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.”