Theodore and Mary Bailey were some of the last of the western pioneers. Married in 1868 they traveled by covered wagon (kids and all) from Kentucky to San Diego County, settling in Mesa Grande below Palomar Mountain around 1884.
Trained as a surveyor, Theodore soon found work with the regional U.S. Geologic Survey group. In this capacity he traveled extensively through the undeveloped areas of San Diego County.
It was while setting survey markers on Palomar Mountain that he came upon a beautiful little valley just over the summit. It reminded him of his native Kentucky, with its dark cool forests and rich grassy flats. The valley was host to a series of clear artesian springs that still produce some of the best water to be found anywhere. He quickly filed a homestead claim for the valley and moved his young family up the mountain in the fall of 1887.
Using mostly the resources around them, the family quickly built a log cabin and prepared for the winter to come. And it turned out to be quite a winter. They nearly had their shake roof cave in on them as the snow fall topped 60 inches. More than once the boys spent the entire night shoveling the falling snow off the little cabin’s roof.
The following spring of 1888 Theodore, Mary and their five young children were hard at work building the new family ranch house across the valley from their log cabin. With the help of the local Native Americans they dug clay from natural deposits near the building site. This material was formed into adobe bricks which were used to construct the single story home. The three vacated clay pits were then lined with rock. Quickly filling with water, these covered wells served the household for many years. Almost as soon as their home was constructed, Theodore assumed the role of post master for the mountain.
The Bailey house now served as the local post office and the center of the tiny community, note the small sign on the right of the porch which reads “POST OFFICE”.
It was during this time that folks traveling up the steep mountain grade on horse back would stop by the Bailey place, and often be invited to stay over for a few days. Even in those early years, the Bailey place became a welcome rest stop for travelers in the back country.
Theodore was known for his hospitality just as Mary Bailey was becoming famous for her baked goods. Traveling 60 miles by wagon to the County Fair each year, her Palomar Rhubarb pie took the 1st place award in 1899.
Bailey’s Palomar Resort
Theodore, Mary and family eventually built up the place to a first rate back country resort destination. By the1920s Bailey’s Palomar Resort had taken shape. In addition to Campo Contento – the original automobile camp- the resort now boasted furnished tents on wood decks and small cabins. The original adobe homestead was enlarged to three stories and called the Palomar Mountain Hotel. The townshipof Palomar Mountain was now at the Bailey Place. Visitors would find Bailey’s General Store and Soda Fountain, the Palomar Post Office, a hand crank gas stationand the new Dance Hall building (these are all still alive and well at the resort over 80 years later).
For activities, the discerning resort guest could choose from lawn-tennis, an eighteen hole golf course (with nine holes out and nine holes back) horseback riding, hiking, shuffle board, or a dip in the swimming hole. Having then worked up an appetite, guests could partake of hardy back country meals at the resort restaurant. Fresh meats were kept on ice, home grown produce graced each plate, which was then topped off with fresh baked breads and pastries. As the sun set, the resort would begin to glow under soft electric lights (provided by a gasoline powered generator system). Guests would then attend the event of the evening – a Country Dance (with live music) or hay-ride and bonfire (before the days of burning permits).
Love & Romance at Bailey’s
The guests would often arrive via Bailey’s Palomar Stage. The journey was by automobile from Oceanside to the base of Palomar, and then by horse drawn wagon up the rugged west grade to Bailey’s Resort.
It was on just such a trip in 1913 that Adalind Shaul, a young school teacher from Clarinda Iowa, met the charming and dapper Dr. Milton Bailey – Theodore and Mary’s youngest son and now a newly graduated DDS from the University of Southern California.
Milton was raised on the homestead, receiving his early education under the trees at Sunday School flat. After attending San Diego High School (class of ’09) he was accepted at prestigious USC in the modest but growing town of Los Angles. Milton attended school during the academic year, working at the resort each summer while putting himself through the College of Dentistry. He planned to open his new practice in San Diego in the fall and was working at the resort that summer.
Well, it seems that the day of Miss Shaul’s arrival via Oceanside, the regular stage driver was unable to make the run. So it was Milton who took the horse drawn stage down the steep and wild west grade of Palomar to pick up the new Hotel quests. By chance, the demure Miss Shaul rode up the mountain seated by Milton’s side while the other Resort guests rode in the back. Apparently it was love at first sight for the new dentist and the visiting school teacher. They were engaged that fall and married later in the year.
And There’s More!
From the 1890s right up to today folks have been enjoying our unique mountain environment – and have just kept coming back for more. We have had scores of weddings over the years, both in and out of doors. Our historic cottages, luxury campsites are world class and unique to SoCal. Plus our 125 year old, three story family homestead and Formally Palomar Hotel building is now a vacation rental home we call The Bailey House. It has been completely restored and we are quite proud of the new look in our rustic setting.
For more Palomar history and great pictures from the old days, please refer to my book Palomar Mountain (2009, Arcadia Press) available here at Baileys, Amazon.com, and fine booksellers everywhere.
Thanks for stopping by! – Brad Bailey