I love questions, and trying to answer them is always good exercise. So if you have questions about Orange County history, send them along. I can't promise I'll answer them all, but the ones I can, I'll post here. You can email me here.

Oh, and remember -- I'm a local historian, not a genealogist.

--Phil Brigandi

Irrigating the Bastanchury Ranch

Great website, and thanks for free access to your research.  I reference your Queen Valencia article in my description of Gilman Park in Fullerton. It is part of my website www.FullertonWalks.com.

There's lots of little mysteries I pose to my readers, such as why did the trail get real wide at a particular spot, but an important one has to do with irrigating orange groves; Bastanchury ranch in particular. The few pictures I've seen of that huge orchard shows trees in a very precise array, even on the side of a hill. Were there hundreds of miles of metal pipes that have since been ripped up? Or were they watered by a network of ditches, hundreds of miles of little ditches? Surely they weren't dry-farmed, after all Bastanchury's last venture was as a water company and the last of their pumps was on a spot that was an artesian well at one time. My question has to do with the distribution of the water to individual trees.

Walter C.

Fullerton, CA


Your assumption is basically correct; the Bastanchury groves were watered from wells on the ranch, via a system of reservoirs, concrete pipes, and ditches between the rows. The rolling terrain did present a challenge, and deep wells had to be drilled high up in the hills.

“The ranch is watered by a network of pipes which total thousands of miles. The ranch is pumping around 3000 inches [of water]. For the last four years one or two ditch digging gangs have been working continuously and cemented pipes have been laid.” (Santa Ana Register, Sept. 25, 1928)

By 1920 there were already about 20 wells on the ranch, with more added during the rest of the decade. The whole operation, of course,
came crashing down in the early days of the Great Depression, and the ranch went into receivership in 1931. It was later known as the Sunny Hills Ranch.

--Phil B.


The Mystery of Marlboro

I’ve noticed that weather apps and mapping apps show a location near Taft and Batavia in Orange as “Marlboro” California. It looks from the road to be a spot where two railroad spurs meet. Since I just read your article about Santa Fe coming to Orange I wondered if you would be able to shed any light on the Marlboro mystery.


Gary R.

Orange, CA


Marlboro was strictly a railroad name and never seems to have been used in any other context. Its survival on modern maps is purely mechanical. Steve Donaldson and Bill Myers in their railroad history, Rails Through the Orange Groves (1989-90) refer to it as a “station,” but that does not mean it had a dept. The 1895-96 Orange County directory calls it a “stopping place,” which is probably a better description.

Marlboro was along the Tustin Branch of the Southern Pacific railroad, which was built in 1888. The line ran east from Anaheim, then turned south and east to meander through Villa Park, El Modena, and on down to Tustin, where the vast Irvine Ranch blocked its further advance. The tracks are still there between Katella and Taft, ending just west of the old Santa Fe line at Glassell Street.

The crossing of another railroad’s tracks is probably what gave rise to Marlboro. Donaldson and Myers report that the SP kept a towerman there until 1898, to monitor the crossing.

Until I looked into your question, I did not know that Marlboro was originally known as Marcus Station, but the Southern Pacific changed the name after just a few weeks (Los Angeles Herald, November 1, 1888). There are several cities in the United States named Marlboro (a simplified spelling of the British place name Marlborough), and the station/stop was mostly likely named after one of them.

Thanks for an interesting question.

--Phil B.


How Old is Fountain Valley?

Hey Phil, I was wondering if I could get your opinion regarding the date of Fountain Valley’s establishment. I’m having custom FV logo stickers designed and on the bottom I want to put an Est. 1899 or ?

I don’t want the 1957 incorporation date and thought that the 1899 post office date establishes the town of Talbert. I think I remember you telling me the Fountain Valley school was started in 1878 so isn’t that establishing Fountain Valley as a town? Would it be a bit of a reach to say est. 1878? 

Dann G.

Villa Park, CA


The tendency is for most communities to lay claim to the earliest date they can.

The original Fountain Valley school district was formed in 1876, but the name was already in use by at least 1875. The earliest reference I have found is in the Los Angeles Star that February: “We have received a letter dated Fountain Valley, described by the writer as between Gospel Swamp and the sea. Our correspondent says there are over one hundred settlers on the tract, most of them hard working, honest, law-abiding citizens.” (Quoted in the Anaheim Gazette, February 27, 1875). Later that same year the Fountain Valley Township was established.

Of course there was nothing there that could really be called a town at that early date, but I think you could defend the township date as the start of a recognized community in the area. As for how to say it, “Since” is a good, simple word. So “Since 1875” might fit your needs. No one ever really “established” the community there, it just sort of happened.

All Best,



Sugarloaf Peak

To Phil Brigandi:

I was given your contact information by the County Surveyor’s Office. I am try to get the Board of Geographic Names in the USGS to move a name of a mountain in the Cleveland National Forest that appears to be shown on the wrong peak on the 7.5 minute topo quad. The 1940 Forest Service map that predates the current topo quad shows the name “Sugarloaf” on the higher, more rounded prominent peak then the peak shown on the quad. 

The BGN is telling me whether or not a mistake was made back in the 50’s compiling the quad, they won’t move the name unless I can get community groups, including the County Supervisors, to agree in writing that they want this done. I wonder if you would know where other maps or records that substantiate the location of the named peak might be, and how to contact a historical society that I could convince to support this.

I would appreciate any help you might be able to give me.

Kriss L.

Orange County

Ms. L:

So are you suggesting that the actual Sugarloaf Peak is the one marked 3326 in Section 22 (Alberhill Quad, 1954)? The name would suggest a conical peak that rises fairly evenly on all sides towards a rounded summit. It is a common descriptive name (what is now Pleasants Peak was also once known as Sugarloaf).

As for maps, there are earlier National Forest maps. A 1917 version is reproduced on the endpapers of Jim Sleeper’s 1976 book, A Boys’ Book of Bear Stories. It does not have a “dot” for the peak, but shows the name centered over Section 23, along the trail from San Juan Hot Springs to the Potrero Los Pinos.

The old township plats and surveyor’s notes might also be useful. They should be available through the National Archives if the County Surveyor’s office does not already have a set.

The County Archives has some 1900s and 1930s series topos, but I cannot recall if there are any for that part of the county. In any case, they do exist. The official county maps are of such a large scale that they may not be of much use. The earliest in the collection goes back to 1908, I believe.

In my experience, topographical maps (in fact, most maps) contain all sorts of errors. Names are sometimes garbled on one map, then dutifully copied by every subsequent cartographer. It is not enough, in my view, to simply find the oldest map, but to compare as many different series of maps (topos, Forest Service, etc.) and see if there is a clear majority for one peak or the other.

If you can make your case, you might contact the Orange County Historical Society. San Juan Capistrano has a very active society as well.

Hope this helps,



Dr. Roy Horton

Phil –

Can you steer me to any Register or Orange Daily News stories on Dr. Roy Horton’s Klan-inspired adventures?

Stan O.

Anaheim Hills


See the Santa Ana Register, Oct 10, 1924 for Horton issuing a statement on behalf of the Klan (that they will not participate in the Armistice Day Parade in Huntington Beach). Also March 12, 1924 for Horton’s attempts to hire Klan teachers in Santa Ana.

As for the Orange Daily News, see Aug 25 (or 26), 1924 for comments on the Klan element in the supervisorial races, including Finley and Schumacher, who was running against a “Klan favored candidate,” Perry Woodward.

The story on the membership list being uncovered appears in the ODN on April 29, 1922, with a follow up on May 1, 1922.

For an historical overview, see “The Activities of the Ku Klux Klan in Anaheim, California, 1923-25” in the Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly, Summer 1974.

All Best,



El Camino Real

Hi Phil,

I was wondering if you could provide some more information on some OC history for me. I’m a Cubmaster for a local Cub Scout pack, and I’m putting together a hike for the boys to Robber’s Cave in the Aliso and Wood Canyons. I want to give them some historical perspective, and I was wondering if you knew exactly where El Camino Real used to be. Everything that I can find says it is officially where the 5 is now, but I’m curious if there are actually some side roads that it travels on. Also, can you recommend any good books on Juan Flores? I’d like to give the boys an idea of what bandits were like back then as well.

Thanks again for any help,

Jonathan K.

Orange County


That “Robber’s Cave” story just won’t go away. The name goes back at least to the early ‘20s, but it was also called Hermit’s Cave, or Smuggler’s Cave back then. It was certainly in use in the early days. Laguna Beach pioneer Joe Thurston recalled: “A short time after we settled in Aliso [Canyon] this cave was located by my father and he brought a number of things from it, including an old blacksmith bellows, a piece of an anvil and a number of other things that were of no particular value…. We called the place the hermit’s cave because we did not connect it with horse thieves, and it did not appear to have been used for a long time when we came in 1871.” (South Coast News, January 3, 1936). If I were to guess, it was probably used by the vaqueros (cowboys) on the Rancho Niguel.

In that part of the county, the main Camino Real, the stage road to San Diego, old Highway 101, and the I-5 freeway all run along pretty much the same path. Historian Don Meadows notes that “At Aliso Creek two adobe houses once stood on each side of the stream, but their sites were obliterated when the freeway was built.” These adobes were presumably part of the Rancho Niguel (later the Moulton Ranch). Niguel, by the way, is the only Indian place name still in everyday use in Orange County. It was the name of a spring near the creek, though the exact translation is uncertain.

Meadows does refer to a lower road (trail, really) that ran closer to the foothills, south of the Camino Real, but does not define its route. It appears to run north of San Diego Creek until about the top of Laguna Canyon, then crosses the creek to run south of it, down to at least where Serrano Creek comes in. I presume it eventually joined the main road (the freeway route).

Don Meadows wrote some of the best material on Juan Flores – though you may have to dig a little to find a copy. See his article “Juan Flores and the Manillas” in Brand Book #10, published by the Los Angeles Corral of The Westerners in 1963. More recently, there’s also a good article by Paul Spitzzeri in the 2016 edition of Orange Countiana which you can find for sale on Amazon.com. Flores was a pretty unsavory character, and a murderer eventually put to death for his crimes. 

Hope this helps,



Camarillo Canyon

My mother’s family is from Orange County. Santa Ana area to be exact. My mom spent her early years in the barrio called Delhi. My mother’s grandfather lived and worked in Orange County also. He was a foreman on the Irvine ranch. The area he controlled was off Laguna Canyon Road 133 on the east side of the Highway 73 toll road. If you look on any hiking maps, they call that area Camarillo Canyon. There is a road there called Camarillo Canyon Road. This is important because my great grandfather’s name was Louis Camarillo. He also went by either Octaviano (or Tavi) Camarillo. The area where his burnt down house has been covered by the newly realigned Highway 133. My mom and I got there about two months too late because they had already started to grade the area.

My question for you is: How can I find out why they named Camarillo Canyon that name? I know a lot of names just stick but I’d hope to get some info on that. My mom also asked me to mention that this same gentleman owned the first bullring in Orange County.

If you can help me in any way, I’d really appreciate it.

Thanks in advance.


Armando S.

Mr. S:

The Camarillo name does not seem to get on maps until the 1990s. As you suggest, it may well have begun with the Irvine Ranch. Of course, today’s Irvine Company is about three steps removed from the original Irvine Company, and whatever old records they still have, they do not seem fond of letting people look at them.

It is true that places on the ranch were sometimes named for old employees. But, it turns out there’s more than one Camarillo who worked for the ranch in the old days.

Looking through the old county directories, in 1951 and ’52, Octaviano M. Camarillo is listed as a heavy equipment operator for the Irvine Ranch, living at 4733 Barranca Road.

Now here’s the kicker – the other Camarillo working for the Irvine Ranch in 1951 was a cowboy. Add to that, he was the son-in-law of one of the legendary old cowboys in Southern Orange County, Reyes Serrano (1901-1998), who was a descendant of one of the original Mexican rancheros. There is a good article on Reyes Serrano in the Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1993.

And – this is the part you didn’t want to hear – I notice on the maps that Camarillo Canyon Road meets Serrano Ridge. The implication is that Camarillo Canyon was named for Gilbert Camarillo, not Octaviano.

How to prove that, one way or the other? Frankly, I don’t know. Unless you can talk to enough old Irvine Ranch employees who all agree on the same version (and how would you ever find them?), it’s all going to be guesswork and hearsay.

Sorry I can’t be more helpful, but I can only go with the records I can find.

Best of luck,



Patterson Bowers

Greetings Mr. Brigandi,

I came across your Orange County historical information while attempting to find-out more about a line of my Bowers ancestors who apparently moved to California. In this regard, your description of Patterson Bowers’ early involvement in orange growing was particularly intriguing. Hopefully you can point me to more information about this man, his ancestors and descendants. 

I hope you’ll bear with an explanation:

In the past two months, there has been a “break-through” in my search for information about my Bowers ancestors who disappeared from Southwest Virginia in the mid-1800’s. A recently located memoir from a great-great-uncle maintains that they left Virginia in 1849, bound for Texas and in search of gold. 

What I have been able to determine is that, sometime between 1849 and 1860, my great-great-great-grandfather, Jacob Bowers, formerly of Montgomery County, VA, came to Southern California via Texas. With him came his wife, Barbara, his adult son, Patterson Bowers, plus Patterson’s wife Maria (Mariah), their first-born son, Addison Crockett Bowers, born ca 1854 in Virginia, and first-born daughter, Virginia T., born ca. 1857 in Texas. 

The 1860 and 1870 U.S. Census list Jacob and Barbara Bowers living and farming in El Monte, Los Angeles County. Nearby live Patterson Bowers and family. By the 1880 U.S. Census, Patterson, his children, and his 80-year-old, widowed mother, Barbara Bowers, live in Santa Ana.

I am very interested in finding-out as much as possible about these ancestors. I would like to start with the dates of death, burial locations, etc., for Jacob and Barbara, Patterson and Maria. My assumption is that they are buried somewhere near El Monte, Santa Ana, or Orange.

Thank You and Best Regards,

Gary L.

Seattle, WA

Mr. L:

Patterson Bowers was one of the first settlers in Orange, and is usually identified as the first orange grower in the area. He bought land east of town, along the Santiago Creek, in June 1872 (this would be near the east of Walnut Avenue today, where it meets the creek). By August, he was building a home there. He was also involved in the development of the local irrigation system, and at times served as superintendent of the water company.

There is a brief biography of Patterson Bowers in the 1911 History of Orange County, California, edited by Samuel Armor. It says he was born in Montgomery County, Virginia on March 10, 1825. On June 3, 1851, at Tazewell, Virginia, he married Maria L. Crockett, of Caswell County, Virginia. Rev. George E. Brown performed the ceremony. “The young couple remained in Virginia for a time, but finally came to California by way of Texas, and became residents of Los Angeles County….” The biography says they arrived in 1858, but a brief note in Thompson & West’s 1880 History of Los Angeles County says it was 1857. [What is now Orange County was part of Los Angeles County until 1889.]

Patterson Bowers died at Azusa, Los Angeles County, in 1898. The Santa Ana correspondence in the Los Angeles Times for October 3, 1898 reports the:

Death of a Pioneer

“Patterson Bowers, father of A.C. Bowers of the Griffith Lumber Company, and ex-County Recorder W.H. Bowers, died at the home of his daughter at Azusa last night. His remains will arrive at the Orange depot of the Southern California Railway at 10 o’clock Monday evening, where they will be met by friends and relatives and interred in the Santa Ana Cemetery. Mr. Bowers is one of the pioneers of Orange county and lived for years near the town of Orange.”

Addison Crockett Bowers (he seems to have gone by Crockett) was also well-known in Orange County, and lived in Santa Ana for many years. In the early days in Orange he served as constable, worked in the post office, clerked in one of the first stores, and was active with the Odd Fellows. He died May 13, 1932.

Maria L. Bowers died March 31, 1890 in Bolsa (now part of Westminster, in Orange County). Three sons and four daughters survived her. Mrs. Bowers was probably also buried at the Santa Ana Cemetery, where Patterson Bowers was buried eight years later. The cemetery is now run by the county cemetery district; it is adjacent to the Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana.

Patterson Bowers home burned to the ground early in 1885, and he and his wife seem to have left town soon after. In 1888 he is spoken of as living in Santa Ana – though he may have been in Bolsa even then. By 1893, he was living in Azusa.

It would seem like most of the vital records for the family would be in Los Angeles County. Maria and Crockett Bowers death certificates should be on file with the Orange County Clerk-Recorder (see www.ocrecorder.com for information on ordering copies by mail).

Best of luck on your search.