El Cajon History Essay

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Two historical names keynote the early development of the modern commercial municipality of El Cajon, "The Big Box Valley" and "The Corners". Its growth is directly linked to its initial role as the agrarian heartland and communications center of San Diego County.

In the early part of the nineteenth century the explorations of the mission padres for pasture land led them to El Cajon Valley. The surrounding foothills were a barrier to straying cattle as well as a watershed to gather the sparse rainfall for verdant grasslands along the valley floor. For years the pasture lands supported the cattle herds of the mission and its native Indian converts.

With independence from Spain, the Spanish Dons began to cast envious eyes on the vast holdings of the Roman Catholic Missions. With secularization, California Governor Pio Pico in 1845 confiscated the lands of Mission San Diego de Alcala and granted the eleven square leagues of El Cajon Valley to Dona Maria Antonio Estudillo, wife of Don Miguel de Pedrorena, to repay a $500 government obligation. The grant included generally the present communities of Lakeside, Santee, Bostonia, Glenview, Johnstown, El Cajon, and part of Grossmont.

Recorded history affords scant evidence to establish a beginning date for either a permanent Spanish or American community in the valley. The Pedrorenas continued their residence in San Diego and their absentee proprietorship did not foster any economic development. Scattered homes of adobe construction were erected in the area during the mid 19th century, but the permanency of their occupancy is open to question. The establishment of a school for six children in 1870 in a homestead at Park and Magnolia offered conclusive proof that a permanent American settlement had been established.

What were the key factors which shaped El Cajon's destiny? First, there was a transfer of title from the permanent holdings of the mission to the changing hands of the Pedrorenas and their successors. This permitted the so-called highest and best use of the land in commercial terms. Then there were the natural corridors which made Main and Magnolia the crossroads from San Diego to points east and to the gold mining operations in Julian to the north. Third, there were the real estate developments following the Civil War, initiated by a San Francisco entrepreneur named Issac Lankershim. The native instincts of a New England emigrant, Amaziah L. Knox, for the economic value of the corner lot resulted in the erection of El Cajon's first commercial building at Magnolia and Main in 1876. Finally, the phenomenon called direction of growth laid a path of post World War ll's exploding urbanization along Mission Valley, through La Mesa and El Cajon.

Following the American Civil War, migrations of settlers sought homesteads on the public lands of the West. However, the poorly defined boundaries and legal confusion of Pio Pico's Rancho Cajon land grant to the Pedrorenas were to be a source of considerable dispute. As a consequence, historical accounts frequently refer to these pioneering homesteaders by the less noble term of " squatters."

Lankershim bought the bulk of the Pedrorena's Rancho Cajon holdings in 1868, employing Major Levi Chase as his attorney. Seven years of litigation ensued before title was cleared and settlements negotiated with the squatters. Lankershim subdivided his land, selling large tracts for wheat ranching. However, It was soon discovered that the soil and climate would support almost any crop. Within a few years the Big Box Valley was a flourishing produce center for citrus, avocados, grapes, and raisins. In fact, the suitability of the clear sunny climate for drying raisins was a major real estate sales "pitch."

The gold mining operations in Julian brought a steady trek of freight traffic hauling equipment and supplies and ore between San Diego and Julian. The natural line of drift led the teamsters down the old Mussey grade (now covered by San Vicente Reservoir), south to the present site of Magnolia and Main, then west through the Grossmont Pass into San Diego., Knox had moved into the Valley in 1869 to build Lankershim's house and manage his wheat ranch. Noting the teamsters' habit of camping overnight at the present site of Main and Magnolia, he erected a seven room building as a combination residence and hotel on its southwest corner in 1876. Small additions were followed by a large two story annex In 1882.

Knox's Corner was to be the nucleus of El Cajon's business district for the next seventy years. By the turn of the century the two blocks of Main Street, astride Magnolia, boasted two hotels, a general store, meat market, post office, pharmacy, harness shop, blacksmith shop, and sundry smaller shops and offices.

At the general election on November 12, 1912, 123 of 158 electors voted to incorporate a 1 1/4 square mile area centering on the historic corners of Main and Magnolia. The board of five trustees met the following week to elect one of their number as president and appoint a city attorney. Regular meetings were scheduled for the first Wednesday of each month. However, special meetings to get the administration organized and functioning were not infrequent. Committees were appointed for Streets, Alleys, Water and Lights, Finance and Licenses, and Health, Morals, and Sanitation. In addition to the elected positions of Treasurer and Clerk, appointments were made for a Marshal and Tax Collector, Engineer, Recorder, Superintendent of Streets, two Deputy Marshals, and a Fire Chief. Ordinances and resolutions were passed to fix salaries or other compensation, provide for the grading and sprinkling of streets, contract for bridge construction and mapping the City, banning cattle and hogs from the central city, and outlawing horseracing down Main Street.

For the next thirty years El Cajon followed the pattern of orderly development typical of rural/ small town America. By 1940 the population had slightly more than doubled to a figure of 1471. In the five years following World War II, the winds of change became apparent. While land area increased slightly to 1.67 square miles, in-migration increased the population to 5,600. In 1949 the City Council began to study the feasibility of the council-manager form of government to meet the day to day administrative and long range planning requirements of a growing metropolitan area.

The office of City Manager was instituted in 1950 in time to meet the most explosive decade of growth in El Cajon's history, or for that matter, the history of any comparable community in the nation. By 1960 the incorporated area was to increase five-fold to 9.8 square miles and population six-fold to 37,618.

However, this remarkable growth was not accomplished without its trauma. Fiscal resources for capital investments necessary to keep municipal services abreast of geometrically increasing demand were sorely strained. Substantial capital outlays were needed in virtually every department: Police, Fire, Sewage Treatment, Public Works, Parks and Recreation and General Government. In 1959 the Council and Manager commissioned a research study to assess the present and probable future structure of the City. Given the unforeseen developments in double digit inflation and federal revenue sharing of the 70's, the projections of this study were to prove remarkably prophetic.

Integrating these research findings and projections into its master plans, during the next decade El Cajon moved ahead on a number of significant projects. Acquisition of additional fire fighting equipment resulted in much improved insurance ratings. A dozen key street improvement projects solved the traffic congestion problems which were beginning to surface throughout the incorporated area. A cross service agreement with the San Diego Metropolitan Sewer District and construction of a major outfall line eliminated the need to rely on septic tanks which were saturating the subsoil to the danger point. The timely purchase of property on Vernon Way in the early 50's facilitated the economic construction of Public Works maintenance and storage facilities.

As the City nears the end of the twentieth century its growth is considerably more measured and orderly than that of the frantic fifties. Guided by a prudent and fiscally responsible civic leadership. It has weathered its rapid growth period with a balanced economy and a governmental structure which offers full municipal services. In 1976, during our nation's bicentennial, a new civic center was opened to serve the citizens of El Cajon, lending added luster to the historic corners of Main and Magnolia. Our most recent additions to this area are the new Headquarters Fire Station and the Neighborhood Center on Lexington and Douglas Avenues, respectively. One might pause to speculate on the thoughts of a sturdy New England emigrant when, a century earlier, he erected El Cajon's first commercial structure diagonally across the street.*

Below are some interesting books and publications about out history and about our past:

 "The History of El Cajon - Valley of Opportunity"  by ElDonna Lay

"Timeline of El Cajon Fire Department 1892-2000"  by E. C. Jarell

"El Cajon California 1967" by the Chamber of Commerce

"Annual Report of 1957" by the City of El Cajon

"History of El Cajon Officials 1912- 2012"by the City of El Cajon



Grateful acknowledgment is made to the late Mrs. Hazel Sperry, former Secretary and Curator of El Cajon Historical Society, for much of the source material upon which this historical account is based.​

Posted here is a complete overview of GED® prep classes and testing locations in the El Cajon, California, area.

California uses the new GED® exam for its issuing of HSE (High School Equivalency) diplomas, but also offers its residents two alternative HSE testing methods for that purpose, the HiSET and the TASC exam. Be aware that testing sites decide which test(s) they use. For eligibility requirements visit GED in California, and you can check also our entirely free practice tests for your GED exam.

Face to face testing

If you want to earn your GED diploma, be sure to appear at an official GED testing site fully prepared. The below-shown prep sites will help you to become fully prepared to take state’s high school equivalency exam effectively. Testing over the internet is NOT possible and must be done face-to-face at certified testing centers.


The GED exam tests standard subject areas that students learn in high school and the GED exam now includes four tests that cover the academic subject fields of literacy, math, science, and social studies. HiSET and TASC test the same level of expertise and have two literacy tests (1 on writing and 1 on reading), so five in total, and are not modular.

GED Requirements in California

El Cajon GED preparation classes

Foothills Ad. Education Ctr
1550 Melody Lane | El Cajon | CA 92019 | Ph: (619) 401.4122

East County Career Center (Grossmont Adult Ed)
924 E Main Street | El Cajon | CA 92021 | Ph: (619) 590.3950

El Cajon Ad. Education Ctr
1035 E Madison Avenue | El Cajon | CA 92021 | Ph: (619) 401.9750

East Co. Transitional Living Ctr / Men’s Discipleship Training Program
1527 E Main Street | El Cajon | CA 92021 | Ph: (619) 442.0457

Phoenix High School Independent Study Program
1600 Cuyamaca Street | El Cajon | CA 92020 | Ph: (619) 956.4625

Adult Literacy Program Center (LEARN) – S. Diego County Library El Cajon
201 East Douglas Avenue | El Cajon | CA 92020 | Ph: (619) 588.3740

Career Training Native NetWorks (Southern CA American Indian Resource Center)
239 East Main Street | El Cajon | CA 92020 | Ph: (619) 328.0676

Family Self-Sufficiency Program – Home Start East
131 Avocado Avenue | El Cajon | CA 92020 | Ph: (619) 229.3660
Only for referrals for GED Programs

Do we have to update any details? Here is our contact page.

GED Requirements in California

Locations around El Cajon (cities by alphabet)

Camp Barrett
21077 Lyons Valley Road | Alpine | CA 91901 | Ph: (619) 401.4956

Descanso Detention Facility HSE Program
7878 Campbell Ranch Road | Alpine | CA 91901 | Ph: (619) 659.5530
Unavailable to the public

Manzanita SCTCA Tribal Training Program
39 A Crestwood Road | Boulevard | CA 91905 | Ph: (619) 766.3236

Rancho Del Campo High School
957 Forest Gate Road | Campo | CA 91906 | Ph: (619) 401.3560

Mountain Empire Adult Education
31360 Highway 94 | Campo | CA 91905 | Ph: (619) 478.2735

Phoenix House Academy
23981 Sherilton Valley Road | Descanso | CA 91916 | Ph: (619) 445.1062

El Centro Adult Education (Central Union Ad. School)
1302 South Third Street | El Centro | CA 92243 | Ph: (760) 336.4555
For all El Centro options visit: GED Courses in and around El Centro CA

North Co. Educational Opp. Ctr Escondido GED Classes
 1951 East Valley Pkwy | Escondido | CA 92025 | Ph: (760) 744.1150 x 8110
For all options in the Escondido area visit Escondido GED Courses

Helix Adult Center / HSE Program
7323 University Avenue | La Mesa | CA 91941 |  Ph: (619) 337.6190

Poway USD Adult Education HSE Classes
13626 Twin Peaks Road | Poway | CA 92064 | Ph: (858) 668.4024

Montecito High School HSE Classes
720 9th Street | Ramona | CA 92065 | Ph: (760) 787.4334

San Diego Community Coll. HSE Classes
1400 Park Boulevard | San Diego | CA 92101 | Ph: (619) 388.4600
For a complete listing of San Diego area locations go to San Diego GED Courses

Grossmont Union HS District Adult Ed. Program
9368 Oakbourne Road | Santee | CA 92071 | Ph: (619) 590.3900

Santana Adult Center – HSE program
9915 N Magnolia Avenue | Santee | CA 92071 | Ph: (619) 956.0388

Mt. Miguel Adult Center School
1800 Sweetwater Road | Spring Valley | CA 91977 | Ph: (619) 644.8420

Do you want some information adjusted? Any comments? Want a GED prep facility listed? Feel free to contact us here.

GED Requirements in California

El Cajon area GED-HiSET-TASC testing centers

Foothills Ad. Education Ctr HSE Testing
1550 Melody Lane | El Cajon | CA 92019 | Ph: (619) 401.4122

Rancho Del Campo High School GED Testing
957 Forrest Gate Road | Campo |  CA 91906 | Ph: (619) 401.3560

MiraCosta College (discontinued)
Barnard Drive | Rm 3102 | Oceanside | CA 92056 | Ph: (760) 795.6685

San Diego County Office of Education
6401 Linda Vista Road | San Diego | CA 92111 | Ph: (858) 571.7224

Check as well: Chula Vista area GED Programs

GED Requirements in California

The GED is modular

The GED passing standard was recently (at the beginning of 2016) adjusted from 150 points down to 145 on each of the four GED tests. To learn more, visit our news posts. The GED is modular: you can take one subtest (module), or more, when you are all set to do so, and your scores have a 2-year validity.

GED alternatives – HiSET and TASC

In California, residents can now also choose to take the TASC or the HiSET exam to acquire their high school equivalency diploma. These two alternative examinations are still offered in both paper and computer formats and are cheaper that the now fully ‘digitalized’ GED exam. State GED test centers have the freedom to decide which of the now three HSE assessment programs they will utilize, so be wise and contact a testing center near you for possibilities.

The TASC requires you to attain at least 500 points on each sub-test (where 800 is the max score), and 2 points or higher (max is 8) for your essay. To be successful at the HiSET, your minimum score on each sub-test needs to be 8 (out of 20), the essay score between 2 and 6, and your overall score no less than 45 points.

Who is the GED exam for?

The GED (General Education Development) exam is for individuals who never finished their standard high school training, and the document that you will receive after passing the California GED exam is recognized as equivalent to a high school degree by employers and universities across the United States.

GED preparation

If you want to prepare for GED diploma then you can do it in a number of ways. You can either join your local community college or high school, take online courses through the internet or attend special study classes to prepare for the GED tests. Brief information about the preparatory courses for GED diploma in your district is provided on this page to help you in getting prepared for the tests.

Community or Adult schools HSE classes

People who feel that rigid routine programs or classes can be beneficial for them can enroll in local preparatory classes. The standardized classes are offered by a number of community schools as well as other organizations that can be helpful for you in securing a secondary education credential.

GED self-study

Studying and learning by yourself is another option to prepare yourself for the HSE (high school equivalency) exam if you are willing to proceed on your own. You will need a few prep books to get ready to finish your high school level course before taking GED test. You can also attempt the practice tests provided on this website to know your preparation needs for passing your targeted exam. Language arts, social studies, physical sciences, and math are the subject fields which you will have to prepare for.

Online HSE classes

Online courses can be the right choice for you if you are a full-time employee and want to keep on working while completing your diploma. Online GED courses are offered by some campus-based colleges as well as a number of online schools. But before joining any online school you should ensure that they teach courses at flexible schedules or fix time schedule.

Some of the online schools offer classes in the evening or any other set time whereas some are flexible in this regard. Seen the possibilities and opportunities available these days there is no good reason for not trying to earn your GED diploma. This website is also offering great GED prep video instruction as well as a lot of GED practice tests to get you all geared up to take the GED tests successfully.

Start your career as GED graduate

Even if you want to change your career after getting your GED diploma after all the efforts, it is important not to spoil existing relationships. Even if you will leave your current job you should present yourself professionally, even if you hate your boss or coworkers and even if you hate your job. People will remember the integrity and humbleness shown by you at this moment.

People usually get highly emotional while leaving their job, more particularly when they do not like it wholeheartedly. At this moment they usually express their feelings about their coworkers and boss. But you should be careful at this time, even if you like them all. God knows with whom you may have to work with in future as nothing can be predicted at this time.

About El Cajon

El Cajon (population 102,000) is nicknamed “The Big Box” and is situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountain ranges just east of San Diego. The El Cajon Historical Society takes care of the Knox House Museum (280 N. Magnolia Avenue) which is housed in El Cajon’s first commercial building that was built eleven years after the Civil War ended.

Originally it was a building that housed the Knox’s residence and hotel, that later was extended with a kitchen and dining room. Cuyamaca College’s Rancho San Diego campus houses the Heritage of the Americas Museum (12110 Cuyamaca College Drive W) which offers five wings dedicated to the history of Education, Art, Natural History, Archaeology, and Anthropology. The museum is a cultural and educational center featuring (pre)historic works of art and culture, and highlights the rich natural history of the Americas.


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