- Journal of SD History
Colonel Ed Fletcher (1872-1955)
Colonel Ed Fletcher was born in Littleton, Massachusetts. December 31, 1872, a son of Charles Kimball and Anna Holton Fletcher. He received his early education in Worcester and Boston.
Mr. Fletcher arrived in San Diego in 1888 and entered the employ of Nason & Company, produce and commission merchants. [He was a born salesman and in his first several years here he sold fresh produce, in the city and out in the back country. He covered his territory by train, horse-drawn wagon and on a bicycle.] In 1894 Mr. Fletcher opened a produce and commission business with Omer C. Smith as a partner. Six months later he organized the Ed Fletcher Company, which in 1897 became the Fletcher-Doyle Company. In 1901 he severed his interests in the commission business and became the agent for the Huntington interests in handling the San Luis Rey Valley Water project and the purchase of the coast lands for the South Coast Land Company. In 1908 he entered the real estate business in partnership with William Gross and developed Grossmont and Mt. Helix. [He and his wife Mary donated the land atop Mount Helix where Easter Sunrise Services are held.] He laid out the beautiful subdivision of Del Mar for the South Coast Land Company, and later became the agent for the F.W. Thum Company. In partnership with Frank Salmons. he erected the Thum Block at the northeast comer of Sixth and Broadway. In 1910 Colonel Fletcher laid out Pine Hills in the Julian district and erected the Pine Hills Lodge. He also was a co-owner and laid out some 400 acres of land adjoining Cuyamaca Lake.
Colonel Fletcher has always been intensely interested in road building, and it is due largely to his boundless energy and perseverance that many of San Diego County's road projects have been carried through to completion. In cooperation with Fred Jackson, Colonel Fletcher was successful in interesting San Diego civic leaders in raising the necessary funds to build the original road from Mountain Springs through San' Diego Canyon to the floor of Imperial Valley, the plank road from Holtsville to Yuma, the Yuma highway bridge and the highway from Gila Bend to Casa Grande. The Mountain Springs grade was the most remarkable project in the history of road building--the people of San Diego County raised the funds and built a road entirely in Imperial County in order to make the two counties more accessible, one to the other. The highway through San Diego Canyon to Imperial Valley will always be a monument to Mr. Fred Jackson and Col. Ed Fletcher.
As a road builder and county developer, Colonel Fletcher was not satisfied to let his efforts rest in his home county or the adjoining county of Imperial Valley, but he has been our most active force in the development of all state and national highways leading into San Diego County, and on November 17, 1923, the people of San Diego as a token of their appreciation placed a bronze tablet on the "Pacific Milestone" in the public plaza opposite the U. S. Grant Hotel in San Diego for his national highway work.
[Fletcher was an outspoken booster for highway development, particularly for roads to connect San Diego with the east. He made a well-publicized auto trip to Washington D.C. in 1915 that took 26 days. In 1926, just eleven years later, he promoted one to Savannah, Georgia, which took just under three days.]
Colonel Fletcher's name is also inseparably connected with the development of water in San Diego County. His wisdom and foresight, together with his fine connections with men of wealth, made possible the development of the majority of our county water systems, chief among which are the Cuyamaca Water System on the San Diego River now owned by the La Mesa Irrigation District and the City of San Diego, the Volcan Water System, including Lake Henshaw Dam, financed by Wm. G. Henshaw, the San Dieguito Water System, Lake Hodges and San Dieguito Dams now supplying the San Dieguito and Santa Fe Irrigation District as well as part of the city's water supply. This last project was financed by the Santa Fe Railroad and W. E. Hodges, vice-president of the A.T. & Santa Fe Railway Company, and on July 21, 1924, Mr. Hodges wrote him in part as follows:
Colonel Ed Fletcher: "You were its first, and is its last and only president of the San Dieguito Water Company. May I take this occasion to say, that, while I have received considerable 'honorable mention' in connection with the results obtained, you are responsible for the development of the Lake Hodges System and of the country it serves."
The development of these water systems has in turn made possible the development of thousands of acres of San Diego County land. Colonel Fletcher has done his part in civic affairs. He was a director in the 1915-16 Exposition as well as the 1935-36 Exposition -- it was through his leadership in raising finances that the Exposition buildings were saved from destruction in 1917; he was on the Finance Committee which raised the necessary funds to acquire the lands to be given the U. S. Government for a Naval Training Station; he worked on the Finance Committee which made possible the building of the Army and Navy Y.M.C.A., was for years active for the Y.M.C.A.; organized and was first president of the San Diego Club; was in the National Guard of California for eleven years and during that time built a new armory for Company "B" and has always been active in civic development; was two years campaign manager for the Community Chest, going over the top over 100 per cent each year.
Colonel Fletcher has long been an active force in city, county, state and national politics. His activities in the political field have always been directed to the end that we might have better government for our home city and county. In 1934 Colonel Fletcher was elected State Senator, and has rendered San Diego County and the State of California outstanding service in that important office. [Fletcher was a State Senator for 12 years, from 1935-47. He authored the law creating the San Diego County Water Authority, and the one transferring ownership of Mission Bay Park lands from the State to the City.]
Colonel Fletcher was married in 1896 to Mary C. Batchelder at Ayer, Massachusetts, and they have ten children: Catherine, now Mrs. Catherine Fletcher Taylor; Edward Jr., Charles, Lawrence, Willis, Stephen, Ferdinand, Mary Louise, now Mrs. Pitts Mack; Eugene, and Virginia; and ten grandchildren.
While it is inevitable that a man who has been as active as Colonel Fletcher should make some enemies, he enjoys the confidence and good will of countless thousands of staunch friends. For years he has been San Diego's leading citizen in the development of county, state and national highways, beautiful subdivisions, and the development of water. The people of San Diego County, when Colonel Fletcher's accomplishments are fully appreciated and understood, will doubtless in the years to come, erect monuments to his memory.
[from History of San Diego County by Carl Heilbron, 1936]
Fletcher's title "Colonel" stemmed from Governor Pardee's appointing him in 1907 as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the California National Guard. A newspaper decades later said, "The title stuck. It fitted his vigorous, dramatic kind of leadership." For further reading, see Fletcher's book "Memoirs of Ed Fletcher", 750 pages long, published in 1952.