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Ask the Orange County Historical Society
If you have a question about Orange County history, maybe we can help. If we don’t have the answer, maybe we can at least suggest somewhere to look.

You can email your questions to: historian@orangecountyhistory.org. The questions will be posted here once we have an answer.

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1. Where is the exact geographic location of Sugarloaf Peak?
   
2. What was the old place name for the Anaheim Hills, Villa Park, and Orange Park Acres area, and the mountain range by the 91 to 241 freeways?
   
3. Where was El Camino Real located, and are there good books on Juan Flores?
   
4. What can you tell me about Frank Emery's Ranch near Fullerton?
   
5. Can you tell me anything about the old San Antonio Church?
   
6. Where is the site of Juan Flores' ambush of Sheriff Barton's posses?
   
7. What can you tell me about Senator Brown's Tower in Laguna Beach?
   
8. Can you verify if WWII P.O.W.s really worked in Orange County fruit fields?
   
9. Can you tell me about a body of water called "Forster Lake" that once existed where Shorecliffs Country Club is today?
   
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1.

Sugarloaf Peak

“I am trying to get the Board of Geographic Names in the USGS to move a name of a mountain in the Cleveland National Forest that appears to be shown on the wrong peak on the 7.5 minute topo quad. The 1940 Forest Service map that predates the current topo quad shows the name 'Sugarloaf' on the higher, more rounded prominent peak then the peak shown on the quad.

“The BGN is telling me whether or not a mistake was made back in the 50’s compiling the quad, they won’t move the name unless I can get community groups, including the County Supervisors, to agree in writing that they want this done. I wonder if you would know where other maps or records that substantiate the location of the named peak might be, and how to contact a historical society that I could convince to support this.

“I would appreciate any help you might be able to give me.”

   
  So are you suggesting that the actual Sugarloaf Peak is the one marked 3326 in Section 22 (Alberhill Quad, 1954)? The name would suggest a conical peak that rises fairly evenly on all sides towards a rounded summit. It is a common descriptive name (what is now Pleasants Peak was also once known as Sugarloaf).

As for maps, there are earlier National Forest maps. A 1917 version is reproduced on the endpapers of Jim Sleeper’s 1976 book, A Boys’ Book of Bear Stories. It does not have a “dot” for the peak, but shows the name centered over Section 23, along the trail from San Juan Hot Springs to the Potrero Los Pinos.

The old township plats and surveyor’s notes might also be useful. They should be available through the National Archives if the County Surveyor’s office does not already have a set.

The County Archives has some 1900s and 1930s series topos, but I cannot recall if there are any for that part of the county. In any case, they do exist. The official county maps are of such a large scale that they may not be of much use. The earliest in the collection goes back to 1908, I believe.

In my experience, topographical maps (in fact, most maps) contain all sorts of errors. Names are sometimes garbled on one map, then dutifully copied by every subsequent cartographer. It is not enough, in my view, to simply find the oldest map, but to compare as many different series of maps (topos, Forest Service, etc.) and see if there is a clear majority for one peak or the other.

If you can make your case, you might contact the Orange County Historical Society. San Juan Capistrano has a very active society as well.

- Phil Brigandi

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2.

Place Names

“I need to know what the early day name was for the area around Anaheim Hills, Villa Park and Orange Park Acres?

Also, would you happen to know what the early name of Peralta Hills was? What I am looking for is the early name of the mountain range is that runs along the 91 freeway to the 241 between Anaheim Hills and Orange Villa Park?”

   
  Villa Park has been Villa Park a long time. That name first appears (as the name of the post office) around 1888. The other early name (from the school district) was Mountain View.

The Anaheim Hills were the Bixby Hills in the old days. The Bixby Ranch covered several thousand acres in the area. (The Bixbys had been one of James Irvine’s early partners.)

Orange Park Acres is a toughie. That name goes back to around 1928. Not sure if the area had a general name before then; it’s sort of the top of Peters Canyon—a name that goes back to about the 1890s. The best known ranch in what is now Orange Park Acres was the Kiefhaber Ranch, established in the 1890s.

The only general name I know for that ridge is the Bixby Hills.

Peralta Hills was a tract laid out around 1916 on the north side of the ridge (now part of Anaheim Hills—a name that only dates to the 1970s). The old community of Peralta was further east, where the Peralta Adobe still stands.

- Phil Brigandi

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3.

El Camino Real and Juan Flores

“I was wondering if you could provide some more information on some OC history for me. I’m a Cubmaster for a local Cub Scout pack, and I’m putting together a hike for the boys to Robber’s Cave in the Aliso and Wood Canyons. I want to give them some historical perspective, and I was wondering if you knew exactly where El Camino Real used to be. Everything that I can find says it is officially where the 5 is now, but I’m curious if there are actually some side roads that it travels on. Also, can you recommend any good books on Juan Flores? I’d like to give the boys an idea of what bandits were like back then as well.”

   
  In that area, the main Camino Real, the stage road to San Diego, old Highway 101, and the I-5 freeway all run along the same path. Historian Don Meadows notes that “At Aliso Creek two adobe houses once stood on each side of the stream, but their sites were obliterated when the freeway was built.” These adobes were presumably part of the Rancho Niguel (later the Moulton Ranch). Niguel, by the way, is the only Indian place name still in everyday use in Orange County. It was the name of a spring near the creek, though the exact translation is uncertain.

Meadows does refer to a lower road (trail, really) that ran closer to the foothills, south of the Camino Real, but does not define its route. It appears to run north of San Diego Creek until about the top of Laguna Canyon, then crosses the creek to run south of it, down to at least where Serrano Creek comes in. I presume it eventually joined the main road (the freeway route).

Don Meadows also wrote some of the best material on Juan Flores—though you may have to dig a little to find a copy. See his article “Juan Flores and the Manillas” in Brand Book #10, published by the Los Angeles Corral of The Westerners in 1963. He also includes a couple pages on Flores in Volume 1 of the Historical Volume and Reference Works, also published in 1963 (sometimes called the Talbert volumes, after honorary editor-in-chief Tom Talbert). Flores was a pretty unsavory character, and a murderer eventually put to death for his crimes.

Robber’s Cave is a well-known spot down there in the canyons, but I don’t believe it has any connection to the Flores incident. The name is a popular one. There is also a Robber’s Cave in Fremont Canyon, and a Robber’s Roost above Anaheim Hills.

- Phil Brigandi

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4.

Emery Ranch

“I am trying to locate information concerning the Las Lomas Ranch owned by Frank Emery. I believe that it was located near Fullerton. Any information that you can provide would be most appreciated.”

- AM

   
  Frank W. Emery was born in 1865, the son of a wealthy San Francisco tobacco dealer. In 1894 he purchased the 1,100 acre Mouliet ranch located in the Coyotes Hills area. Three cities have land located there: Buena Park, Fullerton and La Habra. In 1897, Emery bought and additional 280 acres from Domingo Bastanchury who owned 6,000 acres north of Fullerton. He named his ranch “Las Lomas.” Frank Emery built a 32 room mansion on his ranch but seldom lived there after the early 1900’s. The ranch must have been a big operation as directories of the time list many ranch hands including blacksmiths and carpenters.

In 1912, Standard Oil leased 80 acres on the Emery Ranch in the West Coyote Hills. On Christmas Day of that year oil was struck at Standard’s Emery No. 2 bringing in over 1,000 barrels a day. This lease became known as the “Big Bonanza Lease” when in October of 1913 the biggest gusher of them all, Emery No. 7, came in at 10,000 barrels a day. At the time, it was called the largest gusher in Southern California.

After Frank W. Emery’s death in 1920 and the subsequent passing of his widow in 1939, the Emery lease came under the control of his son, Charles G. Emery.

- Ken Leavens

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5.

Old San Antonio Church

“I am researching for my genealogy and I came actors a picture of a Catholic Church in the Yorba area. It was on the north side of the Santa Ana River on what was Esperanza Blvd. I believe that it is an extension of Orangethorpe now. It would have been close to Bernardo Yorba land. Could you tell me anything about the church?

“My grandfather was Marius Boisseranc, so my roots in the area are deeply embedded.
Thank you for your assistance.”

- JN

   
  The original chapel was built by Bernardo Yorba. In August of 1834, Don Bernardo was granted 13,000 acres of land on the north side of the Santa Ana River by the Mexican Governor Jose Figueroa. Yorba built a large hacienda that became the largest and finest in Southern California. Opposite the house and a little bit down the river, he erected an adobe chapel and named it the Chapel of San Antonio. By 1860, the adobe chapel had so deteriorated that it had to be replaced by a wooden chapel. (This is the chapel in your picture.) It was torn down in 1956.

Yes, we would very much appreciate having a copy of your picture. There are very few photographs of the old San Antonio Church.

- Ken Leavens

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6.

Sheriff Barton’s Ambush Site

“I have been searching for some time for the location of the ambush of Sheriff Barton’s posses by Juan Flores. Does anyone know where the site is? The site seems to have been well-known at the time. Is it possible that the site is still undisturbed or has it been covered with asphalt or even built upon?

- RD

 

 

  If you are driving north on Highway 133, just before the 405 North Interchange, look toward the right. You will see the Laguna Altura Housing Development. Somewhere in this area is State Landmark #218 (Barton Mound), the ambush site of Sheriff Barton and his posse. There evidently is no marker on the site dedicated to the memory of the sheriff and his posse.

- Ken Leavens

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7.

Brown’s Tower in Laguna Beach

“On a recent trio to Orange County I picked up a copy of Postcard History Series, Orange County. On page 101 of this book, I was thrilled to see a photo of “Brown’s Tower.” Any information regarding Senator Brown and his tower would be deeply appreciated.”

- MLW

   
  The land for the tower was purchased by Senator Brown in 1912, but he did not start construction of his home and concrete tower leading to the ocean below until 1926. William Brown, who was a State Senator from Los Angeles, was a well known Christian Science lecturer. The house was used by the senator and his family during the summer and holidays. Evidently, the fascinating tower and pool located below the house were the senator’s own inspiration. The Browns sold the property to Harold Kendrick in the early 1940’s. Brown’s Tower is one of Laguna Beach’s leading landmarks.

- Ken Leavens

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8.

WWII P.O.W.s at work in Orange County

"I am a historian working on a series of articles and possibly a book. I heard stories of P.O.W.s working the local fruit fields during World War II. Can you help me with this by supplying contemporary documentation? Were they German, Italian, Japanese? I think it's a fascinating part of local history, if true."

- CS

   
 

The following comes from Leo J Friis' Orange County Through Four Centuries. Friis obtained the information from George A. Graham who was secretary of the Associated Farmers of Orange County, Inc. during the War years.

"Over 500 German prisoners of war assisted in picking the 1945 orange crop. They were brought to the county through an agreement with the State Agricultural Extension Service and quartered under military guard in a camp near Garden Grove. The Federal government was paid the same rate per box for oranges picked by the prisoners of war as was paid to civilians. In turn, the Army gave each prisoner eighty cents per day in canteen coupons provided he picked the established daily quota of oranges. The prisoners picked more than one million boxes and 'without them,' said George A. Graham, 'the harvest of the large citrus crop would have been materially hampered.' In December 1945, 563 German soldiers were brought to the Santa Ana Air Base to perform various types of labor."

- Ken Leavens

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9.

"Forster Lake" of San Clemente

"I was looking at the HistoricAerials.com Website and noticed there was once a body of water called "Forster Lake" where Shorecliffs Country Club exists today. A lake can be seen in the space between Calle Grande Vista and Avenida Vaquero in the 1949, 1959, and 1964 map views, as well as in 1946 and 1952 aerial view photographs. Is there any information about the creation of this lake, and why it was subsequently drained in favor of a golf green?"

- ID

   
 

In February 1962, 475 acres of the Hugo Forster Ranch in San Clemente were sold to several developers. Among them was Frank H. Ayers and Sons of Newport Beach. Two months later, builders John W. Klug, Richard Beamish, and Ronald Diggins purchased 231 acres from Ayers for the purpose of building 700 homes. The development was to be named "Shorecliffs." A beach club was to be built for the exclusive use of the residents. A golf course was also planned. The Shorecliffs Country Club and the first nine holes of the golf course opened in May 1964.

Most probably, Forster Lake was a reservoir for the Forster Ranch and was removed when—or shortly after—the golf course was built. (Incidentally, Hugo Forster was the great-grandson of Don Juan Forster.)

- Ken Leavens

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