Oceanside’s first inhabitants were the Luiseno Indians who were part of the large Shoshonean tribe. They inhabited the San Luis Rey river valley area, originally named, “Rio San Luis Rey de Francia,” after St. Louis King of France by the Franciscan friars who passed through the valley in 1769. The Mission San Luis Rey de Francia was established in 1798, four miles up river from the coast. The Indians who were gathered at the Mission were called “San Luisenos” by the Franciscans, later shortened to “Luisenos”. The Luisenos were hunters and food gatherers until the friars taught them farming and other trades. The Indians were instrumental in building the Mission compound as they provided the labor. The Indians soon adopted the Spanish language and customs.
Among these padres was Father Antonio Peyri who planned and oversaw the construction of the Mission’s many buildings which included three churches, the last of which still stands and was finished in 0ctober of 1815. Mission San Luis Rey was the largest building in California when completed and was the most prosperous of the missions
In 1834, formal secularization took place. All the Mission properties were confiscated by Pio Pico, governor of California, and sold for $2,437.50. During this period, the Mission buildings fell into disrepair. In 1893, Father Joseph Jeremiah 0’Keefe arrived to restore the Mission. By 1912, when he retired, restoration in great part was complete, but, still continues today.
A township, known as San Luis Rey, which was west of the Mission, was established in the early 1870’s and was largely inhabited by a group of English settlers, by 1884, San Luis Rey had a post office, stores, a hotel, and a weekly newspaper, The San Luis Rey Star, which later moved to Oceanside.
In 1881 the United States Government conducted a survey of the Southern Pacific slope and in 1882 a railroad was laid from Los Angeles to San Diego through Colton, Temecula, Fallbrook and down the coast.
Andrew Jackson Myers relocated to the San Luis Rey township in 1881. In 1883, he applied for a Homestead Grant on the Oceanside mesa and he was allotted 160 acres. Cave J. Couts, Jr. surveyed the town site and J. Chauncey Hayes sold the town lots. Myers is known as the founder of Oceanside as he owned the first land and was said to built the first house.
J. Chauncey Hayes was not only the real estate agent but Justice of Peace and the editor of his own newspaper, The South Oceanside Diamond. When he drew the petition for the first post office the name “Ocean Side” was used, but later changed to “Oceanside.”
By 1887, the Bank of Oceanside was built on the comer of Second (Mission Avenue) and Hill Streets and also a grand hotel, the South Pacific, located on Third and Pacific Streets, near the present pier.
A wharf company was formed and soundings were made at the location of what is now known as Wisconsin street. The wharf was made entirely of wooden pilings, the first pile being driven May 12, 1888. On July 3, 1888, Oceanside was incorporated with a vote of 74 to 53. The founder of the city, A. J. Myers, was the first to vote. The population was about l000.
In the winter of 1890-91, the wharf was destroyed by a storm and Melchoir Pieper, the proprietor of the South Pacific Hotel, salvaged most of the lumber. He took the pilings to his hotel on Third Street where he kept it until the city appropriated funds for a new pier in 1893. Not only donating the lumber, through his efforts, Pieper was responsible for the pier being located at Third Street. This second pier was the first of five built at the Third street location, including the one recently completed in 1987.
In the 1890’s Oceanside had three hotels; the South Pacific, the St. Cloud and the Tremont, two drug stores, two livery stables, two blacksmiths, a hardware store, a bakery, a harness shop, a lumber yard, a barber shop, a newspaper, a school and the Oceanside Bank along with many other businesses. There were six churches: Christian, Congregational, Baptist, Episcopal, Holiness and Methodist.
Like many towns, Oceanside’s prosperity relied much on real estate booms and busts.
The railroads played an important role in the continuing development of our city. During the boom years the trains brought thousands of prospective buyers. This continued until a highway was paved between San Diego and Los Angeles through 0ceansidc before 1920. In the 1920’s the city prospered. Tent City was established, street lights were installed, a new golf course was laid out and a grand new theater, “The Palomar’, was built. Our slogan for the time was, “Oceanside, California’s Pride.” Many noteworthy visitors enjoyed our shore, including Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. A number of movies were filmed here during this decade. This prosperity soon changed and we felt the grip of the “Great Depression.”
A dramatic change occurred with the purchase of the Santa Margarita y Los Flores by the U. S. Government for a military base. The building of Camp Joseph H. Pendleton created a boom to end all booms in our sleepy little town. In no time workers flocked to downtown for food and lodging. It was common to see thirty or forty people waiting outside restaurants to eat. The community geared up for war in a big way by supporting the workers and troops, We continued to urbanize into the 1950’s bringing us to a population of 20,000 in 1953. Our growth has continued steadily ever since and is the topic of much controversy today as we have almost 150,000 people.