Posted by: Bonnie Phelps | August 24, 2019

The John Leech Story and HSG


Just received a three page hand written letter with history from one of the old-timers on Palomar.  It was written by Jim Dunbar’s mother a few decades ago.


Palomar was known as ‘Smith Mountain’ until 1901, after one of the early settlers.  Jim’s mother tells of her father and their family time on the mountain.  Some of you might have remembered John Leach’s sign above the door at their second cabin he built up on Crestline.

The tiny cabin is where Oliver Brown lived for many years on the south side of Crestline.  It is where Lee Baker lives now.  The three Dunbar brothers and their sister still own the family cabin down Pedley Valley Road built in the 1930’s. Jim invited me to go in their cabin for a pic of the sign hanging above the front door.


Oh my, they also owned Cedar Grove that is now State Park?  What beautiful land.

Ok, you MUST keep reading to the very end!  Ah, Jim Dunbar, HSG – thank you for sharing!


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The John Leach Story

by Ruth Leach Dunbar

In the 1890’s a man named Smith came to Long Beach, California telling people about the beautiful mountain in North San Diego County.  The land could be homesteaded (a certain number of acres free if the farmer worked the land every year). My grandparents Samuel and Sarah Todd with 3 boys and 2 girls decided to go to the mountain with horses and wagon.  It took a week to go down.  One year the family decided to stay thru the winter.  Their oldest son stayed on their farm near Compton to take care of the crops.  They built a one-room log cabin and put in a nice garden.  Apple trees were planted; it was a beautiful place.  Minnie Todd and brothers went to the open-air school.  A bobcat jumped on Minnie one day and her oldest brother shot it.

Solomon Todd worked with Mr. Doane on building the West Grade.  Minnie went with her father to Doane’s house to get paid and they heard a mountain lion scream on the way.  When the family went down the mountain, they would cut a tree to drag behind the wagon so it wouldn’t go too fast.

When my grandparents died, the Todd family sold the property which is now Cedar Grove on the way to Doane Valley.  Later in 1926 Minnie took us (her two daughters Ruby and Ruth) up to the mountain for a camping viser.  We camped at Silver Crest.  Eventually she bought property on Pedley Road and her brothers built a cabin.  In the early 1900’s her brothers built a cabin.

In the early 1900’s John Leach moved out to Southern California from Youngstown, Ohio with two of his brothers.  It was so very cold in Ohio during winter.  He found work in the Orange Packing House in Upland, Cal.  Here he met Minnie Todd; they were married in 1907.  When the girls were very small, the family moved to Long Beach.

It was hard finding work.  John volunteered to join the Arm in 1917.  Minnie started a small laundry business in her home, so she could be near the girls.  After the war John began a fish market at the base of LB’s 2 story pier.  They both worked very hard.  John wanted us to go to Business College & Minnie wanted the girls to go to college to be teachers.  Each parent had different ideas and they gradually grew apart.  John retired when he was fifty.

Times changed.  The depression came along in the early thirties and in March 1933 L.B. had a devastating earthquake.  Our home went off it’s foundation.  Minnie lost her home and a vacant lot.  John lost his drive-in-market.  (He had retired from the fish market earlier).  It was then Minnie asked John for a divorce and he went to the cabin on Palomar.  Minnie worked hard & Ruby and I went to college.  Later both girls were teachers.

Later John built the little cabin on Crestline Road.  He had a happy personality & made many friends on the mountain.  Many people had him open their cabins or look after the property.

He made a place for himself – a new life.  He loved to fish in Lake Henshaw and the Colorado River.  In 1936 John trapped a mountain lion at Pedley Valley, below the lake.  He shot it & when he put it over his shoulder, rigor mortis set in.  It jumped & he put that dead lion down fast.  In those days there was a warranty on mountain lions.

The years went by & John grew a beard.  As a young man John was quite handsome with black curly hair.  The beard looked nice and children called him “Santa Claus” when he was older.

John lived on Palomar for about 17 years.  The family have kept his name over the door in remembrance.  No matter what happened over the years, he was dearly loved and had many friends.

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When the envelope arrived with this letter from Jim Dunbar, my husband noticed it had his name followed by ‘HSG’.  Don wondered what HSG stood for.  I googled it but nothing came up, so I sent a message to Jimbo.  Here is his response:

From: James R Dunbar

A long story – Rush Limbaugh years ago met a man that owned 100 MacDonald’s in NY.  He had the letters, HSG on his business card. Rush asked him what HSG meant and was told he was the only person that ever asked.

Don is the only person in 30 years that has ever asked me.


True story,


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Gotta love it!!!



  1. Love the history and character…and the HSG…big deal then, Jeanie Roland

  2. Bonnie, would you mind if I reprinted this? Either in the paper, or in the next Valley Center Magazine?


    David D. Ross Editor The Roadrunner 760-749-1112 (office) 760-638-0552 (cell)

    David Ross has been in the newspaper business for 40 years, both editing and writing.

    “I can handle big news and little news. And if there’s no news, I’ll go out and bite a dog.”


    • Of course. You may always use anything from PMNews. I’m also glad to provide the pic I took a photo of. Perhaps you can get something better for your paper. Thank you! Bonnie

  3. You are so right! Gotta love this mountain!

  4. Hi Bonnie,

    Fabulous story. I know exactly where the John Leach tiny cabin is located because it marks the turning point to reach our club’s radio repeater. Except I always thought the sign said John Teach because of the unusual way the letter L appeared on the sign.

    Best regards, Bob, ALS (always learnin’ somethin’)

  5. Very Nice-My mom and aunt would have loved to have seen the post. Many thanks, Jimbo HSG

    • Dear Jimbo HSG, YOU made this possible sharing you family letter. Brought some more joy to this little mountain! Thank YOU!

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