Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pioneer William D. Lamb

Plans are underway to develop the sites of the defunct Lamb, Arevalos, and Wardlow Elementary Schools in Huntington Beach. The city wants to turn some of the surrounding green space at each site into parks. In all three cases, this is a formality, as locals have been using the land as defacto parks for generations. Some want to see the parks retain the names of the schools. Others want to see new names for the “new” parks. It seems like it might be helpful if more people knew the local historical significance of the  Lamb, Arevalos and Wardlow families. Let's start with William Lamb, for whom the school was named…

William D. Lamb began with very little, but through hard work and determination he became a major rancher and leading citizen in the pioneer days of Orange County. 

William Lamb was born to Anson and Caroline Bartholomew Lamb in Onondaga County, New York on July 1, 1849. His mother died when he was four and he was sent to live with his uncle near Grand Rapids, Michigan. He went to work at an early age, which left no time for a formal education.

At the age of 11, William left Michigan and moved to Chicago, and then to Iowa. There, he worked on grading crews – first as a water carrier and later driving a team of horses. Eventually, he found better wages making bricks in a Mormon town near Omaha.

When William was 14, his father came “up from the south” to meet him, and the two crossed the plains in a freight wagon train to Salt Lake City. Once in Utah, William took a job running a threshing machine and took it upon himself to learn the basics of reading and writing. Soon he and his father went into the lumber and saw-mill business together – a venture which proved quite profitable.
At age 19, William married Elizabeth Holt. Because of their religious differences, neither family attended the civil ceremony. He was a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) and she was the daughter of a Mormon (LDS) preacher from England.  In 1869, their first daughter, Mary, was born. Later that year, the young family loaded their possessions in a covered wagon and made the arduous journey to California, arriving in October.

Once in the Golden State, William took a job chopping and hauling wood at what later became Lucky Baldwin’s ranch in Arcadia. His work sometimes took him to other parts of Southern California, and it was at this point that he first saw the Santa Ana Valley and decided he wanted to own land there someday.

But for the time being, the Lambs were still living out of their covered wagon. They tried to better their lot by farming in El Monte, but the same drought that famously decimated the Ranchos’ cattle also killed the Lamb’s corn crops.

The family next moved to a canyon near Azuza (once called Lamb’s Canyon), but that proved unsatisfactory as well.

In 1875, they bought a squatter’s claim of 160 acres in Gospel Swamp – about four miles from what would become Huntington Beach. William was one of the men who helped clear Gospel Swamp and develop it into a rich farming area. Along with Baptists, Methodists and others, there was a sizable contingent of RLDS families in the area, so he must have felt right at home. He initially raised hogs and corn but later became one of the first sugar beet growers of the county. (Orange County's sugar beet industry would eventually grow large enough to support five large sugar factories.)

In 1879, the Lambs and a bunch of their neighbors were thrown off the land after a federal court determined that the land was not legally theirs.

Undeterred, Lamb bought 160 acres in the Newhope area (on today’s Santa Ana/Fountain Valley border) for cultivation, followed by 200 acres near Garden Grove for raising cattle (branded with a simple "L"). In 1892 he added another 720 acres of the Rancho Las Bolsas to his holdings. His land within today’s Huntington Beach included the entire section from Magnolia Ave. to Brookhurst St. between Adams Ave. and Garfield, as well as land east of Brookhurst between Yorktown Ave. and Garfield.

William Lamb was employed as the general custodian of the enormous ranch of Colonel Northam of the Stearns Rancho Co. Lamb employed fourteen men to do much of the work. Lamb also served as manager of the Rancho Los Coyotes and as special manager for Rancho Las Bolsas and Bolsa Chica. This took in a large portion of western Orange County. Initially, Lamb leased out this ranch land for the grazing of livestock, but he later also leased it for cultivation. Meanwhile, on his own land, Lamb raised grain, beets, and “every product except fruit.”

Even after his time working for Northam ended, Lamb continued to be one of the most significant figures in the western part of the county. He was involved in many local civic matters, including fights over taxation pertaining to the area’s earliest flood control districts. His ranch was well known, the street we now know as Magnolia Ave. was called Lamb Road, and there was even a “Lambs’” stop on the Pacific Electric Railway’s Talbert line at the corner of Bushard and Garfield.
Modern photo showing portion of Lamb School yard to be saved as a park.
Around 1905, William fell ill and soon Elizabeth assumed the management of the family ranch. All their land was put in her name in 1909. 

William D. Lamb died of pneumonia at his home on March 13, 1911 and was buried in the old Santa Ana Cemetery. His obituary in the Santa Ana Register called him “one of the substantial farmers of the West section." Another characterized him as "a pioneer of the lowlands section," and yet another called him a "wealthy Orange County land owner." He left two daughters and three sons: Mrs. Mary Levingood, Mrs. Laura Harper, Walter D. Lamb, Hugo Lamb, and Earl D. Lamb.

Elizabeth fell seriously ill in 1916 and spent two months at San Juan Hot Springs for her health. She recovered and continued to manage the ranch, with help from her daughter and son-in-law, Laura and Gregory Harper. She finally left the ranch and moved to a house at 521 S. Broadway, in Santa Ana in October 1925. She died there at age 85 on August 27, 1935 and her death was mourned on the front page of the Register. She was survived by five of her children, eleven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

The Lambs’ name once appeared on a large ranch, a major road, a railway stop, a canyon, and a school. Today, all that remains is a fraction of an old school yard unofficially called “Lamb Park.” And even that may not last for much longer. 

The fact that “most folks don’t know local history” is too often used as “proof” that such history is unimportant and unworthy of consideration or preservation. (“If nobody remembers it, then it can’t be important!”) But as the teachers at Lamb, Arevalos or Wardlow schools would have told you, ignorance is a curable condition. And the cure is for all of us to be curious and to read, research, uncover and share the history in our own backyards.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

More crate labels

In response to my last post, attentive reader Randall Bliss sent me some images from his collection of citrus crate labels. I thought I'd share a few of them here, beginning with this beautiful 1920s Cal-Oro butterfly label from Santa Ana-Tustin Mutual Citrus Association. I'll keep my comments to a minimum and just thank Randall for sharing.
I've seen Carnival Brand before, but never noticed that the carnival in question was likely the big annual California Valencia Orange Show, which was held where La Palma Park now sits in Anaheim from 1921 to 1931.
You don't see a lot of California Indians on crate labels. And here's another one who isn't. Even the Pala Brave brand label depicted a guy in a plains Indian headdress. Colorful, but wildly inaccurate. Knowing little about the Mohawk, I don't know how inaccurate this 1930s label art is.
Just a nice 1930s lemon crate label I hadn't seen before. Thing I had to Google: "Albion" is an ancient name for the island of Great Britain.
Orange County farmers always hated seeing thistle plants popping up, since they're damn difficult to eradicate. But on this 1930s label they're used as a symbol of Scotland for the Caledonia brand from Placentia Mutual Orange Association.
There are at least three versions of the Searchlight label, each showing a warship from its respective era: the 1920s, the 1930s, and this one from the 1940s. What struck me about this particular version is the yin/yang "Orange County Quality" label, which I wasn't previously familiar with. I think I need to have that little emblem turned into stickers. You could slap those suckers on all kinds of stuff.