The earliest American settler in the Fallbrook area was Vital Reche. Although a native of the state of New York, he came here from Pala in 1869. His homestead was a square 160 acres lying southward from the Reche Club (the old school) to, and including, Live Oak Park.
Vital’s brother, Anthony Reche, came the next year and homesteaded land directly to the north.
The third one to settle here was Henry Magee, whose first home was near where the town of Fallbrook now stands.
The fourth arrival was my grandfather, Frederick Fox, who came from the East Coast in January 1875. The land that he took was that lying directly north of Anthony Reche’s property. My grandfather was in the bee business, having three or four hundred stands of bees. The white sage honey brought a premium price and some was shipped as far as England.
Of interest is the fact that these first three settlers, along what is now Live Oak Creek, all took their land along the course of the stream and timber. The hill or mesa land was considered of no value, mainly because of the lack of water. However, the Reches did “log off” many acres of fine oak timber so that they might cultivate the land.
Other early settlers who came here, probably before the start of the town of Fallbrook in the middle ‘80s, were Henry Gird, J.V. Hicks, Mitchell, the Martin brothers, Joe and Tom Howell, William Ellis and George Clark.
Henry Gird, a cattleman from further north in the state, came here in 1880 and bought the Serrano part (nearly 5,000 acres) of the Alvarado Grant (Monserate). He soon divided it among his four children--son, Will Gird, and daughters, Mrs. Shipley, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Lamb.
J.V. Hicks settled on what is now Red Mountain Ranch.
Mitchell homesteaded along what is now Reche Road, where Potter Junior High now stands. He was credited with having the first citrus orchard in this area.
The Martin brothers got possession of considerable land along what is now Gum Tree Lane and East Mission. They were the first ones to plow the hill land for dry farming.
Howell settled in what is now the Willow Glen area and did freighting to and from San Diego with a six-horse team.
William Ellis came here with his family in 1884. He, and later, his sons were among the largest grain farmers here. He was at one time owner of the hotel and left many descendants here.
George Clark was Fred Fox’s brother-in-law and came here with his children in 1882. He built a log cabin along lower Sandia Creek.
Early Reche Community
Some of the present-day sources of Fallbrook history portray the early Reche community as practically a small town. This is an exaggeration of what actually existed. My source of information was my mother, Frances Fox White, who lived here at the time.
The Vital Reches’ home and buildings were between the Reche Club (old school) and Live Oak Park, on the east side of the road.
They had a fairly good-sized dwelling house and one other smaller building. They also kept summer boarders from San Diego in what room they had to spare in their dwelling house. This, along with the school, was the extent of the “town.” The school, however, was not built until 1886, and by that time the Post Office, at least, had been discontinued.
California Southern Railroad
San Diego had long been anxious for a railroad and finally in 1880, with the Santa Fe Railroad as a silent partner and subsidies of money and large amounts of land from the San Diego businessmen, the California Southern Railroad was incorporated. The road started from National City, the steel rails being brought around the Horn by ship and the ties from Oregon. The road was built northward along the coast to where Oceanside is now located. Here it turned inland, following the Santa Margarita River as far as Temecula, and from there by way of Elsinore on to San Bernardino, which was reached in September of 1883.
The Fallbrook station was located where the present road to De Luz reaches the floor of the river canyon directly north of Fallbrook. There was a De Luz siding where the De Luz Creek reaches the river. However, the engineers, not familiar with the river’s flooding capacity, surveyed the roadway too low, and it was badly damaged in the high water of 1884. At this time, the Santa Fe took over the road, repaired the flood damage, and extended the road from San Bernardino, through Cajon Pass, and on to the Colorado River at Needles where they connected with their road coming from the east.
Again in 1891, floods washed out the road along the river, but by this time San Diego had rail connection with Los Angeles along the coast. So the gap between Fallbrook and Temecula was not rebuilt, leaving Fallbrook on the end of a spur coming from the south, and Temecula, the end of the line from the north. This was the railroad condition I first remember, having taken the train from the old river station several times myself.
History repeated itself again in 1916, leaving an engine and a number of cars marooned at the station. The old roadbed along the river was abandoned, and a new one was built across the mesa where it ran through Camp Pendleton with Fallbrook still the end of a spur line.
The marooned engine and cars were brought up the hill to Fallbrook on a temporary track laid on the road that now goes to De Luz. The moving was done by cable and capstan turned by horses.
To the best of my knowledge, the only stagecoach coming to Fallbrook was one operated by Will Crane around 1891-92. The reason for this was probably the railroad washout of 1891. My father, Harry E. White, told of coming on this stage from Oceanside at that time, when he first came to Fallbrook. Of course, both passengers and freight were always conveyed by horse-drawn vehicles from the station up to the town.
Some Early Incidents
The Howell family, previously mentioned, lived near the junction of Rainbow Creek and the Santa Margarita River. When I was young there were graves of some of the family there. Their road going down into the canyon was about where Riverview Drive now is located. A daughter of the family, Ida Howell, when going home down this grade one time, stopped for some reason when part way down, and got off her horse. Suddenly a mountain lion appeared in the road behind them. The horse took fright and started to run – she could not get back on, but held onto the saddle and ran beside the horse clear home, with the mountain lion close behind. As they approached the house, the dogs ran out and chased the lion away. I can remember Ida Howell as an elderly lady.
The first settler in Rainbow Valley was Mr. Rainbow. It was said that he was with Fremont’s army during the Mexican War when they marched through Southern California. He was so impressed by this valley that he decided to come back and make his home there, which he did after a number of years. My mother often visited with the Rainbows when she was a girl. She said that Mr. Rainbow told of one time attempting to scale Rainbow Peak at the north end of the valley. But when he was almost to the top, where the climbing was very steep, he was driven off by a pair of eagles that had their nest there.
About the worst tragedy in Fallbrook’s past was the food poisoning of the Martin family in 1914 or 1915. Five members of the family died – Mrs. Martin, two daughters, one son and a grandson. The cause was definitely traced to a jar of home-canned apricots that they had for Sunday dinner. Joe Martin, the father, was the only one that escaped. He was teaching in Temecula at the time and, through being offered a ride back to Temecula, he left before finishing his meal. Mrs. Martin was a daughter of Vital Reche, Fallbrook’s first settler.
Stories originally printed in the Village News. They can currently be found in the “Fallbrook in Review” series found at the Fallbrook Historical Society.