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The Magee Connection to Fallbrook, California

Fallbrook, CA named for Fall Brook Coal, and Fall Brook, PA
Many Magees settle on the west coast at Fall Brook & Temecula

Vital Reche, from Rochester, married Amelia Magee, niece of Gen. George J. Magee. He became involved in the Magee family's Fall Brook Railroad and coal interests, in Pennsylvania and New York. In 1869, Vital and Amelia moved permanently to California. They chose the name Fall Brook for their ranch. Soon the entire valley, with its many large and beautiful Live Oak Trees, was called Fall Brook; later, Fallbrook.

Vital C. Reche (1825-1894)
 Vital C. Reche (1825-94)

In 1849, Vital C. Reche, whose parents had come from Quebec, left Rochester, NY. for the California gold fields. He traveled on the "Pinkham" to Panama, made an arduous trip overland across the Isthmus, and boarded a ship lying off the shore, the "Niantic" a former whaling ship, which was readying to set sail for San Francisco. Niantic was one of the first ships to bring gold seekers to San Francisco, arriving at 11 pm July 5, 1849

When they reached San Francisco, most of the crew fled to the gold fields, and the Niantic was beached, and converted into storage business and hotel. Over the door in the side of the ship was the sign 'Rest for the weary and storage for trunks.' It prospered under Vital's management. Niantic HotelA fire on May 3, 1851 destroyed all but the submerged hulk, which later was utilized as the foundation for the Niantic Hotel, a famous hostelry that stood until 1872. As late as 1978, when a new building was constructed on this site, many artifacts from the NIANTIC were found.

At some point, Vital made the acquaintance of brothers Henry and John Magee from Angelica, NY, children of Hugh Magee and Amelia DuPont d'Autremont. The Magee brothers had settled in California following the Mexican-American War, around 1848; they had both been First Lieutenants. Like many soldiers, they were encouraged by the Government to homestead there, following the war. The Magees made a small fortune not in mining, but providing services to the thousands of people headed for the gold fields.

John and Henry Magee's uncle, John Magee (Sr.), was a railroad builder, a hero of the 1812 War, a Congressman and an advisor to President Andrew Jackson. He lived in Bath, NY, south of Rochester, not far from his brother Hugh, in Angelica. He owned coal and forestry lands, and ran several successful stage coach lines with government contracts to deliver mail. His coal mines were at Blossburg and Fall Brook, PA, and he built or leased rail lines to haul that coal to Watkins, where it could be put on barges in Seneca Lake, and shipped via the Erie Canal. His company was the Fall Brook Coal Company; his rail lines were the "Fall Brook Route."

The Magee brothers had done very well in California and, since Vital planned to return to NY, they decided to send some money home to their family with him. Not incidentally, Vital was smitten by a tintype photo of the Magee's sister, Amelia. He survived the return trip and went on to Angelica, New York, the home of the Magee family. On January 25, 1854, Vital married George J. Magee's cousin, Amelia, in Angelica.

First Temecula Post OfficeVital's younger brother, Anthony Reche, accompanied the new couple back from NY to San Jose, where they ran a hotel. In 1859, they sold the hotel and moved to Southern CA, settling at Temecula. There, Anthony ran a mercantile store built by John Magee, which, on April 22, 1859, became the site of the very first Post Office in Temecula, where the short-lived Butterfield Stage established a stop.

Henry Magee married Maria Victoria de Pedrorena. In 1860, Henry and Maria, as well as Henry's brother, John, were listed as living with Amelia and Vital in Temecula.

In 1862, because of the Civil War, the Temecula Post Office closed, John Magee abandoned his store and moved to Rainbow Canyon, where he opened a new store. Magee and Louis Wolf (another emigré) went into business together, until 1868, when Magee lost his share to settle a debt.  John Magee set up another store about three miles away on the road to San Diego.


Reche Coal Ad.Vital’s father, also Vital (1797- 1894), spent three years in California, working as an architect and hunting gold. In 1854, he returned to Rochester and continued his successful coal business. The Reche Coal Company became the second largest coal dealership in Rochester, with much business in later years attributed to his alliance with the Fall Brook Coal interests. He died the oldest citizen of Rochester.

In 1867, Vital and Amelia Reche returned to Watkins, NY., to join the Magee family, and establish a home. They loved Watkins area, with its vineyards and bucolic views overlooking Seneca Lake.

But, while Vital and Amelia were in Watkins, both John Magee (Sr.), who had built the town of Fall Brook, and owned the mines and railroad interests, and his successor, his son Duncan, died within a year. The operations were taken over by another son, George Jefferson Magee. And in 1869, Vital was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Reche Land Grant
The original 1883 Homestead Grant - 160 Acres to Vital C. Reche (click to enlarge)

Vital and Amelia returned to Pala (in California) in hope that a milder climate might give him a few years more (he lived to 1894, testament to California living).

He homesteaded just north of the San Luis Rey River, and began farming fruit trees and alfalfa, and created a bee and honey industry. He named his home there, Fall Brook, after the Magee family's interests in the east. The excellent honey soon became well known and to accommodate the tourists, Vital built two more houses, a tourist office, a grocery store, a small hotel, and a stage stop. A post office was established at his home.

The United States Land Office shows numerous land claims registered to members of the Reché and Magee families in the Paia, Temecula and Fallbrook area in the late-1800s.

Vital remained in constant contact with several people in Watkins, NY, notably Daniel Beach. Mr. Beach was his attorney and executor of his Will, and continued as a vice-President of the Fall Brook Coal Co, and on the Board of Directors of many other Magee interests. A one point, Vital put up his land as collateral for a loan from Daniel Beach who, in the plat books of 1912, is shown as the owner of the property. The date of transfer, and its eventual disposition are unclear.

After a family dispute, Anthony Reche, with his wife, Memora Cayton, moved to the Temecula area. Anthony homesteaded 160 acres where he built a house, developed one of the many natural springs and began farming, raising bees and bringing in a large flock of sheep in the area that would from then on - to this day - be called Reche’s Canyon.

In the 1886-1887 San Diego City and County Directory, Temecula proudly proclaimed a population of 400. The town had two hotels, a post office with daily mail, a telegraph station, blacksmith and wagon shops, churches, and a school. The leading businessmen and their respective occupations were the following: James Banks and Peter Mouren—The Temecula Hotel; P. G. Hindorff—harness maker; Fred Machado—clerk; John Magee—apiary, a beekeeper.

Vital Reche died in 1894 at age 69. Anthony died in 1898. After Anthony's death, the Fallbrook Enterprise said in this tribute to them: "The Fallbrook region owes its settlement and name to these two brothers who, reinforced by H. C. (Henry) Magee, first broke into this primeval wilderness, cleared farms, built roads, and opened a way for subsequent settlers. Their names must always head Fallbrook's history."

In nearby Temecula, a park is named for John Magee, in whose store, on April 22, 1859, the first inland Southern California post office was established. Today Reché Road is a major thoroughfare. And in Paia the Old Magee Ranch lies on land originally owned by Henry Magee, on - what else - Magee Road.


"The Reche Brothers" - The Californians - Nov/Dec 1989
"California As I Saw It: First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900"
fallbrook.org - From research materials of the Fallbrook Historical Society


link to Fallbrook CA