The story of National City is one of the most interesting of city histories in all of California.
In 1868 four brothers from New Hampshire, Frank, George, Warren and Levi Kimball, purchased Rancho de la Nación, 26,632 acres for the grand sum of $30,000. Located immediately below San Diego, the rancho included six miles of land fronting on the bay. The Kimballs changed the name to The National Ranch and laid out National City. The National Ranch included what today are the communities of National City, Chula Vista, Paradise Valley, Otay and Bonita. In 1887 the town voted for incorporation, making National City the second oldest incorporated city in San Diego County.
It would be difficult to enumerate the important contributions of this city and its pioneer families, in particular the Kimballs, to the development of San Diego County as a whole and beyond.
Heavily invested in agriculture and horticultural interests, they were key to development of the commercial olive oil industry in America. The olive branch, in fact, was placed on the seal of the city as an emblem of peace and as a proud reminder of the pioneering role National City played.
Other roles include the work to establish the Pure Food and Drug Act, a federal act that the entire country still benefits from today, the founding of the San Diego County Fair, still going strong, and the Sweetwater Dam, the largest of its type in the world when it was built in 1888, still serves the region well.
Of all these perhaps the item that marked this region and California was when the city’s forefathers gave up their lands and riches to bring the transcontinental railroad to San Diego and to make its terminus in National City. By doing this they broke the monopoly of the great railroad barons, Gov. Leland Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins, known as the Big Four, thereby creating California’s greatest building boom of the 19th century.
It was this boom that established the cities of Orange, Riverside and Pasadena, to name only a few, and dramatically reduced coast-to-coast transportation costs for the nation at large and forever changed the face of Southern California.