SBHS News . . .

Coming soon . . .

Thursday, June 18 International Boundary & Water Commission Citizens Forum at the Tijuana Estuary Center, 301 Caspian Way, Imperial Beach, starting at 6:30 pm (NOT at noon as previously reported), will feature a discussion on the history of the Tijuana River Valley by Barbara Zaragoza and Steve Schoenherr. On display will be a map of the historical sites in the valley. See the announcement at

Tuesday, July 21 Our next SBHS meeting will be at the Swiss Club, 2001 Main Street, Chula Vista, on Tuesday, July 21, at 6 pm. David Egger will speak on the history of his family in the Tijuana River Valley. A special treat at this meeting will be a potluck for everyone to enjoy. Please bring with you any dish that you can prepare or purchase. We will have soft drinks and coffee available. For more information on the Swiss immigrants to the South Bay, see the recent exhibit posted at

From the Archives. . . The Peavey family were pioneers of the Tijuana River Valley from 1895 to 1990. Below is an interview Hollis Newell Peavey gave in 1978 to the Imperial Beach Reminder, 12 years before he died in 1990. He was the son of Newell J. Peavey and the grandson of Hollis Monroe Peavey.

Hollis Peavey with old water trough (Imperial Beach Reminder, May 24, 1978)

Hollis Peavey was born in 1901 in a one-room farmhouse in the middle of his father's alfalfa fields south of Imperial Beach. "My granddad went up and down the valley in 1895 with his dowsing stick, found wells, decided to buy land." Grandfather Hollis was from Maine, and he and father Newell are both buried in tiny Mount Olivet cemetery in Nestor. Peavey met his wife, Pansy, at a Nestor Methodist Church social when they were teenagers in the years before the first World War. The Peaveys married in 1922 and, after more than 50 years [in 1978], are still living in Nestor. Their modern ranch-style home at 19th Street overlooks the river valley where Peavey still operates his 80-acre ranch. "The house where I was born used to stand right here," Peavey recollected, standing in from of a wind-blown field not far from 19th Street and less than a mile from the Tijuana foothills. "My father moved to a much larger house down here in 1905," he recalled, "and the little building in which I was born became a bunkhouse for dad's ranch hands." Newell Peavey planted alfalfa, sugar beets, hay, corn and barley on his pleasant little farm, working hard but enjoying the uncomplicated rural life celebrated in Norman Rockwell paintings. He was among the Tijuana valley's early farmers, and moral questions were answered with calm certitude and neighborliness was a code of selfless conduct. Of all the buildings and fixtures that Peavey's grandfather built on the old ranch, there remains only an abandoned watering trough that Hollis Peavey, in one of his puckish moods, has filled with a few sluggish goldfish. "Oh, yes, here's something else that was around before I was born," he explained, as he pointed out a gnarled pepper tree which he and his brothers, George and Alvln, used to climb in when they were kids. Badly damaged by insects and the increasingly salty topsoil, the ancient tree has somehow escaped the recurrent floods that have plagued valley farmers since the early days, several of these inundations having caused full-fledged catastrophes. Hollis Peavey was a teenager at the Oneonta Village school when he witnessed the decimation of the Tijuana valley in the legendary 1916 flood, a deluge supposedly brought on by Hatfield the rainmaker when the San Diego City Council hired him to end a long drought. "My father's house was saved by the strangest sort of accident," Peavey explained. "The old Hollister Street bridge was swept away by the flood, but it crashed into our cowbarn and shielded the main house from the rampaging floodwaters." The Peavey house survived until 1922 when another calamitous flood swept it into the river, an event which helped to persuade Hollis and Pansy Peavey to seek high ground closer to Imperial Beach. The special problems of farming the river lands, the annual floods and the worsening soil conditions, prompted the rest of the Peavey family to give up farm life for other pursuits. Hollis' sister Mary moved away, and is now retired in Riverside. One half-brother, Clarence, lives in El Centro while another, Jessie, is retired in Boise, Idaho. But Hollis Peavey has remained to farm the troubled Tijuana river flood plain, aided part of the time by two of his children who live nearby in Nestor. "It's going to take two months of tractoring to flatten out the land this time," Peavey said after the recent flooding which accumulated tons of silt and detritus from the Tijuana garbage dump on his farm. "We used to have beautiful stands of willow, cottonwood and sycamore all up and down the river," he explained, "but none of this has been able to survive modern times." The principal victim of modern times seems to be the agricultural lifestyle of the Tijuana River Valley, a way of life now vanishing amid government condemnations of land for flood control, increased residential zoning and the creation of a border park area. Hollis Peavey used to earn five dollars a day from the U.S. government to patrol the hogwire fence along the frontier, but prowling helicopters and computer-linked patrol wagons now haunt the border lands a growing technological disruption that unsettles livestock and terrorises the coyotes, jack rabbits and ground squirrels which make up the local fauna. What Peavey regrets most is not the disappearance of the ancestral farmlands, nor the disruption of local ecology, but the lack of communal values among the people who have poured into the Imperial Beach area since the early 1950s. "When one neighbor was in some kind of jam," he recalled, ''everybody volunteered to help him out of it. It went without speaking. Can you imagine that happening nowadays?" On the eve of his 77th birthday Hollis Peavey discusses his own life and the history of his pioneer family with noticeable pride. Only once did a trace of nostalgia disrupt his engaging recitation of life in the early days of the valley. "There was a time, when I knew everybody in Imperial Beach, Nestor and Otay," he said, a slight tone of world-weariness and sadness in his voice. "Now I hardly know anyone at all. Strange, isn't it?"

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