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Guide to the Alonzo and Lydia Knapp Horton Collection MS 26
MS 26  
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Collection Details
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  • Biographical / Historical Notes
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Arrangement
  • Processing Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Scope and Content

  • Title: Alonzo and Lydia Knapp Horton Collection
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 26
    Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 0.5 Linear feet (1 box)
    Date (inclusive): 1863-1976
    Abstract: This collection contains deeds and business correspondence of Alonzo E. Horton and some personal papers of Alonzo E. Horton and Lydia Knapp Horton.
    creator: Horton, Alonzo E., 1813-1909
    creator: Horton, Lydia Knapp

    Biographical / Historical Notes

    Alonzo Erastus Horton, known as the “Father of San Diego,” was born in Union, Connecticut on October 24, 1813. He moved to Wisconsin in 1836, where he founded and developed the town of Hortonville. In 1850, he sold those lands and moved west to San Francisco to take advantage of the gold boom, and he found success selling supplies to miners and running a used furniture store. In 1867, he turned his attention south to San Diego, where he bought 800 acres of public land at auction for $265. Two years later he bought an additional 160 acres to complete Horton’s Addition in New San Diego. Horton was an active promoter and returned to San Francisco with maps and brochures to pitch the growing city. He partnered with San Diego businessman Ephraim W. Morse and sent him a stream of tourists, settlers, and speculators. In addition to selling his lots at high profit, Horton encouraged community growth by donating lots to religious organizations, building the wharf at the end of Fifth Avenue, opening the first bank in New San Diego, and helping to promote and finance a post office, a telegraph line, and increased railroad service. He lost most of his holdings after a series of real estate boom-and-bust cycles and by 1903 he was left dependent on the income of his third wife, Lydia Knapp Horton. Alonzo died on January 7, 1909.
    Lydia Knapp Horton was born Lydia Maria Smith on August 7, 1843 in West Newbury, Massachusetts to Daniel and Charlotte Bailey Smith. She moved to San Francisco in 1868 and then San Diego in 1869 with her first husband, Lieutenant William Knapp. They had two sons, William Bailey and Philip, and in 1877 Lydia and the boys moved back to Massachusetts, where she supported them by teaching art and selling paintings. In 1885 William died, and in 1888 Lydia returned to San Diego to settle her business affairs. She decided to stay, and took up an art instructor position at the Southwest Institute. In 1890, she married Alonzo Horton, whose second wife, Sarah, had died the previous year. Lydia was active in San Diego civic life, particularly the Wednesday Club and other women’s organizations. She was instrumental in founding the San Diego Public Library and was on the board of the 1915 San Diego Exposition. In 1903, she went to work as Librarian of the State Normal School to supplement her husband’s sudden loss of income. She supported them until after his death, and in 1910 she was able to retire with financial support from her sons. Lydia remained active in San Diego civic life until she suffered a stroke in 1924. She remained in ill health till her death on October 17, 1926.

    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.


    Collection is arranged by subject.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Samantha Mills on March 21, 2013.
    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.

    Preferred Citation

    Alonzo and Lydia Knapp Horton Collection, MS 26, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains deeds and business correspondence of Alonzo E. Horton and some personal papers of Alonzo E. Horton and Lydia Knapp Horton. Alonzo’s correspondence is primarily addressed to Ephraim W. Morse regarding real estate development in San Diego. Personal papers of Alonzo include records of memorials enacted in his honor and extended family information. Personal papers of Lydia Knapp Horton include correspondence and an autobiographical note, as well as several papers from the extended Knapp family.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Horton, Alonzo E., 1813-1909
    Horton, Lydia Knapp
    Morse, Ephraim W.
    Abstracts of title
    Hortonville (Wis.)
    Real property
    San Diego (Calif.)
    Trial and arbitral proceedings