By Kristi Hawthorne
The City of Oceanside incorporated on July 3, 1888 but our history dates back years further and was founded by Andrew Jackson Myers, who settled in the San Luis Rey valley in the late 1870's. Myers applied for and received a homestead grant for land which is now downtown Oceanside. In the early 1880s a railroad line was being built that would connect Los Angeles to San Diego. The trains would travel directly over Myers’ new land grant making his property very valuable.
In 1883 Cave Johnson Couts, Jr. surveyed and helped to map out a townsite and John Chauncey Hayes sold the new town lots through his land office which was located on North Cleveland Street, near Second Street (Mission Avenue). Hayes farmed in the San Luis Rey valley, served as Justice of the Peace and was the first mail contractor between San Diego and San Bernardino as well as postmaster at San Luis Rey. Hayes wrote the petition for the town's first post office, which listed the name as two words: "Ocean Side".
J. Chauncey Hayes was not only the primary real estate agent in town, but also the editor of his own newspaper, The South Oceanside Diamond. This newspaper which ran from 1888 to 1891 is available on microfilm at the Oceanside Public Library and contains much of the early history of Oceanside shaded by Hayes’ wit and biting criticism.
The train stopped at a simple wooden platform to unload mail and passengers, if any. There wasn’t much to see in early Oceanside, but one of the first commercial blocks contained the Hayes Land Office, the Louis Billiard Hall and Mayroffer's Saloon.
From its earliest years, Oceanside advertised itself as a “seaside resort.” Visitors wishing to wade in the Pacific Oceanside could use the bathhouse built by Andrew Jackson Myers, just below the bluff on the beach (located where the current Beach Community Center now stands) which afforded beach goers the opportunity to change into their bathing attire.
Thomas Cary, a printer from San Francisco, came to Oceanside in 1884 and began publishing the "Oceanside Headlight" newspaper. News in Oceanside was soon being carried in the San Diego and Los Angeles newspapers. The following year Frank Whaley moved his San Luis Rey Star newspaper to Oceanside and renamed it the Oceanside Star.
In 1885 the Russ Mill & Lumber Company of San Diego, opened a Lumber Company at Third and Broadway (Pier View Way and Cleveland). This was a much needed enterprise essential to building a new town as lumber was often scarce and had to be brought in by boat or trains.
Soon other commercial development began and Oscar Reece opened Reece Brothers Pioneer Store, a general merchandise store, on Second Street. The Fashion Livery Stable was opened across from the depot on Broadway (now Cleveland) by Robert Couts. The Oceanside Livery Stable was built on Second Street that same year.
With a small but growing population, a need for a school was filled when Samuel M. Tyson built a “temporary school house" located near Second and Hill (Mission and Coast Highway). In August of 1885 it was reported that school opened with 19 children in attendance.
Theodore Bunker and wife came to Oceanside in 1885 with their children, Frank, Dora and Bertha. Mr. Bunker built his home, a two story brick building, at Fourth (Civic Center Drive) and Broadway (Cleveland) soon after his arrival. Next door he built the Oceanside Meat Market, a one-story wooden structure. The Bunker House was used as a boarding house as well as the family residence. It was also the meeting place of the First Baptist Church of Oceanside.
In August of 1886 the San Diego Union published a story about our development, “The location is a most desirable one, combining a magnificent beach, high and level ground for a town site, magnificent climate and charming scenery. The beach is unsurpassed, being smooth, hard and level as a floor, making a delightful boulevard over which buggies and other vehicles can be driven for twenty miles in either direction.”
In October of 1886 Matthew Spencer delivered lumber to Horne Street for the new schoolhouse. It was a two-story structure with a bell tower. Records are limited but it seems that the school building was completed by the Fall of 1887.
By 1886 Oceanside had a population of 350 people and boasted of “nearly sixty houses”. Streets were dusty dirt roads and empty lots were covered with brush. Two churches were established, the Congregational and the Christian, but the saloons outnumbered them two to one. The Congregational Church was built on the corner of Ditmar and First (now Seagaze) and the original church building is still standing, the oldest in Oceanside.
By 1887 a large, ornate brick building was erected at the northwest corner of Second and Hill (Mission and Coast Highway) to house the Bank of Oceanside. The bank was organized by Col. Daniel H. Horne and Charles Morrill, with E.S. Payne as the cashier. Banker Charles Morrill also founded the San Luis Rey Flume Co., which attempted, but failed, to bring water down the San Luis Rey valley.
Needed for a seaside resort was a substantial hotel, and in 1887 the beautiful South Pacific Hotel was built. It was located on Third (Pier View Way) and Pacific Streets, near the present day pier. A.P. Hotaling of San Francisco was the owner and the hotel was leased out to a proprietor. Dr. E.A. Tuttle was one of the first managers of this hotel, which faced the railroad track, instead of the beach, to entice train passengers.
In early 1888 a new Santa Fe Depot was built, replacing the simple boxcar. The depot was located on the 100 block of North Cleveland Street, where Second Street came to an end. It was the center of activity for decades, bringing tourists, settlers, visiting relatives and even presidents. Oceanside’s depot was essential in shipping homegrown crops to Los Angeles and it was also a gathering spot for locals to catch up news from abroad and get the latest bulletins from the telegraph wires.
In March of 1888 the South Oceanside Diamond newspaper reported that prominent businessmen were interested in incorporation: “We have sounded the public pulse and believe the time has come to incorporate the “Gateway of the county.” Many residents were asked to comment on voting to incorporate and E.A. Tuttle responded, “I don’t think the population is hardly large enough, but at the same time I am in favor of incorporating as it would put us in shape to do something. The money that now goes to San Diego would be kept here and needed improvements made.” Frank Obear declared, "Give me incorporation or give me death. It is the only thing that will give life to this town."
On June 25, 1888 residents cast their votes with Andrew Jackson Myers being the first to vote. The Diamond reported that the “total vote polled was 128, and the vote counted 127—a torn ballot being rejected.” 74 voted for incorporation and 53 against. On July 3, 1888 the San Diego County Supervisors declared the City of Oceanside in existence. City Trustees elected were C.W. Maxson, John Schuyler, J. V. Hicks, F. S. Trumbower and Col. Daniel Horne. Horne would later be appointed President of the City of Trustees, making him the first mayor of Oceanside.
Daniel Horne came from Kansas and Horne Street is named for him, as well as Topeka Street, where he was also a pioneer and founder. He built a grand residence at Horne and Second (Mission Avenue) in 1887 at a cost of $5,000; when built it was the most "pretentious home" in the city.
Although our little city was incorporated and thriving, this was still the “wild, wild west.” On an otherwise quiet evening in July 1889, Oceanside's marshal was gunned down in the streets in front of the St. Cloud Hotel. Marshal Charles C. Wilson had been in the process of arresting John W. Murray, who was drunk and rowdy and disturbing the peace with another man by the name of Chavez. Both were told by Marshal Wilson to disperse but his warning went unheeded and Wilson took action. While in the process of arresting Chavez, Wilson was gunned down by Murray. Keno Wilson, a constable, watched in horror as his brother collapsed. He fired after Murray, hitting his horse, but Murray escaped. Charles Wilson died in his brother's arms as Dr. Stroud was called, but it was too late.
Marshall Wilson was laid to rest in the Buena Vista Cemetery in South Oceanside after services at the Congregational Church. The funeral procession to the cemetery was over a mile in length according to the newspaper report.
As Oceanside grew, so did the demand for entertainment. The Oceanside Silver Cornet Band was formed and the band performed at the bandstand in the city park on Saturday evenings or at the pier. The bandstand was near the corner of First and Hill (Seagaze and Coast Highway). Oceanside also had an opera house, located just south of the South Pacific Hotel, which was the place for many social events and benefits.
In 1891 the newspaper reported just 342 people in Oceanside and businesses were dependent on train passengers stopping through town or inland visitors during the hot summer months seeking refuge at the beach.
In 1892 the Star was renamed the Oceanside Blade which would become Oceanside’s longest running publication. It touted itself as “the only independent journal in San Diego County. It has views, strong views, and is not backward in expressing them.”
The 1890s brought new growth and optimism. The Oceanside Chamber of Commerce was organized “for the purpose of the general improvement and benefit of the town and its citizens.” The Mission San Luis Rey was being restored “to its former beauties” and a new pier gave Oceanside a new sense of pride. The “Land of Sunshine” magazine reported: “Midway from Santa Ana on the north and Coronado on the south, Oceanside, on the Southern California Ry., is the only seaside resort possessing all the requirements necessary to perfect enjoyment for a sojourn by the sea. Its beach "down stairs," with its fine white sand and freedom from dangerous undertow, offers to bathers the luxuries of the Pacific and gathering shells by the sea shore.” It went on to describe Oceanside as a “mecca” for sea fishing and the amenities of the South Pacific Hotel and the beautiful flower gardens which surrounded it.
On the wave of success, however, tragedy struck in June of 1896 when the magnificent South Pacific Hotel caught on fire. The newspaper reported that “water was being carried from the surrounding rooms in pitchers, washbowls and buckets, and did not seem that it would be possible for the fire to get much headway before the city water through the big three inch hose would be turned on, for, with the water available the flames were almost extinguished. When the hose connections were made with the fire plug opposite the opera house, and the nozzle elevated to the proper angle and the stream did not reach within twenty five feet of the fire everyone began to realize that the building was doomed. At this juncture an explosion of something somewhere in the vicinity of the fire drove a gust of air and smoke into the faces of the men at the open window, choking and strangling them and filling the room and halls so full of the latter that it was with difficulty that they found their way out. From that time all effort was turned to saving what was possible with the result that nearly all furnishings were carried out.” The hotel proprietor Melchior Pieper and others watched helplessly as the fire engulfed the entire structure. There was no insurance and owner A.P. Hotaling could not be persuaded to rebuild. Without its grand hotel, Oceanside suffered a tremendous blow.
It wouldn’t be until 1904 when a new hotel was built, the El San Luis Rey. Named after the Mission San Luis Rey, a newspaper reported that the mantle was made from “one of the original timbers from the ruins of San Luis Rey bought from Father O'Keefe for ten dollars.” The hotel was located at Third (Pier View Way) and Pacific streets near the same location as the South Pacific Hotel. It stood for over sixty years, last known as the Colonial Inn.
Also in 1904, the bathhouse below the bluff was torn down and in its place a plunge and electric plant was built. The Oceanside Electric Light Plant and Bath House provided electricity for downtown Oceanside and the plunge provided heated ocean water for swimming. With modern electricity, a modern hotel, heated swimming pool, and new pier built the previous year, Oceanside's resort status was restored.
The Oceanside Public Library was created by a city ordinance on December 13, 1904. The Women's Christian Temperance Union donated the library's first 250 books. In 1905 the library was opened in the bank building on the northwest corner of Second and Hill (Mission and Coast Highway). J. Chauncey Hayes donated several books including "The Life and Writings of Thomas Jefferson" and by 1910 the library's volumes had increased to 3200. The library board consisted of W.V. Nichols, president; David Rorick, secretary; W. S. Spencer, G. D. Newham, Sarah Clewett, with city clerk Harry Brodie serving as the librarian.
In 1906 a high school district was formed to make up the Oceanside-Carlsbad Union High School; they included South Oceanside, Oceanside, Carlsbad, San Luis Rey, Libby, Calavera, River, Vista, Delpy, Encinitas. High school was taught on the second floor of the school house, with elementary classes taught below. The first graduation for the Oceanside-Carlsbad Union High School took place in 1909 and was held at the Mildred Opera House.
In 1910 Oceanside’s population was just 634 but it still attracted the attention of Max and Augustus Heindel who arrived in Oceanside in 1911 and established the Rosicrucian Fellowship after purchasing a forty acre tract for $100 an acre. By November of that year they began construction of a twelve-room dwelling and office room building. The Healing Temple on Mt. Ecclesia was built at a cost of $15,000 and can be seen from many parts of the valley.
As Oceanside neared its 25th anniversary of its incorporation, it saw something of a building “boom”. In 1912 the newspaper reported that $50,000 of construction would soon begin which included “the Jones block, Kolb garage, additions and improvements to El San Luis Rey and Miramar hotels, the Franklin building, High school building” and several news residences. It went on to say that “with the impending construction of the state highway through Oceanside, and a general activity in the sale and development of adjoining farm lands, there is an optimistic feeling in the air and evident in the conversation and general attitude of the businessmen of the town.”
By Kristi Hawthorne, President of the Oceanside Historical Society