Saturday, April 20, 2013

Big doin's in Gospel Swamp

In his book, Orange County Place Names A to Z, historian Phil Brigandi writes that "Gospel Swamp" was a well known place name in the late 1800s, which "referred to the marshy lands below McFadden Ave, south of Santa Ana, but it later spread across Fountain Valley... The city folk called their country cousins down in Gospel Swamp the 'Swamp Angels.'"

The old community of Greenville or Old Newport (no relation to Newport Beach) was at the heart of Gospel Swamp, and it stretched down toward what's now South Coast Plaza at the uppermost edge of Costa Mesa. But how the historic name has, in the last 60 years, come to be claimed by places as far away as Huntington Beach and Garden Grove is anyone's guess. I suppose people just love the name and want to adopt it.

Phil goes on to quote an 1873 article from the Los Angeles Star: "The swamp was originally settled by a number of families, among whom were more than the usual proportion of preachers, so the community was remarkable for their piety and church-going. Hence the name of the settlement."

The Swamp Angels were primarily Southern Democrats, and were seen as unsophisticated agricultural types. Despite their contributions to the region's development, their ways and appearance gave them a reputation as hicks or "pumpkin rollers."

On Saturday, April 27, 11am–4pm, the Heritage Museum of Orange County will hold the first-ever “Gospel Swamp History Festival," It's a good excuse for a family-friendly day of "old time" crafts and fun. The O.C. Blacksmith Guild, a local Quilters’ Guild, the Spinners & Weavers Guild, and the Victorian Tea Society will be there, doing their thing, and kids can make candles and such. There will also be tours and exhibits, and "performances by Native American dancers, storytellers, and living history portrayers." But I don't believe they'll be serving squirrel or possum stew.

It's also worth noting that the Heritage Museum is actually located in Gospel Swamp, and even has its own natural pond on the property -- a rare remnant of the swamp itself.

The festival will also include tours of the grounds and the historic Kellogg House (which is reason enough to check this out), and admission will be $5 ($3 for kids 11 and under).


CoxPilot said...

Now I know why so many people had a southern accent when I was growing up in south Santa Ana.

OCKid said...

Based on the article in the Register this weekend, they are using "Gospel Swamp" to refer to a big chunk of the lowlands west of the Santa Ana River, between the mesas at Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach. But of course, originally, Gospel Swamp was the name of a community, located in what is now the South Coast Plaza area.