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La Colonia de Eden Gardens

For decades, Society historians have documented their own and our fellow residents’ early memories of what is now Solana Beach. Nowhere in our community is this legacy more vital than in La Colonia de Eden Gardens, our first neighborhood.

Following are a few recollections that we will build upon in coming months and years, with gratitude to the continuing generosity of our citizen historians and community curators.

The Cherokee Who Once Owned Eden Gardens

By Richard Moore, SBC&HS Historian Emeritus

A fascinating thing about genealogical research is the amazing number of apparently unrelated events or places which turn out to be intimately connected through unexpected and often previously unknown relationships.  Such an event is the early ownership of Eden Gardens by an energetic newspaperman  named Edward Wilkerson (“Ned”) Bushyhead, a man with Cherokee Indian blood who survived the Trail of Tears as a child to later become the co-owner and first publisher of The San Diego Union, and owner of the area in Solana Beach which was developed as Eden Gardens.

Ned Bushyhead was six years old when his family was forced to relocate from their home in Tennessee to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), where the Cherokee people were being resettled by the US government.  His father Jesse, an ordained Baptist minister, set out in September 1838 with his pregnant wife and family, leading a contingent of 950 Cherokees to the new lands.  After a delayed and particularly hazardous crossing of the icy Mississippi river in early January 1839, a baby sister to Edward was born.  She was named Eliza Missouri, after her mother and the state they had then reached. Finally, the group, which now numbered 898, arrived in Oklahoma in February 1839, settling in an area near the Arkansas border which came to be called Breadtown (after its mission of providing food to subsequent Cherokee arrivals).  Six births had been recorded on the journey, including little Eliza.  

Breadtown, later known as Baptist Mission, soon had a newspaper, the Cherokee Messenger, started in August 1844.  It was the first periodical to be published in the Indian Territory, and 12-year old Ned Bushyhead is believed to have learned the printing business there.  The “History of San Diego County” recounts that Ned emigrated in 1850 to California, stopping first at Placerville.  A year later he went to Tuolumne County, where he tried his hand at mining for two years.  Printing was in his blood, however, and he moved to Calaveras County where he engaged his passion in newspaper publishing until 1868, when he was persuaded to move to San Diego by his then-employer, W. J. Gatewood.  The Great Register of Voters shows he signed up to vote here on Sept. 3, 1868.

Ned Bushyhead had second thoughts about the San Diego move.  He was skeptical that the newspaper that he and Gatewood started, The San Diego Union, would ever make a go of it.  So unconvinced was he that he declined to list his name on the first editions as publisher, substituting instead the name of J. N. Briseno, the office boy.  The first issue, published in Old Town, appeared on October 10, 1868.  Despite Bushyhead’s initial concerns, the paper became an established newspaper, and adhered to an editorial policy of neutrality.

In June 1873, Bushyhead sold his interest in the paper for $5,000 to pursue other interests.Those other interests included matrimony, and in late 1876 Ned married the widow Helen Cory Nichols of New York.  They adopted a daughter, who later died while still young.  Helen was something of a mystic, and it is said that she set a place for dinner for her deceased daughter every evening.

Ned Bushyhead threw himself into his new avocations with the same passion and vigor he had as a publisher.  From 1875 to 1882 he served as deputy sheriff of San Diego County, and then as sheriff from 1882 to 1886.  Not neglecting his adopted city, he was the chief of police of the City of San Diego from 1899 to 1903, and was held in high esteem by the citizenry.

Real estate development in this burgeoning town of San Diego drew many entrepreneurs, Ned Bushyhead among them.  One of his ventures was building an Italianate-style mansion as a rental.  This house, moved from its original location, is still preserved in San Diego’s Heritage Park next to Old Town.

A look at the San Diego County Recorder’s archives hints at the extent of Bushyhead’s many real estate dealings.   The transaction of most interest to us is his purchase of acreage in the square mile of Section 2, Township 14 South, Range 4 West, an area which encompasses most of southern Solana Beach.  The original government patent for 160 acres of this land was issued to a Peter Trask from Maine in 1890.  This 160 acres was later purchased by Ned Bushyhead, almost certainly as an investment.  As was the custom at the time, wives were often recorded as the property owners, and an 1892 assessor’s map shows Mrs. H. C. Bushyhead as the taxable owner.  

After Ned’s death in March 1907, his sister Eliza Missouri Alberty, now widowed by her second husband and living in the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, had the responsibility for disposing of Ned’s land.  In June 1909, she sold 130 acres of the land which abutted the Stevens’ Molly Glen Ranch for $3,000 to Jennie Cochran Stevens, wife of Edwin Stevens.  This 130 acres included all of present-day Eden Gardens.  Edwin’s nephew Mark Stevens, active in real estate, had urged Jennie and Edwin to purchase the property.  They scraped the money together and did so.  Later, Jennie subdivided the land and sold it for a 10-fold profit with the help of Col. Ed Fletcher’s brother-in-law – – but that’s another story.

And the unusual name??  Indian customs led to names based on physical attributes.  Ned’s great grandfather, a young Scottish officer with the British army, had come to the Colonies as an Indian agent.  He married a Cherokee woman, living the rest of his life among the Cherokees.  The young officer was called “Bushyhead” because of his luxuriant curly red hair. 

Resources for this article included publications of the San Diego Historical Society and the Oklahoma State Library, and the research of Richard Moore and Richard Schwartzlose of the Solana Beach Civic & Historical Society. 

La Escuelita (The Little School)

By Lisa Montes, SBC&HS Historian and Museum Curator

La Colonia de Eden Gardens was the birthplace of my Mother and countless relatives. My family settled here in La Colonia in the early 1920’s because of job opportunities. 

My Mother, Carmen Celia Scott, was born in 1929 on Juanita Street, just one street away from where she would attend school and would eventually be married. Spanish was her first language, like that of many of her cousins and friends. Her parents did speak English, but Spanish was the preferred language in the home. 

La Colonia de Eden Gardens was a racially segregated community. Mexican American children attended the Americanization school, also known as “La Escuelita” to the La Colonia families.

1946-7 students at La Escuelita, Americanization school, La Colonia de Eden Gardens
2nd and 3rd graders at La Escuelita, 1948-49 Photo compliments of Lisa Montes and family

“La Escuelita” was located on Genevieve Street, across from St. Leo’s Mission. Children could not speak their native language at school or they would be punished. I believe this was the birth of Spanglish, because my Mother’s Spanish was not that of a native speaker.

Many of the children attending “La Escuelita” were related by blood, marriage or through baptism. This was because families traveled together to La Colonia  from Bisbee, Arizona, Texas, and Santa Ana, California, in search of work and to start a new life.  As I look through school photos, it is amazing to see all of the family connections. Solana Beach has a deep and rich history to be cherished!

It wasn’t until high school and segregation had been abolished when my Mother enrolled in Spanish as a “Foreign Language” at San Dieguito High. In fact she shared a funny Spanglish story with me that I would always share with my students. When she was in her Spanish class at San Dieguito, the Teacher asked the students, “How do you say Crackers in Spanish?” Several students raised their hand, along with my Mother. The Teacher picked my Mother and she blurts out, “Crackas!” The La Colonia students laughed! Crackas is Spanglish for Crackers, but the correct term is Galletas. I still find myself referring to crackers as “Crackas” as a fun memory of my Mother. 

I was fortunate to see the remnants of La Escuelita here in La Colonia when I would walk with my Mother to church at St. Leo’s on Genevieve Street. We would walk through the empty  building and she would share stories of her childhood with me. She loved her teacher Mrs. Clark and would say how kind she was to her. She shared memories of being in class with her cousins and going home to have lunch (because it was the next street over), then running back to school.

Today, much has changed in La Colonia de Eden Gardens, but the memories still remain. There are apartments where “La Escuelita” once stood. The church where my Mother was married is still flourishing. The Tree of Life tiled wall located at La Colonia Community Center and the Solana Beach Heritage Museum offer glimpses of additional history of the families who lived in La Colonia de Eden Gardens. a Colonia de Eden Gardens was a racially