Felicita County Park History

Felicita County Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Kumeyaay Indians originally occupied this area. Abundant oaks, grasses, rabbits, pronghorn, deer, and a bountiful creek made this an ideal location. It was situated along trails that led to the coast for shellfish gathering or to the mountains where autumn festivals were held. This site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because the property demonstrates how the Kumeyaay lived, raised their families, and hunted and gathered their food.

After the Native Californians left, it was known as McCoy’s Grove. James McCoy bought Bernardo Rancho in 1867, and this included the lovely valley we know today as Felicita Park. The parents of Ransford and Elinora Lewis purchased some land in 1918 that included our park. They grew lemons, oranges, wheat and grapevines in and around the park. The Lewis’ sold Felicita Park to the County of San Diego for $12,000 in 1930. Earl Shidner was hired for $27.00 per month to be a caretaker at the park. Over time he built a house and garage, comfort stations, a band shell with concrete slab dance floor, barbecue pit, concrete and wood picnic tables and benches, playground equipment, a food stand, windmill and pump.

The park was named after an Indian woman, Felicita La Chappa. A romantic legend was written by Dr. Benjamin Sherman in 1926 and presented as an outdoor pageant in Escondido from 1927 through 1932. When the County bought the property, local Escondido resident Francis B. Ryan proposed the County name the park after Felicita.

In real life Felicita was the daughter of a Kumeyaay Chief named Pontho. She and her clan lived in the nearby San Pasqual Valley. Her Kumeyaay name was Hal-ah-wee. When she was 12, a priest from Mission San Diego de Alcala baptized her with the name Felicita, which in Spanish means “happy little one.” She and several of her family were in a San Pasqual village when the Californios and Americans fought the Battle of San Pasqual in December 1846 during the Mexican War. Felicita and her father assisted the American soldiers after the battle. Legend says that Felicita and a solider named Dick took a liking to each other and they were eventually married.

However, in real life, Felicita had a life long partner named “Boley” Morales. They had no children. Felicita continued to live in the valley until she died in 1916. Felicita and Morales were known by most of the pioneer families that moved to the San Pasqual valley and they were a common site in the town of Escondido.