Thursday, June 27, 2019

William O. Hendricks (1927-2019)

I was sorry to hear of the passing of Bill Hendricks on May 18, 2019. He began working for the Sherman Foundation in 1965 and ran the Sherman Library in Corona del Mar until 2013.

We belonged to a number of the same historical and literary organizations, including, Los Compadres Con Libros, which still meets at the Sherman. The Compadres sent out a memorial note to members, which reads, in part,...

"William O. Hendricks was a founder and developer of the Sherman Library as its first Director, serving for forty-eight years. He developed the library around the personal files of Arnold Haskell and Moses Sherman. He personally secured most of its holding and was instrumental in placing the library's focus on the Pacific Southwest. He was active in and a contributor to both the Los Angeles and San diego Corrals of the Westerners and was Sheriff of the Los Angeles Corral in 1981.

"For about thirty years he served as the organizer of the yearly Baja California Symposium meetings that brought together scholars from both sides of the border who were active in studying the history and development of Baja California. He was also a member of the Book Collectors of Southern California and the Zamorano Club. He authored many texts, often related to the history of the Imperial and Mexicali Valleys and to the history of Corona del Mar, in particular."

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Chinese in early Orange County

Chinese workers spraying apricot trees for disease near Tustin, around 1900. (Courtesy CSUF Special Collections)
Several Orange County communities once had their own Chinatowns, including Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Orange. They’re long gone but were important to our early development.

In the mid-1800s, China’s crumbling economy, social upheaval, and a series of natural disasters encouraged young men to seek their fortunes overseas. Tens of thousands, especially from the southeastern provinces, traveled to California, where the Gold Rush and railroad work offered opportunity. 
This Santa Ana Chinatown resident worked on the W. W. Johnson ranch. (Courtesy Western Assoc. for the Advancement of Local History)
Some worked the gold fields. Some opened laundries, restaurants and other businesses or found work as servants, cooks or gardeners. Many Chinese immigrants worked as railroad construction laborers and ultimately built a significant percentage of the American railroad system, including the lines through Orange County. Each railroad construction crew included seventy to a hundred Chinese workers who lived in railroad cars.

Other sold vegetables from carts, or went into fishing, factory work, or – most notably – farm work. By 1890, Chinese accounted for 75% of California’s agricultural work force.

"Before 1887, there were forty to fifty 'Celestials' on the Irvine Ranch all the time," writes historian Stephen Gould. "Each group of workers had a foreman who was Chinese also. The Ranchers paid the foreman, who, in turn, paid his fellow workers. He was usually more proficient in English than the others but worked in the fields just like the rest. As the group's bookkeeper, the foreman abacus."

Throughout Orange County, the Chinese planted and worked in the orange groves and the vineyards. Many lived in migrant tent camps and other work camps. They introduced celery cultivation here, which became one of our most profitable crops. Chinese laborers also dug many of our early irrigation canals, which fundamentally changed Orange County’s future.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. map of Santa Ana's  Chinatown, 1895. (Courtesy Library of  Congress)
The Chinese faced widespread and pervasive discrimination from the moment they arrived in California. And as the late 1800s continued, anti-Chinese sentiment grew even stronger. New laws placed undue tax burdens on Chinese immigrants and prevented them from attending public schools, owning real estate, or holding many jobs. Land owners were forced to replace their Chinese employees with others. Some Chinese laborers returned home, while others sought refuge among the local Chinatowns.

Our Chinatowns were marked by their laundries; large vegetable gardens; and ramshackle wood buildings, including elongated, low-roofed bunkhouses with communal kitchens. With the language barrier and xenophobia afoot, the Chinese seldom entered into matters related to the larger community. Most kept to themselves, sent their earnings to their families in China, and maintained their traditional customs. Those customs – including their baggy silk clothing and shaved heads with braided queues – helped make the immigrants a point of mystery and curiosity to their neighbors.
Well-respected merchant and contractor Man Wo and his family in Anaheim’s Chinatown, around 1892. Usually the women and children remained in China. (Courtesy Anaheim Public Library)
Orange County’s largest Chinatown, in Anaheim, was established in the early 1870s. By 1876, about a sixth of Anaheim's population was Chinese. Chinatown was located along Chartres St., between Lemon and Anaheim Blvd. The site is now under new high-density housing, a segment of Lincoln Ave., and a corner of the Von’s shopping center parking lot. Historian Leo Friis wrote, “Many Chinese engaged in truck farming northeast of Anaheim and their vegetable wagons were a familiar sight. ...Actually, Anaheim was a good place for Chinese to live. Its citizens never carried to extremes the prejudice found in many other towns."
Ah Foo, longtime Anaheim Chinatown resident (Courtesy Anaheim Public Library)
Anaheim's best known Chinese resident, writes Gould, was servant and handyman Ah Foo. "Every Fourth of July he would douse himself with a whole bottle of perfume, dress in his best clothes, stick an American flag in his pants and give Anaheim a one man parade through its city streets. He was followed by a trail of gleeful Anaheim youths. The next day he would deny he ever did such a thing. He would explain, 'He my brother.'"

A very small minority of Orange County’s Chinese were American citizens. Ong Q. "Jimmy Craig" Tow, for instance, was a California native. He grew produce in Westminster to sell in Anaheim and Fullerton and was much in demand as a translator. He later opened a successful imports shop in Santa Ana. During the Spanish-American War, he volunteered for the U.S. Army and was sent to the Philippines. Newspapers claimed he was "the first Chinaman to enlist in the service of the United States." (See Phil Brigandi's article on Ong Q. Tow.

Prejudice against the Chinese was widespread throughout California, often rooted in the fear of low-wage labor replacing local's jobs. Violence was not uncommon. In 1893, for instance, a dozen white men set fire to the shacks several Chinese farmworkers near Westminster. When the victims ran out of the burning structures, their attackers began blazing away with guns. It seems no one was killed, but most of the Chinese never returned to the camp.
Sketch by memory of Santa Ana's Chinatown by John Galbraith. (Courtesy Santa Ana History Room)
Santa Ana’s Chinatown was a motley set of wood buildings in what’s now primarily a parking lot at 3rd and Bush Streets, behind the old City Hall. It featured shops, residences, and a large communal vegetable garden. At its peak, Santa Ana’s Chinese population numbered around 800, not all of whom (as historian Manny Escamilla recently discovered) lived in Chinatown. Caucasian Santa Anans described Chinatown as unsightly and odiferous – the latter probably attributable to overcrowded, unsanitary conditions; incense; and unfamiliar spices and foods.
Imaginative drawing of Orange's Chinatown from memory by Al Eisenbraun in 1985. (Courtesy Phil Brigandi Collection)
Orange’s Chinatown was on N. Orange St. from the mid-1870s until open cesspools were outlawed “in town” in 1890. It moved to a spot west of Glassell St. along Santiago Creek. (A Union 76 station stands near the spot today.) This collection of rambling buildings and gardens included “a store, a laundry or two and a bunkhouse where most of the men lived,” wrote historian Phil Brigandi, “Out back, chickens wandered around the fenced drying yard for the laundry.” (See

Gould wrote that Tustin had a Chinese population of up to 200 or 300 prior to 1890. They were the first in the area to specialize in truck farming and they worked on local ranches. Rather than a Chinatown, "there were numerous little shacks hidden among the tall forests of mustard around Tustin."

"When Chinese New Year rolled around," wrote Gould, "the community was always surprised by the number of Chinese who lived in the area. Every Oriental [sic] made himself known by a great celebration of noisy fireworks. The explosions were far greater than any Fourth of July commemoration of that era."

But ultimately, the Chinese were not able (or in many cases, allowed) to put down roots in California.

With continuing prejudice against the Chinese; with hardly any Chinese women or children; with the men aging, dying, moving, and occasionally returning to China; and with laws stopping further immigration from China, our Chinatowns eventually disappeared.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Co. map of Anaheim's Chinatown, 1894. (Courtesy Library of  Congress)
Orange County’s Chinese population dwindled to 136 by 1900, to 85 by 1910, and to just 26 by 1920. The final remnants of Orange’s Chinatown were condemned and the last business closed in 1924. After the death of the last (elderly) Chinese man in Anaheim’s Chinatown in 1935, most of the vacant buildings were torn down, with the last one demolished in 1940.
Last of Anaheim Chinatown's buildings, 119 W Chartres. (Courrtesy Anaheim Public Library)
Santa Ana’s Chinatown died more dramatically. The city fathers had long been unhappy with Chinatown’s presence. Their chance to do something about it came in 1906, when a case of leprosy was discovered in what was already a greatly diminished Chinatown. The remaining residents were removed and quarantined, the buildings were condemned as a health hazard, and on May 26, 1906 the city marshal burned down Chinatown in front of a celebratory audience of more than 1,000 locals. Most Chinese left Santa Ana after the fire. Those remaining were relocated to a spot along the Santa Ana River, where some stayed and grew vegetables. The last to leave “China Gardens” along the river, was Lee You, who returned to China in 1923.
Chinese liquor jug (1880-1910) recently unearthed at site of Anaheim's Chinatown. (Courtesy Ivan Strudwick)
By the time the last of Orange County’s first wave of Chinese immigrants died in the 1930s, immigration laws had relaxed a little, and a handful of new Chinese families were already settling here. Today, Orange County has about 80,000 residents of Chinese descent. Like other Orange Countians, few of them know about the early Chinese pioneers who paved the way.
Grave marker in the Chinese section of the Anaheim Cemetery (southeast corner) (Courtesy Anaheim Public Library)

Monday, June 03, 2019

O.C. History Roundup... the EVENT!

You love O.C. History Roundup the BLOG,... Now come enjoy O.C. History Roundup, the EVENT!

This Saturday, June 8, 2019, from 11 am to 4pm, the Orange County Historical Society (of which I am currently president) will Celebrate its centennial year with an O.C. History Roundup event on the campus of the Heritage Museum of Orange County, 3101 W Harvard St, in Santa Ana. The public (that’s YOU) is welcome to attend this free extravaganza of local history.
The day includes,…
  • A chance to interact with costumed interpreters, reenactors, historical societies, genealogical groups, and other like-minded folk from throughout O.C.
  • Tours of the H. Clay Kellogg House
  • Orange County History talks by Phil Brigandi (The Birth of Orange County), Manny Escamilla (Overlooked Historic Sites in Santa Ana), Michael Melzer (Bouchard the Pirate), and Mark Zambrano (History of Surfing in Huntington Beach)
  • Storyteller Corner (hear about O.C. history in the words of those who actually lived it)
  • Live music, presented by Lilies of the West string band.
  • Open House at the OCHS Archives
  • Silhouette artist Leslie Stone of Artist On The Go
  • Nature tours of “Gospel Swamp” by Orange County naturalists
  • A fully restored 1921 Seagrave fire engine
  • Food trucks
  • Fruit and vegetables from the Museum’s Farm
  • A genuine (simulated) grizzled prospector from Silverado
  • A chance to stroll through one of Orange County's last remaining orange groves
  • …and more!
Click through to our Facebook event page or our to the OCHS website for more information.

Hope to see you Saturday!

Mark of Zorro in Rancho Santa Margarita?

Antonio Banderas as Zorro in 1998.
Lindsey J. writes, "I had long wondered where the main road names for Rancho Santa Margarita came from; there is Antonio Parkway, and Avenida De Las Banderas. People jokingly said that these names might have been derived from the actor, Antonio Banderas, but is there any truth to that?”

I’ve heard that tale also. Some locals go so far as to claim that Rancho Mission Viejo honcho (and Antonio Parkway namesake) Tony Moiso himself created that intersection as a joke. I’d love that story to be true, but it's highly unlikely.

Avenida Banderas began as two short segments of road, built in 1987. "Banderas," in Spanish, means "flags" or "bunting," making Avenida de las Banderas the "Avenue of the Flags." This avenida did not intersect with Antonio Parkway until more of Rancho Santa Margarita was developed in about 1989.
The actor Antonio Banderas, who began his career in Spain, didn't become known in the United States until 1992. So neither the street names individually nor the intersection could be a tribute to the actor – Unless maybe Moiso was secretly a big fan of 1980s Spanish cinema.

The greater mystery is the actual source of the “Avenue of the Flags” moniker. A recent drive along the entire length of this thoroughfare revealed not one single flag. Of course, this being South Orange County, flags may well be banned by neighborhood CC&Rs. (Those anxiety-producing bright colors and unseemly snapping in the wind might lower adjacent property values.)

If Mr. Banderas' affiliation with Orange County is minimal, at least Zorro (who Banderas portrayed in two movies) DOES have a big local connection. The character first appeared in a 1919 serialized story by Johnston McCulley in All-Story Weekly magazine, entitled "The Curse of Capistrano," which was set in our lovely Mission town.