History of The Diamond House in South Oceanside and a Terrifying Day at the Wayside Inn

South Oceanside, a popular (and some would say “trendy”) neighborhood, was once a separate township of its own. Situated between the town sites of Oceanside and Carlsbad, it was established by John Chauncey Hayes, who was also heavily intertwined with the establishment of the City of Oceanside.

John Chauncey Hayes, founder of South Oceanside

Born in Los Angeles in 1852, he was the son of Judge Benjamin I. Hayes and Emily Chauncey. His father was the first judge of the district court to serve Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino counties. The Hayes family moved to San Diego and the younger Hayes studied law in his father’s office until 1875, when he married Felipe Marron, daughter of Silvestre Marron.  The newlywed couple moved to San Luis Rey, where Hayes “engaged in locating government and state lands” along with farming and delivering mail. 

In the early 1880s Hayes bought 1200 acres of coastal land between Oceanside and Carlsbad. Even when he became the exclusive real estate agent for Andrew Jackson Myers, Oceanside’s founder, he also served as Justice of the Peace and postmaster. If that wasn’t enough for an enterprising, ambitious businessman, Hayes began to develop his new township of South Oceanside which included a depot, hotel, cemetery, a two-story brick schoolhouse and its own newspaper, The South Oceanside Diamond, of which he was the editor.

Map of South Oceanside, California State Railroad Museum

South Oceanside also had a brickyard just south of Kelly Street between Ditmar and Moreno Streets. The muddy clay from the nearby lagoon was used to fashion and fire bricks used to build buildings and no less than 10 homes. Hayes had a brick building erected to house his newspaper printing and real estate office.

Ad for South Oceanside in the South Oceanside Diamond Newspaper

In addition to these amenities, South Oceanside also offered a hotel for visitors. Located on the corner of Kelly and Tremont Streets (the exact location is unknown), Hannah Trotter operated The Diamond House. The name of Trotter’s establishment went along with the theme of South Oceanside, with its newspaper, the Diamond, and Hayes’ hyperbolic advertisement of “buying and wearing diamonds.”

Hannah Bell Trotter was born in 1836 in Pennsylvania. She married Thomas Trotter, a coal miner, in about 1866 and the couple had five children. After her husband’s death, Hannah and her children came to the new township of Oceanside as early as 1886. In 1887 Trotter acquired and filed her own addition to the town of Oceanside, a five acre tract in the northern part of town. It would be the first addition/subdivision in Oceanside established by a woman.

Hannah Trotter Addition, 1887

In March of 1888 it was first announced that the “foundations are being laid for Mrs. Trotter’s boarding house.  It will be a brick building, costing $3000.” (The foundation was brick, but the house was actually made of wood.) The house would be finished by May 1st and it was noted that Mrs. Trotter would “keep a first class place.”

Ad for the The Diamond Hotel in the South Oceanside Diamond Newspaper, 1889

The South Oceanside Diamond reported on May 18, 1888 that “The Diamond House, built and to be conducted as a hotel by Mrs. Hannah Trotter, is almost completed, and will be of great benefit to this community. The grounds surrounding the hotel will be highly ornamental, choice trees, flowers, grass, etc., having already been selected by the proprietress, who is adept in the art of floriculture.” The following month, the Diamond reported that “Hannah Trotter has opened her boarding, house and is ready to accommodate boarders.” Weekly advertisements were included in each edition stating that the Diamond House was “first class in every respect” and the “best table set on the coast.”

Hannah Trotter died in 1911 at the age of 76. Prior to her death the property upon which her boarding house was sold to Augusta Dickson Garden in about 1896 and the two-story home was featured in a grainy photo in the Oceanside Blade newspaper.

In 1913 Belle McWilliams bought what was then called the “South Oceanside Hotel” from Mrs. Garden. It was noted that Hannah Trotter had operated the hotel “in early days.” Belle McWilliams was said to have plans to make “considerable improvements to the property” which included an “amusement pavilion” and “facilities provided for catering to automobile parties.” It is likely that the building had been moved to front South Hill Street, or what was known as the Coast Route or Highway 101, as the hotel was referenced as “being on the auto route.”

Emma “Belle” Mitchell McWilliams was a native of Arkansas, born in 1863. She married Hugh Harris McWilliams in 1900 in Texas. Hugh McWilliams had a daughter, Murrie, from a previous marriage. The trio arrived in Oceanside from Texas in 1913.

On July 5th of that year, an opening celebration and dance was held at the former boarding house and hotel, renamed the “Ye Wayside Inn.” Admission to the dance was 75 cents but spectators were welcomed “free of charge.” It was announced that “parents can be sure that their daughters will be carefully chaperoned and no rowdyism permitted.” Perhaps there was concern by locals because Belle McWilliams had petitioned the county supervisors for a liquor license.

Belle operated her Wayside Inn with little incident but in 1915 a bizarre and tragic event unfolded there.

George Melvin Slobohm, superintendent of the state highway, overseeing road work on the Highway 101, had been staying at the Wayside Inn. Belle McWilliams would later state that the Slobohm “had been acting oddly for several days.”

On Sunday, August 8th, Slobohm, approached McWilliam’s 24-year-old daughter Murrie and asked to speak with her privately. While in the house, he proceeded to confess his love for her, but told Murrie that because he was already married he had decided to kill her and then himself, as a future together was not possible.

In spite of this terrifying news, Murrie McWilliams kept her wits about her, and convinced Slobohm that they should leave the house and walk down to the beach. As they walked out of the Inn, Slobohm was armed with a shotgun.

Murrie spotted her father and instinctively ran to him for help. The crazed man shot at her as she ran, but missed. Miraculously, just at that time Belle arrived at the property in a buggy, and witnessed the fearful scene. Father and daughter climbed into the buggy as Belle drove hard and fast to the home of Warren E. Spaulding, a dairy farmer, just to the east near Cassidy and Stewart Streets, to call for help on the telephone.

Warren E. Spaulding at his dairy ranch in South Oceanside

George Slobohm remained on the property and did not give chase. When local Constable DeBord, along with M. J. Maxey, George and Robert Borden responded to the emergency, they found Slobohm dead on the porch with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

But before he turned the gun on himself, Slobohm had set fire to the McWilliams’ house in several places, pouring gasoline on the floor in four of the rooms and setting it ablaze.  The officers managed to put out the fire and “save the house without much damage except in the laundry room which was pretty badly scorched.”

San Diego County Coroner Marsh came up that evening and a jury was summoned consisting of George A. Lane, Ben Higgins, John Osuna, D. A. Ellis, A. B. Curtis, and Josephine Jascen. They listened to the testimony of Murrie, Belle and Hugh McWilliams, viewed the scene and a verdict of suicide “was rendered accordingly.”

The Oceanside Blade stated that “Slobohm, who was about fifty years old, was a quiet man who bore a good reputation and was well liked by those who have had occasion to do business with him since he has been connected with the highway work here. He leaves a son, Henry, who has been living here, and two daughters and a widow in Los Angeles.” The next day George Slobohm’s wife and son came down from Los Angeles Monday and made arrangements for the removal of the body.

By the 1920s, Hugh and Belle McWilliams sold their Wayside Inn and moved closer to downtown Oceanside. Hugh McWilliams died in 1928 and Belle one year later.

1932 aerial of South Oceanside and Hill Street/Coast Highway (UCSB Library)

What became of the Wayside Inn, formerly the Diamond House and South Oceanside Hotel, is unknown. South Oceanside was annexed years prior and became part of the City of Oceanside. But it would stay a largely rural area for several years. Even as late as 1930 there were less than 10 homes or buildings fronting the coast highway. It wasn’t until the post war years when tracts of homes replaced the dairy cows, fields of crops and eventually the acres of flowers planted by the Frazee family.

5 thoughts on “History of The Diamond House in South Oceanside and a Terrifying Day at the Wayside Inn

  1. Another terrific article Kristi.
    The City of Oceanside is fortunate to have you. Thank you for your ongoing historical research. Though I don’t always post, I very much enjoy and look forward to your stories. Your passion is greatly appreciated!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I enjoy researching and writing these stories. They often just come up as I am researching another subject and I stumble across something they peaks my interest. There is so much more history to tell…thanks for reading


  2. Wow!!! This was fascinating as usual!!! When I reached the part where the daughter saw her father, my mouth dropped open and I almost skipped to the end!! But … I didn’t! It was fascinating yet in that one portion where he took his life, that was sad. BUT had she NOT had her wits about her, he probably would have succeeded with his original plan, and there would have been 2 funerals.
    Thank you again for all your hard work in uncovering these Mysteries and bringing them to life!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yolanda, thanks so much for reading and your comments.
      I agree she had no choice – it certainly was a scary experience for the daughter but thank God her mother was there too ready to whisk everyone away to safety


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