In 1860, in Tioga County in the state of Pennsylvania, a village named Fall Brook was begun, with stores, shops, boarding house, and more than 30 dwellings. It was a town created by the Fall brook Coal Company, owned by John Magee and his son, Duncan, residents of a neighboring county in New York State. The Magees had discovered coal on Fall Brook Creek, a Pennsylvania tributary of the Tioga River. They built the Fall Brook railroad to connect with Corning and Watkins, New York, where coal was transported along the Erie Canal. By 1862, Fall Brook in Pennsylvania had a population of 1400 people.
Meanwhile, in California, a newcomer named Vital C. Reche, born in Canada and raised in Rochester, New York, had arrived in San Francisco. Instead of going to the gold country, he opened a hotel for gold seekers on their way to the mines. He earned enough to return to New York to marry Amelia Magee and bring her back to California. In 1860 Vital and Amelia Magee Reche were in San Diego County, California.
They resided in the town of Temecula, with Amelia’s brothers, John and Henry Magee, who had arrived in California even earlier than Vital Reche. Henry had come in 1847, and was with the US military invasion of Mexico.
In the late 1860s, Vital and Amelia were again in New York, working with Amelia’s relatives in the Fall Brook railroad and coal mining enterprise. On their return to California, they settled in the Pala area, a short distance from their future homestead.
By the early 1870s, the US government had surveyed the land, which became Fallbrook District and homesteading could begin. Vital and Amelia Magee Reche homesteaded 160 acres (including today’s Live Oak Park) adjacent to the northern boundary of the Monserate Grant. Their land was located along a creek, which Vital named Fall Brook Creek. Vital and Amelia opened a hotel for other settlers who were looking for land to homestead. Amelia’s brother, Henry Magee and his wife and children also homesteaded in Fallbrook District, but closer to the Santa Margarita Grant (which included today’s village of Fallbrook). Henry and John Magee and Vital’s brother mined coal in the Temecula Valley.
In 1876 Fall Brook School District was organized in now Live Oak Canyon, and school was taught by the wife of Henry Magee, in the Magee home. Two years later Fall Brook Post Office was established located in Vital and Amelia’s hotel. Vital Reche was the first postmaster.
In 1880, there were 25 families homesteading in Fall Brook District, within three miles of the Post Office. In 1881, railroad developers surveyed the eastern Fall Brook area (which included where I-15 is now), to connect the southern coast with the transcontinental railroad, but a route to the north, along the Santa Margarita River was chosen instead.
Several years later, the railroad had been built from San Diego to the mouth of the Santa Margarita River, and up the river to a wide level place where Fallbrook Depot was established (at the intersection of today’s Sandia Creek and De Luz Roads). Fallbrook Depot, which was about three miles northwest of the Reche’s post office, was granted its own post office, named Howe.
The floods of 1883/1884 caused so much damage around Fallbrook Depot that merchants moved to the bluff above the river (at the location of the present village of Fallbrook). Teams of horses could use the old Santa Margarita road (now De Luz Road) to bring in supplies. By the time rail service resumed, there was a settlement on the bluff and a town was proposed.
In 1885, Fallbrook, where we know it today, was laid out in streets and lots from Elder to Kalmia, and from Hill (today’s Mission) to Vine. The town’s promoters wanted to call it Fallbrook, but Reche already had the post office (Fall Brook) by that name, so town fathers had to settle for West Fallbrook. The new school district, granted in the same year, was also called West Fallbrook, as the post office located in the new town.
Several years later, Reche’s homestead, with its hotel, store, post office and school, was also surveyed to become a town, but it never developed. Reche’s post office was discontinued in 1888 and moved to West Fall Brook. The name became West Fall Brook Post Office, but the spelling was not changed to Fallbrook Post Office until 1950.
While Fallbrook, California was developing, the fortunes of Fall Brook, Pennsylvania, were waning. The coal ran out, the population declined and in 1900 Fall Brook’s charter was annulled. Today the town’s location is noted only by the Fall Brook Picnic Area in the Tioga State Forest.
From research materials of the Fallbrook Historical Society, including the Ellis Scrapbook and the Floyd Markham monographs).