The name of the beautiful valley of Poway (Pauwai) is derived from the language of the Diegueno and Luiseno Indians who roamed the area for several hundred years before the Spaniards came. Traces of these Native Americans still remain.
Documents of Mission San Diego de Alcala record the name of the valley as "Paguay" as early as 1828. Although there is a disagreement on the meaning of "Paguay," the generally accepted translation signifies "the meeting of little valleys" or "end of the valley."
Philip Crosthwaite is believed to have been the first white settler in the Poway area. He built an adobe house and took up ranching in 1859.
A sufficient number of settlers had come into the valley by 1869 to warrant a post office. Castanos Paine, whose ranch was a way stop for stages from the north and from San Diego, applied to Washington for an appointment as postmaster in 1870. The application stated that there were no post offices located between San Diego and San Bernardino at that time. The appointment was granted, but the Postmaster General crossed out the words "Paine's Ranch" and substituted "Poway," thus settling once and for all the spelling of the name.
The 1880's saw a prosperous and well-populated valley. Families were settling on farms, planting orchards and vineyards, and raising grain. Dairying was profitable, as was beekeeping. By 1887, there were about 800 people in the Poway area.
By the early 1900's, the hardiest of the settlers had managed to cope with drought and transportation problems. They had firmly established themselves in their chosen valley and had found a good and satisfying life. Poway became known for its exceptionally fine peaches and for its vineyards. Grain and alfalfa were other major products. At the close of the 19th century, fewer than 1,000 people were living in Poway.
The growth of the town did not really get underway until the late 1950’s, when Poway Valley Homes opened the first subdivision. In 1971, a dam was constructed, creating Lake Poway, to provide residents with a more permanent source of water.
In December 1980, Poway incorporated as a full-service, general law City, which operates under the Council/Manager form of government. Prior to that, Poway was an unincorporated area of San Diego. The City's policy-making body, the City Council, is comprised of five members elected at large by the citizens of Poway to serve four overlapping terms. Annually, the City Council chooses one of its members to serve as Deputy Mayor, while the public directly elects the Mayor.
In the late 1980’s, development of the 700-acre Poway Business Park began in the southern area of the City. The Business Park is home to more than 400 businesses today and provides more than 16,000 jobs.
In October 2003, the Cedar Fire, the largest fire in the history of San Diego County, destroyed 54 homes and caused thousands to evacuate.
For a more detailed history of Poway, click here to see the Boy Scout Citizenship in the Community Merit Badge packet.