Friday, November 07, 2008

Tomato Springs, Jim Lorson, RSM, Pendleton, etc

On July 26, 1769, Padre Gomez of the Portola expedition (the first Europeans in California) discovered a spring that provided the party with a welcome source of fresh water. They camped nearby, and the site was called the "Spring of Padre Gomez." One hundred years later, the place was given it's current name, Tomato Springs, because of the wild tomatos which grew there. The photos above show Tomato Springs as it appears today. The images were provided by Irvine Ranch Conservancy docent Mike Boeck.
In his Traveler's Guide to Historical Sites on the Irvine Ranch, historian Jim Sleeper writes, "On December 16, 1912, a posse of 200 men shot it out with Joe Matlock, the 'Tomato Springs Bandit' on this spot. After attacking a girl, Matlock dared pursuers to 'come and get him'. One deputy was killed and three others injured before Matlock was cut down."
Mike points out that "today, the area is called Portola Springs and is located on Old Bee Canyon Road, a stone's throw north of Portola Parkway. Lambert Reservoir, [which was once adjacent to the springs,] has been removed."
James Lorson, owner of Lorson's Books & Prints in Fullerton, passed away this week. His shop has been a favorite of local historians for 30 years. He will certainly be missed by those who knew him. The store's website says, "Our shop will continue on, maintaining his high standard of service and quality.
Faye Jonason, Director of the Camp Pendleton Command Museum, will discuss the history of the Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores and Camp Pendleton at the next Orange County Historical Society meeting, this Thursday, Nov. 13, 7:30pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. A related tour of historic sites on Camp Pendleton will be held on Dec. 9th. (One need not attend one event to attend the other.) Details are available on the OCHS website.
Merrilee's/Tripp's Market Update: It seems the new owners of 124 Main in Huntington Beach have not yet submitted their plans for demolition to the City Planning Department. I hope this means they've changed their minds. But it may also mean they don't know CEQA and will suffer the fate of the guy who illegally tore down Johnnie's Broiler in Downey. I'll keep an eye on this.


ItsNotAPlace said...

"Tomato Springs Bandit"! ha! did the other criminals make fun of his moniker? Poor guy, no wonder he was prone to act out.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris, I did some archaeology work and monitoring at Tomatoes Springs in the late 1980s, early 1990s. There used to be a huge plaque on a little rise that commemorated the Portala expedition. During the grading for Portala Parkway, I stopped a heavy equipment operator from crushing the cobble monument and carting of the plaque as a job site souvenir.
There was quite a prehistoric native village site out there. Also remember lots of rattlesnakes.
I have a number of photos from this time period.
Best, D.S.Mcintosh

Chris Jepsen said...

Hmmmm... If you know where the plaque is now, perhaps we can have it put back on the site at some point. I'm guessing it was one of the "El Viaje de Portola" plaques, no?

Anonymous said...


What was the fate of the Johnnie's Broiler guy in Downey? Several H.B. landmarks, most recently the Stricklin farmhouse on Goldenwest, have been torn down without review or permit and so far nothing has been done.

Chris Jepsen said...

Jonnie's Broiler was about 3/4 torn down by the property owner (illegally, in the middle of the night). Luckily, the City and activists held his feet to the fire and he is now being forced to pay for the historically accurate reconstruction of the demolished portions of the building. Bob's Big Boy is going to be the new tenant once the work is done! (There haven't been many happy preservation stories to relate lately, so I especially love passing this one along.)

doug said...

Chris, the Portola expedition plaque is definitely still there. I live in the apartment complex nearby, and have seen it.

Email me if you're interested in locating it.