Anaheim was born in San Francisco, and it’s necessary to go back to the parent city to trace the events that led to the founding of the vineyard colony called Campo Aleman (German Camp) by its Spanish speaking neighbors. The first step toward the settlement grew out of the friendship of three young German professional musicians: John Fröhling, a flutist; Charles Kohler, a violinist and conductor and John F. Beutler, an operatic tenor.
Picnicking was one of their favorite diversions, and on one of these outings near Seal Rock (in San Francisco), Kohler brought along a quantity of luscious grapes which had just arrived from Los Angeles. Selecting a large bunch, Beutler held it up admiringly and exclaimed, “Boys, I have hit upon the right idea; let us build an altar to Bacchus and go into the wine business!” (Actually, he may not have said exactly that, but it makes a pretty good story)…
John Frohling and George Hansen, a pair of German businessmen, bought 1,165 acres of brush covered rancho from Juan
Pacifico Ontiveros and created the Los Angeles Vineyard Society.
The vintners colony needed a name and the newly formed society voted on three choices:
If not for a few votes, the city could be known today as Annagau.
The name loosely means “Home by the River” – from the German “Heim” meaning home and the Spanish “Ana” for the
Santa Ana River.
The Los Angeles Star (in 1858) wrote that “Anaheim is suggestive of the most pleasing associations reminding one of the wide spreading and lightly cultivated vineyards of the Fatherland. The termination ‘heim’ means ‘home’…it is peculiarly fit and appropriate for the vineyard about to be laid at Santa Ana.”
Later, Annaheim dropped one of its N’s and has been Anaheim ever since.
However, history can be a relative thing…
Pinpointing the birth of Anaheim depends on your perspective.
Archaeological evidence points to 2,000 years ago, when “Native Americans” inhabited the Anaheim area along the Santa Ana River.
Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola and his expedition traipsed through Orange County in 1769 and camped along the river -just across the border from present day Anaheim.
But most historians point to 1857 as the founding of modern day Anaheim.
The 50 society members got half acre home sites in the center of town – inside the modern boundaries of Anaheim Boulevard and Sycamore, Lemon and Santa Ana streets.
Twenty acre lots, ringing the town center, were given to each vintner. The “Mother Colony” was bounded by North, South, East and West streets.
Laborers planted 400,000 vines of mission variety grapes. The wine soon flowed: 75,000 gallons in 1861; 300,000 gallons three years later; 1.25 million gallons in 1884.
The railroad came to town on New Years Day in 1875, connecting Los Angeles and Anaheim.
The Anaheim Fire Department was formed in 1878 after a blaze destroyed several buildings. The Anaheim Water Union Co. was created in 1884.
Catastrophe struck in 1885.
A mysterious disease wiped out 25,000 acres of grapes, leaving vines dry and wilted. It would be 70 years before scientists would learn that a microscopic, virus carrying bug caused what became known as “Anaheim Disease”.
Other crops – walnuts, lemons, and of course oranges soon filled the void left by the failed grape.
But before oranges became vogue and after acres of grapes were gone, a chili pepper made Anaheim famous. One of the most popular varieties, planted first in 1890, was a long and slender strain called the Anaheim – still popular in grocery stores today.
In March 1938, a disastrous flood killed 19 people and destroyed 600 acres of agriculture in Anaheim. In five days, more than nine inches of rain fell in the city, including 3.35 inches during the last 24 hours of the storm.
After World War II, the great migration to Southern California began – and Anaheim’s 14,000 residents braced for the influx.
In 1954, the $1 million mark in weekly building permits was reached for the first time on June 25.
July 18, 1955 – a day that would change the city forever. Walt Disney opened his theme park and put Anaheim on the map as a tourist mecca. During the first year of operation, 3.8 million people visited the Magic Kingdom.