Tall Tales Told Tongue in Cheek
I'm still too close to this small and fragile
place, too much a part of it, to do a proper job of telling its stories.
It deserves a better, more gifted, yarn spinner than I. Besides the statute
of limitations hasn't run out on everything yet. Mebbe add a few
stories down the road, mebbe get permission from some of the perps to relate the true
scoop, we'll see.
Let us just begin with some of the old tales and see how far we get.
"Long Jo" Smith spent a moment peeking out the door of his adobe
house before venturing onto the porch. He was pretty sure that the
grizzly bear had left, but it paid to be careful where bears were
concerned. Once he was convinced it was safe, he walked out onto the cedar
shingled porch and stretched in the warm morning sunshine and felt the dry Santa
Anna wind against his skin.
It was 1859, his first year living on the mountain. He'd abandoned his
career as a sea-captain and come west with Colonel Cave Couts, for the
adventure of it, and to help survey California's southern
border. He'd liked the small town of San Diego and
decided to stick around for awhile. When the Butterfield Stage Line
began to run, Long Jo was given the job of overseeing the stage road, keeping
the trails passable and putting the mean and nasty on any bandits making
trouble. In the process he became familiar with the stage station in
Warner Springs, and the good hunting and lush grass
meadows of the mountain looming above it.
A year later, Smith entered into a partnership with E.W. Morse, of
San Diego, to start a ranch on the east end of the mountain for the purpose of
supplying the stage stations. He hired Indian labor to help him build his
adobe house, stocked his ranch with Percheron horses and
built a road up the mountain that was so steep most people just walked alongside
their horses rather than try and ride. Joseph Smith became the first full
time resident and the mountain was called "Smith Mountain," in his
honor until the early 1900's.
Long Jo's ranch flourished for many years, but came to an untimely end
when a series of unlikely events led to Smith's murder. Long Jo
was in Temecula delivering a load of wool when he met a
young sailor who had deserted a British ship down in San Diego. Smith
enjoyed the company of the sailor and the sea stories they shared, so he invited
the man to return to the mountain and take the position of ranch
No one knows exactly what caused the argument that erupted between
them. It's been said that they fought over Smith's Indian wife, others
think it was just a drunken argument that ended badly. But in the main
event, Smith was killed and the sailor fled the scene on one of Long Jo's
horses. The murderous young sailor had the misfortune to run into
George Dyche on his way down the mountain, and his suspicious behavior caused
Dyche to force him to return to Smith's ranch where they found Long Jo's
body. Dyche took the hapless sailor to Warner's Station with the intention to rest up a bit before
undertaking the journey to turn him over to the sheriff. In an
illustrative example of pioneer justice, while Dyche was wetting his whistle,
his prisoner was taken out back and hanged.
Despite the current batch of revisionist westerns gracing the silver screen,
there was a time when the wild west actually was pretty wild. In the
1860's the California Gold rush lured unsavory characters of all
varieties. San Diego attracted its share of these
desperados and Palomar Mountain
became a popular hideout for horse thieves, cattle
rustlers and outlaws with a price on their head. The Southland was
sorely in need of some law and order and one of the men they called in to help
was Enos Mendenhall.
The Mendenhall family line dates back to colonial days when three
Mendenhall brothers, John, Benjamin and Moses, came to America from England
in the late 1600's. They traveled with the famous Quaker William Penn aboard
his ship Unicorn. Penn went on to found Pennsylvania, but the Mendenhall
brothers quickly went their separate ways. One brother went north, one went
south and one looked around for a bit and then decided to return on the same
ship. The brother who went south is the founder of the Palomar branch of
the family. Enos T. Mendenhall was born in North Carolina in 1822.
His journey west began with a move to Indiana where he worked as a Hoosier
Schoolmaster until 1847 when he joined the Llewellen Wagon Train, and headed
west on the Oregon Trail.
In Oregon, he met and married Rachel Emily Mills and the couple moved
south to San Francisco at the beginning the California Gold rush. They relocated to Sacramento and found success
running hotels in the area and establishing a lumber business. During the
boom years of the mid 1800's, lawlessness was rampant, and after one of his
lumber mills was burned to the ground, Enos helped to organize the Vigilantes
Committees attempting to restore the rule of law. By the time they arrived
in San Diego, Enos had substantial experience as a lawman.
Mendenhall came down to San Diego on Government assignment for his work with
the Secret Service, a predecessor of today's FBI. In the process of
restoring law and order to the Southland, he became familiar with Palomar
Mountain, and when he looked around, Malava, the central valley, he immediately
saw the possibilities for what was to become a cattle empire.
When Enos Mendenhall died in 1903, the family owned over 11,000 acres of the
mountain's meadows. Palomar Mountain's beautiful valleys, from Love Valley
in the east to Doane valley in the west were the grazing grounds for the Black
Angus cattle of the Mendenhall cattle kings. To this day, the Mendenhall family
plays a role in Palomar life and continues to hold a stake as landowners and
residents of the mountain.
The Baileys were the second pioneer family to make a permanent mark on
Palomar mountain. Theodore Bailey was born in Kentucky and moved to Palomar Mountain in 1886 with his wife Mary,
and their five children. The youngest child, Elizabeth, was born on the
mountain. The Bailey's were descended from an Irish soldier who had
come to America with the French General Lafayette. Theo was the youngest
of seven brothers. In the American Civil War three of the brothers
fought for the Union and the other four fought for the Confederacy.
Theo was trained as a surveyor and came to live in Mesa Grande, to the southeast of Palomar, to be close to his brother
Newton. Once he discovered Palomar, Theo homesteaded the fertile valley
that is now know as Bailey's Meadow. With the help of local Indian
labor, they built the first adobe house in the valley.
Over the years, the natural hospitality of the Bailey family, and Mary
Bailey's excellent home cooking, drew visitors and guests from around San
Diego county. The Bailey's beautiful valley soon became the center of the tiny
Palomar Mountain community. In 1899, after an arduous journey by wagon to
the San Diego County Fair, Mary was rewarded with a first prize ribbon for her
rhubarb pie. The original Palomar post office, dubbed "Nellie"
after Nellie McQueen's original Palomar Post office, was
relocated in Bailey's Meadow and by 1920, Bailey's Palomar Resort had begun to
earn a reputation as a first class backcountry destination.
Visitors to Bailey's Palomar Resort who made the arduous journey up the Nate
Harrison Grade from Oceanside often stayed the entire
summer, enjoying the rustic splendor of the tent cabins, or Mary's hospitality at
the Palomar Mountain Hotel. Activities at the resort included
lawn-tennis, an eighteen hole golf course (nine hole out and nine holes back!)
horseback riding, hiking, shuffleboard or a quick dip in the swimming
hole. Evenings often included a square dance, hay-ride and a
bonfire under the stars.
Over the years, Bailey's Palomar Resort has played host to thousands
including such celebrities as Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and Cecil B.
Demille, who used the resort as a home base during the filming of The
Virginian in 1914. After six generations and over one hundred years,
Bailey's Palomar Resort is still owned and operated by the Bailey family to this
1 Palomar Mountain Past and Present, by Marion
F. Beckler, 1958. Permission to use this material granted by the heirs of
2 Mendenhall Family Info: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~jeanlee/Mendenhall.html
3 Bailey's Palomar Mountain Resort Info: http://www.BaileysPalomarResort.com
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