Hello, my name is Carol Crafts and I am a docent for the Sycamore Canyon/Goodan Ranch Open Space Preserves and the author of Goodan Ranch and Sycamore Canyon: A History of the Land: Then and Now.
I became involved with the Goodan Ranch when I met a granddaughter of the Goodan Family, through a program we were both involved in. While researching the history of the area for docents at the Preserve, I became fascinated by the township of Stowe.
Stowe was located at the top of Sycamore Canyon. In the 1880s, families began settling in the area southeast of Poway and north of Santee along a well traveled route used by farmers taking produce to El Cajon as well as the train stops in Foster and Santee. This route was recognized in 2003 as the Stowe Millennium Trail. Homesteaders in Sycamore Canyon hoped to see the railroad go through Poway and connect them to the surrounding areas.
In 1884 families began to file homestead claims at land offices in Los Angles, which meant that they had already been living on the land for several years. In 1889 a post office opened in Stowe receiving mail twice weekly. By 1903 the office had 32 patrons.
1890 saw the opening of a school at the top of the canyon for the homesteader’s children. The school originally served the children of eight families in the area. By 1903 the Stowe school was closed and students went to either the Poway or Santee school districts. The school house was sold for $25 and the wood was used to build another dwelling. 1905 saw the post office close as well. While the town of Stowe remained on Triple A maps of the area until 1914, it was quickly dwindling away as families moved on.
Why did this town, which seemed so promising just a few years before, disappear so quickly? After years of researching, I believe that the disappearance of Stowe is related to several different factors which came together to make Stowe a difficult place to live. The railroad spur which had been planned to go through Poway, Stowe, and Ramona was canceled in 1896 leaving Stowe isolated and hard to reach. This time period also saw some extreme weather in the area with alterations between torrential rains and drought making farming a difficult endeavor. The twin challenges of uncertain weather and difficult transportation made Stowe a less than ideal place to live and many families from the Stowe area saw children marry and move into either Poway or Santee. Charlie Bottroff, son of the Stowe Post Master and Post Mistress, married Josie Fischer, daughter of the former Stowe Postmistress, and moved to Santee as a blacksmith. Other children moved to Poway or Escondido.
In the 1930’s, the Goodan family bought most of the Stowe land to add to their ranch. Today the Goodan Ranch and surrounding area are jointly managed by the cities of Poway, Santee and the California Department of Fish and Game and is known as Sycamore Canyon/Goodan Ranch Open Spaces Preserves. The Preserves contain more than 10 miles of hiking trails and allows horseback riding and bicycling. They are also home to a wide variety of plant and animal life. If you enjoy hiking, biking, or riding and are interested in San Diego County’s natural habitat please come and visit the preserves. For more historical information about the township of Stowe or the Goodan Ranch, please visit the San Diego Historical Society, the Poway Historical Society, the Santee Historical Society, the Lakeside Historical Society Archives, or the El Cajon Historical Society. These wonderful institutions have made my own research into Stowe possible and hold the history of San Diego for those who care to look.