National City is the second oldest in San Diego County. This means that it is also the area with the second richest, longest history. It has a population of around 60,000, and yet it is still a beautiful area with natural attraction.
The region has had many different names. Initially, it was owned by Spaniards who had taken it from a Native American tribe known as the Hamacha. It was used by the Catholic mission San Diego de Alcala, and the priests there named it La Purisima Concepcion. Later, Spanish soldiers took the land for horses and cattle to feed. Then it was known as Rancho del Rey, meaning the Ranch of the King.
Next, Mexico took over the area. Don Juan Forester owned it and called it the El Rancho de la Nación. In English, it was the Ranch of the Nation, hence why it was called the National Ranch. In 1868, builders from San Francisco purchased National Ranch. They were called the Kimball brothers.
The first 'modernization' that appeared came when one of the brothers built his place of residence with a real bathtub that had real running water! It was the first 'modern' home in the county. If anyone made the town succeed, it was the Kimballs. They built roads and a railroad. They created the first pier and post office. They even imported trees from Europe, starting a movement for environmental improvement that continues to this day.
The history of this time is in the words of the Kimballs from personal letters and their diaries. The first real industry in National City, apparently, was the unique venture of raising silkworms, followed by the shipping and the railroad.
The railroad brought many people, but then there was a financial crash that almost put National City under. The population went down, and many people were left without jobs. The Kimballs also helped the city recover from this setback. They created jobs by starting a new road. They went on to raise sheep and wheat. Their home library was virtually the community library and soon became just that in truth. The city later purchased it.
Soon, National City fully recovered from the crash. The railroad returned, and the trees that the brothers brought from Europe turned out to bring more agricultural industry. They built one railroad known as the Bee Line, but a flood destroyed it in 1884. They went on to have a newspaper and a developed railroad town. The 'boom' came just a few years after the flood, and a new surge, this time of people, came to National City. In 1887, it was officially incorporated.
However there was virtually a depression in 1893 when a man sued over a dam, and it resulted in part of Sweetwater Lake being drained. People were afraid that their water supply was undependable, so they moved out. This was another setback.
In the early 1900s, the Kimballs began to recover from the financial difficulties and develop the city further. They got a city fire department and broke into the olive oil industry. Gradually, National City came back better than ever before. Now, it is a thriving, modern city with all kinds of historical sites and attractions.
Some of the very same trees that were part of the first real city agricultural efforts are still around the city today. The main attractions in National City tend to be parks that you can relax in. It is evident that the love of nature which began with the Kimball brothers continues in the city to this day in the form of trees, lawns, and gardens.
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