In my never-ending exploration of all things San Diego, I found a plaque along a walkway in Balboa Park. Looks like this:
I have walked this path hundreds of times yet never saw this plaque even though it is on a good-sized rock. However, as you can see in the picture, it looks like the vegetation that once covered it has been pruned back.
Or maybe, just maybe, it has been in storage from when the walkway was expanded a couple of decades ago and now has been returned to its original location. I know the City of San Diego often does that. Sadly, sometimes things never get returned to the original location…..
So, of course, I had to jump on the research wagon to find out more.
We know from the plaque that Agoston Haraszthy was born in 1812, was the first Sheriff of San Diego, and died in 1869….
I was sure that my 762-page book, San Diego Trivia 2 by Evelyn Kooperman, would provide quite a bit of information. I mean, after all, he was San Diego’s first Sheriff!
I was excited when the index said that Agoston Haraszthy was on page 6. A full page all to himself!
Sadly, the entry’s not even about Agoston Haraszthy. It’s about Roy Bean. Yes, Judge Roy Bean. Haraszthy is casually mentioned. Here is the entry:
Roy Bean. Around the mid-1800s, San Diegans decided to be truly civilized, they needed a jail. Bids went out, and Agoston Haraszthy, who was sheriff and town marshal, was picked to do the job. He hired someone to build a 20-by-50-foot room of cobblestones, which wee set in mortar that contained no cement. According to legend, the first prisoner in the 1852 cell was Roy Bean, nephew of Mayor Joshua Bean. This was the same Roy Bean who was later known as “Judge” Roy Bean, famous for his “Law West of the Pecos.” No soon was Roy incarcerated than he began digging in the soft mortar with either a jackknife or a spoon, and quickly made his way out.
I wondered what a Google search might provide. I was not hopeful.
A Google search took me to the greatest encyclopedia in the history of the world: Wikipedia (where I happen to be an editor who can make edits stick permanently). Following are highlights of his life, and the link to his Wikipedia page follows this list.
- August 30, 1812—Born to a Hungarian noble family in Pest, Kingdom of Hungary, Austrian Empire. Pest has been part of Budapest since 1873.
- January 6, 1833—Married Eleonóra Dedinszky in Bács-Bodrog County, Hungary. The Dedinszkys were a Polish family but had lived in Hungary for many centuries, being accepted into Hungarian nobility in 1272. Agoston and Eleonora had six children.
- March 1840—Traveled to the United States with a cousin, making their way through Austria, Germany, and England, crossed the Atlantic Ocean to New York, and made their way to Wisconsin via the Hudson River, the Erie Canal, and the Great Lakes.
- 1840—Founded the town of Széptáj, now knosheim winery
- roxbury winwn as Sauk City, which was the first incorporated village in the State of Wisconsin.
- 1842—Returned to Hungary to bring his parents, wife, and children to Wisconsin as permanent residents of the United States.
- 1842-1849—Built mills, raised corn and other grains, and kept sheep, pigs, and horses. Kept a store and opened a brickyard. Many of the oldest houses still standing in Sauk City were built with bricks from Haraszthy’s brickyard. Owned and operated a the first commercial steamboat to carry passengers and freight on the Mississippi River. Donated land on which the first Roman Catholic church and school in Sauk City were built. Planted grapes and dug wine cellars on the east side of the Wisconsin River in what became the Town of Roxbury. The cellars and slopes are today home to the Lake Wisconsin AVA and the Wollersheim Winery, the second oldest winery in the United States.
- March 1849—He and his family left for California, not for the gold rush, but to settle in San Diego and plant a vineyard. Elected captain of the wagon train that traveled the Santa Fe Trail, arriving in San Diego in December 1849.
- 1850-1868—Formed a partnership with Juan Bandini, a prominent Spanish-Californian in San Diego (see my blog post about Casa de Bandini). Planted fruit orchards, operated a livery stable and stagecoach line, built a state hospital, and opened a butcher shop. Organized a syndicate to subdivide a large section of the San Diego Bay shore into streets, parks, and building lots, called Middletown. Planted a vineyard on a tract of land near the San Diego River. Led an unsuccessful movement to divide California into two states.
- April 1, 1850, elected Sheriff of San Diego County. Also served as city marshal. In his capacity as a private contractor, built a jail for the city of San Diego, which was completed in 1851.
- September 1851—Elected to the California State Assembly from San Diego, serving from January 5 to May 4, 1852.
- March 25, 1852—Bought land in San Francisco near Mission Dolores and near Crystal Springs and planted vineyards. Found the climate too foggy to ripen the grades.
- April 1854—Haraszthy became the first U.S. assayer at tne newly opened San Francisco Mint.
- 1856—Bought a small vineyard northeast of Sonoma.
- 1857—Founded Buena Vista Winery, the oldest commercial winery in California.
- 1858—Wrote a 19-page “Report on Grapes and Wine of California,” published by the California State Agricultural Society. Now recognized as the first treatise on winemaking written and published in California, and praised as the “first American explication of traditional European winemaking practices.”
- April 23, 1862—Elected President of State Agricultural Society. Contributed articles to newspapers and made speeches to gatherings of agriculturalists. Entered his wines in the competition of the California State Fair and received the highest awards.
- 1863—Incorporated the Buena Vista Vinicultural Society, the first large corporation in California (perhaps in the United States) organized for the express purpose of engaging in agriculture.
- 1864—Harper’s Magazine proclaimed that Buena Vista was “the largest establishment of the kind in the world.
- 1861—Appointed by California Governor John G. Downey as a commissioner to report to the Legislature on the “ways and means best adapted to promote the improvement and growth of the grape-vine in California.” Traveled through France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Hungary before returning to California in December 1861 with more than 100,000 cuttings of more than 350 different varieties of vines. It is a disputed claim that Haraszthy brought the first Zinfandel vines to California.
- 1868—Left California for Nicaragua. He formed a partnership with a German-born physician and surgeon named Theodore Wassmer and began to develop a large sugar plantation near the seaside port of Corinto, Nicaragua, where he planned to produce rum and sell it in American markets.
- July 6, 1869—Haraszthy disappeared. His body was never found, and it is unknown whether he fell into a river on his property and was washed out to sea, or was dragged under the water by alligators which infested the area.
- March 2007—Inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame by the Culinary Institute of America.
All I have to say is, Wow! I have read so many books on San Diego history, and this is the first I ever have heard of Agoston Haraszthy, his relationship with San Diego, his entrepreneurship, and his significant vintner history. Wow, oh wow. Immigrants…. Thank goodness Twitler wasn’t around then.