Sunday, February 19, 2012

A century-old "History of Orange County": towns called Celery and Delhi and a women's club aiming for "sober, Christian citizenship"

Samuel Armor (1843-1933)
     I’ve been reading Civil War vet Samuel Armor’s marvelous History of Orange County, California, first published in 1911 and then revised in 1921. It is available online at the Cornell University Library.
     I've provided a few interesting selections—but I’m barely scraping the surface. The book is nearly 1700 pages long!
     Remember, all of this was written about a century ago. And it appears that much of it amounts to self-hagiography:

CHAPTER XIII: UNINCORPORATED TOWNS

     …Capistrano, the "Old Mission Town," is situated near the junction of San Juan Creek and Trabuco Creek….  The first location of the mission was several miles northeast of the present site, and at the foot of the mountain. The former location is still known as La Mission Viejo….
. . .
     [The town of] Celery is one of the stations and shipping points on the branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad running from Newport Beach to [the town of] Smeltzer [near Westminster]. [Edinger Ave. was previously called Smeltzer.]
["Smeltzer is situated in the heart of the celery district south of Westminster. The town was named after the late D. E. Smeltzer* of Kansas City, who discovered the adaptability of the peat lands, when drained, to the growth of celery. Smeltzer and Wintersburg, one mile further south, are busy places in the shipping season. These towns are on the Southern Pacific Railway from Newport Beach to Los Alamitos." HOOC, p. 87. Evidently, the celery business in OC peaked in 1911 and thereafter declined.]
     Corona del Mar is a small hamlet on the mesa east of the mouth of Newport Bay.
     [The town of] Delhi is a community center about two miles south of Santa Ana.*
[(1) “I grew up in Orange County, lived in area called 'Delhi' where there was Orange groves and Sugar Beets growing, right outside of El Toro Helicopter Marine Base.” (2) "When I was a kid Delhi was a very unique area of Santa Ana. Barrio? Yes. Other side of the tracks? Yes. Family oriented community? Yes. Genuine folks? Yes. Defacto segregation? It had its own school district, what's that tell you? An ethnic melting pot? It sure was." –Orange County Memories]
Holly Sugar, 1965

An immigrant named Joseph Koral built this home in Delhi, also called Gloryetta (or Glorietta)
     El Toro, twelve miles southeast of Santa Ana on the Santa Fe Railway, is the trading point of an extensive grain and grazing district. It is also the nearest railroad point to certain mining camps and bee ranches in the hills on the north and to Laguna Beach and Arch Beach on the south. [El Toro was renamed Lake Forest in 1991. The town had been known as El Toro since the 1880s.]
. . .
     Fairview [we've noted this town previously], seven miles southwest of Santa Ana, is located on the northwest part of the broad mesa lying between the ocean and the damp lands southwest of the county seat. A carline was projected in boom days to connect the town with Santa Ana, but there was not sufficient travel to justify its continuance….

Orange County (Los Alamitos) c. 1920
CHAPTER XIV: ORANGE COUNTY'S SCHOOLS
. . .

CHAPTER XVI: PLEASURE DRIVES AND RESORTS

     …Some time during the [eighteen-]seventies Rev. H. H. Messenger, a retired Episcopal clergyman, bought a tract of land on the mesa south of the present location of the town of El Modena [East Orange] and settled a small colony of members of that denomination on it. These people, having no water system provided and being without means with which to develop one, soon starved out and scattered to parts unknown.
     A few years later David Hewes came down from San Francisco, bought this land and set to work to improve it. One of the oracles in that vicinity warned him that nothing could be done with such land. Mr. Hewes answered that he could cover the tract with twenty dollar gold pieces, if he wanted to. "You'll have to do so, to make it worth anything," was the retort.
     Nevertheless, the Hewes orchards, consisting of about 525 acres, are now worth a million dollars and the Hewes Park is one of the show places of the county….
. . .

     About a quarter of a century ago a nine-hole golf course was laid out in the valley southeast of the El Modena grade. Among those interested in the sport, the following names have been recalled: James Irvine, Dr. J. P. Boyd, W. H. Burnham, R. H. Sanborn, James Fullerton and Henri F. Gardner. Golfing parties would be made up in the different communities from time to time as inclination prompted and the cares of business permitted until the inclination was overborne by the cares and the sport languished.
     Then in 1910 the club revived and increased its membership to about 100, drawing in such members as F. B. Browning, J. R. Porter, [et al.].
. . .
Orange County Historical Society, Modjeska Canyon, 1921
     "Modjeska's Home and Inn" is the business name of the idyllic retreat in the Santiago Canyon which belonged to Madame Modjeska for a number of years and to which she would return for relaxation and rest after finishing a season's engagements on the stage. The place was selected in the early days by J. E. Pleasants, when all the sites were unoccupied. He built a commodious house with wide porches, developed a water system and added such other improvements as would help to make a comfortable and tasteful home for himself and family.
     After Madame Modjeska bought the property, we visited the place over thirty years ago [i.e., before 1890] and were shown all about the premises by the housekeeper, in the absence of the owner. The house was elegantly furnished with antique furniture made of mahogany and other rare and costly woods; the floors were covered with rugs of intricate patterns and skins of wild beasts; and every nook and cranny was filled with expensive articles of vertu, curios, ornaments and various kinds of relics. On the walls and easels were paintings of noted actors and actresses, among which were some of Madame Modjeska in different poses in stage attire. About the grounds were some good-sized trees that suggested to the actress the "Forest of Arden," one of the scenes of Shakespeare's play, "As You Like It," as a romantic name for her sylvan retreat. The flowers, shrubbery and decorations were so placed as to add to the artistic effect of the landscape. Now, however, the large tract originally held under one ownership is being rapidly sold off in lots and acreage tracts which, of course, means more homes and more community interests, without impairing or lessening the grandeur of the mountain scenery.
. . .
     Besides Modjeska's Home and Inn, there are numerous houses and camping grounds in the different canyons throughout the mountains. Some of the houses are occupied all the time by families that live in the mountains for various reasons, and others are occupied only in vacation or when their owners wish to take an outing. The camping grounds are generally occupied by a few families or congenial friends in vacation time only, like Camptonville in the Santiago Canyon above Orange County Park [i.e., Irvine Park].


CHAPTER XIX: SUNDRY VOLUNTARY ORGANIZATIONS

[No mention of the Klan! On the other hand, there's the WCTU:]
. . .
Orange County W.C.T.U.
By Elizabeth H. Mills

     In writing the history of Orange County, all who read its history should know that the organized forces of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union—organized immediately after the organization of the County in 1889—though numerically small, have been a potent factor in the moral, spiritual and political uplift of the county. The education given by this organization has been progressive along all lines that tend to the betterment of the human race. It has spared neither sacrifice nor service to this end, and today not a county in our beloved state can show a better record. Splendid men have stood behind the brave women who have dared to blaze the way through indifference, criticism and intolerance that ever marks the path to victory. These kept the faith and waged the warfare that made it possible for Orange County, with its present eleven Unions and over five hundred members, to be an effective part in placing in our National Constitution the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Amendments. All honor to the W.C.T.U. women, and their helpers, of this County for their part in making the nation's present and future sober, Christian citizenship.

Anaheim 1924
CHAPTER XXIV: A CHAPTER OF TRAGEDIES

     [One might note that the 2nd edition of this history was written only one or two years before the KKK** first made a splash in OC. That effort was successfully defeated. Then,
In 1924, the Klan secretly managed to get four of its members elected to the five-member [Anaheim] Board of Trustees. Nine of the ten members of the police force were also Klansmen. The four Klan trustees served for nearly a year, until they were publicly exposed, and voted out in a recall election in which 95% of the population participated. —See Anaheim and also Anaheim police dept. history.]
. . .
A Breach of the Law
By Linn L. Shaw

F. Torres
     The only case of mob violence in Santa Ana history….
     …William McKelvey, foreman of Madame Modjeska's famous ranch home in Santiago Canyon, was brutally murdered July 31, 1892, by this Mexican [namely, Francisco Torres], who was employed as a laborer under him. Torres fled, was captured at Mesa Grande a couple of weeks after the crime and, brought to this city, where he was held for the murder, without bail, and was confined in the old jail on Sycamore Street, between Second and Third. McKelvey had many friends in this city and the officers, fearing trouble, placed Robert Cogburn on guard at the jail. About one o'clock on the morning of August 20 there was an alarm at the jail door and a muffled demand to open it, which order Mr. Cogburn refused to obey. Immediately the door was battered in with a sledge and about thirty men, armed and masked, filed inside. Upon being refused the keys to the cell they forcibly took them from the guard, secured Torres and departed. Mr. Cogburn attempted to follow them, but, upon being invited to return to the jail at the point of what appeared to him a "horizontal telegraph pole,” returned to his duties without any further desire to associate with his determined and systematic visitors. There was evidently no time wasted with the captive, and he was strung up to the pole, where the body remained as a gruesome surprise to early risers the next morning. An attempt was made to locate the perpetrators of the lynching through the grand jury, but no indictments were issued and the affair was quietly dropped in official circles.
     [Torres was hanged at the northeast corner of Fourth and Sycamore streets.]


CHAPTER XXXI: THE BEE INDUSTRY
By J. E. Pleasants

     …Samuel Shrewsbury was the first man to bring bees into what is now Orange County. This was in 1869. He first kept them on the Montgomery ranch at Villa Park. In 1871 he moved them into the Santiago Canyon. Beekeeping as an industry has grown gradually until there are now about 10,000 colonies kept in Orange County. There are from 75 to 100 practical beekeepers who make it their chief business. The average yield of honey during a good year is about 200 tons. This year (1920) there will be over 300 tons. The cash income from honey and wax, at the present prices, is something over $100,000 annually.

CHAPTER XXXV: POPULATION AND VALUATIONS


*In Beasts of the field: a narrative history of California farmworkers, 1769-1913, Richard Steven Street describes an episode of anti-Chinese racism in the early 1890s. It started when Smeltzer and a pal tried to grow celery but couldn’t get local hands to do the work in the bogs. Thus Chinese workers were hired. When the celery harvests became lucrative, the non-Chinese workers wanted in, but the company would only hire the Chinese. Thus, local field hands held “indignation” meetings, expressing their intent to “wipe out the almond-eyed Mongols.” One night, they attacked a Chinese camp, setting it alight. After that, the company hired armed guards. See also Immigrant Lives in the OC and Beyond.

*ADDENDUM:

Plaques for the pioneers: Santa Ana's Delhi neighborhood has ties that stretch back almost a century, and residents plan an honor.
(Editor's note: This story was first published June 1, 2001)



     …For many people who grew up in Delhi, bonds to the neighborhood began to form almost a century ago. Some remember tales of relatives who settled there after fleeing the Mexican Revolution. Other families followed the railroad for jobs, moving in because it was one of the few places where Mexicans could buy land and plant lasting roots.
     Along with the immigrants who settled neighborhoods like Placita Santa Fe in Placentia and El Modena near Orange, the early residents of Delhi spawned a Latino community that now comprises nearly a third of Orange County's people.
     For the first time, the early settlers who built Delhi (pronounced DELL-high) are being honored. More than 100 names – from the Alcarazes to the Zaragozas – will be engraved on a plaque for display inside the new Delhi Community Center that's under construction. They were sugar-factory workers and laborers, grandmothers and grandfathers. Pioneers like the parents of Albert and Mary Esparza.
. . .
     Delhi is among a number of Mexican-American neighborhoods that formed in Orange County around the turn of the century and are still populated by the descendants of early founders….
     The 1920 census counted about 500 people living in Delhi. Adults listed their birthplaces as Mexico, and most of their children were born in California. They all spoke Spanish, and a number of families reported owning their own homes, free and clear. Just outside the streets of Delhi, the census tract records a majority of residents born in the Midwest or Europe.
. . .
     The Delhi of today resembles the old neighborhood. Small houses surround the elementary school, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and the Delhi Community Center that is housed in World War II Quonset huts.
     A remnant of original residents still lives there, and many new Mexican immigrants have moved in.
. . .
     "This community has not been given the recognition and respect it deserves over the years,'' said Bob Silva, principal of Monroe Elementary School in Delhi.
     Delhi's history comes from the recollections of the people who grew up there. Although the neighborhood is one of the oldest in the city, it's not featured in any books on Santa Ana history. But stories of what brought people to the area have been passed through the generations.
     ``My great-grandparents, they came over here at the turn of the century,'' said Virginia Avila, 68, a Santa Ana resident who no longer lives in Delhi. ``They worked the railroad. They worked for food.
     ``The war was on in Mexico. They had to leave their business and everything. They always found a way of making a little bit of money.''
     Eventually, they bought land in Delhi and built a makeshift house, still occupied by Avila's great aunt.
     Avila remembers working the fields as a child and attending a segregated school in a neighborhood without paved streets or sidewalks.
     ``There's not that many left that can say how it really was,'' Avila said.
     Virginia Solis Godoy of Irvine remembers how the whole community helped bring a church to Delhi in 1927. The youngest of nine, Godoy had a close relationship with her mother, who stood 4 feet, 11 inches and commanded enough respect in the neighborhood to put a stop to squabbling in the neighborhood cantina, but also collected food for needy families.
. . .
     Daniel Peña, 79, was born in Anaheim but grew up in Delhi. He met his wife, Mary, in the neighborhood and for their fifth anniversary he built their first home in Delhi. Growing up, he remembers playing in the street with an old can and the thrill when his father would bring home a newspaper so all the kids in the neighborhood could read the funnies.
     ``It was rough,'' said Peña. ``Now we can say it's rough. Then we didn't know any better. We were segregated.''
     Peña, a retired supervisor for the Parks and Recreation Department, said that in the 1950s Delhi was still without sidewalks or paved roads. He went to City Hall and he was told to create an assessment district. So Peña knocked on doors with his petition and in 1958 residents approved raising their property taxes to improve the area.
     ``That's how come we have the sidewalks and the paved streets in Delhi,'' he said.
     The Peñas live in the Washington Square neighborhood of Santa Ana but still visit their old neighborhood regularly for family gatherings.
     ``We still party out there,'' said Mary Peña, 77. ``Now our grandkids enjoy it.''
Bishop Jaime Soto served for 13 years as a priest in Delhi, a neighborhood he describes as premodern because of its deep ties to custom, tradition and a connection to place often lost in a mobile world.
. . .
     Santa Ana resident Manuel Esqueda, 78, is compiling the list of the early settlers, including his parents. He also plans to collect photos and histories to create an exhibit to go along with the plaque.
     ``I want to tell the younger generation how we go here and let them know that things can be done,'' Esqueda said.

8 comments:

  1. How fun to find the photo of a WCTU meeting in *my* town (Beaumont)! Do you have any way of finding the address of that old building, BvT? (I am lazy!)

    Thanks for the really cool old history.

    MAH

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, the Democrat party's KKK was there!

    ReplyDelete
  3. 12:51, you don't read very carefully, do you? The post includes party registration.
    At the time, 12,169 voters registered as Republican in Anaheim. Meanwhile, only 5,679 registered as Democrats.
    Notoriously, Anaheim and other OC cities were very Republican and voters almost invariably voted for Republicans.
    Maybe you should take some reading classes. And history. And logic. And Etiquette.

    ReplyDelete
  4. MAH, I found the photo here:
    http://www.wctusocal.com/old-wctusocal/pages/fountains.html
    As that site points out, the fountain is next door to the post office. Maybe that's still so?

    ReplyDelete
  5. MAH: here's the info:
    The drinking fountain sits in a tiny, triangle-shaped, grassy area called Veterans Park, located at Egan Avenue and Seventh Street.

    A plaque at the base of the stone fountain in town reads:

    “WCTU Dec. 25, 1910.”

    I do believe it's still there.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks, Roy, for the bit about beekeeping, a subject close to my heart.

    Very few beekeepers in OC these days.

    Bob C.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sure, Bob, always willing to do my part to promote bee keepery

    ReplyDelete
  8. Honey is bee slavery!

    ReplyDelete

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