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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsOur Italy - Chapter 13. The Advance Of Cultivation Southward
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Our Italy - Chapter 13. The Advance Of Cultivation Southward Post by :jamesc96 Category :Nonfictions Author :Charles Dudley Warner Date :May 2012 Read :3270

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Our Italy - Chapter 13. The Advance Of Cultivation Southward


The immense county of San Diego is on the threshold of its development. It has comparatively only spots of cultivation here and there, in an area on the western slope of the county only, that Mr. Van Dyke estimates to contain about one million acres of good arable land for farming and fruit-raising. This mountainous region is full of charming valleys, and hidden among the hills are fruitful nooks capable of sustaining thriving communities. There is no doubt about the salubrity of the climate, and one can literally suit himself as to temperature by choosing his elevation. The traveller by rail down the wild Temecula Canon will have some idea of the picturesqueness of the country, and, as he descends in the broadening valley, of the beautiful mountain parks of live-oak and clear running water, and of the richness both for grazing and grain of the ranches of the Santa Margarita, Las Flores, and Santa Rosa. Or if he will see what a few years of vigorous cultivation will do, he may visit Escondido, on the river of that name, which is at an elevation of less than a thousand feet, and fourteen miles from the ocean. This is only one of many settlements that have great natural beauty and thrifty industrial life. In that region are numerous attractive villages. I have a report from a little canon, a few miles north of Escondido, where a woman with an invalid husband settled in 1883. The ground was thickly covered with brush, and its only product was rabbits and quails. In 1888 they had 100 acres cleared and fenced, mostly devoted to orchard fruits and berries. They had in good bearing over 1200 fruit-trees among them 200 oranges and 283 figs, which yielded one and a half tons of figs a week during the bearing season, from August to November. The sprouts of the peach-trees grew twelve feet in 1889. Of course such a little fruit farm as this is the result of self-denial and hard work, but I am sure that the experiment in this region need not be exceptional.


San Diego will be to the southern part of the State what San Francisco is to the northern. Nature seems to have arranged for this, by providing a magnificent harbor, when it shut off the southern part by a mountain range. During the town-lot lunacy it was said that San Diego could not grow because it had no back country, and the retort was that it needed no back country, its harbor would command commerce. The fallacy of this assumption lay in the forgetfulness of the fact that the profitable and peculiar exports of Southern California must go East by rail, and reach a market in the shortest possible time, and that the inhabitants look to the Pacific for comparatively little of the imports they need. If the Isthmus route were opened by a ship-canal, San Diego would doubtless have a great share of the Pacific trade, and when the population of that part of the State is large enough to demand great importations from the islands and lands of the Pacific, this harbor will not go begging. But in its present development the entire Pacific trade of Japan, China, and the islands, gives only a small dividend each to the competing ports. For these developments this fine harbor must wait, but meantime the wealth and prosperity of San Diego lie at its doors. A country as large as the three richest New England States, with enormous wealth of mineral and stone in its mountains, with one of the finest climates in the world, with a million acres of arable land, is certainly capable of building up one great seaport town. These million of acres on the western slope of the mountain ranges of the country are geographically tributary to San Diego, and almost every acre by its products is certain to attain a high value.

The end of the ridiculous speculation in lots of 1887-88 was not so disastrous in the loss of money invested, or even in the ruin of great expectations by the collapse of fictitious values, as in the stoppage of immigration. The country has been ever since adjusting itself to a normal growth, and the recovery is just in proportion to the arrival of settlers who come to work and not to speculate. I had heard that the "boom" had left San Diego and vicinity the "deadest" region to be found anywhere. A speculator would probably so regard it. But the people have had a great accession of common-sense. The expectation of attracting settlers by a fictitious show has subsided, and attention is directed to the development of the natural riches of the country. Since the boom San Diego has perfected a splendid system of drainage, paved its streets, extended its railways, built up the business part of the town solidly and handsomely, and greatly improved the mesa above the town. In all essentials of permanent growth it is much better in appearance than in 1887. Business is better organized, and, best of all, there is an intelligent appreciation of the agricultural resources of the country. It is discovered that San Diego has a "back country" capable of producing great wealth. The Chamber of Commerce has organized a permanent exhibition of products. It is assisted in this work of stimulation by competition by a "Ladies' Annex," a society numbering some five hundred ladies, who devote themselves not to aesthetic pursuits, but to the quickening of all the industries of the farm and the garden, and all public improvements.

(Illustration: SWEETWATER DAM.)

To the mere traveller who devotes only a couple of weeks to an examination of this region it is evident that the spirit of industry is in the ascendant, and the result is a most gratifying increase in orchards and vineyards, and the storage and distribution of water for irrigation. The region is unsurpassed for the production of the orange, the lemon, the raisin-grape, the fig, and the olive. The great reservoir of the Cuyamaca, which supplies San Diego, sends its flume around the fertile valley of El Cajon (which has already a great reputation for its raisins), and this has become a garden, the land rising in value every year. The region of National City and Chula Vista is supplied by the reservoir made by the great Sweetwater Dam--a marvel of engineering skill--and is not only most productive in fruit, but is attractive by pretty villas and most sightly and agreeable homes. It is an unanswerable reply to the inquiry if this region was not killed by the boom that all the arable land, except that staked out for fancy city prices, has steadily risen in value. This is true of all the bay region down through Otay (where a promising watch factory is established) to the border at Tia Juana. The rate of settlement in the county outside of the cities and towns has been greater since the boom than before--a most healthful indication for the future. According to the school census of 1889, Mr. Van Dyke estimates a permanent growth of nearly 50,000 people in the county in four years. Half of these are well distributed in small settlements which have the advantages of roads, mails, and school-houses, and which offer to settlers who wish to work adjacent unimproved land at prices which experience shows are still moderate.

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