The Birdseyes – First Family of Grossmont


Among the first to acquire an available parcel was Enoch Lane Birdseye and his wife Illa who purchased a 5 acre plot “16 miles east of San Diego, (for a) residence in Cajon, town or P.O. of San Diego.” Today, the location would be on the northwest foothills of Grossmont, south of the present freeway – thus, the Birdseyes became Grossmon’t first residents, a little more than a quarter of a century before Grossmont became known as Grossmont.

On April 12, 1875, Benjamin P. Hill, an El Cajon farmer, sold the land to the Birdseyes for $250, presenting them with a deed showing boundary descriptions even more vague than the non-definitive borders described on title papers of many of the old Mexican grants.

On May 25, 1875, Enoch Birdseye was entered in the Great Register of local citizens, listing him as a 33-year-old farmer from Norwalk County, Ohio. It naturally failed to divulge the fact that the Birdseyes were attracted to the local area because of their hope that its alleged cure-all climate would help Enoch who was suffering from an advanced case of consumption.

Because of Enoch’s burning desire to cheat the devil and complete construction before his illness worsened, he began building immediately. Unfortunately, he overtaxed himself and died on November 27, 1875.

The widow Birdseye gradually overcame her personal tragedy, and on May 11, 1877, she sold her house to Amaziah Knox for $800 in gold coin.

The deal apparently opened the door for a short romantic interlude, and Illa and Amaziah were married a month later, on June 16, 1877. She and her two small children moved to The Corners, a hotel [sic] built in El Cajon by Knox in 1876.

On January 18, 1886, Amaziah and Illa Knox sold the Grossmont home to A.A. Bliss. Some historians associate this sale with Governor Waterman who allegedly bought the house for use as a stopping off place during his frequent trips from San Diego to his Stonewall Mine in Julian.

Years later the original Birdseye house burned to the ground.



Permission for use of excerpts granted by author.

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