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I Am El Cajon

 “I Am El Cajon” Essay

A third-grade student at Chase Elementary School entered her essay, titled “I am El Cajon,” in an essay contest. The Centennial I am El Cajon Contest WinnerCelebration Committee has embraced the essay theme for the Centennial year. Be sure to pick up your very own “I am El Cajon” bracelet at the closing celebration at 5 p.m.

“Many people have helped to build the community of El Cajon. Some, like the Kumeyaay, were here from the beginning. Others came to build a hotel or to farm the land. Some even came to find gold. Let’s take a look at the lives of a few of these men and women who made El Cajon what it is today.

I am a Kumeyaay.

I have lived here for many years. My people hunted deer and rabbits and gathered acorns from the Cuyamaca Mountains.We built our homes out of willow branches and tied deer broom over them. We made beautiful pottery, paintings, and jewelry with our hands. We used the resources nature gave us. We are a peaceful people. Today we live on 18 reservations in San Diego.

I am El Cajon.


I am Isaac Lankershim.

I came from San Francisco to buy land in the valley. But it belonged to the Pedrorena family. In 1869 I hired Major Levi Chase, an attorney, to finalize the sale. It took 7 years and then it was mine. I paid Chase 7,624 acres of land in the valley

I am El Cajon.


I am Major Levi Chase.

I work for Isaac Lankershim. I found a legal way to move people out of their homes. This is called eviction. I evicted squatters living on Lankershim’s property. Instead of money, he paid me in land. I grew citrus fruit and wheat. I also grew apricots and seedless grapes. I also brought the railroad into El Cajon. I offered to pay $10,000 to anyone who would bring the railroad over Grossmont Summit. I needed a faster way to move my produce to market.

I am El Cajon.


I am Amaziah Knox.

I was the first person to build a hotel in El Cajon. I built it on the land I received from Isaac Lankershim after building a house for him. I had seen the miners, hauling their gold ore down the mountain from Julian, stop to rest overnight in that very spot. So in 1879 that is where I built it. It was small at first. It was two stories high with seven rooms. Later I built an addition.

I am El Cajon.


I am Mrs. Rea.

My husband and I built and opened the first General Store in the valley in 1877. It was on the corner across from the Knox Hotel on Main and Magnolia. We sold a lot of different things. There were other stores around us like the post office and a drug store. Today there is a street named after us.

I am El Cajon.


I am James A. Harris.

I am the first mayor of El Cajon. I organized a Chamber of Commerce and carried petitions for cityhood. On November 12, 1912, as 158 people voted, El Cajon became a city. Today El Cajon is a city of 100,116.

I am El Cajon.


I am Tom Wigton.

I am the one who created the Mother Goose Parade in 1947. I made the parade as a gift to the children. The first parade was not very big but it has become a huge event held the weekend before Thanksgiving. Mother Goose herself rides a float driven by the Montijo family. My parade has been going on now for the last 65 years.

I am El Cajon.


I am Jimmie Johnson.

I am a Nascar driver. I was born and raised in El Cajon. When I was only five years old, I started my racing career. After graduation from Granite Hills High School, I began an off road racing series. I won Driver of the Year four times- in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010. My wife and I now have a foundation to help children. This year we awarded Chase Avenue School $53,898 to build a running track on their dirt field.

I am El Cajon.


I am Sam.

My family came from New Zealand to find work.

I am Natalie.

My family came from Jordan. We joined family already living here.

I am Tha Lei.

My family came from Thailand to get away from the war. We had family here.

I am Steven.

I am a newcomer. My family came from Iraq to get away from the war.

WE are El Cajon.