XI

 

As the writer’s intention all along has been to give a description as nearly accurate as possible, of how the early settlers in this county lived, and to describe as many of their experiences as he could get authentic accounts of, he will have to give an account of another experience that this same Mrs. L.N. Bailey had the first year they lived in San Diego County.

 

My readers will note that the writer has confined himself entirely to matters connected with the back country. Many other writers have written accounts descriptive of the events that took place in the town or city of San Diego. But this is an account of events that took place in San Diego’s back country.

In the year 1869 Mr. and Mrs. L.N. Bailey settled on a piece of government land in a small valley just at the foot of the Alpine grade.

 

They built a small cabin about three fourths of a mile west of what is now the paved highway. It was partly under the branches of a large live oak tree. There were a number of beautiful oaks in the small valley, and there was and is yet a fine spring of water a short distance below where their cabin stood. The hills all about the little valley were very rugged, and covered with a heavy growth of brush, in which deer and other wild animals were frequently seen. Mr. Bailey still delights to tell of some of the big bucks he killed in those hills with an old “Hawkins rifle” that he had.

 

But not long after they had gotten their cabin built, he had to go to work on a threshing machine, in order to earn money to get them the few necessaries of life that they must have. As the thresher was working in El Cajon, Mr. Bailey could not come home nights. So, Mrs. Bailey and the little children did not see him from daybreak Monday morning until after dark on Saturday evening.

 

They kept a few chickens, and these roosted in the oak tree partly over the cabin. As there were no neighbors nearer than what is now called “Flin Springs”, it was a pretty lonesome place for a woman and three little ones to be left. But all went well for a time. Then one night something caused a great commotion among the chickens in the tree over the cabin. There was a great cackling and squawking, then she could hear an animal of some sort up in the tree eating the chickens he had caught. She knew it was a large animal for she could hear it crunching the poor chicken, bones and all. As soon as it would finish eating one chicken it would catch another, and then poor Mrs. Bailey would hear the bones of that one too, being crunched between the powerful jaws.

 

As she had no idea what kind of animal it might be she was of course in a great fright. At that time bears were not uncommon in the higher mountains, and she did not know but one might have strayed down here. She barricaded the door of the little cabin and fastened the little window as best she could. After it had eaten a number of the chickens it went away.

 

The next night it came again, and there was a repetition of the previous night’s proceedings. More squawking of badly frightened chickens, and more crunching of bones. After it had eaten its fill it again went away.

 

Fortunately the next day was Saturday, and Mr. Bailey would be home before bedtime. We can well imagine how anxiously poor Mrs. Bailey waited for his coming. It was after dark when he arrived, and he had a Mr. Armstrong who was a professional hunter with him. And this Mr. Armstrong had a large dog that followed him everywhere he went.

 

While they were eating their supper Mrs. Bailey told them of the terrible fright she had had the past two nights with the animal killing her chickens. Mr. Armstrong decided it was probably a mountain lion, and said, “If it comes around here tonight my dog will surely tree it.”

 

Before they had finished their supper they heard the dog bark, and chase something up the mountain side. When the men went outside they could hear the dog barking excitedly under a tree up on the brushy hillside. Mr. Armstrong said, “Whatever it is, my dog has it treed.”

 

Mr. Bailey got his old muzzle loading Hawkins rifle, and he and Mr. Armstrong climbed up the steep hillside to the oak under which the dog was barking and whining so excitedly.

 

Looking up towards the sky they could see a dark object in the tree that, from its size, they at once decided was a mountain lion. But the night was too dark to see to shoot with a rifle without a light to shine the sights. So they decided to gather some dry sticks and grass, and build a fire under the tree, by the light of which they could see to shoot whatever it was. Just as Mr. Bailey was arranging the material to start a fire, the lion – for such it proved to be – jumped down from the limb on which it had been to a dry branch which broke under its weight, and it came down almost on top of his head.

The big dog chased it up the hill and soon treed it again. The two men worked their way through the heavy brush, and were soon at the second tree. Then they cautiously started a fire, and by its light they could see an unusually large lion in the tree. Mrs. Bailey said in the clear night air she could hear the men up on the mountainside talking to each other, and when Mr. Bailey was taking aim with his trusty old Hawkins rifle, Mr. Armstrong was cautioning him to, “Make a sure shot, for if you only wound him he will surely kill my dog.”

 

Mr. Bailey was in those days a splendid shot with the rifle and at the crack of the gun the lion crumpled up and fell to the ground, shot through the brain.

 

When they dragged him down to the cabin they found that he measured almost eight feet from tip to tip.