History of Early Anaheim

Alice Grimshaw
Orange County History Series, Volume 1 (1931)

Almost every locality has its history and romance, but we of California believe our state to have a particularly interesting history. Not only do our larger towns add much to this history but even the small towns add their share as well. Anaheim, not to be outdone by other small communities adds its share which is picturesque and romantic too.

Next to San Bernardino which was a Mormon colony, Anaheim is the oldest colony experiment in the state. Several Germans living in San Francisco became dissatisfied with the city and began to plan to leave. They proposed among themselves to purchase a tract of land, lay it out into small farms and engage in grape culture. So, accordingly, early in 1857 they began an investigation of different localities suitable for their proposed colony site.

These men under the leadership of one George Hansen, carefully looked over many sites and in September 1857, came to a final decision. A tract of land one and one half miles long by one and one quarter miles broad, lying southeast of Los Angeles twenty-eight miles and containing 1,165 acres was purchased from Pacifico Ontiveros at a price of $2 an acre.

This price included sufficient water privileges to insure an ample irrigation. The colonists became known as the Los Angeles Vineyard Company, because the land was purchased in Los Angeles county. The company was composed of fifty shareholders; was under the direction of a board of trustees in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The business was carried on by an auditing committee headed by John Frohling. As an aside it might be of interest here to mention that Miss Hammas whom Mr. Frohlin married was Anaheim’s first bride. Mrs. Frohling passed on only a few years ago [1923], but her house is still standing and is one of the few early landmarks of Anaheim’s history.

The project of the colonists was by far the most important that had ever been contemplated in the southland. Their vineyard was to be the largest vineyard in the world, there being none of such extent in Europe. The work of improving the tract began at once and the colonists were eagerly looking forward to the time when they could go to their new home. The necessity of having a name for that home arose. The stockholders of the colony met on January 13, 1858, at Leutgen’s Hotel in San Francisco for the purpose of choosing a name for their southland home.

A number of the colonists preferred to call it Anaberg, Ana for the Santa Ana river from which irrigation water was drawn and “berg” for the mountains in the distance. But Mr. [Theodore] Schmidt, father of Mrs. Dickel and Mrs. Turck, whom many of us know so well, proposed the name “Anaheim” combining Ana with home or “heim,” the German name for home. So Anaheim was named meaning “Home by the Santa Ana River.”

The work of preparing for a real home was pushed forward very vigorously at a daily expense of $216 for there were employed in all 88 men, 10 women, 84 horses, 7 plows and 17 wagons. Anaheim was divided into fifty lots of twenty acres each and fifty house lots with fourteen additional village lots which were reserved for a school house and such other public buildings as the colony might require. On each twenty acre lot eight acres were immediately set out to grapes and a few fruit trees.

A main ditch some seven miles long was dug to lead the irrigation waters over the whole area. Also 35 miles of subsidiary ditches and twenty-five feeders to these were dug. So we see the question of water supply did not cause the colonists the least anxiety for there was an abundance of water. Each lot was fenced by willows making thirty-five miles of inside fencing. The whole was surrounded by a hedge of 40,000 willow poles. These poles were planted one and one-half feet apart and strengthened by three horizontal poles and defended by a ditch four feet deep and six feet wide at the top, sloping to one foot in width at the bottom. These poles took root and grew making a living hedge of green around the community.

Across the streets were gates which when closed shut out all invaders. All this precaution was necessary in order to keep out the thousands of cattle which roamed the surrounding plains. The vines planted were carried for by the company and they flourished.

At the end of three years the first vines planted had come into bearing and all assessments amounting to $1,200 for each shareholder had been paid. Now the land was ready for distribution. This was done by means of a lottery. All the lots were viewed and assessed each at its respective value from $600 to $1,400 according to situation. When a lot was drawn if it was valued at over $1,200 the drawer paid the difference. If less, he received the difference. To illustrate, if a colonist drew a lot valued at $600 he received $600 additional in cash. When all the lots were drawn there was a sale of the effects of the company and upon balancing the books it was found that enough money remained so that each shareholder received a dividend of $100.

Now all was in readiness for the coming of the owners. The personnel of this group is interesting indeed. The company consisted of mechanics chiefly. There were several carpenters, a gunsmith, four blacksmiths, a brewer, a teacher, a shoemaker, a miller, several mechanics, a bookbinder, a poet, several musicians, a hatter, a teamster and a hotel keeper who started Anaheim’s first hostelry known as the “Planter’s Hotel.”

Strange to say there was not one farmer in the whole company and only one who had ever made wine. But they were not daunted and in December, 1859, down from San Francisco they came to take possession each of his own twenty acres. Lumber was bought at wholesale and little homes were erected and shopkeepers came in, bought lots and established little stores.

The work at times was difficult and discouraging and supplies were hard to secure because Los Angeles was the nearest point from which they could be obtained. This meant that the colonists had to haul their supplies from there until later when they established a landing on the ocean, twelve miles distant from town. This became known as Anaheim Landing. Boats anchored out in deep water and small boats brought the supplies to shore.

In spite of the difficulties the result was a happy one for the pioneers were of hardy Teuton stock, were unafraid and determined to succeed. Each one had plenty to eat, each was his own master, there was a happy social life, music and art, and the property increased in value. There were no poor in the community and help was easy to secure for the Indians and Mexicans for miles around were willing to come and help at Campo Aleman (German Camp) as they called the community.

Let us return again for a moment to the question of the water supply. For domestic purposes water was supplied from privately owned wells scattered about the community but this was not wholly satisfactory especially in the dry seasons, so in 1879 an artesian well 103 feet deep was sunk. By means of an engine the water from this well was forced up into a tank erected upon a stage 35 feet high. A pipe line was laid along the principal streets and now there was an abundance of flowing water. The expenses were met by a tax levied upon those of the inhabitants who were benefitted.

As has been mentioned, water from the Santa Ana river was used for irrigation. In 1860 the Anaheim Vineyard Company sold out to the Anaheim Water Company.

The same company shareholders formed the second company which started with a capital stock of $20,000 so in reality only the name was changed. In November, 1878, another irrigation company, known as the Cajon Irrigation Company, completed a ditch which tapped the Santa Ana River at Bed Rock Canyon. This ditch was 15 miles long. In 1879 the Anaheim Water Company bought a half interest in this ditch, and all the water rights on the north side of the Santa Ana River were consolidated into the Anaheim Union Water Company, which is still in existence and is filling a great need exceedingly well.

Whenever the early Spanish colonists settled they always built their church first and left the building of their school to those who came after. But the Anaheim colonists built their school first. In this town plot of forty acres which occupied the center of the colony a lot had been reserved for a school house. On this a building of adobe was erected to serve the double purpose of a school house and assembly hall. During the winter of 1861-62 the Santa Ana River overflowed the colony site and the school was rendered unsafe because the foundations were damaged. The school was maintained in the building of the Water Company until 1869 when a new building was erected. As the community grew this little school house became inadequate and in 1877 Professor J.M. Guinn, who had been the principal of the Anaheim Schools for eight years, drafted a resolution authorizing the district to issue bonds to the amount of $10,000. The bonds were sold at par and the building was erected. This building was the south four rooms of our Central School which was wrecked only a few years ago [1920].

This building at the time was known as the handsomest building in the county outside of Los Angeles city. Professor Guinn was instrumental in securing the passage by the California legislature in March, 1878, of the bill authorizing a district to issue bonds. This method of raising funds has now become a common practice, and has resulted in giving our state the best district school houses of any State in the Union. But the first instance of the State incorporating and bonding a school district to secure funds to build a school occurred in Anaheim.

The pioneer church of Anaheim is the Presbyterian. This was organized by Rev. L.P. Webber, founder of Westminster colony, in 1869. The church edifice which cost $3,500 was built in 1872. In 1875 the Episcopal Church was organized. The original building remodeled and kept in attractive condition is the one still in use. The third pioneer church was the Roman Catholic Church, which was organized in 1876.

It is usually the case in any new community that we find the organization of churches followed by fraternal organizations. So in October, 1870, the Masonic lodge, F. and A.M., 207, was organized. The I.O.O.F. followed in 1872. Besides these fraternal orders the Anaheim Literary Union, a society for musical and literary activities, was organized. Anaheim also had a regularly organized fire department, organized in 1872. They had hook and ladder, buckets and hand drawn truck, the whole costing $500. The town also boasted of a fire bell.

The first bank was known as the Bank of Anaheim and was organized in 1876. There was also a private banking company known as the banking company of P. Davis and Brother. As for the early cemeteries—there were two, the Anaheim Cemetery and a Hebrew Cemetery, the land of which was sold because there was no one to use this cemetery. The Lord as ever was kind to his chosen people and they were always well.

Home and Winery of William Konig, 1880
Home and Winery of William Konig, 1880
History of Los Angeles County (1880)
(click image to view it larger in a separate window/tab)

No town is complete without some medium of spreading the news; Anaheim needed a paper. This paper was not only the pioneer paper of Anaheim but of Orange County as well and was known as the “Anaheim Gazette” the first issue of which appeared October 29, 1870. It was established by George Barter who obtained a subsidy from a number of public spirited citizens to found a paper. The old press that he had obtained had come around the “Horn” and had been used in printing the “Los Angeles Star,” the pioneer paper of Southern California.

In 1875 the Southern Pacific railroad completed a branch to Anaheim and for nearly two years Anaheim was the terminus. Then the road was extended to Santa Ana. The depot was some distance out of town so when the Santa Fe built its road into Anaheim in 1887 and the Hotel Del Campo, a boom hotel, built at a cost of $40,000 and which nearly bankrupt its builders, was erected, a street car company was organized. A track was laid down Center Street [later Lincoln Avenue] from the Santa Fe station to the Southern Pacific and Anaheim boasted a street railway.

Anaheim was incorporated as a city February 10, 1870 but the tax burden was too great for the people to bear, so two years later it was dis-incorporated. It was again incorporated by an act of legislature on March 18, 1878.

For nearly twenty-five years Anaheim was the greatest wine-producing district in California. But in 1885 a strange disease attacked the vines and within five years the two million vines that made up this huge vineyard were dead. After the destruction of the grape vines, other industries began to come in. Among the earliest of these was the Anaheim Hide and Leather Company, organized for tanning purposes, the Alden Fruit Drying Company, the Guy Smith Planing and Grist Mill and two breweries, the Hinds Brewery and the California Brewery.

A number of the vineyards were now divided into building lots and effort was made to raise wheat on some and still others were planted with orange and walnut trees. However the city has steadily progressed through all its vicissitudes and its growth has been solid and substantial. It has attained to a city of attractive homes, prosperous business houses, excellent schools and charming people. Anaheim is a city which deserves loyalty and commands respect.


Orange County Historical Society
www.orangecountyhistory.org