Upon consulting a Spanish-English dictionary to learn the translation of "de luz" we found the English translation to be "of light." The question is "How did the community, surrounding area, local or canyon northwest of Fallbrook become known as De Luz?"
Some old timers have maintained that the name De Luz came from an Englishman by the name of Luce who had a corral and maintained a string of horses at the Hotel and Hot Springs in De Luz, established in 1881. There are several difficulties or contradictions with this claim. One may question how did the name change from Luce (English) to Luz (Spanish).
A quote from Floyd Markham:
In general original place names are bestowed by early visitors or residents of a locality. However, the common factor to all of the "Luz" named places in the various countries is the Roman Catholic Church and its missionaries. It is not unusual for the men of the church to name an area for the saint's day on which they reached that particular location. Our area is covered with the names of Catholic Saints. One of the synonyms for the Mother of Jesus is represented by the Immaculate Conception was LaMadrass De La Luz as seen in a large painting in the Mortuary Chapel in the Mission San Luis Rey.
A.J. Foss, an early settler in the area in 1915 made the following statement:
The first I knew of De Luz was at least as far back as 1877. There was a small adobe house, probably 12 feet square on the point of the hill in the old Stewart vineyard, across the creek. There was nobody occupying the house.
Don Juan Forster used to put a few cattle in there in the early days along about 1880, 1881 and 1882 and maybe before. Afterwards, Copeland and Neff had a band of sheep there and they camped at the old adobe. Soon after, A.D. Spring located there. Then came Stewart, then Wilmots, V. Riboni and a fellow by the name of Root.
In the early days the place was known as Corral de Jose de Luz. Forester's vaqueros told me there was a Spaniard or Californian by the name of Jose de Luz who kept stock in there at one time, and had built a corral there. I remember there was a few stubs of post of a corral near the adobe.
The earliest documentation of the name of De Luz locally that I have found is on a map of Rancho Santa Margarita dated 1878, which designates the stream, Arroyo Corral de la Luz. This map hung on the west wall of the reading room of the Oceanside Public Library for many years. However I am not sure if it still hangs there for I haven't been in the library in a long time.
The California Southern Railroad was opened for operation from National City to Fallbrook on January 2, 1882. At the time of construction of the railroad, De Luz Station was built and the mouth of Arroyo Corral de la Luz on San Margarita River. This location was well within the boundaries of Rancho Santa Margarita (today's Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton) a mile or so north of the Naval Hospital. It was common practice to name railroad stations after site locations and/or railroad officials. Therefore one is lead to believe that the name of De Luz had been established prior to 1882.
It would not be unreasonable to assume that the railroad survey crew obtained a copy of the 1877 Rancho Santa Margarita map or had a drawing made of it and utilized the names on the map. However it is understandable that the American settlers would corrupt the Spanish terminology and simply call it De Luz, creek, canyon etc. or plain De Luz.
Early San Diego County records, U. S. Land Commission, homestead records and maps make reference to the area as Corral De Luz. The early Post Office records show that it was 'De Luz Post Office' and opened November 1, 1882 in the De Luz Railroad Station and that, Henry J. Camp was the first Postmaster.
The Postmaster General in Washington D.C., not being familiar with local Spanish names, most likely accepted the name of the railroad station in as much as the said Post Office was in the railroad station. You can be sure that the Americans of the Southern California Railroad Company were desirous of Americanizing and shortening names.
When the railroad washed out in 1916 and the mail was no longer delivered by the railroad, the Post Office was moved up the canyon within closer proximity to the community that it served. The mail was delivered three times a week by horse and buggy from the West Fallbrook Post Office.
Fallbrook Historical Society
Fallbrook, CA Area Information: History
Elizabeth Yamaguchi's Writings On Fallbrook History
Copyright © 1999 by Fallbrook Historical Society
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Comments and feedback: Don and Mary Rivers
Last update: 11 February 1999.