Santee’s history begins with the establishment of the Old Mission Dam in 1779 under the direction of Fr. Junipero Serra. The dam provided water to the Mission San Diego de Alcala, and the site is preserved in the historic Old Mission site near the western entrance to the town.
Eventually the land was parceled up into land grants and given to the Spanish soldiers. It was sold to the first American settlers in 1877 when George Cowles bought 4,000 acres to develop his vineyards. The area was originally call Cowleston and became known as Santee after Cowles widow married Milton Santee. Cowles Mountain is named for Cowles and preserves the memory of his early development of the area. The town was linked to San Diego by the Cuyamaca Railroad.
Homer McKoon came to Santee in 1885 and purchased 9,000 acres, naming it Fanita Ranch. In 1898, the Scripps family bought Fanita Ranch using it to raise cattle and as a country retreat. In 1958, the Carlton Company purchased 4,300 acres and the population of the area began to expand.
The area incorporated in 1980 and now has several major commercial areas, a business community that employs over 17,000 people and offers many recreational opportunities. Residents like the convenience of the city’s urban location combined with its feeling of living in the country. The Santee Recreation Lakes offer fishing and boating and the downtown shopping area offers a collection of stores, theatres and restaurants.
Santee real estate consists of single family homes, townhomes and condos in its family oriented neighborhoods.