Unforgettable: On Love and Loneliness in Long-Ago San Diego

MISS VICTORIA’S IN LOVE On Friday, June 13, 1856, Maurice Franklin invited Victoria Jacobs to join him for a picnic. Even though 17-year-old Victoria suffered a severe toothache, she was thrilled to have “the pleasure of going with the person I love mentally.”

As the buggy jounced the rutted trail from Old Town to Gustav Fisher’s ranch in Rose Canyon, their thoughts turned to love’s guises. When they talked of the “sacred” kind, “holy and thrilling,” 38-year-old Maurice confessed his affection for Victoria and proposed marriage. He gave her a leather-bound diary, 3 3/4 by 2 1/4 inches. Her first entry is her response:

FRIDAY, June 13, 1856: “Oh the words then thrilled me. You said you loved me a long time…asked if I would be your wife.”

Her “cool but cheering” answer: “Yes, my love, yours forever, till death separates us.”

SATURDAY, June 14, 1856: Maurice went to the Jacobses’ home in Old Town. Since Victoria’s father Mark, a San Diego merchant, was out of town, Maurice asked her mother Hannah for her daughter’s hand. Hannah said the decision was Victoria’s.

“I gave my answer willingly. It was sealed with a token of pure love — a kiss.”

They walked to Maurice’s nearby home and sat on the sofa “to commune with our own hearts there. Oh, I felt the arm encircling my waist, which will protect me through life. I will guard my dear Maurice like a little angel, ministering to all his wants. We spoke a little while afterwards, then took dinner and walked home.”

Born in Manchester, England, Victoria Jacobs came to San Diego in 1851. Like Franklin’s, her Polish-Jewish family was deeply religious. Franklin, from Liverpool, bought his brother Lewis’s general merchandise store, Tienda California, on the west side of Old Town Plaza. He sold dry goods, foodstuffs, liquor, crockery, glassware, and iron works.

Seen from Point Loma, San Diego in 1856 was a cluster of tile-roofed, sun-bleached adobe structures at the foot of a treeless, straw-covered hill. The town was the site of fiestas and public hangings. Less than five years earlier, bands of natives led by Antonio Garra attempted a blanket assault on the region. In 1852, as foreman of the county grand jury, Lewis Franklin wrote a report on local conditions: no public sanitation, “rampant vice and crime,” a “slipshod” city jail — and mayor.

But Jacobs, whose nine-month-long diary describes daily life 150 years ago, rarely writes about dangers, or even anti-Semitism. Miss Victoria’s in love.

SATURDAY, June 28, 1856: Her birthday. “Received the congratulations of my brothers and sisters. But the congratulations of my betrothed was sweeter than any. The heart that uttered these words beat in unison with my own.”

TUESDAY, July 8, 1856: Maurice “was talking about going to Los Angeles and asking me if I would forget him and asking me also if I would think of him at night. Gives me a kiss and bids us all goodbye till morning. Oh, the words thrilled me. Did he doubt me for a moment — that as soon as he goes away I will forget him?”

SUNDAY, July 13, 1856: A month after Maurice proposed, they rode again to Fisher’s ranch. Along the way, “[D]ear Maurice talked to me of things which I will have to know sooner or later.”

THURSDAY, September 11, 1856: Maurice, who went to New Town (present-day San Diego) on business the day before, “has not been here at all today. I do not consider it right when a gentleman is courting a lady — he is duty bound either to state the reason beforehand or to send an excuse for not coming. I do not know the reason. He ought to have come up first to say good morning, but did not even send a messenger to ask how I am.”

Two days later, Maurice bought two muskmelons for Victoria. “After, we walked to my future home, cut the melons, and tasted thereof, and walked home to tea.”

On September 15, Maurice drove a herd of cattle to Los Angeles in the rain.

SUNDAY, September 28, 1856: “This week has been one…of anxiety to me because I am expecting Maurice here every day and he has not come because of business.”

SUNDAY, October 5, 1856: “Arrival of my dear Maurice after an absence of three weeks today, from me. I was glad to see him again, to look at him and ask him two or three questions.”

They dined that night at her “future home.”

SUNDAY, November 30, 1856: “Maurice has gone to Santa Ysabel to try and sell his cattle. He came up here for to bid me goodbye, but did not bid any of the members of the family. When he comes back I am going to ask why.”

MONDAY, December 1, 1856: “I am busy sewing and thinking of you, dear Maurice.”

One of the biggest events in mid-19th-century San Diego was “steamer day.” Side-wheel steamers brought visitors, goods, letters, and news. To announce his arrival, the captain fired a cannon. Often the entire town greeted steamers at the wharf. On January 7, as part of a bitter lawsuit against his brother, Maurice took the black-hulled Senator to San Francisco.

SUNDAY, January 25, 1857: “Oh, dear Maurice, the steamer not coming Friday when it was expected made me feel more restless and anxious than I have felt for a long time. But never mind, I must get used to being disappointed as well as anybody else. Ah Maurice, I have only to wait patiently till you come.”

MONDAY, January 26, 1857: “I am troubled now and then with toothache. Maurice [who also practiced pharmacy], love, when you come, you will please fill it for me the same as the other?

“The arrival of you, my dear Maurice, and looking well and hearty.”

FRIDAY, February 20, 1857: in her final entry, Jacobs wrote, “Yesterday afternoon, I and Maurice went out riding to get a little fresh air and change of scene.”

Victoria Jacobs married Maurice Franklin at her home on March 31, 1857. Her father performed the ceremony. The San Diego Herald wrote: “In the new relation of husband and wife, may our friends find their cares lessened by sympathy and their joys multiplied by participation. May they be spared to each other to a good old age.”

LONESOME SAM In 1870, Sam Cameron’s family came to the Campo area to raise sheep. In winter, his father Thomas moved the herd nearer the coast. Sam watched over them, often alone, for five months at a time. In his 21st year, at a sheep camp on Otay Mesa, Sam began keeping a diary. He wrote, not always with proper spelling, of backcountry life in the late 19th Century.

JANUARY 24, 1878: “TRC [his father, Thomas R. Cameron] has gone to town today and left me alone in my glory.”

MARCH 6, 1878 (still at Otay Mesa): “I have nothing to read. Am awful lonesome, hardly now what to do with myself.”

MAY 7, 1878: “I am about sick of sheep camp. I long for some thing new. I have not saw a man or heard a bit of news in a week. If I stay here much longer I will be [a candidate] for the loonitick silam. Eny one with half an eye can see that I was not born to be a hermit.

“Sheep herding is pretty much the same as penetenchery. He must be with them day and night. If they ever get out of his site they will not stop this side of kingdom come. Ba ba fifty thousand bas may be music for some but no charm for me.”

Sometime between February 26 and March 19, 1879, he met a woman, most likely in San Diego. He put this entry on a facing page of the diary:

“She is as pretty

As a rose

Mollie Dole

Cares for me,

A heap

Mine

Ere long then I will

Rome

Ore the sea

No more

XXX

S.W.C. that is me.”

APRIL 4, 1879: “Got to the camp to day. Every thing OK. Of all the things that I love best is a little _ An a starry night.”

DECEMBER 18, 1879 (on the mesa): “Take a young man and put him in a sheep camp and leave him thar alone, month after month, in time he will think that thar is only one damn fool on this earth and that fool is him self.”

FEBRUARY 4, 1880: “I have got the blues to day, but I will stand it and think of the good times coming by and by.

“Evening. The son is setting. Another day numbered with the past. I would not live all ways.”

AUGUST 16, 1880: “I am not very handsom I know, but for all that I am a pretty good beau. S.W.C. that is me. And don’t you for get it.”

Neighbors, even close ones, lived so far apart in the backcountry they rarely saw each other. So they periodically held mammoth potluck get-togethers. Families brought fried chicken, roast pork, cakes, and gooseberry pies. After a day of games and races, they danced — the two-step, waltzes, polkas, Spanish styles — accompanied by everyone who could play an instrument. At midnight they put the children to bed, usually in or under a wagon, and broke for coffee, poured from a large iron kettle, then danced the night away. They stopped shortly before dawn, writes historian Shirley Bowman, so “the boys got home in time for morning chores.”

FEBRUARY 25, 1881: “Last Christmas I was at one of the best dances that you never saw in Motiquwhat [now Cameron Valley]. Fun, lots of it. Wickey, a little. Some not much.”

MARCH 6, 1881: “To day I feel like giving up the ghost and going on a trip to explore the mistereys of the great here after.”

APRIL 1, 1881: “Fool April. I fooled myself to day because I had no one els to fool.”

APRIL 21, 1881: “2 day I am in need of a good_. You know how it is your self when you feel that way.

“I have been alone in the camp for the last 10 days. I do not know when the governor [his father] will come. And I dont give a damn. That is me. Independent as a hog on ice. If I cant stand up I can lay down.”

JULY 1882: [copied a letter he wrote to his sister Jane] “My dear sister. I guiess you think that I am high toned because I did not write but I am not. I would a wrote B 4 now but I did not have eny thing to write only that I was well and you know that.”

Between March 1883 and October 1885, Sam

didn’t keep a diary. During that time, his family switched from raising sheep to cattle.

FEBRUARY 14, 1887: “Valentine’s Day and more rain. I got a Val. Yes two of them.”

JULY 5, 1888: “I went to the dance at Poterero last night. And it was a pretty good dance. There was lots of girls and we kept it going all night till brode day light…. No one started a fight so we got along fine. All is well that ends well.”

DECEMBER 25, 1888: “There was a big dance last night at Pete McCain’s house. But I did not get there. Once again I missed a good dance. A man can not take in all the good things. He would be a hog if he tried to. I put on a cleen pare of socks and shaved. I feel about as well as if I had went to the dance. What must be will be and what wont be will never come to pass.”

JANUARY 1, 1889: “New Years day. On this day lots of young fellow promice to turn over a new leaf, and be good boys in the future. But at the end of the year thay find them selves deeper in the mud than they was before. I never make promices. I tend to my own affairs, let other peoples business alone and go on and say nothing…. I hate to grow old as bad as any one. But I would like to know how I will stand at the end of the year. I would give a year of my life to know. But no doubt I will find out all in good time. But there is several little things I would like very well to know.”

One might have been his financial status. In October of 1889, his father took Sam’s cattle to town and sold them for $140, “a very small pile for a year’s work,” especially since he made more when he worked for wages, from fifty cents to a dollar a day.

OCTOBER 17, 1889: [Then] I had a dollar to spend once in a while. But now never.”

He preferred self-employment because other people “made me get up before day and out to work. Now I don’t get up till the sun sets the example.”

MARCH 24, 1890: Sam’s brother Charles married Rachel Dukes. “He has done what all men should do. Take unto themselves a wife, and live right. It is contrary to nature to live a batchlor. It is unnatural to live alone. Even the Bible says take onto your self a wife. There is nothing like having some one to sleep with.”

MAY 8, 1890: “Braded some on a reata [long-noosed lariat]. I like to brade on rainy days.”

JULY 3, 1890: “I was at the dance at Potrero on the 27th and it was good, very good. Every [husband] took thar wives, that is those that had one. I did not take mine because I have not got any. I saw a certain female at the dance that I would like to make a wife out of. I would take her for better or worse in a minute if she would have me. I am going to ask her about it one of these fine days. I have a inward feeling that she will say no. I verily believe my name is mud.”

SEPTEMBER 19, 1890: Took his cattle to the slaughterhouse. “I sold only 7 head of beef steers and one calf. My money this year was only $140.69. And that is pretty good. Just .69 cents more than last year…. That’s all right, who is a kicking. No I. But how does that look like getting married? I believe it look a little slim. But it is all the same for damn my American self. I hope to get ther in some kind of shape.”

Sometimes Sam wrote old adages or homilies:

APRIL 16, 1891. “If you want to feel right, do right.”

“In marriage, prefer the person before wealth, virtue before beauty, and the mind before the body; and then you have a wife, a friend and a companion.”

MARCH 4, 1892: “The first day of March 1892. The day of the week was Tuesday. Will be a date long remembered by me. I wish I could forget it. But can I. If I could, if only I could. I must forget it. It will be all the same bye and bye. Every thing is for the best. What must be will be.”

Between 1892 and 1903, Sam only wrote 20 entries in his diary. His final one — August 7, 1903 — recorded the death of his mother.

EPILOGUE In 1859, Victoria Jacobs and Maurice Franklin moved to San Bernardino, where he opened a pharmacy and a photography studio. She bore him two sons, Abraham and Selim. On November 12, 1861, Victoria died giving birth to a third child, who also died. She was 23.

Sam Cameron died in his sleep October 13, 1926. He never married.

Interviewed for the Mountain Empire Historical Society, Beth Narens recalled: Sam’s “father passed away many, many years ago and then he lived with his mother on over in the old house, where that pear tree is over there. After many long years, old Sam became pretty much of a hermit.” — Jeff Smith

SOURCES:

Bowman, Shirley, “Highway 94 History,” hwy94club.com.

Cameron, Sam, Sam Cameron’s Diary: 1878–1903, ed. Jean Gideon Taylor, Meredith Vezina, Campo, 1994.

Lewis Franklin’s report in the San Diego Herald, April 17, 1852.

Garber, Jean, “A Conversation with Beth Narans,” Mountain Heritage: The Back Country’s Historical Digest, Mountain Empire Historical Society, autumn 2007, vol. 21, no. 4.

Harrison, Donald H., Louis Rose: San Diego’s First Jewish Settler and Entrepreneur, San Diego, 2005.

Jacobs, Victoria, ed. Sylvia Arden, Diary of a San Diego Girl, Santa Monica, 1974.

Fanny Jacobs’s memorial poem, inscribed on Victoria’s headstone, Home of Eternity Cemetery, San Bernardino.

McCain, Ella, Memories of the Early Settlements: Dulzura, Potrero and Campo, Dulzura, 1955.

Schmid, Dorothy Clark, Pioneering in Dulzura, San Diego, 1963.

Stern, Norton B., “The Franklin Brothers of San Diego,” Journal of San Diego History, summer 1975, vol. 21, no. 3.

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Comments

To the author - what's the deal with the two blanks in Sam's entries? Was he censoring himself, or were the omissions someone else's?

"Of all the things that I love best is a little _ An a starry night."

"2 day I am in need of a good_. You know how it is your self when you feel that way."

You can't leave us hanging like that!

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