Julian, California Now & Then
Four Seasons of Beauty and Fun
For centuries, the Kumeyaay people lived in Julian and surrounding areas in the Cuyamaca mountains. The area served as a lush spring and summer home for bands of Kumeyaay people who roamed seasonally from the coast through the mountains into the desert and back.
The Kumeyaay may have known about gold deposits in the area, but mining did not begin until Fred Coleman, a former slave, discovered gold in 1869. Coleman was living at the time with a Kumeyaay family near Wynola, near the present-day site of Julian Farm and Orchard. In 1870, after additional discoveries of gold and quartz, Drury Bailey and other pioneers formed the Julian Mining District. They named the makeshift town after Bailey’s cousin, Mike Julian, allegedly because he was the most handsome man in town.
Unlike dozens of other mining towns that sprung up practically overnight throughout the old West, Julian attracted many women and families in addition to the single men who arrived in the hopes of hitting it big. Fertile soil enabled the development of local agriculture, and pioneers soon built a school, workshops, saloons, hotels, stores, and homes. The population grew to 600 residents.
The first apples were planted in Julian in the 1870s by James Madison and Thomas Brady, who recognized that the area’s rich soil and cool climate was perfect for apples. By the late 1890s, when the mines, most of Julian transitioned to agriculture, planting orchards of apples and, later, pears. In 1909, the town hosted the first Apple Day celebration, and the town has been famous for its apples and apple pies ever since.
Today, Julian serves as a year-round destination and escape for residents of urban southern California. Spring features the blossoming of many flowers; summer is ideal for weddings and reunions; fall is famous for the apple harvest and fall colors; and winter attracts families to play in the snow on bright, crisp days. The pioneer storefronts, wooden sidewalks, historic sites and famous eateries have a unique charm that makes Julian the perfect place to stay for the weekend in a romantic bed-and-breakfast, to spend a day shopping for antiques, or as a base for exploring mountain hikes and the nearby Anza Borrego Desert State Park.