By Katherine Hon
At the eastern edge of the Park Villas tract mapped by Joseph Nash in 1870, 33rd Street and Felton Street between University Avenue and Upas Street were originally named Webster Avenue and Franklin Avenue. Exactly who Nash had in mind for these street names is not clear.
Nash may have wanted to recognize William Henry Webster, who first registered in the San Diego Great Register of Voters at age 21 on Nov. 16, 1872. He was born in Maine, and his occupation was recorded as a “teamster.” This meant a person who drove a team of draft animals, usually a wagon drawn by oxen, horses or mules. Perhaps Webster was helpful to merchant Nash for making deliveries and bringing supplies.
Webster disappeared from available San Diego records after the 1879 voter registration list. He may have moved north. The 1879 Great Register for Humboldt County listed a William Henry Webster, age 27, born in Maine and working as a blacksmith in Rohnerville. Webster Avenue was changed to 33rd Street by Ordinance No. 5417 on January 13, 1914.
A local possibility for Franklin Avenue is Charles Franklin, who was mentioned in the San Diego Union’s October 13, 1869 issue as follows: “We had a call yesterday from Charles Franklin, who has just arrived here from a trip in the Eastern part of the [Arizona] Territory. He is anxious to raise a party sufficiently strong to prospect the country of the Pinal Apaches, where, he believes, gold is to be found. Mr. Franklin is a printer by trade, and formerly worked on this paper. He has for several years past resided in Zuni villages. He, with Messrs. Dodd and Coolie, met with many strange adventures while travelling through Apachedom, and but for their Coyotero friends would have been sacrificed by the Pinals. He pronounces Eastern Arizona one of the finest regions in the world.”
Franklin led an adventurous early life. He was born in Indiana but appeared in the Arizona Territorial Census in 1864 as being 21 years old and a printer. The Tucson, Arizona Weekly Citizen’s January 20, 1883 issue provided a biographical sketch of him as a new member of the Arizona Territory Twelfth Assembly. The article noted he twice drove bull teams across the plains from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe in 1862 and 1863, had served as a scout, and “has traveled through the Indian Country on foot and alone and has taken more chances and had more narrow escapes…than perhaps any other man in Arizona.”
Nash may have heard Franklin’s tales of adventure and gold first-hand in 1869. Nash supported the San Diego Union newspaper from the first issue printed on October 10, 1868, when an advertisement for “J. Nash, Merchant and Commission Agent, New San Diego” appeared on page one. Franklin might have set that type when he worked for the newspaper in its early days. Perhaps Nash wanted the daredevil prospector to remember San Diego if he struck it rich in Arizona, so named a street for him in Park Villas.
In 1914, Ordinance No. 5417 changed Franklin Avenue to Felton Street. This name likely recognizes Charles Norton Felton (1832-1914), a wealthy San Francisco businessman and California public servant. He was born in Buffalo, New York, and became an attorney. Like many, he moved west. By 1860, he was a banker in Nevada City, California, a prominent gold mining town northeast of Sacramento. He moved to San Francisco and was listed in that city’s directories from 1863 until his death in 1914.
Felton was Assistant Treasurer of the U.S. from 1868 to 1873. His elected positions included serving in the California State Assembly from 1880 to 1883, in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1885 to 1889, and in the U.S. Senate from 1891 to 1893 to complete the term of George Hearst, who had died in office.
The Oakland Daily Evening Tribune’s March 19, 1891 issue reported on Felton’s selection by the California Legislature to fill Hearst’s senate term, noting that Felton “is possessed of large wealth, but is not one of the class of rich-do-nothings. He is an intelligent, active, and hard-working man in public life… He is a courteous, accomplished gentleman, and a polished orator and is sure to be a notable man in the Upper House.”
Felton returned to his estate in Menlo Park after 1893. His business ventures included creating the Pacific Coast Oil Company with others in 1879. This company had become the largest oil interest in California when it was acquired in 1900 by Standard Oil; both companies were predecessors of Chevron. Felton was listed in the San Francisco city directory as President of Pacific Coast Oil Company in 1896.
His last public position was California prison director from 1903 to 1907. His obituary in the Oakland Tribune’s September 14, 1914 issue concluded, “In later years Senator Felton led an exceedingly quiet and retired life. He took the position as prison director with a sincere desire to be of service to men when they left the penitentiary.”
Nash did not name Boundary Street along the eastern edge of his Park Villas tract. In Nash’s day, this literal boundary marked the dividing line between the Pueblo Lands of the City of San Diego to the west and the Ex-Mission San Diego Rancho granted to Santiago Arguello by Governor Pico in 1846 to the east. The more than 47,000 acres of municipally owned Pueblo Lands were inherited by the city in a convoluted process that originated with Spain’s practice of designating land for community benefit when establishing Missions and Presidios (military outposts).
— Katherine Hon is the secretary of the North Park Historical Society. Reach her at email@example.com or 619-294-8990.
Author’s note: This article concludes our trek across San Diego streets for now. The year-long journey explored the authors, scientists, heroes and pioneers behind various street names, including original names in the part of North Park mapped during the 1870s — nearly 150 years ago. I hope you enjoyed traveling through time while staying close to home.
This article also concludes six years of monthly PastMatters columns I have submitted as a volunteer historian to Uptown News. It has been a pleasure to share North Park’s history with you, and I sincerely thank the owners and editors of Uptown News for that privilege. I am taking a sabbatical to prepare a new book to follow “History Snippets: PastMatters Stories of North Park” published in 2019. The second volume of History Snippets will feature an expanded version of the street name series, among other stories. You can find the first volume at Verbatim Books, an independent bookstore located in a historic building on 30th Street and North Park Way.