The name, “Escondido” is roughly translated to “hidden place” and the city ‘s fascinating history began on land that formerly comprised the Rancho Rincon del Diablo, an old rancho predating California’s entrance into the United States. In 1886, the ranch was purchased by the Escondido Land & Town Company (EL&T Co.), headed by the Thomas Brothers; Richard, Charles, John and William, as well as Jacob Gruendike, Daniel Hale, Thomas Metcalf and several others. Numerous attempts had been made to utilize the land before, but the actions taken by the Escondido Land & Town Co. were the first to attempt to turn the area into a full-fledged city.
Escondido was just one of many Southern California towns that was established during the 1880s land boom. The EL&T Co. immediately opened a San Diego office and began building a 100-room hotel in Escondido. Proceeds from their first land sales were used to entice the Santa Fe Railroad to build a branch line to Escondido, thus ensuring their community would grow and prosper.
Offering free land to anyone who would build a church or school, the young community soon had an elementary school (the Lime Street School), a large seminary built by the University of Southern California (USC) for $75,000, and several churches. The EL&T Co. also sponsored the creation of a local newspaper, The Escondido Times. The newspaper was used initially as an advertising tool targeting mid-western farmers, luring them to Escondido’s perfect year-round growing season.
Escondido was described as one of the most prosperous and rapidly growing colonies in southern California. Two years after the EL&T Co. was formed, the city of Escondido was incorporated on October 8, 1888. Local voters approved incorporation 64-19. The population was approximately 500.
The city grew slowly but steadily, as an agricultural center ideal for grapes, citrus and later for avocados. Eventually, Escondido became the commercial center serving North San Diego County and encouraged banks and financial institutions to locate here. Both World Wars contributed to an influx of people and a labor force, light industries began moving in, and the groves and vineyards gave way to housing.