Escondido is a city in North County occupying a shallow valley ringed by rocky hills, just north of the city of San Diego, California and 30 miles from Downtown San Diego. Founded in 1888, it is one of the oldest cities in San Diego County. The city had a population of 143,911 at the 2010 census. Its municipal government set itself an operating budget limit of $426,289,048 for the fiscal year 2010-2011. The city is known as Eskondiid in Diegueño.
Origin of the name
"Escondido" is a Spanish word meaning "hidden". One source says the name originally referred to agua escondida or hidden water; another says it meant "hidden treasure".
The Escondido area was first settled by the Luiseño, who established campsites and villages along the creek running through the area. They named the place "Mehel-om-pom-pavo." The Kumeyaay migrated from areas near the Colorado River, settling both in the San Pasqual Valley and near the San Dieguito River in the southwestern and western portions of what is now Escondido. Most of the villages and campsites today have been destroyed by development and agriculture.
Spain and Mexico
Spain controlled the land from the late 18th century to the early 19th century, and established many missions in California to convert the indigenous people. When Mexico gained its independence from Spain, the local land was divided into large ranchos. Most of what is now Escondido occupies the former Rancho Rincon del Diablo ("Devil's Corner"), a Mexican land grant given to Juan Bautista Alvarado (not the governor of the same name) in 1843 by Governor Manuel Micheltorena. Alvarado was a Regidor of Los Angeles at the time, and the first Regidor of the pueblo of San Diego. The southern part of Escondido occupies the former Rancho San Bernardo, granted in 1842 and 1845.
In 1846, during the Mexican-American War, the Battle of San Pasqual was fought southeast of Escondido. This battle pitted Mexican forces under Andrés Pico (brother of then-California-governor Pío Pico) against Americans under Stephen W. Kearny, Archibald Gillespie, and Kit Carson. A park in Escondido is named for Carson.
The city was home to a largely Spanish-speaking population in the first census, taken in 1850 when California became a state. After statehood, non-Hispanic settlers came to Southern California in increasing numbers. The decade of the 1880s is known as the "Southern California Land Boom" because so many people moved to the state.
In 1853, pro-Southern Copperheads proposed dividing the state of California to create a new Territory of Colorado (at this time the territory that would become the state of Colorado was named "Jefferson"). San Diego Judge Oliver S. Witherby suggested placing the capitol of the new territory in Rancho Rincon del Diablo. He envisioned a railroad connecting San Diego to Fort Yuma through an area about two miles (3 km) south of the current Escondido site, heading east through San Pasqual. With a series of deeds in 1855 and 1856, the rancho was transferred from the heirs of Juan Bautista Alvarado to Witherby. He planned to profit from the town that he believed would be established from the dividing point on the railroad below the eastern hills. The proposal for splitting the state and creating the new territory passed in the California legislature, but died in Congress in the run-up to the Civil War. It was effectively killed in 1861 when Congress organized the Territory of Colorado in the area previously occupied by the Jefferson Territory. With Witherby's vision of owning a bustling state capitol unrealized, he set up a mining operation on the rancho instead.
In 1868, Witherby sold the rancho for $8000 to Edward McGeary and John, Josiah, and Matthew Wolfskill. McGeary owned half the rancho, while the three Wolfskill brothers each owned an equal share of the other half. John Wolfskill farmed sheep, horses, and cattle on the rancho for a number of years. Wolfskill had frequent conflicts with the Couts family, owners of the neighboring Guajome, Buena Vista, and San Marcos ranchos, over grazing lands and watering holes.
In October 1883, a group of Los Angeles investors purchased Rancho Rincon del Diablo. This group sold the land to the newly formed Escondido Company in 1884. On December 18, 1885, investors incorporated the Escondido Land and Town Company, and in 1886 this company purchased the area for approximately $100,000. Two years later, in 1888, Escondido was incorporated as a city; the vote was 64 in favor of cityhood with 12 votes against. Railroads such as the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific were laid in the 1880s. The opening of U.S. Route 395 in 1930 boosted economic growth in Escondido.
Escondido was primarily an agricultural community, growing muscat grapes initially. After a dam was built in 1894-5 to form what is known today as Lake Wohlford, orange and lemon trees were planted in large numbers, as were olive and walnut trees. By the 1960s, avocados became the largest local crop. Since the 1970s, Escondido has lost most of its agricultural land to housing developments.
Escondido Genealogical Society
The Escondido Genealogical Society purpose is to help and encourage our members in their family research. We also volunteer to help non-members with their genealogical research in the Escondido area.
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