The Star-News


Tale of a stubborn farmer

Sat, Oct 29 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Susan Walter

Charles Piper, born in Germany, came to the United States in 1867. He married a German woman named Herminia in Nebraska. They moved to Orange County and then to Otay Mesa during the land boom of the '80s. There they filed a 160-acre timber claim in 1887, established a farm, and raised a flock of children as well as crops.

Three years later, by 1890, Otay was a well established community and featured a post office, school, store, church and blacksmith shop.

Alta School was the first of these major developments. Schools were one of the most important community assets because the entire neighborhood cooperated to donate or buy land and supplies, build the structure, work together and served as school census marshals and on the school board.

The schoolhouse, as the first community building, also was important as a multifunction structure, and was used for myriad meetings ranging from religious, recreation and social activities.

Piper was considered by his family to be rather stubborn, and he was especially tenacious when it came to being a farmer. He had been attracted by the opportunities presented by the farmland descriptions.

Initially, San Diego County farming benefited from a wet cycle. But then the climate presented a number of challenges that bested many farmers, particularly including severe water shortages.

Drought had resulted in land speculators Guion, Hamilton and Hartley publishing promises to provide water to the Otay area but they failed to deliver, as did another plan put forth by the Mt. Tecate Water Company.

In 1889 Charles and Fred Piper were among the 33 farmers of Otay Mesa who petitioned the county Board of Supervisors for the formation of the Otay Mesa Irrigation District. Their plan was to sell bonds to pay for a reservoir and pipeline to bring water to the mesa, but this attempt failed.

Stubborn Charles. He was still determinedly farming his acreage until 1906 when his son Henry took over as Charles was going blind. The majority of the above information came from an article entitled "The Piper Family of Otay Mesa" by Stephen R. Van Wormer in volume two of "Chula Vista - The Early Years, "which was published by the Chula Vista Historical Society in 1993.


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