An American Family History

Cocktail Springs

The McKellar Ranch
at Cocktail Springs in 1920s
The Public Land Survey System is used to survey and spatially identify land parcels in the United States.
  • Range is the distance east or west from a referenced principal meridian in units of six miles.
  • A Section is approximately a one-square-mile block of land. There are 36 sections in a township.
  • A Township is a parcel of land of 36 square miles or a measure of the distance north or south from a referenced baseline in units of six miles.
  • Eliza and Ellar McKellar lived together at Cocktail Springs and ran the stage coach station there. They cultivated about 60 acres and had a dwelling house, barn, fencing and other out houses with a total value of about two hundred dollars.

    Hester Miller said "They called it Cocktail Springs for the wonderful springs on the property." The pool Agua Zarca was first mentioned in 1769 by the diarist of the Portola expedition as a medium-sized pool of fresh water. The property is east of Del Mar and south of Rancho Santa Fe near Carmel Valley. Their land was Lot 2, Section 18, Township 14 South, Range 3 West, San Bernardino Meridian.

    An old newspaper article titled The Brawler of Cocktail Springs by Terry MacMullen said 

    It was at the adobe buildings of the old station that the stage from San Diego made its first stop on the way to Los Angeles via San Juan Capistrano. The stage started out a 6 in the morning from the Casa de Bandini in Old Town, only it was the Cosmopolitan Hotel in those days and with good luck it made San Juan by midnight. 

    It ran on the trail called the Los Angeles Road, Fremont's Road, Kearny’s Trail, or the Military Road. It was Kearny's Trail because it had been established by General Stephen W. Kearny Expedition of 1846 to California.

    According to their homestead application, the McKellars moved to the land on October 21, 1876. Nancy Ewing wrote that

    when they moved to the homestead, there was already an adobe on the property, perhaps the house noted on the 1872 map as Blue’s. McKellar built an addition at the front part of the house, and behind it he put a milk house and a blacksmith shop. His house, with its large dining room and kitchen served to accommodate hungry travelers, and he could also put up overnight guests. Nearby in the clearing was the corral for the stage horses.

    The Homestead Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862. It gave an applicant 160 acres of undeveloped land outside of the original colonies. Anyone who had never taken up arms against the United States could file an application. They had to live on the land and make improvements to receive title.
      The homestead witnesses were Joseph S. Mannasse, William J. Lyons and John and Felix McEngle. Joseph S. Mannasse was a friend and neighbor of Alfred Seeley who owned the stagecoach line
    Order your own copy of Del Mar Looking Back.

    Seeley's four horse stage left at 5 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from San Diego. It stopped at San Dieguito (Cocktail Springs), Encinitas, San Luis Rey, Las Flores, San Juan Capistrano (where the spent the night), Anaheim, and Los Nietos (Whittier) and arrived the second day at 7 p.m. in Los Angeles. The trip could be perilous and drivers were known as "jehus,"from the Bible passage ". . .the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously."    
    San Diego, California was incorporated in 1850, the same year California became a state. The original Old Town was located several miles inland. In the late 1860s, Alonzo Horton promoted a move to New Town on the bay. New Town grew quickly and became the city center. In 1915, San Diego hosted the Panama-California Exposition.



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    ©Roberta Tuller 2020
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