There are some interesting characters in the back country of San Diego County. And I have always very much enjoyed talking to them.


One evening I was standing with a group of men in front of a little country store and post office. It was so dark that I could not see any of their faces well enough to form any idea of what any of them looked like. And most all of them were strangers to me.


We were discussing various subjects and finally I made some remark about something that had happened in the year 1881. “Were you here at the time?” asked one of the men standing in the dark. “Yes,” said I. “I had been here quite a number of years at that time.” He then asked me what year I had come to this county and I told him I had been here since 1868. Upon my asking him what year he came here, he said he came in 1865. So we had quite a little talk about early days, as we stood there in the darkness.


As we were separating to go to our various camps, he said, “Come over and see me some day while you are up here.” And he described to me the way to find his place. So, a day or two after that as I was rambling around, I decided to go over and hunt up my new acquaintance.

I had no difficulty in finding his cabin, for when one old-timer tells another old-timer how to find a place, it is easy for him to follow the directions.


We had of course told each other what our names were the night we had met in front of the little store. But it had been so dark that I had no idea what my new acquaintance looked like. But as he was now in his own cabin, I thought I had a little advantage on him. So I accosted him with a “Hello! Mr. Morris. I know what your name is, but I don’t suppose you know mine.” He shook my hand and said, “Well, you told me the other night that your name was Kelly. But I don’t know whether you told me your right name or not.”


Now how had he been able to see what I looked like, when it was so dark I could form no idea of how he looked.


He was an interesting man to talk with, and I made a number of trips over to his cabin, and spent some very pleasant hours discussing old times and Old Timers with him.


Once I asked him how he came to know what I looked like when he had only seen me in the dark. He said, “Know you? John Kelly! Why, I would have known your ashes if I had seen them in a pile by the side of the road.”


It seemed to me that he was well acquainted with every one of the Old Timers that I had ever known.

I have for many years made it a point when I meet an Old Timer like him to get from him as much information and early history of our back country as I possibly could.


He once told me that he came across the plains in 1865 with the Warrens and some other early settlers of the Campo Country. He said they came up the old Fremont Trail, back of Mountain Springs, and got caught in a terrible cold sleet and snowstorm just as they got to the top of the hill. And how they camped there all night in the storm. In the morning they found that two of their oxen had frozen to death during the night. Of course, they didn’t really freeze, but being very badly exhausted, and very thin from want of feed while crossing the desert, they simply died from cold and exposure.

When I asked him if he had ever driven a team over the “Old Fremont Trail” after he came up it in coming to this state, he said, “Oh, yes! I drove ox teams for Gaskill Bros. hauling freight out across the desert quite a number of trips.” He said he once had a team of three yoke of oxen with a load of freight run away down the old Fremont grade.


When I remarked that must have been some exciting experience to have a runaway down such a road, he said, “Yes, I had been driving Gaskill’s freight team of three yoke of cattle for some time. Finally, there was more freight than one team could haul, so they hitched in some partly broken steers and made two teams of three yoke each.


“The man who was out on the job with me was made boss and Gaskill gave him the gentle team that I had been driving and I was given a team with several young steers only partly broken. In those days we did not have brakes on our wagons like we have now, but chained a wheel with what we called a lock chain, when we went down a hill.”


“Well, when we came to the top of the hill this side of Mountain Springs I chained a wheel and started down. The young steers in my team were frisky and kept trying to run, but I managed to keep them fairly quiet for a ways. Then I came to a short piece of up grade, and the man driving the gentle team said, “You will have to knock your lock chain off or the oxen can’t pull the load up that piece of road.” Morris said, “I told him the oxen would surely run away if I knocked the chain loose. But the other man was boss of the outfit, and said, ‘knock it loose.’ So I knocked it loose and away they started down the hill. “I tried to stop them,” said Morris, “But they soon got to going so fast that I had to let them go. When I got down to the short turn near the Spring I found them all tangled up in the chains. And the other man and I had a terrible job getting them straightened out again.”


“There was a barrel of dried apples setting up at the rear end of the wagon, and in bouncing over the rocks the head was shaken out of this barrel. After the head was gone, every time the wagon bounced over a big rock in the road a lot of the dried apples flew up in the air and landed in the road behind the wagon. By the time they got to the foot of the grade there were not many apples left in the barrel.”

“When we had gotten the oxen untangled and everything straightened out as nearly as it was possible to do so, the man in charge said, ‘Them there apples are worth a dollar a pound, and we will have to go back up the hill with buckets to gather them up.’” Morris said, “I just told him that it was all his fault for my having the oxen run away and if he wanted to gather up any of the apples, well and good, but I wouldn’t go back after any of them. The other man,” he said, “went back and gathered one bucket full, and the rest were left where they lay, even if they were worth a dollar a pound.”


Only those who have seen this old time mountain road have any idea of what a runaway down it would mean. The writer has seen and been over most of the old mountain roads of San Diego County, and in his opinion the original Mountain Springs road was the worst of them all.


In traveling from San Diego to the Imperial Valley over the splendid road that we now have, we pass through the very pretty town of Jacumba. It is an oasis right at the edge of the desert. Big cottonwood trees, evidently planted there by Indians or early settlers, furnish refreshing shade. And the splendid springs of fine mineral water will undoubtedly cause it to become a world famed health resort. The present owners and managers are now spending large sums of money in improvements and when this is added to what nature has done to the place it cannot fail to become a thriving resort. The writer well remembers when the old tule roofed, rock and mud house, was almost the only building in the place. And speaking of that old house I have noticed for the past few years that someone has maintained a signboard on the front of it that tells the traveler who stops to read that “This old house was built by Old Joe Jacumba in 1804.”


And the last time the writer passed through Jacumba only a few days since (written in 1925) – he stopped to read quite an elaborate typewritten notice, claiming to give the true history of the poor old hut. Said typewritten account being in a neat wooden frame which is fastened to the front of the old building.


It tells how a man named Stanton and his two sons reached Jacumba in 1804, after a terrible trip across the plains in which all of the members of their party were killed by the Indians; how they “reached Jacumba in a covered wagon, drawn by their last remaining yoke of oxen.” It doesn’t tell how they managed to get a wagon up the mountain from Mountain Springs with one yoke of oxen in 1803 when it took six yoke to get a wagon up in 1868. Nor does it mention the well known fact that no wagon attempted to come up that terrible rocky piece of mountain trail until after the before mentioned old road was built in about 1848.


But, bravely ignoring all the impossibilities of the case, they tell how they were met here by some friendly Indians. And how the chief, Joe Jacumba, treated them very hospitably, and upon finding the elder Mr. Stanton confined to his bed in the wagon with rheumatism told them that if he could but drink the water of their springs, and bathe in it for a few weeks, he would surely be cured of his rheumatism. All of which they did, and in a very short time the elder Mr. Stanton was entirely cured.


By that time they had become so in love with the place that they had decided to make their home there. So, with the aid of Chief “Joe Jacumba” and his men they built the old rock and mud house in 1804. And it is still standing there a silent witness to the truth (?) of their statement!


The writer had gone to considerable trouble trying to find out just when that old hut was built. Mr. and Mrs. Bailey, who as I have stated before, live within a hundred feet of where this is being written, and who came through Jacumba in 1868 say the old house was not there then,


Mr. Lee Morris who came into the Campo country from Texas about 1865, who as I have stated still lives in the mountain country, says the old rock and mud house was not there when they came. He thinks it was built a little prior to 1870.


Mr. Alonzo Warren, of Campo, says it was built in 1869 by a man named Walsh. Mr. Warren came to campo in 1865 as a child, and has lived there ever since.


Now it is too bad to question the truthfulness of the one who wrote that piece of romance that now adorns the front of the old building, and who signs himself “One Who Knows.” But still, “the truth is might and will prevail.” And it does no one any good to have false statements circulated, especially about any of our old landmarks when the truth about them is far more interesting.


The word “Jacumba” is not a proper name but is said by the Indians to be the name of a sort of volcanic spring several miles south of the present town of Jacumba. It means, in the Indian language, Dangerous Water. The Indians say the waters of this spring have wonderful curative powers for various ailments, and they frequently bathed in it.


It had a way of sucking or drawing its waters back into the cave or opening in the mountainside very suddenly and without any warning whatever. Several Indians were drawn in with the water, at different times, when it thus suddenly receded, and their bodies were never recovered; Hence the name Dangerous Water.


The Indians of the county had their own names on all the various places that they frequented. Every spring in the mountains, every clump of oaks from which they gathered acorns, every mountain peak, and every canyon had its name. And every name had a descriptive meaning. They had no maps of the country, and Indians rarely traveled far from where they were born. But in that part of the country, with which they were familiar, every spot had its name and every Indian knew these names. Any Indian of the tribe could tell any other one of his tribe at just what spot any event had taken place. If a deer had been killed and the Indian who had killed it wanted to tell the other members of the tribe just where it was killed, he would name the spot, and every one of the tribe would know exactly where it was. To the writer, these Indian names of the various places in our back country are very interesting. Most of these names are descriptive of some peculiarity of the spot or place. For instance, Ja-ma-cha, a well known valley about fourteen miles east of San Diego means the small striped gourd commonly called the mock orange.


Guatay – a large council house

Otay – a solitary hill in a flat valley

Jamul – Antelope Spring

Anahuac – Water grass, my spring or my water

Cuyamaca – spring behind a rock, rain behind

Seguan – Yellow Primrose

Ha-co-pin – the Indian name for Warner’s Spring’s meaning hot water

We-a-pipe – (on Laguna Mts.) means Leaning Rock

Ma-tar-ti – Indian name for El Cajon, means wide valley

Ma-tar-too – Indian name for Viejas, means middle of the valley

Is-now-qua-whirp – Indian for Wynola, means Valley fringed with Live Oaks

Milsch-qua-nun – name for Santa Ysabel, means Tumble Bug

Ha-qua-silsch – Indian for Carriso Gorge,means alkali water

Am-voee-ha – name for Palm Springs, means palm spring

Mut-nook – Indian for Mason’s Valley, means elbow of wash

Ha-wee – Indian name for Vallecitos, means Rock Springs

Yah-ki – Indian name for Laguna Reservation, meaning Wild Plums

Quil-ach-nusk – name for Capitan Grande, means a long canyon

Ha-to-pah – name for Coyote Wells, means Coyote Springs

Milsch-qua-ti – name for Campo, means Big Valley

Milsch-queit-nuct – name for old San Felipe, means Valley up a Canyon

Palemo-mate – Agua Hedionda Valley – meaning unknown

Co-le-ma – name for Whitney Peak, south side of San Marcos, meaning unknown

Halsch-you-na-wah – Indian name for Conejas Reservation, meaning Cottontail Rabbit House


These are the Indian names of a few well known places. But as I have before stated, they had a name for every little spring, canyon or grove of trees. To me these local Indian names are very interesting.

Mr. Sparkman, who for a number of years kept a small store near the La Jolla Indian Reservation, and who was a highly educated man, was the first to reduce the tongue of the Luisenos or Indians living along the San Luis Rey River and who were originally affiliated with the San Luis Rey Mission, to a written language. He thought their language one of the most wonderful in the world. I have thought that because he was an idealist when discussing Indian affairs, he took this view of their language. But that is a subject far too deep for me to discuss.

There is another matter in connection with the Indians of San Diego County that I do feel competent to at least express my opinion of. That is the terribly inhuman, dishonest and disgusting way in which some of the Indian tribes of this county have been treated by the white people and the U.S. Government. Many of us old settlers well remember how the Indians of the beautiful San Pasqual Valley were driven from their homes in the fertile valley of that name where they and their ancestors before them had lived for many generations. Simply because there had never been a reservation surveyed off for those Indians, they were driven from their homes.


The land where they had lived for ages was sectionized by order of the U.S. government and immediately was located and settled upon by parties who had no consideration for the prior rights of the poor Indians. Driven from their homes by these settlers, and having no other place to go, they moved up into the rocky hills to the northward of their old valley homes and built themselves miserable little tule huts, on land that is, in most instances, absolutely worthless. How the few of them that are left have managed to exist all these years on land that will produce nothing is more than I can understand. The writer is not in the habit of hob-nobbing with presidents and Secretaries of the Interior, but he would like to take the President of these United States, the Secretary of the Interior all the senators and representatives that could be gotten out here and as many Agents of Indian Affairs as could be gotten together in a party and take them through the beautiful San Pasqual Valley. I would show them the fertile valley lands, now settled by prosperous white people, but once owned and occupied by the Indians. Then I would ask them to get out and walk up through cactus, thorn brush, rocks and deep gullies – up, up, up to where the poor poverty stricken Indians now live. But would it do any good? No! Of course not. They would say, “It’s too bad that such injustice has been done. But we can do nothing to rectify the matter now.”


Now, I don’t want any of my readers to get the impression that the present settlers of the San Pasqual Valley are in any way to blame for the injustice that has been done the Indians. They have simply bought out the original squatters who got possession of the land that by every right belonged to the Indians.


I have used these terms, “by every right” advisedly. Doesn’t every law of our land recognize the fact that twenty years undisputed possession of land gives a title? Then, if twenty years undisputed possession gives a title, the fact that a people had enjoyed many generations of undisputed possession should give them some rights on earth – even if they are Indians.


The Indians at Temecula were driven from their homes in an even worse manner than those of San Pasqual, as all old timers know.


These wrongs have been brought before our government officials for correction many years ago, by people who knew how cruelly the Indians had been treated. Helen Hunt Jackson in her book “Ramona” did what she could to get the public interested in these matters. But nothing ever came of it.

There are not many people of those tribes of Indians left now. And this great American Republic should yet do what it can to make amends. We should buy a tract of good land and divide it among those people and thus, even at this late date, show the world that we have a wholesome respect for justice. I am not writing this as an idealist but as a plain, everyday American citizen who believes like most other citizens, in fair and honest treatment to all.


While the Indians of Temecula were perhaps treated in a crueler manner than those of San Pasqual, in as much as they were forcibly driven from their homes and their buildings burned, yet there really were more grounds for ejecting them than there was at San Pasqual. At Temecula the rancheria was on a Mexican Land Grant. That was a tract of land the deed to which dates back to a time when this country belonged to Mexico.


The owners or grantees of many of the old Mexican Land Grants allowed the Indians to live on the land that had been granted to them, just as they had lived there for generation in the past. They worked for the grant owner when required, both men and women. They were allowed to let their few horses or cattle run at large, and any of them who desired could plant a little garden, raise a little corn and a few sandias (watermelons).


As long as the grant remained the property of the old Spanish Californians, the Indians remained there happy and contented. When a beef was killed by the ranch owners they were given the offal and at times some of the meat. But when these grants fell into the hands of new owners of other nationalities, the Indians were frequently driven off. This was the case at Temecula. And as the title of all Mexican grants antedated any title our government could give, we were not altogether to blame for what the owners did.


But at San Pasqual the Indians were on government land. The township lines were run out by our government in about 1854. I think it was in the early seventies that it was sectionized. And as soon as the land was surveyed it was immediately located and settled upon. Of course the Indians knew nothing of our government land laws and very naturally supposed their having been in possession since time began, would give them the prior right. And in all justice they were right in their belief. But what they supposed, or what was just and right availed them not. They had to move off. It is something every honest American should be ashamed of.