Friday, July 1, 2016 / by Kimo Quance
What grew into modern day Santee first started around 1779, after the Spanish arrived in California. The establishment of the Mission de Alcala by Father Junipero Serra, gave rise to the first major irrigation project on the Pacific Coast, the iconic Old Mission Dam.
Over the next century, the surrounding land was slowly carved up and changed owners, one of whom was the businessman George Cowles. Naming the 4,000 acre tract he bought, Cowlestown, he divided the land into two ranches. He planted grapevines, olives, fruit trees, raisins; he's even credited for introducing pomegranate and magnolia trees to the region.
He soon became known as "Raisin King of the US", due to the high quality of his produce. He died in 1887 and his wife remarried a local developer, Milton Santee. Santee got its first school in 1891 and in 1893, the town voted to change its name from Cowlestown to Santee.
'The McKoon Effect'
In another part of town, attorney Hosmer P. McKoon had bought 9,000 acres in 1885 and was reselling them in smaller tracts. This reselling is partly responsible for the population explosion that was soon to follow.
After his death in 1894, a large portion of his ranch was sold to the Scripps family in 1898. They sold over 2,000 acres to the U.S military during world War II, who used it as a training ground in the region. 4,300 acres were sold to a development company, which helped to attract even more people to the area.
Next Stop: Incorporation
By the 1970s, Santee's population had grown to over 25,000 inhabitants. The growth didn't go unnoticed, as nearby El Cajon had become keen to annex parts of the town. This led concerned residents to form the San Diego County Santee Citizen's Planning Committee in 1979. Together, they drafted the Santee Community Plan to pursue successful incorporation and secure a recognized City status.
Their first attempt in 1976, as the Santee Citizens Planning Committee, was rejected by the State. But on the first of December, 1980, Santee became incorporated as a City.
Since then, the City of Santee has grown from being a 'a bedroom community' to become a diverse and multifaceted modern city. We're proud of the history of Santee; all the way from the early Mexican and Spanish settlers, to the ranchers of old, and to becoming a bustling town with one of the lowest crime rates in the county.
What are you waiting for? Visit Santee for the lovely weather, come and see a slice of history. Who knows, you may end up staying.
For information about homes in the area, contact the Quance Group on 619-324-5397.