If you’re driving around the industrial area of Poway, you’re liable to cross Stowe Road. You might also encounter Kirkham Court, Kirkham Road and Kirkham Way. These roads wind above and around Beeler and Sycamore Canyons. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries these canyons held a little community called Stowe.
Stowe had its own post office from 1889 to 1905 and its own school from 1890 to 1903.
The 1897 Directory of San Diego City and County lists 71 separate towns, with brief descriptions of each and the names of selected residents. Some of the town names are recognizable to us today, such as Chula Vista and Escondido. Others are communities that no longer exist, and haven’t for decades, like Almond, Bostonia, and Stowe. I refer to these places as “the lost towns of San Diego County.”
The 1897 listing for Stowe had this brief description: “Stowe is a farming section, about 23 miles from San Diego and six miles from Poway, on the road from Poway to El Cajon valley.”
That description was followed by the names of 14 residents and their occupations. Eleven of them were men, all farmers. Three were women: two schoolteachers and one postmistress.
Among the farmers was B.F. Kirkham.
Benjamin Franklin Kirkham came to California from Colorado in 1891 with his wife Fredericka Kirkham and four sons, 10-year-old Frank Kirkham, 7-year-old twins Isaac and Andrew Kirkham, and 4-year-old Fred Kirkham.
Benjamin’s son Andrew grew up to be a hard working farmer, but he was also an amateur historian and writer as well. When he died in November 1964 at the age of 80, an obituary in the Poway News stated that he “kept notebooks crammed with data and humorous anecdotes about Valley goings-on.”
A few years before his death Andrew summarized the information in his notebooks and put it into manuscripts which are now in the archives of the Poway Historical and Memorial Society’s museum. These manuscripts provide a wealth of detail about the Kirkham family and their lives in Stowe and the broader community of Poway into which Stowe was eventually absorbed.
Here’s an undated photo of Andrew Kirkham at work, courtesy of the Poway Historical Museum archives. Andy is on the left: