Friday, February 15, 2019

Trask is Dummer

Judge D. K. Trask, circa 1900
On the list of strange Orange County street names, Trask Avenue ranks right up there with Heil Avenue, Meats Avenue, and Weakfish Lane. Trask runs about eight miles through Westminster and Garden Grove, passing such landmarks as the Brodard Chateau restaurant, the Garden Grove Elk’s Lodge, car dealerships, Leroy L. Doig Intermediate School, and the headquarters of the Orange County Motorcycle Club. But where did Trask Avenue get its odd moniker?

The surname Trask refers to those from the North Yorkshire town of Thirsk, which Norse invaders originally named Tresc or Trask – meaning marsh. Although Westminster was pretty marshy in its day, the street’s name is actually a reference to the unfortunately named Dummer Kiah Trask (1860-1914).

Trask was an Ohio native who spent his formative years in Maine. He came to California in 1882, initially living in Stockton where he taught school, studied law, sat on the board of education, and served as principal of a business college and normal school.

In 1887 he married Ida C. Folsom (1860-1922). Together they would have four children: Ida Mary Trask (1889-1975), Dummer F. Trask (died in infancy in 1891), Dorothy Kate Trask Goodrich (born 1897) and Walter Folsom Trask (1896-1919).

In 1890 the family moved to Los Angeles, where “D. K.” set up a law practice and served briefly on the L.A. Board of Education. In 1898, Governor James Herbert Budd appointed him to a vacancy on the Superior Court of Los Angeles. Trask was reelected to a full six year term as judge in 1900, and for a few months in 1905 he was even discussed seriously as a candidate for governor.

Andy Osterdahl, on his blog, The Strangest Names In American Political History, writes that in early 1906, “…Trask (while still serving on the bench) accepted the presidency of the Consolidated Realty Company, which had been 'organized for the purchase of business property' in the city of Los Angeles.”

Trask did not run for re-election in 1906. Instead, Osterdahl writes, he "formed the law firm of D.K Trask and Co. and was also active in a number of non-political areas, being a longstanding member of the Knights of Pythias Lodge … and in 1910 was elected as president of the Jefferson Club of Los Angeles. Trask also held a seat on the Los Angeles Police Commission, entering into that office in 1909.”

In 1910, Trask purchased seventy acres in Westminster, bordered by today’s Trask Ave. on the north, Westminster Ave. on the south, Richardson Way on the west, and Beach Blvd. on the east.

D. K. Trask died of a stroke on March 12, 1914 while in the middle of ‘trying a lawsuit’ in probate court. Ironically, he died without a will. Ownership of the Westminster property ultimately became half owned by his widow, Ida, with the rest split evenly between his three living children. So far, no evidence has been found that the Trasks ever actually lived on this property.

When Trask Avenue received its current name is unknown, but references to it can be found as early as May 1926 when the road was significantly widened and improved.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Ranney Street, Garden Grove

Excelsior Dairy ad from the Santa Ana Register, 1916.
Alert reader Steve writes: "I recently ran across Ranney Avenue in Garden Grove and wondered who it was named after or what its history is. Do you know anything about it?"

Walter D. Ranney founded the Excelsior Dairy in 1915. This successful business was later run by his sons. The dairy was headquartered on Westminster Blvd in Garden Grove. The ranch covered the area between Taft and Wright (Brookhurst) Streets -- Today’s Ranney Street runs right through the middle of it. The company was dissolved in 1954, but the Ranney's Excelsior Creamery Co. in Santa Ana continued to operate for some time thereafter.