The community of Carlsbad is named for a popular 19th century spa in Europe, but its history reflects the heritage of many cultures. Luiseno Indians camped on the shores of its coastal lagoon for centuries before the arrival of Don Gaspar de Portola and Fr. Juan Crespi in 1769. Blazing the trail now known as El Camino Real, the conquistador and Franciscan priests were exploring Alta California for the King of Spain. It was during a rest stop, upwind from an old fishing camp, that their weary troops christened the lagoon for posterity: Agua Hedionda (Stinking Water).
Following in their footsteps were more soldiers and priests, sent to establish missions and pueblos to ensure Spain's hold on its remote territory. Mission San Luis Rey was founded 10 miles north of Agua Hedionda lagoon in 1798. Five years after Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the Franciscans lost their jurisdiction over the Indian converts. In 1833 the rich mission land holdings were secularized, making them available by grants from the Mexican government. Although the land grants were to be distributed to all, it was the influential Californios, the second generation Hispanics, who ended up with most of them.
With the coming of the Arizona Eastern Railway in 1883, the land between Los Angeles and San Diego was opened up to homesteaders and real estate speculators. John Frazier, founder and director of the Good Samaritan Mission in Los Angeles, took over a homestead claim of 127 acres north and west of Rancho Agua Hedionda. He tapped the springs of both artesian and mineral water in the well that he dug. The cool sips of water that he graciously offered to thirsty train passengers became famous for their apparent healing powers, and Frazier's Station soon was anticipated as a destination of its own.
In 1886, Gerhard Schutte and Samuel Church Smith, two Nebraskans with dreams of building a town of "small farms and gracious homes," purchased Frazier's holdings plus 275 adjoining acres and embarked on the promotion of their new project. Their plans were further bolstered when chemical analysis of the well's mineral water indicated properties identical to those of a famous health spa in Karlsbad, Bohemia. This intelligence combined with the German origins of town founder Schutte to determine that the name of the community would be Carlsbad.
The economic roller coaster of the 1880s and 1890s dictated the fortunes of Carlsbad's earliest years. The population hovered around 300 until 1914, when railroad money brought in by South Coast Land Company secured water rights from Oceanside. Dry farming, the town's principle industry, was immediately expanded to include propagation of flowers, bulbs and fruit orchards, including the exotic avocado. The railroad packing shed became a vital hub of the community while an obvious increase in beach campers and other tourists indicated that people, as well as plants, were benefited by Carlsbad's climate and setting.
Proximity to a new Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton brought the world to Carlsbad's doorstep after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The post-war boom that followed V-J Day was based largely on the return of veterans to the sleepy little beach town of their wartime memories.
Recognition that the growing pains could best be eased by incorporation led to the formation of the City of Carlsbad in 1952. Since then, although the population has increased nearly 700 percent and the area of the city has expanded to three times its original size, much remains the same.
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