Unforgettable: Banner Challenges Julian's Supremacy

Drury Bailey
  • Drury Bailey

Drury “Drew” Bailey and the Founding of Julian City, Part Two

In 1858, asked to write about why “A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss,” Drury “Drew” Bailey compared it to “the wanderer who starts…with bright hopes of soon making a fortune [without effort]. After reaching the place of his destiny, he finds it not to be the thing it was represented.” So he abandons hope.

“If a man wants to gain knowledge or riches,” Bailey concluded, he shouldn’t look where he can find it with ease. “For what is not worth laboring for is not worth having.”

Bailey was 14 when he wrote those words in a schoolhouse in Gainesville, Georgia. As things turned out, they told his life story.

Ex-Confederate soldiers, Drew, his brother James, and Mike and Webb Julian headed west from Georgia in 1867. Although their paths parted, the men worked their way from one mining town to the next and rejoined in southern Utah. When they heard of plans for a railroad from El Paso to San Diego, Drew vowed to “help build a great city” at the terminus and call it home. But when Alonzo Horton refused to hire ex-Confederates, Bailey found land in the Cuyamacas “worth laboring for.”

When the group reached the mountains, only three or four families lived amid the pine-studded ridges and broad bunch-grass meadows. Game and fresh water abounded. In November 1869, Drew surprised the others by saying: “This is the most beautiful place I ever seen since I left home.” They should farm the land, he said, raise cattle and crops. Although the others disagreed, they helped him build a small log cabin on 160 homesteaded acres at the southern end of a mountain valley.

In the winter of 1869–1870 (most likely between mid-December and early January), Fred Coleman discovered flakes of gold in a creek four miles west of Bailey’s cabin. Once word got out, at least 75 prospectors muscled in and staked territories along both sides of the creek. When they weren’t panning or sluicing, they disputed rights and claims. Shouts led to fistfights. Some resulted, writes Helen Ellsberg, “in occasional pick and shovel battles.”

Drew and Mike Julian began exploring a hillside on the north side of the property. On February 20, 1870, Drew found the first quartz gold. He called the site Warrior’s Rest, and named himself and seven others as partners, since by law each “partner” added an extra 200 feet to a claim.

The discovery, which turned out to be a mere “pocket,” became a magnet. Like a chaos of bloodhounds, frantic prospectors swarmed today’s Gold Hill, desperate for yellow veins in white rocks. With one eye on the ground, the other on their competitors’ progress, they hacked at every hard, exposed surface, kicked clods of dirt, cursed, and kept moving. No time to reflect on rewards; stop and someone else will grab your prize.

Two days later, wanting relief from the mania, Henry Bickers followed a bear track up a slope. Two hundred yards above the camp, he spied free gold in a four-pound rock. Bickers, George Gower, and J. Bruen Wells made the claim. They added 18 relatives from around the country, giving them a total of 4200 feet.

The find became the first “producing” mine: the George Washington stood within sight of Bailey’s cabin. Later that day, or early the next, Mike Julian and Caliway Putnam discovered the Van Wert mine in a nearby draw. Others followed. Paul Hayden’s yielded “$1 to the pound.” On March 22, Ed Skidmore, another ex-Confederate soldier, happened on the richest find of all: the Stonewall Jackson Mine at the foot of Cuyamaca Mountain (times being what they were, he had to shorten the name to Stonewall). Skidmore took many partners, but most sold their shares for $50 or $75, “because they didn’t realize that mining entailed such hard work.”

Word of instant jackpots spurred a stampede to the region. “Imagine 800 men turned out loose in the mountains,” wrote the San Diego Union, “with as little sense and as much ‘friskiness’ as so many horses. The people here are positively wild. Such a thing as a sober thought is unknown.”

Convinced that boomtown real estate was its own bonanza, Gower, a surveyor, platted a town site on the timber and grazing land. But under homestead laws, Drew Bailey had “squatter’s rights.” In February, he and several others had formed the Julian Mining District. Mike Julian became the first recorder, and Drew decided to name it (and eventually the town) for his cousin. Why? “Mike was the best looking, and a favorite of the ladies,” said Drew, adding that “Julian sounded better than Bailey for a town.”

“Of the group,” says his grandson Richard Bailey, “Drury was the most unselfish and sharing.” That he would name his home for someone else, “is just like him. Also, remember they had been through the war together and were all very close.”

“A slight man” — he was five-foot-two — “with a serious countenance,” writes Helen Ellsberg, Bailey thought beyond himself. Though an “inveterate” smoker, he didn’t drink, except eggnog at Christmas. “Three fingers of the rot-gut dispensed over the Julian bars,” he said, “would put a miner on the millionaire’s trail…until he was brought up in the gutter broke.” Still, he bought rounds in the saloons and puffed an ever-present cigar or pipe.

His private acts of generosity became legendary. When an out-of-work miner’s son died, Bailey met him on the street, shook hands, and — claims one version — squeezed $500 into his palm ($50 would have been a small fortune, and probably closer to the actual amount). “The most open-handed of men,” says James Jaspar, Bailey had “many friends and few enemies.”

In late February, Drew hired John L. McIntire to survey a town site where the mining camp had grown. McIntire made many of his calculations on foot, wending around tents and shanties, large campfires and hobbled horses. James Pascoe, the county surveyor, delivered a platted map in March 1870.

Julian City wasn’t the only boomtown that sprouted. A mile east, Lewis C. Branson laid out Branson City, with a store, boarding house, saloon, and dance hall. To the west, Joseph Stancliff founded Eastwood. Emily City, the “ragtown” that grew near Fred Coleman’s original find, became Coleman City.

Most speculators developed mining towns for the short term: property values soar; cash flow torrents. From the start, Bailey made it clear he wanted a living city. Pascoe’s map has over 50 blocks, with up to 24 25-by-100-yard lots on each. Just as Alonzo Horton was doing on the coast — and Horton’s snub may have helped inspire him — Bailey set aside land for grammar and high schools, churches (“I’ll donate a lot for a church in every block if some denomination will build on it”), a town hall, post office, and jail. He made Main and Washington Streets, which crisscrossed each other, 80 feet wide, the rest 60.

That first year, Bailey gave a lot to anyone who would build at once. Since most slept on the ground, writes James Jaspar, “many a poor miner…would gladly testify to his generosity, backed by a free deed to a lot upon which to build a little shack.”

But when construction had just begun, on April 1 winds swirled in from all four directions. They hit the “mushroom town,” said an observer, with a “fury beyond anything yet known.” Ripped from the ground, tents shot aloft. Brush shanties exploded, as did a general store, its stock splayed across a hillside. Miners clung to trees or boulders until the gale stopped at midnight. The sun rose on acres of debris where a town once stood. The barber, whose building took flight and smashed down on the butcher shop, said he feared the “day of ascension had come.”

On April 3, a reporter from the Union said he couldn’t find the town when he rode in, since “it is very much scattered just now.” But by late spring, a rebuilt Julian City began to flourish, with provision stores and saloons and a population of between 300 and 500. Since the town had no sawmill as yet, lumber had to trek up from San Diego by mule team.

Made from rough boards, the one-room cabins had a stove, a homemade table, bench, and one or two bedsteads. A sense of community grew with each new structure. But on May 25, the district faced a legal storm that threatened to finish what the tempest had begun.

Augustin Olvera owned Rancho Cuyamaca. The boundaries of the 35,500-acre property may, or may not, have extended through Julian City. Olvera (for whom the street in Los Angeles is named) sold his land in 1869, before gold was discovered. The new owners — Robert Allison, Juan Luco, Isaac Hartman, and John Treat — planned to use the site for timber, but changed their minds when Fred Coleman panned the flakes.

On May 25, the quartet called a town meeting. “This is our property,” they announced, pointing to a map as proof. From now on, we demand royalties on all ore extracted from the mines. To cinch their claim, they ordered mine owners to sign agreements. No one recorded the reaction but, writes Leland Fetzer, “it must have been tumultuous, with a threat of violence in the air.”

“The schedule of royalties,” says Helen Ellsberg, “left the miners less than half the returns after milling costs.”

Miners accused Allison and the others of “floating” their boundary over the district, when the original stopped outside, near North Peak.

Luco had a reputation for fraudulent deals, as did Hartman and Treat (who didn’t dare show himself in San Francisco). Their new claim looked like the biggest swipe of all.

The San Diego Union took a stand: “The grabbers are…willing to let the hardworking miners give their time, labor, and means toward the development of mineral wealth, and then not having expended a dollar on their own part, these gentlemen [by] virtue of a pretended grant will graciously accept a fat percentage of the profits.”

Both sides hired surveyors. Also at stake: whoever owned the property would control much of San Diego’s water supply. Ellsberg: “If the land-grabbers obtained this, it could spell disaster for the city.”

The dispute had an immediate result: workers fled, many to the Arizona Territory, where silver deposits had spawned a new town, Tombstone. But since no one could develop property under litigation, settlers also left. Abandoned mines caved in; some farms went fallow.

Hard times hit so fast that, to earn money for the group, James Bailey and Webb Julian worked their way north to the Santa Clara Valley. They sent back what they could to support Drew Bailey and Mike Julian, the best prospectors.

To help pay legal fees, miners assessed themselves; residents auctioned cakes and apple pies. Some mines still operated, but those who stayed had to search anew — outside the boundaries.

Legend has it that Louis Redman went looking for wild grapes when he went over the hill and made the first strike in Banner. Another legend, most likely true: Drew Bailey and Mike Julian were down to their last sack of flour when, on August 30, 1870, Drew chipped away at a rock wall across from Redman’s claim in lower Chariot Canyon. A chunk of blue quartz fell to his feet, spangling with gold!

He sent a letter to James: “Come at once. I have ready relief.” Ready Relief is what he named the mine.

Since the Redman and Ready Relief mines fell outside the contested district, the owners could develop the sites freely. Problem was, they had no cash.

At first they dug by hand, grinding the ore with mortars and an arrastra (a mule- or human-powered drag stone that moved in a circle and crushed quartz). By 1872, the mine had 11 shafts and a 200-foot-long, two-car railroad that carried ore down to a ten-stamp steam mill. Bailey devised an ingenious waterwheel to propel the machine, and James Bailey ran it. He kept “a six-shooter handy to ensure his men gave accurate returns from all crushings.”

Banner City boomed overnight. Saloons (at least seven), two provision stores, a butcher shop, a hotel, and a school served over 1000 new residents and threatened to steal Julian’s population. The way boomtowns leap-frogged each other in those days, it showed every sign of doing just that. But somehow it didn’t.

“It’s anybody’s guess why people came to, or came back to, Julian, after the first mining heyday,” writes historian David Lewis. An obvious reason was geographical. Banner is high desert. It lies in a “rain shadow” (the mountains prevent rainfall). Also, writes Leland Fetzer: “Julian was at the junction of two well-traveled roads [and is] safe from floods, unlike Banner in its narrow canyon. In the long run, Julian, prospering modestly, acquired a growing population [while] Banner languished until, literally, it melted away.”

Another factor, in November 1873, after three years of litigation, judge Benjamin Hayes ruled in favor of the homesteaders. That night, they had a torchlight parade and then torched land-grabber John Treat in effigy. “A poverty-stricken bunch,” wrote James Jaspar, “gathered under the pines to celebrate the victory and take up the task of rebuilding.”

And what was Bailey’s contribution? He laid out the town and gave land for free. He (and eventually his wife Laurie) lived in Julian City through assaults from nature and the law. But he was the opposite of a patriarch, and his refusal to grab credit makes his influence difficult to assess.

Bailey died in 1921 at age 77. His grave, under black oaks in the Julian Pioneer Cemetery, overlooks the town. He was by no means the sole founder. But, put it this way: no one did more to create that possibility. ■

Jeff Smith


Bailey, Richard, “The History of Julian: Featuring the Histories of the Bailey and Redman Families,” interview, ms. distributed privately, June 2005.

Birkett, Charles V., “The Ready Relief Mine,” Journal of San Diego History, October 1963, vol. 9, no. 4.

Botts, Muriel, History of Julian, Julian, 1969.

Fetzer, Leland, A Good Camp: Gold Mines of Julian and the Cuyamacas, San Diego, 2002; The Cuyamacas: The Story of San Diego’s High Country, San Diego, 2009.

Jaspar, James A., “Trail-Blazers and History-Makers of Julian,” ms. at the San Diego History Center.

Lewis, David, “Last Known Address: The History of the Julian Cemetery: True Stories of the Pioneers,” interview, San Diego, 2008.

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