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Guide to the Richard Stephens Diary Collection MS 238
MS 238  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Biographical / Historical Notes
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Arrangement
  • Scope and Content

  • Title: Richard Stephens Diary Collection
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 238
    Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 0.75 Linear feet (2 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1885-1917
    Abstract: This collection contains five volumes of diaries by surveyor Richard Stephens dated between 1885 and 1917.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English and Spanish.
    creator: Stephens, Richard

    Conditions Governing Access

    This collection is open for research.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

    Preferred Citation

    Richard Stephens Diary Collection, MS 238, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Katrina White on September 12, 2012.
    Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

    Biographical / Historical Notes

    Richard Stephens was born on July 24, 1830 in Devonshire, England to Thomas and Susan Stephens. Stephens had two siblings younger than himself; a brother who died in infancy and a sister who died at sea in 1842 as the family was making the passage to Canada from England. In Canada, Stephens lived in Port Dover, Ontario and worked as a farmer with his father, even though his dad had studied engineering. After his mother died (date unknown; father had passed away previously on an unknown date), Stephens made the decision to leave Canada because he could no longer take the extremes of Canadian weather. Stephens decided to visit San Diego in June 1885, and by June 29, 1885, the city became his home base. Stephens still held on to the property he had in Port Dover (Silver Lake), and visited Canada on many occasions, but he never moved back to Canada. In November 1885 Stephens was offered the position of civil engineer with the Mexican Land and Colonization Company. He accepted the position; thereafter the diaries reflected a life being lived between San Diego and the unpopulated regions of Baja California.
    During his years with the company, Stephens bought land in Baja California, most notably Rancho Huecos y Baldios and Rancho San Ramon. At one point Stephens hoped to create a Canadian colony in these lands, but due to lack of irrigation, little interest, and legal disputes, this vision never came to fruition. Stephens resigned from the company in 1890 after becoming aware of the corruption and illegal actions of many of its employees. After resigning from the company, Stephens continued to survey land and mines in Baja independently, both for himself and other prospectors. From the period after Stephens resigned from the company to the end of his life, Stephens was continuously involved in land disputes regarding his property in Baja California.
    It is unknown the exact date that Stephens stopped doing surveyor work or why he stopped, but by 1915 to the end of his diary entries, he was living at his residence in San Diego. Stephens mentioned in his diaries that his father had died of skin cancer, and that he had also removed some abnormal skin growths. Some of his last entries report that he was getting treatments, but it doesn’t specify what they were for. The exact date or cause of death is unknown, but his last written entry was dated July 11, 1917. Stephens never married nor had any children.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Accession number 2000.157.


    Collection is arranged chronologically.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains five volumes of diaries by Richard Stephens during his years of residence in San Diego from 1885 to 1917. The diaries include personal entries as well as transcriptions of correspondence and documents regarding land grants in Baja California. The majority of the entries address Stephens’ work as a surveyor of land and mines in Baja as well as the land disputes in which he was involved. There are also two loose documents that have been removed from one of the volumes, including a hand-drawn map of Seavy Land in Baja that encompasses Tepeyac.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Aguilar, Manuel
    Alarcon, M. M.
    Cannon, Ed
    Cota, Enrique B.
    Daggett, Henry
    Denton, William
    Flower, Morris F.
    Fuller, George
    Horton House.
    International Colonization Compnay.
    International Company of Mexico.
    Norton, Alonzo
    Ruiz Burton, Maria Amparo
    Scott, Chalmers
    Sessions, Kate Olivia, 1857-1940
    Sisson, George H.
    Smith, Walter Gifford
    Stephens, Richard
    Young, C. J.
    Baja California (Mexico : Peninsula)
    Calexico (Calif.)
    Coronado (Calif.)
    Del Mar (Calif.)
    Encinitas (Calif.)
    Ensenada (Baja California, Mexico)
    Land grants
    Land surveying
    Los Angeles (Calif.)
    Mines and mineral resources
    Port Dover (Ont.)
    Rancho Huecos y Baldios
    Rancho San Ramon
    Real property surveys
    Rosarito (Tijuana, Baja Calfornia, Mexico)
    San Diego (Calif.)
    San Francisco (Calif.)
    San Quintin (Baja California, Mexico)
    Santo Tomas
    Tijuana (Baja California, Mexico)