could be carried on every day of the year. It is in this range of country that I expect to see the best development of the precious metals. It will take time and labor here as everywhere else, but the minerals are there, and will come out when properly worked." Those here who are not profitably engaged can do no better than to prospect the country north and east of San Diego." It is worthy of note that the paying mines were subsequently found in the precise region indicated by Mr. Henck, "between Warner's Rancho and the Desert."

In February, 1870, the discovery was made which led to the present development of the mining resources of this county. The first discovery was of placer gold in one of the gulches at the base of what is known as the "Sierra do Cuyamaca." near the headwaters of the San Diego River, and about 40 miles, in an airline, northeast of the city. A few days later, on the 20th of February, the "first quartz" ledge the "Washington" was discovered on a quarter section of land owned by M. H. Julian, distant about 10 miles north of the highest of the three peaks of Cuyamaca. The great richness of the quartz taken from this ledge caused a great excitement; there was a rush to the mountains; locations were numerous; "Julian" Mining District was organized, and the settler, Julian, was elected the first Recorder of the District. A month later, March 22d, the "Stonewall" mine was discovered at the base of the high Cuyamaca peak, ten miles south-east of the first discovery; the lead was traced across the Cuyamaca Valley, which is narrow at this point, to the foothills opposite. Julian mining district is located upon a broad plateau, from which, on the east the descent is abrupt to the Colorado Desert through a deep canon called San Felipe; and in this canon, distant about five miles from Julian, the richest mines of that region were subsequently found, the first discovery there having been made nearly a year after the discoveries at Julian.

A new district called "Banner," was organized in the canon, and the chief mining industry is now (1875) going on in that district. From the fir.st discovery at Julian, until a very recent period, the development of the mines has been retarded by a contest between the miners and the claimants of the Mexican grant called "Cuyamaca," concerning the boundaries of that grant. The claimants endeavored to include the mines within their lines, and litigation followed which has but just been finally settled by the decision of the Secretary of the Interior in favor of the miners, and a new survey in accordance therewith, which has been accepted by both parties. The present condition of the mining interest (November, 1874), may be briefly stated. There are now being worked in the Cuyamaca region twenty-three separate and well-defined gold mines, of which eleven have been fully demonstrated to be of immense value, justifying the erection of costly machinery, and the employment of large numbers of miners. Seventy-five stamps are running day and night in the different quartz mills, as follows: At the Chariot mill. 20 stamps; at the Ready Relief, Whitney Helvetia, Owens and Stonewall mills, ten stamps, each, and at the Reynolds mill, five stamps. The leading bullion-producing mines at the present time are the Chariot, Ready Relief, Stonewall, Helvetia, Owens, Tom Scott and Big Blue. Several other mines which have shipped a great deal of bullion are at this date being improved and put in good working order, and will soon resume taking out ore for the mills. The population in and around the mining settlements of Julian and Banner is now above fifteen hundred.

Two saw-mills, a shingle-mill and grist-mill are in operation at Julian. It should be added that all of this development has been accomplished in less than four years, without the aid of other capital than the gold taken from the mines themselves; for the recent investments of outside capital have been limited to the purchase of already largely-paying mines.

Officers: Thomas H. Bush, County Judge; A. S. Grant, Clerk, Recorder and Auditor; A. B. Hotchkiss. District Attorney; N. Hunsaker, Sheriff and Tax Collector; Jose G. Estudillo, Treasurer; M. P. Shaffer, Assessor; M. G. Wheeler, Surveyor; CM. Fenn, Coroner; P. P. Martin, Public Administrator; J. H. L. Jamison, Superintendent Public Schools.

California Gazetteer | AHGP California

Source: Pacific Coast Business Directory for 1876-78, Compiled by Henry G. Langley, San Francisco, 1875


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