Fallbrook Area Travelers, 1850 to 1889

Published in the North County Times, November 1998

The question I am asked most frequently is "What road did stagecoaches use in Fallbrook?" Recently it was asked by a high school student and a mother preparing to work on one of the FUHS Homecoming floats. My standard answer has been that stagecoaches like the Butterfield Stage did not travel across the Fallbrook ridge. The Butterfield Line, interrupted by the Civil War, existed for only three years in Southern California (1858-1861). After crossing the Colorado River and the desert, the Butterfield stage stopped at Warner's. From there, the route was beside Temecula Creek, along the back side of the Palomar mountains to the stage station at Temecula, and then on to Los Angeles.

These questions about a stagecoach route in Fallbrook stimulated me to read again the notes made over fifteen years as I was studying old maps and early newspapers-especially the San Diego Union, and diaries of people who traveled here. Since my focus has always been on the territory within Fallbrook's high school district, the notes cover the area from San Onofre on the ocean to the mountains of Palomar, and include much of the watershed ridge of land between the San Luis Rey and Santa Margarita Rivers.

In notes on meetings of the Board of Supervisors, I found references to roads which were adopted and the money spent to survey or maintain them. These roads were the trails which had been in common use since the American occupation (and some of them even earlier). In June, 1854, the Supervisors adopted as a public highway the road which ran from San Diego through San Dieguito, Encinitas, Buena Vista (in today's Vista), San Juan (today's Moosa Creek and Camino Del Rey), and Temecula, and forty miles beyond Temecula to the northern limit of San Diego County.

The diaries of Judge Benjamin Hayes give us an idea of where this newly created public highway went through our area and what it looked like. Judge Hayes had the Judicial Circuit from San Diego almost to San Bernardino and back. Usually he made this round trip on horseback, but in 1861, having his young son, Chauncey, with him, he was driving a buggy with a two horse team.

Hayes describes crossing the Temecula River and climbing toward the pass (probably the route of today's Old 395 grade as it ascends toward Rainbow). As they approach the pass, they can see smoke from the Indian village of Temecula, four miles to the east. Closer at hand are the adobe ruins of a large granary, a remnant of earlier San Luis Rey Mission activity. After a short steep climb, they reach a rocky point just above the pass. Hayes calls it Oak Spring, a comfortable camping place, with large trees, good water, and grass for the horses. But father and son are expected by the Coutts at Guajome, so they keep going, and pass through a small valley where cattle are grazing (Rainbow). Then there is a five mile descent to the crossing of the San Luis Rey River near Ysidro Alvarado's house (at the foot of Rosemary's Mountain). As they ride down the valley (probably near today's Old 395), the judge and his son see a group of twenty or so Indian men from Pala, on horseback and afoot, shooting wild game. After crossing the river, Hayes turns west and follows the road on the south side of the river until they reach Guajome.

Continuing to review, I found later newspaper references (1873) to a regular stage from San Diego to San Bernardino by way of Encinitas and Temecula. It cost eight dollars per passenger, and probably used the same route as that described by Circuit Judge Hayes. Ten years later, however, when Warren Hackett held the contract for U.S. Mail, his Temecula Mail Line stages ran through Bear Valley (near Valley Center) to Pala, and then took the road from Pala over the ridge to Temecula. The San Diego Union also reported that the San Diego Carriage and Wagon Shop was building a new, lightweight, three- seated stage for Hackett's run. Coincidentally, it was a grown-up Chauncey Hayes who had the mail route which serviced Reche's Fall Brook Post Office (at today's Live Oak Park).

Beginning in the early 1850's, there was regular coastal passenger service between San Diego and Los Angeles. Stages left San Diego at 5 am and stopped at Encinitas, San Luis Rey and Los Flores (on Camp Pendleton), arriving at San Juan Capistrano at seven in the evening for an overnight stop. The stage line advertised its use of Concord stages, made in New Hampshire by the same company which also supplied coaches to Wells Fargo. Concord coaches were designed for nine passengers inside and eight outside. (To see a restored Concord coach which was used between San Diego and the mines in Julian, visit the San Diego Historical Society's museum in Balboa Park).

When the stages began running along the coast, there were more people living in the Pala/Pauma part of the ridge between the rivers than there were in what became the Fallbrook/Bonsall area. As grant land was approved and homesteading could begin, settlers began to arrive. In 1885, those who came by stage to the station at San Luis Rey could rent a team and wagon and follow the road along the south side of the San Luis Rey River to the crossing at Mt. Fairview (Bonsall). From there, they would have taken today's Olive Hill Road into the new town of Fallbrook, with its hotel, church and store, to look for a lot to buy. Of course, by this time the preferred way to come would have been by train on the new railroad down by the Santa Margarita River. Three years later, Fallbrook livery businesses operated local stages which traveled down the grade (today's De Luz Road) to pick up passengers from the train and bring them up to the new forty room hotel. Local blacksmiths specialized in wagon and carriage repair, and one had the local agency for Milburn wagons and buggies.

One of the earliest roads, noted on several maps and on the first surveys, is the Old Road from Santa Margarita to San Bernardino. It followed generally today's Clemmens Lane, went up to the hill at Fallbrook Street and Golden Drive and stayed on the watershed crest to the high point on Gum Tree Lane, before reaching today's East Mission near the reservoir. It continued (with Mission) around Red Mountain and met the previously described public highway to Temecula. T.S. Van Dyke, who made his headquarters at Reche's Hotel ten years before our town began, wrote articles about deer hunting for the New York magazine, Forest and Stream, thus describing our area for easterners. In one story, Van Dyke's characters, a hunting party traveling in a wagon, follow this Santa Margarita road to Temecula to shoot cinnamon teal ducks. On their return they come through today's Rainbow and continue down the valley..."The light of the fast-sinking sun turned into misty carmine as it poured along the great valley leading up from the San Luis Rey River; the gray uniforms of the great host of boulders that stood guard along the gateway through the high hills towards Temecula changed into purple, and the dark green of the chaparral-covered hills toward Montserrate (sic) shaded into blue." The hunters turn off the main road, travel down the dark shade of Fall Brook valley, and are soon at Reche's apiary. They get up early the next morning and "ride through an ancient grove of live-oaks, shooting mountain pigeons."

Now I wish I had consulted my notes sooner. I would have been better prepared to answer those questions about stagecoaches.

Copyright © 1998 by Fallbrook Historical Society
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Comments and feedback: Elizabeth Yamaguchi
Last update: 29 December 1998.