Local History Told By a Poway Pioneer

Excerpts from the Notes of Andrew Stabenow Kirkham, an early Poway resident.

In 1891, at the age of 7, Andrew Stabenow Kirkham and family arrived in the Poway area and filed on a homestead of 160 acres in the Beuhler Canyon area.

Andy has left us with extensive notes on his life in early Poway. Below is a compilation of a few interesting passages.

First Trip to Poway

We arrived in San Diego in the middle of February 1891 on California Street (now known as Kettner Street) and after six weeks looking around for a place for a future home, Father homesteaded this place in the Beuhler canyon. The trip to look at Poway I will never forget. After we had gotten less than a mile from the place where we were staying, we were out in open country. The largest number of buildings between San Diego and Escondido was at Miramar. At Miramar, there weren’t over a dozen buildings including the store and school house. One mile north is where the two Scripps mansions were—owned by Fred Scripps and Ed Scripps. Balance of the way was a ranch house here and there.

Old Stage Coach Line

The old stage coach line was operated back in the 1880s up to about 1925. It came from San Diego by Miramar, from Miramar north of the Poway creek (now known as Los Penasquitos creek). From here it followed the creek bed into the west side of Poway valley to the Pomerado road (at this time this area was known as the Merton school district of Poway.)

From here the stage coach went north for a couple of miles, passed the Paine place where the post office was located. This was the first post office in this area, back in June 1872. Mr. Paine was the first post master and at this time the name of Poway got its face lifted. It was then spelled Paguay. It was Mrs. Paine who wrote to the U.S. Post Office in Washington and had it changed to Poway. The proper way to pronounce it is Pow-eye.

From this point the stage line went through the hills into the northern part of Poway following the creek bed to just beyond where the Poway cemetery is now. From here north pass the Poway high school for half a mile, then up the Bowron canyon. From here had to build a short grade up and around the north side of Mt. Woodson into Ramona and beyond. They traveled the route where it would take the least road building. This coach did not have any springs. The body of the coach was hung on leather straps, like in a hammock.

It has been rumored that the Mission was robbed at Old Town and the loot was buried somewhere on the Poway creek.

Bad Blood in Poway

In the 1800s, everybody had a gun hanging at their sides. Joe O’Connell and Fisher had it in for one another; Babb and Fisher had it in for one another. Paine and O’Connell had it in for one another. And there were others. Take the case of Dodson and Feeler at the Twenty-mile house, where Big Stone is now. When Dobson acted as road master, he got in trouble with Mr. Feeler. Dobson said he shot Feeler through the heart in self defense. They had Mr. Feelers heart kept for evidence for the trial in a bucket in the back room, but the hogs got in and ate up the evidence. Dobson went free. They say Mr. Feeler was keeping company with Mr. Dobson’s step daughter and Dobson told Feeler to stay away from his step daughter.

G Man in Poway

Up until 1901, a man with a skinny team and an old wagon would come through the country every six months buying junk, such as old skins, old sacks and copper. He would stop for the night at our place. It turned out that he was buying this junk and driving a skinny team for a blind. He was a Secret Service man for the government.

First Autos in Poway

1st: J.W. Kent, ½ ton truck, Kisler. Around 1911

2nd: Norm Powers, (Ralph Powers’ father) 1/2 ton truck, red. Around 1912

3rd: A. A. Flint, ½ ton, International. Around 1914

4th: 0. H. Nelson, ½ ton truck, Buick. Around 1915


Dr. Ben L. Reitman, described as manager for the anarchist sympathizer Emma Goldman, reportedly was tarred and feathered between San Diego and Poway. He made his way to Escondido and left on the 2:30 p.m. train.


There was an auto race between Escondido and San Diego. It was won by a Fiat, followed by a Mercer, Stutz and a Buick.

Hatfield and Rain 1916

In 1916 Poway had a wet year. Hatfield, the rain maker had an agreement with the city of San Diego to make it rain. All bridges and roads in the county were washed out. The only bridge that did not go out was the La Jolla railroad bridge. The Otay dam went out and washed away the Otay winery. It turned out that Hatfield came out of the little end of the horn—the city had a damage suit against Hatfield for too much rain.

Baseball Team

Poway had a ball team before Poway was a member of the San Diego Farm Bureau. We had a baseball club, organized in the middle of the 1920s. We played with eight teams in the San Diego County; turnabout from one team to the other. We won our share of games, except for Ramona. They took every game Poway played them. The lady that operated the Ramona Hotel said she would give the Poway Ball Team a free dinner if they could have won over the Ramona Team.

Uncle Nate

In 1927 a drive was launched on Palomar Mountain to raise funds for a monument for (Uncle Nate) Nathaniel Harrison, who had died in the county hospital a few months earlier. He lived on the west side of Palomar Mountain on the old road that went to the top of the mountain. In 1910, I was with a party for the ride up the mountain and in a turn of the grade, there was a spring where motorist would stop to fill their cars with water and Uncle Nate would come down from his cabin from back of the spring when anyone stopped at this spring. The people he knew he would come out and talk to them and some would bring food and clothing for him and leave them at the spring. Uncle Nate was a runaway slave from the south and was hiding out and lived with the Indians in the mountains for a number of years before he knew he was a free man. After he was a free man, he started to raise cattle in a large meadow below his cabin.

Source: The Kirknam Family Binder – Poway Historical and Memorial Society http://powayhistoricalsociety.org/


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