Anaheim, California, today is a modern, prosperous city of over 17,000 inhabitants. It is the world’s largest exporting center of Valencia oranges and citrus by-products, and in this post-World War II period is rapidly adding industrial enterprises to its economy. Less than two centuries ago the area in which Anaheim is located was first visited by white men in the party of Gaspar Portola who, in 1769, led a band of sixty-three men from San Diego in search of Monterey. Later, men whose names are famous in California history crossed the territory in their treks up and down the state in missionary, colonizing, and military endeavors – Father Junipero Serra, Father Fermin Francisco Lasuen, Juan Bautista de Anza, various Spanish and Mexican governors, John C. Fremont, “Kit” Carson, Commodore Robert F. Stockton, General Stephen W. Kearny, and many others.
The land upon which this future city was built was a part of a Mexican rancho, Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana, granted to Juan Pacifico Ontiveros.
There were only two American settlements in southern California when the German-Americans came to Rancho San Juan Cajon de Santa Ana. Many individuals or family groups had come to southern California, but none had formed organized colonies until in 1851, when immigrants from Texas coming to California over the southern route had formed a settlement twelve miles east of Los Angeles on the San Gabriel River which they named El Monte. El Monte became a successful, though small, agricultural community noted especially for its ruthless methods of ridding the community of lawbreakers. A few months after the founding of El Monte, a party came through the Cajon Pass from Salt Lake City to establish an outpost of the Mormon empire at what was to be San Bernardino. This community, based in its physical organization on Salt Lake City, also became a thriving agricultural and small-scale industrial settlement until 1859, when Brigham Young, the great Mormon leader, recalled the colonists to Salt Lake City. Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo were Spanish centers of population at this time.
The German colony at Anaheim was an unusual one for southern California — or for anywhere for that matter. To begin with, it was a cooperative venture. Investors banded together, pooling their resources in a stockholding enterprise to establish a wine-producing community. Investors continued to purchase stock for two years or more before taking possession, during which period the colony was in the process of establishment by a paid manager elected by the shareholders.
There was no common religious tie for the colony as had been the basis for settlement in so many colonization schemes throughout the United States. The people involved were hard-working, determined individuals who knew they wanted to leave San Francisco, where most of them had been living, and establish an agricultural community. This is the story of how that community was built and how it progressed for a period of approximately a quarter of a century when a mysterious disease struck its vineyards and destroyed the basic economic activity.
If there is a disproportionate amount of material here on the Los Angeles Vineyard Society period, it is for two reasons: (1) the source material available to the writer was more abundant, and (2) the writer found this chapter of the city’s history more interesting because of its uniqueness.