The Galveston Daily News reported in its Dec. 5, 1876 edition that a resident of San Diego had contributed a series of articles to the Frontiersman in which he gave a detailed description of the town and surrounding area. Here are some of the highlights of what was reported at the time.
The county was just being organized with San Diego as its county seat. The town was the center of the sheep-raising region in this part of the state. It boasted of a dozen “well-appointed” stores, a number of “tolerable” homes, a “large” Catholic church, a “model” school building, and a population of about 1,200.
Within a radius of 50 miles from the town’s center, one could find more than 250,000 head of sheep, which were sheared twice a year. Each head of sheep would yield between 1½-2 pounds of wool. During clipping months, business is San Diego was quite hectic.
A herder could handle between 1,500 and 2,000 head of sheep. This job typically fell on Mexicans who would get paid $8-$10 a month. In larger ranches, a Vaquero or superintendent oversaw operations. Goats were customarily added to the flock to provide herders with meat and milk.
The correspondent with the Frontiersman reported that the land on which the sheep grazed was practically “valueless.” The land was peppered with bushes covered with thorns and chaparral. Water was very scarce and, the newspaper reported, “nauseatingly poor,” while a nearly tropical heat predominated. Because droughts were common, no cultivation of the soil was undertaken and irrigation was too expensive to even consider.
Still wool was easy to produce and wool was “cash,” which could buy a variety of goods.