An Orange Shelf
Sixty Books about the History of Orange County, California
Selected and Annotated by
This selection of 60 of the best books on the history of Orange County is purely personal and subjective – how could it not be? But I do at least claim some familiarity with the subject, as both author and reader. The total of 60 titles is also, obviously, arbitrary. Any list such as this could be extended ad infinitum.
Over the years, local history in Orange County has largely been researched and written by individuals working on their own (many of whom have had to publish their own books as well). The books listed here represent some of the best – best in content (both research and readability), best in format (both typography and illustrations), and best at portraying the county’s past.
Even in the age of the internet, there is something about a book. In a digital world, it is an object, an artifact, a tangible connection to the past.
Local history is all about connections to the past. The broad overview blurs many of the details. It is only at the local level that we can grasp all the complex connections and characters which create our story.
The story of Orange County is still being written, both literally and figuratively. Some of it is being written from without, some from within. Some springs from a devoted love of the county, some is little more than angry editorializing. But in sum, it all reflects both the past and the present of our increasingly diverse (and thus, increasingly more interesting) county.
Samuel Armor (Supervising ed.), History of Orange County, California, With Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men and Women of the County, Los Angeles: Historic Record Co., 1911. 705 pp, illus., index of biographies, hb. Second edition: Samuel Armor (Supervising ed.), History of Orange County, California, With Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men and Women of the County, Los Angeles: Historic Record Co., 1921. 1,669 pp, illus., index of biographies, hb
Sam Armor (1843-1933), one of our original County Supervisors, is listed as the “Supervising Editor” of this first history of Orange County, and wrote some of the history in the early chapters. A number of the other chapters carry the by-lines of other local pioneers and newspapermen. Also listed as contributors are William Loftus, G.W. Moore, Charles C. Chapman, and Linn L. Shaw. The biographies (with a few exceptions) were written by writers working for the publisher; they take up about 600 pages of the book.
There seems to be some confusion about these early “mugbook” histories that begin with a general history of the area then devote most of their pages to biographies of local residents. These people (or their families) paid to have their biography, and sometimes even their portrait included. And since your portrait is your face – and your face is your mug – people started calling them mugbooks. The practice survives to this day, though modern-day mugbooks usually include business histories rather than biographies of individuals. In either case, it is pay-as-you-go. A write-up in Armor’s 1911 history (complete with portrait and “fac-simile” signature) reportedly cost $75 – a great deal of money back then. Some more recent books have charged almost $1,000 a page for business histories. And since the write-ups were bought and paid for (and reviewed by the purchasers), it is safe to assume they say what the buyer wanted them to say.
Still, there is a lot of good to be gained from the early mugbooks. The earlier, historical chapters are sometimes written by old timers and community leaders, or recognized historians. And the biographies are peppered with all sorts of little details not just about the subject, but about their family, friends, businesses, and civic life.
Sadly, none of these early mugbooks were well indexed, and just looking at the names in the table of contents does not begin to indicate everything you can find there. The biographies are full of information about ancestors and in-laws, as well as local businesses and institutions.
The second edition of Armor expands the introductory history a little, but mostly adds a whole new collection of biographies – some 1,450 pages of them. The entire text of the second edition is available online via the Internet Archive.
Beko, Ken, et al. (comps.), Pipelines to the Past, An Oral History of Olinda, California, Fullerton: California State University Fullerton Oral History Program, 1978.
A collection of interviews with early residents of the all-but forgotten oil town of Olinda, which boomed beginning in the late 1890s but had largely disappeared by the 1950s.
The Oral History Program (today the Center for Oral and Public History) began recording interviews with local pioneers in the 1960s and has amassed a remarkable collection of source material. They have also published a number of other books based on their collection, including The Young Nixon: An Oral Inquiry (1978), and A Different Shade of Orange; Voices of Orange County, California, Black Pioneers (2009).
Roger B. Berry and Sylvester E. Klincke (comps.), Centennial Bibliography of Orange County California. Santa Ana: Orange County Historical Society, 1989. xvii+339 pp, index, hb
A convenient summary of much of the published material on Orange County, it also includes notations on some of the local libraries where each item can be found (this is especially helpful for some of the rarer items). The bibliography lists more than 5,300 books, articles, and government publications. Separate sections list bibliographies and indexes, general histories of Orange County, census publications, great registers of voters, general directories, and general works, along with specific sections for 30 local communities. A remarkably thorough index helps guide you to those books you know you’ve seen, but can’t quite remember all the details.
While the colophon correctly states that 500 copies were printed, probably less than 300 were actually bound for sale.
Ivana Freeman Bollman, Westminster Colony, California, 1869-1879, Santa Ana: Friis-Pioneer Press, 1983. 151 pp, illus., maps, index, hb+dj
Originally written as Bollman’s thesis, her book traces the beginnings of the Westminster and the story of its pioneer families. It is based in large part on the “annals” of the Westminster colony, which was founded in 1870 by Rev. Lemuel P. Webber as what he hoped would be a Presbyterian temperance community, along with other contemporary sources including the Anaheim Gazette and the correspondence of John Y. Anderson, the first settler in the new colony. Two appendices list all the original settlers and the earliest marriages in the colony.
But Bollman does more than just relate the facts. She discusses and analyzes the successes and failures of the colony, and the causes of each. It is unfortunate her account ends in 1879, as no one yet has pushed the story of Westminster forward with any kind of detail.
Fr. Gerónimo Boscana, Chinigchinich (Chi-nich-nich), A Revised and Annotated Version of Alfred Robinson’s Translation of Father Geronimo Boscana’s Historical Account of the Belief, Usages, Customs and Extravagencies [sic] of the Indians of this Mission of San Juan Capistrano Called the Acagchemem Tribe. Santa Ana: Fine Arts Press, 1933. xii+247 pp, illus., annotations, hb
Father Boscana (1776-1831) served as a Franciscan missionary at Mission San Juan Capistrano from 1812 to 1826. Towards the latter part of his service there, he composed the first, and what still is considered the most significant ethnographic description of the California Indians by one of the mission padres. It includes not only his own personal observations, but what he had been able to learn from the Indians themselves. This edition is made all the more valuable by the inclusion of detailed annotations by the brilliant (but eccentric) California ethnographer and linguist John Peabody Harrington (1884-1961), which take up nearly two-thirds of the volume.
An English translation of the Boscana manuscript was originally published by Alfred Robinson as an appendix to his Life in California (New York, 1846), and is included in most (but not all) of the later editions of that work. Shortly after the Fine Arts Press edition appeared, John P. Harrington published a translation of an variant version of the Spanish text entitled A New Original Version of Boscana’s Historical Account of the San Juan Capistrano Indians of Southern California (Washington, DC, 1934; Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, v 92 n 4), which unfortunately does not include the “exhaustive” notes he prepared to accompany it.
This is perhaps the most beautiful book every published in Orange County – and today one of the most expensive. Only 300 copies were originally published, but thankfully for researchers, in 1978 the Malki Museum Press published a facsimile reprint of the Fine Arts Press edition, with a new preface by linguist William Bright.
Phil Brigandi, Orange, The City ‘Round the Plaza, Encinitas: Heritage Media Corp., 1997. 272 pp, illus., maps, index, hb+dj
Historians who compile bibliographies are often faced with the question of what to do about their own books. But following the lead of such great California author/bibliographers and E.I. Edwards and Msgr. Francis J. Weber, I have decided to include two of my titles.
City ‘Round the Plaza is the first attempt at a book-length history of the City of Orange, my hometown. It traces the story of the community from Indian times to the present, with a special emphasis on the years from 1870 to 1940. Like the mugbooks of old, it also includes a section of (paid) business histories. But to the publishers’ credit, they kept a solid wall between their historian and their clients. In fact, I did not know which businesses had purchased pages until after the book was complete.
Phil Brigandi, Orange County Place Names A to Z, San Diego, Sunbelt Publications, Inc., 2006. 114 pp, pb
This is my attempt to update and expand Don Meadows’ Historic Place Names in Orange County (see item 31) and bring it down to date. It traces the origins of more than 500 local place names, with a special emphasis on cities, towns, communities, and any place people were “from” in the early days. Eventually, I hope to publish a second edition as new material continues to come to light, and new place names continue to be coined.
March Butz, Yorba Linda, Its History, Santa Ana: Pioneer Press, 1970. 184 pp, illus., index, hb. Second edition, Yorba Linda, Its History, Covina: Taylor Publishing Co., 192 pp, illus., map, index, hb
A general history of the community and its earliest settlers. Butz was one of several North County librarians who turned to writing history to fill the gaps on their library shelves. She died before the second edition was published, so Katherine Citizen added a final chapter, bringing the story a little more down to date.
For a fictional treatment of Yorba Linda’s earliest days, see Jessamyn West’s 1960 novel, South of the Angels – to my mind, the best historical novel set in Orange County. West’s family were among the first settlers on the tract, and she supplemented her own childhood memories with her father’s unpublished memoirs.
Virginia L. Carpenter, Placentia, A Pleasant Place, Santa Ana: Friis-Pioneer Press, 1977. 285 pp, illus., maps, index, hb
Librarian-turned-historian Virginia Carpenter (1905-1995) first published A Child’s History of Placentia in 1969, then eight years later graduated to her full-length study of the community, from rancho days to present. Like most local histories, the emphasis is on the early years of the community’s history and its pioneer settlers. But unlike too many community histories, Carpenter’s book is thoroughly researched (especially through the local newspapers), well-annotated, and eminently readable, just like all of her books. She returned to the area’s rancho history in her 1982 book, The Ranchos of Don Pacifico Ontiveros.
Robert Glass Cleland, The Cattle on a Thousand Hills. Southern California, 1850-1870, San Marino: The Huntington Library, 1941. 327 pp, illus., index, hb+dj. Second edition, The Cattle on a Thousand Hills. Southern California, 1850-1880, San Marino: The Huntington Library, 1951, 365 pp, illus., map, index, hb+dj (still in print in paperback)
Robert Glass Cleland was one of the first great Southern California historians and in this (his mostly widely referenced book) he traces the heyday – and the decline – of the Spanish and Mexican ranchos which dominated the area from the 1830s to the 1870s, giving us an economic and social history of the region, including today’s Orange County. It is especially valuable for its discussion of the Mexican land grant process.
The second edition adds another decade to Dr. Cleland’s work, carrying the story to the brink of the great real estate “boom” of the 1880s. This raucous era is described in another Huntington Library publication, The Boom of the Eighties in Southern California (1944). Among the appendices of Dr. Cleland’s book are a number of original newspaper articles from the Juan Flores incident at San Juan Capistrano in 1857.
Though dated, Dr. Cleland’s two volume history of California is still useful for general background on the state. It begins with From Wilderness to Empire. A History of California, 1542-1900 (1944), and was brought down to date in California in Our Time, 1900-1940 (1947), which offers a remarkable perceptive review of “current events” in the Southland in the 1930s.
Robert Glass Cleland, The Irvine Ranch of Orange County, 1810-1950, San Marino: The Huntington Library, 1952. vii+163 pp, illus., map, index, hb+dj. Second edition, 1953, “Commemorating the Third National Jamboree of the Boy Scouts of America, held on the Irvine Ranch, July, 1953,” vii+165 pp, illus., map, index, hb+dj. Third edition, The Irvine Ranch, San Marino: The Huntington Library, 1962. vii+167 pp, illus., maps, index, hb+dj (still in print in paperback)
A study of the founding and management of Orange County’s largest ranch (some one-fifth of the county’s area). The third edition was revised by Robert Hine, who added an epilogue on the coming master-planned development of the ranch. While the operations of the vast ranch are well-described, Jim Sleeper always complained that the book lacked any sense of the personality of James Irvine II, who controlled the ranch for more than half a century. He later attempted to remedy this omission with his fascinating chapter, “The Irvines, A Family Portrait,” in Newport Beach 75 (item 18).
Esther R. Cramer, La Habra, The Pass Through the Hills, Fullerton: Sultana Press, 1969. xiv+282 pp, illus., maps, index, hb+dj (also issued in a keepsake edition). Second edition, 2003. 204 pp, illus., maps, index, hb+dj.
Esther Cramer’s first book is a fine example of what a local history can be. It traces the history of her hometown of La Habra from Spanish times up to the city’s incorporation in 1925, based on newspapers, interviews with local pioneers, and contemporary documents and photographs. There is a great deal about agriculture, pioneer families, and early businesses; but also information on local institutions and infrastructure, such as roads and storm drains.
The first edition consisted of 1,500 copies, 250 of which were a boxed “keepsake edition,” with a hand-painted title page. It was designed by Dana Cordrey of Premier Printing Company, Orange County’s most talented book designer since the days of the Fine Arts Press. The second edition does not even pretend to aspire to those standards, but was issued in a utilitarian format simply to make the book (long out of print) available again. Its one redeeming feature are the many more historic photographs added to the text.
Esther R. Cramer, et al., A Hundred Years of Yesterdays. A Centennial History of the People of Orange County and their Communities, Santa Ana: Orange County Centennial, Inc., 1988. 244 pp, illus., maps, index, pb. Second edition: Phil Brigandi, et al., A Hundred Years of Yesterdays. A Centennial History of the People of Orange County and their Communities, Santa Ana: Orange County Historical Commission, 2004, 346 pp, illus., maps, index, pb
Published in honor of the Centennial of the creation of Orange County in 1989, our goal was to have chapters on every community in the county written by the leading local historian – and we came close to meeting it. Nearly 40 different local historians provided chapters on more than 35 local cities and towns. Additional chapters trace the general history of the county. The book also includes an extensive bibliography and biographical notes on many local historians. A 15-page errata and revised index were issued early in 1989.
The second edition is revised and expanded, but the 100-page difference in length mostly reflects the larger type size used.
Esther R. Cramer, Brea: The City of Oil, Oranges, and Opportunity, Brea: City of Brea, 1992. xvii+373, illus., maps, index, hb+dj
Esther Cramer’s well-deserved reputation as the leading North County historian of her day led the City of Brea to commission her to write their official 75th anniversary history. As in her La Habra book (which it resembles), Cramer again takes on a wide sweep of local issues – not just oil and oranges, but infrastructure and institutions. Local people and businesses also figure prominently, including (perhaps as a concession to the city) a chapter on the city’s mayors.
Though initially distressed by the city hiring an “outside” historian, the Brea Historical Society decided to press on with their own illustrated history – Teresa Hampson’s Brea: Celebrating 75 Years (Placentia, 1993).
Leroy L. Doig, The Village of Garden Grove, 1870-1905, Santa Ana: Pioneer Press, 1962. 131 pp, illus., map, index, hb+dj. The Town of Garden Grove, Santa Ana: Pioneer Press, 1966. 244 pp, illus., maps, index, hb+dj. The City of Garden Grove, The First Twenty Years, 1956-1976, Santa Ana: Friis-Pioneer Press, 1977. xi+135, illus., maps, index, hb+dj
A remarkable chronicle of a small town that got big. After his retirement as Superintendent of Schools in Garden Grove, Dr. Doig turned his hand to local history, and proved himself to be a solid researcher and author. The best of his Garden Grove trilogy is the “town” volume, but all three books display a genuine concern for the community and all its residents. The “city” volume is also one of the few local histories to discuss the frantic growth of the area in the 1950s and ‘60s in any detail.
The “village” and “town” volumes have been reprinted; when last I knew, the “city” volume was still in print (after 40 years, a sad commentary on the state of local history).
Stephen E. Donaldson and William A. Myers, Rails Through the Orange Groves, A Centennial Look at the Railroads of Orange County, California, Glendale: Trans-Anglo Books. 287 pp, illus., maps, index. Volume 1 (1989), Volume 2 (1990)
Railroad histories are a breed all their own. Fortunately for Orange County, Donaldson and Myers have not gotten lost in the minutiae wheel configuration and grade crossings, but present our local railroads for what they were – an important factor in the development of the area. This includes not only our “big two” – the Santa Fe and the Southern Pacific – but early street cars, the Pacific Electric’s “Big Red Cars,” and even theme park railroads (this is Orange County, after all). With an informative text, crisp illustrations, and detailed maps – there’s something new to learn on every page.
Father Zephyrin Engelhardt, San Juan Capistrano Mission, Los Angeles: [The author], 1922. 259 pp, illus., maps, index, errata slip, hb
Beginning in the 1890s, Father Zephyrin Engelhardt (1851-1934) spent more than 40 years researching and writing about California’s Spanish missions. Along with his four-volume general history, he produced individual volumes on 16 missions. Like the others, his San Juan Capistrano volume is sometimes choppy and not always well written. His occasional rants against earlier historians (particularly Bancroft) whom he felt had been unfair to the Franciscans are somewhat embarrassing, and tend to fall flat with readers who are not familiar with these other books. But Fr. Engelhardt’s book makes up for those failings with the wealth of source material it quotes and cites, including information from the Spanish and Mexican archives later destroyed in the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906.
Various reprints and downloads of this book are available online.
James Felton (ed), Newport Beach 75; A Diamond Jubilee History, Newport Beach: Newport Beach 75th Anniversary Committee, 1981. 271 pp, illus., maps, index, pb.
Published in honor of the City of Newport Beach’s 75th anniversary, the many contributors give this book a breadth no single author can provide. The opening chapters outline the general history of the area, then a series of chapters examine particular parts of the city’s past, including government, newspapers, businesses, and the fishing industry.
An expanded second edition was published by the city in 1988 as Newport Beach; The First Century, 1888-1988. How you get from 75 years to 100 in just seven years is explained by the fact that the first book celebrated 75 years since incorporation, while the second marked a century (more or less) since Newport Beach was founded, with the construction of the McFadden Wharf.
Clara Mason Fox, A History of El Toro, Santa Ana: Public Steno Shop, . “Compiled for the El Toro Woman’s Club … 1938-39.” 63 leaves. Re-published in paperback, circa 1968, [n.p.], 77 pp
A good early history of the El Toro area (including Trabuco Canyon and the Trabuco Mesa), which highlights many of the pioneer families. Fox’s descriptions of early life on the canyon ranches and bean farming on the Trabuco Mesa (today’s Rancho Santa Margarita) are especially interesting. She lived much of this life as a schoolteacher and rancher’s wife.
Fox’s book was originally published in mimeograph in an edition of just 100 copies, secured with brass brads. The first printing was quickly sold out (at $1 a book), and in the spring of 1940 she had a second edition printed. Fortunately, around 1968 her book was re-issued in printed form (though the paperback edition gives no indication who re-published it).
This is one of several Orange County books for which librarian Richard Ayotte later compiled an index, which he published in typescript. See the Orange County Bibliography for a list of libraries where it – along with the original mimeographed version of this title – can be found (items 941 and 942a). For a brief biography of Clara Mason Fox, see Lorraine Passero, Clara Mason Fox; Pioneer, Painter, and Poet of Orange County, California (Minneapolis, 2013).
Leo J. Friis, Orange County Through Four Centuries. Santa Ana: Pioneer Press, 1965. 225 pp, illus., index, hb+dj (reprinted in paperback, 1988)
Still the best one-volume of history of Orange County; whenever someone tries to tell me that a subject hasn’t been written about before in Orange County, I always start by checking Friis – and usually I find it there. His work is all the more impressive because in the early 1960s there were very few secondary sources for him to consult, so much of the information is based on his own original research. Friis also continues his story right down to date (something many historians are wary of doing) and makes some excellent observations on the state of Orange at the time and the trends he saw for the future.
Leo Friis (1901-1980) was an Anaheim attorney, as well as an author, historian, and publisher. Together with his son, printer J.J. Friis, he founded the Pioneer Press (later Friis-Pioneer Press) in 1961, which over the next 45 years produced a long list Orange County books and pamphlets (though all of them – except those written by Leo Friis himself – were generally paid for by their authors or other organizations).
Leo J. Friis, Historic Buildings of Pioneer Anaheim, Santa Ana: Friis-Pioneer Press, 1979. 119 pp, illus., index, hb+slipcase
An excellent example of what a book on historic buildings can be, as it highlights not only surviving buildings, but other, equally-historic structures which had already been demolished. Along the way, we also learn about many of the prominent businesses and individuals that make up the history of Anaheim.
Leo J. Friis, Campo Aleman: The First Ten Years of Anaheim, Santa Ana: Friis-Pioneer Press, 1983. 158 pp, illus., index, hb+dj
No one knew more about early Anaheim than Leo Friis, and this posthumous publication gathers together both his accounts of the town’s founding and development, but also many contemporary descriptions of life in “The Mother Colony” in the 1850s and ‘60s.
For descriptions of Anaheim in the 1870s, see Friis’ earlier work, When Anaheim was 21 (Santa Ana, 1968), which is built around (and reprints) the first Anaheim city directory from 1878.
Gilbert G. Gonzalez, Labor and Community; Mexican Citrus Worker Villages in a Southern California County, 1900-1950, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994. 252 pp, index, pb
A solid book on a neglected topic, it combines deep archival research with memories from the time. The most valuable chapter discusses the 1936 Citrus Strike, but the chapters on life in the various colonias and barrios scattered around the county also offer a rare glimpse into those immigrant communities.
It is unfortunate that the title (and the entry in the University of Illinois Press catalog – where it is still in print) give no indication that this is an Orange County title. It should be in every local history collection in the county.
Pamela Hallan, Dos Cientos Años en San Juan Capistrano, Irvine: Walker Color Graphics, 1975. 144 pp, illus., pb.
As Jim Sleeper liked to say, the first history of Capistrano to get beyond the swallows. It is in fact a general overview of the community from Spanish times right through the early days of cityhood, published as part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration. In 1990 a new, expanded edition was published in hardback: Pamela Hallan-Gibson, Two Hundred Years in San Juan Capistrano; A Pictorial History. Besides translating the title into English, Hallan-Gibson revised the text and brought it down to date, and dozens more historical photographs were added.
Pamela Hallan-Gibson, The Golden Promise; An Illustrated History of Orange County, Northridge: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1986. 432 pp, illus., index, hb+dj
A good general overview of Orange County’s past, which benefits from Hallan-Gibson’s familiarity with the south end of the county. The photographs are drawn from a variety of local repositories. As with all Windsor publications, it also includes a hundred pages of “Partners in Progress” – bought and paid for by a mix of local businesses and institutions. As with all of these “mugbook” type sections, the profiles are worth reading, and can suggest a number of different lines of research. But their “facts” often need to be confirmed.
In 2002, the American Historical Press issued a new edition, slightly re-titled as Orange County, The Golden Promise; An Illustrated History. It would appear most of the first half of the book (up to page 264) was printed from the same negatives as the original edition. The concluding chapter of the original edition was revised (sometimes just by changing the tense) and a new chapter was added discussing Orange County in the 1990s. And finally the obligatory business profiles, filling on 90 pages this time.
Carol H. Jordan, Tustin: A City of Trees, An Illustrated History, Encinitas: Heritage Media Corp., 1996. 174 pp, illus., maps, index, errata sheet, hb+dj
An overview history, actually beginning with a little geology, and on through Indians, missionaries, and rancheros before getting to Columbus Tustin and his town. Jordan did a good job sorting out the beginnings of her community, and her book is well illustrated throughout. Even the business profile section is enlivened by the inclusion of a number of longtime families.
In 2007 the Tustin Area Historical Society published a slightly revised new edition as Tustin, An Illustrated History.
Ellen Lee, Newport Bay, A Pioneer History, Fullerton: Sultana Press, 1973. 127 pp, illus., maps, index, hb+dj
I can do no better here than to quote from Don Meadows’ foreword: “Usually, local histories are of two kinds: nostalgic accounts drawn from faulty memories or cold academic dissertations that provide facts but little human interest. In Newport Bay, Ellen Lee has written a happy combination of personal knowledge and a rare gift of research. From association she finds warmth and color in an area that was her home, and from research she answers many old questions that have baffled historians.”
The first printing of this book was almost completely destroyed by a fire at the bindery, so most copies are later printings, up to at least a fourth, dated September 1976.
Judy Liebeck, Irvine, A History of Innovation and Growth, Houston: Pioneer Publications, Inc., 1990. 156 pp, illus., map, index of business profiles, hb+dj
A good summary of the development of the City of Irvine from Spanish and Mexican rancho days to modern, master-planned city. The descriptions of the great agricultural days on the Irvine Ranch are especially valuable when read in conjunction with Dr. Cleland’s more institutional account (item 11). The many color illustrations are also a plus.
Like the mugbooks of old, Liebeck’s book also includes a number of local business profiles, sold, researched, and written by the publisher’s staff.
Diann Marsh, Santa Ana . . . An Illustrated History, Encinitas: Heritage Publishing Co., 1994. 246 pp, illus., maps, index, hb+dj
Marsh takes on a big subject and handles it well. Her emphasis on architectural history is an added bonus to her book, and she has the enviable ability to create her own illustrations in her detailed pen-and-ink sketches of historic homes. Each chapter ends with her suggestion that the reader put down her book and go “see for yourself” some of the historic sites scattered around the city. Her history concludes in the 1940s, but she adds brief essays by the (then) current mayor and city council members on “their thoughts about Santa Ana and its future.” Seventy pages of family histories and business profiles fill the back of the book.
William McCawley, The First Angelinos; The Gabrielino Indians of Los Angeles County, Banning and Novato: A Malki Museum Press/Ballena Press Cooperative Publication. xv+288 pp, illus., index, pb
The Gabrielino claimed much of northern and central Orange County as well. McCawley’s book summarizes much of the research on the archaeology, history, and culture of the tribe. Especially useful are his accounts of village locations, and the vocabularies included in the appendices. His book also describes the material culture, economy, political forms, and religious beliefs of the Gabrielino, and discusses the various sources – documental, archival, and archaeological – which form the basis of much of our knowledge.
Don Meadows, Historic Place Names in Orange County. Balboa Island: Paisano Press, 1966. 141 pp, illus., map, hb
Don Meadows (1897-1994) was the connecting link between four generations of Orange County historians, beginning is research in the 1910s, and still writing in the 1980s. And this is his most important Orange County book. It is an invaluable reference work. His emphasis is on place names from the Spanish and Mexican eras on to 1940. Meadows’ concise writing style is perfect for a book such as this; he could say more in a few sentences than some authors can say in an entire chapter.
Don Meadows, A California Paisano, The Life of William McPherson. Claremont: Honnold Library Society, 1972. 75 pp, illus., hb and pb
A fascinating look into the life of a unique individual. William McPherson (1885-1964) was a rancher, historian, book collector (the first great Orange County book collector), and thoroughly odd duck. Much of his book collection was later donated to the Honnold Library.
Based on their long friendship and McPherson’s 40-year diary, Meadows traces the story of McPherson’s public and private life – the soft-spoken, enthusiastic researcher and collector, versus the insecure, frustrated historian who published little, but was a great influence on those around him.
Richard Melrose (ed.), Anaheim. The Garden Spot of Southern California. The Soil, Climate and Productions of the Southern Portion of Los Angeles County. Descriptive Sketches of Westminster, Garden Grove, Orange and Other Settlements, Anaheim: Anaheim Gazette Job Print, 1879.  pp, map, wrappers
It seems every bibliography is required to have one at least one ultra-rare title, so here it is: This is not only the first promotional pamphlet devoted to the area that would become Orange County a decade later, it is also the rarest, with only one known copy in a public collection (the Bancroft Library).
This is also in many ways the best of the 19th century promotional pamphlets of the area (though it lacks the illustrations that enhance many later publications). As editor and publisher of the Anaheim Gazette, Richard Melrose had covered them all, and provides several interesting articles, but even more valuable are some of the articles describing surrounding communities. The section on Garden Grove, for example, was written by Alonzo G. Cook, who is generally credited as the “father” of the community in (he says) 1876. In the same way, Westminster is written up by Rev. Robert Strong, who took over management of the Presbyterian colony after the death of its founder, Rev. Lemuel P. Webber, in 1874. And the section on local education was written by Anaheim teacher and prominent early Southern California historian J.M. Guinn
Among the other noteworthy 19th century local promotional pamphlets are: Anaheim, Southern California, Its History, Climate, Soil and Advantages for Home Seekers and Settlers (Anaheim Immigration Association, ), The Santa Ana Valley of Southern California. Its Resources, Climate, Growth and Future (Santa Ana Valley Immigration Association, 1885), History of Santa Ana City and Valley. Its Past, Flourishing Present, and Bright Future (Santa Ana, 1887), Orange County, California. History, Soil, Climate, Resources, Advantages (Santa Ana Board of Trade, 1891) and the various versions of the W.W. Elliott & Co. pamphlets, known as Santa Ana Valley, California, Illustrated and Described (1886) and Orange, Cal. and its Surroundings Illustrated and Described (1886), which were issued in various forms, with varying pagination and illustrations.
Elliott’s Orange pamphlet has been reproduced in facsimile (1975) from a copy in the Don Meadows collection, and in a different form, assembled from pages from various surviving copies (1999). The 1887 Santa Ana Valley pamphlet was also republished in 1999.
Edrick Miller, A Slice of Orange; The History of Costa Mesa, Irvine: Hendricks Printing Co., 1970. xiv+220 pp, illus., maps, index, hb+dj
A solid community history, with that mix of research and recollection that make for the best stories. Miller’s opening sections focus on the three local communities that preceded Costa Mesa – Fairview, Paularino, and Harper. A second, revised edition was published in 1976 through the sponsorship of the Costa Mesa Jaycees. It adds a chapter on Costa Mesa in the 1970s.
Edrick Miller, The SAAAB Story; The History of the Santa Ana Army Air Base, Santa Ana: Tri-Level, Inc., 1981. “Sponsored by the Costa Mesa Historical Society and the SAAAB Wing.” 215 pp, illus., maps, index, hb
While focused on the Santa Ana Army Air Base in what is now Costa Mesa, along the way Miller provides the best documentation on the impact of World War II throughout the county and a summary of the other major military installations established here. A second, expanded edition was published in 1989 which features 30 more pages of historic photographs.
Milliken’s Orange County Directory, 1895-96. A City Directory of Santa Ana. A Gazetteer of Orange County. A Classified Business Directory of Orange County. A Farmers’ and Fruit Growers’ Directory of Orange County. Including the Names of all Resident Owners of Acreage Property in the County. A Sketch of all the Principal Towns and their Industries. A Work Devoted Entirely to the Interests of Orange County. N.p.: California Directory Co., 1895. 205 pp, hb
This is not only the first separate Orange County Directory, but also the rarest. It is not even included in Quebedeaux’s Prime Sources of California and Nevada Local History (Spokane, 1992). The only copy in a public collection seems to be the one held by Special Collections at the UC Irvine library. It has a remarkable provenance, having been acquired by UCI as part of the Don Meadows Collection, who acquired it from Bill McPherson, who acquired it from Alfonso Yorba, who acquired it from Magdalena Murillo, a longtime resident of San Juan Capistrano. At least one other copy was in private hands as late as the 1970s.
The early city and county directories are an invaluable research tool for local history – though like any source, they have to be checked against other sources. They contain a great deal more information than a modern phonebook. This edition was compiled in late 1895 under the direction of James and Peter Milliken, and includes brief descriptions of 35 local communities (several of which no longer exist). The advertisements also make interesting reading.
A good listing of local directories is included in the Centennial Bibliography of Orange County (1989) Good runs are available in the local history collections at the Anaheim, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Orange, and Santa Ana public libraries, the Orange County Archives, and the Sherman Foundation Library. The Orange and Fullerton public libraries have also digitized a large number of early directories and posted them on their websites.
Orange County Genealogical Society, Saddleback Ancestors; Rancho Families of Orange County, California, Orange: Orange County Genealogical Society, 1969. vi+182 pp, illus., maps, index, pb. Second edition (1989), xx+327 pp, illus., index, hb
The work of many hands, Saddleback Ancestors is a little uneven at times, but is still an invaluable reference work. It includes a wealth of information about local Spanish and Mexican pioneers in the 18th and 19th centuries, including (as might be expected) a great deal of genealogical detail. A second, enlarged edition was published by the society in 1998. As is often the case, this is the preferred edition. “Regretfully,” authors Marcy and Maurice Bandy note in the preface, “many of the more romantic tales in the first edition have had to be removed as later evidence has shown that they were not true.” The original edition lists some 2,000 names in the index. The second edition improves on this by adding at least an approximate date of birth for each individual to distinguish between many generations of common family names (such as the six José Antonio Yorbas listed).
Orange County Historical Society, Orange County History Series. Volume 1 (Santa Ana: Press of the Santa Ana High School and Junior College, 1931), 147 pp; Volume 2 (Santa Ana: Press of the Santa Ana High School and Junior College, 1932), 195 pp; Volume 3 (Santa Ana: Dennis Printers, 1939), 145 pp; illus., hb
With articles by every major local historian of the day, and pioneer recollections from more than 70 years ago, these three volumes yield more with every reading. Highlights in Volume 1 include Terry Stephenson on local place names (continued in Volume 2), and reminiscences of Sam Armor, Walter Tedford, and A.D. Bishop. Volume 2 gives us several community histories, including Charlotte Moulton on El Toro, C.E. Utt on Tustin, and Margaret Gardner on Orange. Volume 3 includes the recollections of Juan Avila and Miguel Kraszewski (from the famous collection of Bancroft “dictations”), a biography of J.E. Pleasants, and one of the first published articles by Leo Friis.
Volume 1 was reprinted by the society in 1968. A leaf book with an original page from Volume 1 is planned for 2019, when the Orange County Historical Society will celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Orange County Historical Society, Orange Countiana, A Journal of Local History, Santa Ana: Orange County Historical Society. Volume 1 (1973, 48 pp), Volume 2 (1980, 92 pp), Volume 3 (1982, 71 pp), Volume 4 (1989, 159 pp, also issued in hb+dj), Volume 5 (1992, 247 pp), Volume 6 (2010, 78 pp), Volume 7 (2011, 66 pp), Volume 8 (2012, 62 pp), Volume 9 (2013, 53 pp), Volume 10 (2014, 56 pp), Volume 11 (2015, 66 pp), Volume 12 (2016, 73 pp) Volume 13 (2017, 147 pp, index); illus., maps, pb
The journal of the Orange County Historical Society, issued occasionally from 1973-1992, and annually since 2010 (with all members receiving a complimentary copy). The various issues feature pioneer biographies, community histories, the citrus industry, special subjects, and recollections written by a wide range of local historians and old timers. Volume 4 focuses on Orange County architecture. Volume 5 features local businesses. Volume 13 sees the journal again converted to a monograph-style format, with each issue featuring a single subject or author – in this case, a collection of 15 unpublished talks by Jim Sleeper dubbed Sleeper on the Stump.
Joe Osterman, Fifty Years in “Old” El Toro; A Family, a Time, A Place, Fullerton: Sultana Press, 1982. xv+290 pp, illus., hb+dj
Joe Osterman grew up in El Toro (don’t say Lake Forest) in the 1930s and ‘40s, where his family ran the only store in town for decades. This, his first book, combines family stories with historical research in an attempt to capture the “feel” of the tiny farming community before modern tract housing arrived. Except for a few preserved buildings, it is a town that has almost completely disappeared.
Osterman’s follow-up book, Stories of Saddleback Valley (Fullerton, 1985) is a collection of short essays on the area, highlighting the “history, reminiscence, anecdotes, life style [and the] people” in and around El Toro. Osterman’s stories are enhanced by a wonderful selection of early photographs.
Donald H. Pflueger (ed.), Charles C. Chapman, The Career of a Creative Californian, 1853-1944, Los Angeles: Anderson, Ritchie & Simon, 1976. 241 pp, illus., hb
Based on the unpublished autobiographical reminiscences of citrus pioneer, philanthropist, and publisher Charles C. Chapman, this book provides insight into both the man and his times. Born and raised in Illinois, Chapman (1853-1944) was already a successful businessman when he came to California for his wife’s health in 1894. Once here, he became an important promoter of the Valencia orange (the summer-ripening fruit that became the heart of the Orange County economy for decades), got rich in the oil boom of the 1920s, and funded religious and educational activities around the world – most notably what is now known as Chapman University in Orange (though one wonders what he would think of the modern academic institution that has grown out of the “California School of Christianity” he helped found in 1920).
Mrs. J.E. Pleasants, History of Orange County, California, Los Angeles: J.R. Finnell & Sons, 1931. Volumes 1, 567 pp; Volume 2, 458 pp; Volume 3, 460 pp; illus., index of biographies, hb
Mary Adeline Pleasants (1859-1943) was the second wife of Joseph Edward Pleasants, one of Orange County’s earliest, and best known pioneers, and an active member of the Orange County Historical Society. As always with these mugbook histories, the real value of her book is not the first volume of general history (though it certainly contains some useful information) but the two volumes of biographies that follow it. These, of course, were written by other writers hired by the publisher. Some – a little comparison shows – are simply revisions from the 1921 Armor mugbook (item 1). Unfortunately, the Depression of the 1930s cut deeply into the sales of these three volumes, and Mrs. Pleasants reportedly received little payment for her work.
Merle and Mabel Ramsey, Pioneer Days of Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach: Hastie Printers, 1967. 178 pp, illus., map, hb+dj
A general overview of the history of Laguna Beach, told mostly through a series of vignettes about people, places, and institutions. The Ramseys relied heavily on the memories of other old timers, but did other research as well.
Warren Morgan later compiled many of the Ramsey’s memories and notes into his book, This was . . . Mission Country; Orange County, California; The “Reflections in Orange” of Merle and Mabel Ramsey (Laguna Beach, 1973). These vignettes are enlivened by Merle Ramsey’s recollections which stretched back more than 70 years.
Richard Ayotte, a Laguna Beach resident, prepared a combined index for both these books, and Ramseys’ 1976 book, The First 100 Years in Laguna Beach (O.C. Biblio, item 1623).
Charles Francis Saunders and Fr. St. John O’Sullivan, Capistrano Nights; Tales of a California Mission Town, New York: Robert M. McBride & Company, 1930. vii+202 pp, frontispiece, map, hb+dj
Around 1927, author and naturalist Charles Francis Saunders (1859-1941) received a collection of notes kept by Fr. St. John O’Sullivan, pastor of Mission San Juan Capistrano, who had been collecting stories from the old timers around town. Saunders then selected, re-wrote, and arranged some of these stories. They are typical of the tales of old Capistrano, and are peppered with lost loves, lost treasure, and lost souls. Capistrano Nights may also be the first book to relate the story of the swallows miraculous return to Capistrano every March 19th (though the tale appears in local newspapers as early as 1924). All in all, it is a charming read.
H.L. Sherman, A History of Newport Beach, Newport Beach: The City of Newport Beach, 1931. 215 pp, hb
Newport Beach newspaperman H. Lancey Sherman wrote the first history of the city in honor of its 25th anniversary. Being so close to many events, his judgment sometimes seems clouded, but his facts are generally reliable, especially for the years after 1910. His interest in local politics also certainly comes through.
Curiously, the second history of Newport Beach was also written by a newspaperman, Sam Meyer, whose 50 Golden Years; A History of the City of Newport Beach, 1906-1956, was published in 1957. (Among his biases which comes through is his dislike of Lancey Sherman.)
Jim Sleeper, Jim Sleeper’s Orange County Almanac of Historical Oddities, Trabuco Canyon: OCUSA Press. 96 pp, illus., pb. Volume 1 (1971), Volume 2 (1974), Volume 3 (1982)
Only Jim Sleeper could bring together such a mix of history, nostalgia, statistics and mirth. Sleeper (1927-2012) was the greatest Orange County historian of his generation – and probably the generation on either side of him as well. He combined solid research with a delightful writing style all his own, and his three almanacs gave him the perfect setting to turn it on full blast. They are packed with all sorts of historical tidbits, including useful information on early agriculture, a chronology of local history, and even local weather statistics. Then there’s the natural history (plants and animals), paleontology, “firsts” and superlatives, and articles on all sorts of special subjects, including how Orange County got its name, the Santa Ana Winds, duck hunting, ostriches, apricots, and Chinese smugglers.
Jim Sleeper, Turn the Rascals Out! The Life and Times of Orange County’s Fighting Editor, Dan M. Baker, Trabuco Canyon: California Classics, 1973. 414 pp, illus., index, hb+dj
Sleeper’s magnum opus; in it, he uses the biography of Santa Ana newspaperman Dan Baker as a canvas to paint the early history of Orange County. Baker (1842-1902) was an iconoclast, a sharp-tongued Democrat (he had to be, in a largely Republican town), and a snappy writer. When the final push to create Orange County began in 1888-89, he threw himself into the fray. But the birth of Orange County doesn’t even take us a third of the way through Rascals. And the remainder of the book is taken up with descriptions of some of the other people, issues, and events that marked the early years of the county. Some modern writers who have dismissed Jim Sleeper as nothing more than a “folk historian” might at least skim through the 44 pages of endnotes and annotations which support the stories in this book. They are crammed full of citations to local papers and other contemporary sources.
If I were making a list of just five “must-have” books for your Orange County shelf, Rascals would still be on it.
Jim Sleeper, A Boys’ Book of Bear Stories (Not for Boys) A Grizzly Introduction to the Santa Ana Mountains, Trabuco Canyon: California Classics, 1976. 212 pp, illus., map, index, hb+dj
A solid history, despite its rather colorful title. As the title suggests, it is both a history of bears in the Santa Ana Mountains and an introduction to the history of the mountains themselves – the people, places, and events which make up the story of Orange County’s backcountry. All of it is assiduously indexed and amply annotated. In fact, as in most of Sleeper’s books, some of the best bon mots can be found buried away in the endnotes in the back of the book that keep you flipping back and forth like a tennis match from text to notes.
This was the first of a proposed eight-volume history of the Santa Ana Mountains – sadly never completed (the only other volume in the series is Bears to Briquets, A History of Irvine Park, published in 1987).
Terry E. Stephenson, Caminos Viejos. Tales Found in the History of California of Especial Interest to Those Who Love the Valleys and Hills and the Canyons on Orange County, its Traditions and its Landmarks. Santa Ana: Press of the Santa Ana High School and Junior College, 1930. 110 pp, illus., maps, hb
Terry Elmo Stephenson (1880-1943) was Orange County’s first great historian. As the longtime editor of the Santa Ana Register, he began writing historical features in the ‘teens, and interviewed old timers whose memories stretched back to the 1850s. After the Register was sold to new owners in 1927, he had time for more serious research and writing. This was the first of his four books, and the first book published under the direction of Tom Williams through what would become Fine Arts Press. Stephenson was also a key player in the Orange County Historical Society’s publishing program in the 1930s (see item 38).
Originally issued in an edition of 250 copies signed and numbered by Stephenson and Williams, a slightly revised version was published later that year in an edition of 500 copies, also signed and numbered by both author and printer.
Caminos Viejos is a book rich in history. It traces some of the earliest history of the area, during Spanish and Mexican times. Its chapter on Juan Pablo Grijalva and his descendants, José Antonio Yorba and Juan Pablo Peralta, is still a useful summary of the rancho era in Orange County.
For more on Stephenson, see Allen Goddard’s brief biography, Terry E. Stephenson (Santa Ana, 1965). For more on the Fine Arts Press, see Richard Curtiss, Thomas E. Williams & The Fine Arts Press (Los Angeles, 1973), which includes a bibliography of all Fine Arts Press books. Richard Ayotte prepared a typescript index for this book in 1988 (O.C. Biblio, item 4530).
Terry E. Stephenson, Shadows of Old Saddleback. Tales of the Santa Ana Mountains, The Santiago, the Trabuco, their Canyons and Hills, From the Day of the Dons Down Through the Years when Pioneers Built their Cabins Among the Oaks and Sycamores. Santa Ana: Press of the Santa Ana High School and Junior College, 1931. 209 pp, illus.
A local classic, Stephenson’s love of the Santa Ana Mountains is evident on every page. He combines research, interviews with old timers, and his own experiences rambling through the hills into an evocative account of the mountains’ past, places, and pioneers.
Originally issued in an edition of 500 copies, signed and numbered Stephenson and Williams. Tom Williams issued a second edition, with a new foreword by Phil Townsend Hanna, in 1948. In 1974 William Rasmussen (a longtime member of Los Compadres) issued a reprint of the first edition. Richard Ayotte prepared an index for Shadows, based on the Rasmussen reprint (O.C. Biblio, item 4538).
Charles D. Swanner, Santa Ana, A Narrative of Yesterday, 1870-1910, Claremont: Saunders Press, 1953. 158 pp, illus., hb+dj
Longtime Santa Ana attorney Charles D. Swanner (1894-1979) was almost the only person writing books about the history of Orange County in the 1950s. This was his first – a history of his hometown, told through a mix of research, pioneer tales, and his own recollections.
Swanner was also a prominent member of the local National Guard Company, leading to his 1958 history, The Story of Company L, “Santa Ana’s Own.”
Charles D. Swanner, 50 Years a Barrister in Orange County, Claremont: Fraser Press, 1965. 165 pp, illus., hb+dj
A delightful personal view of the people and events that shaped Orange County in the early years of the 20th Century. Swanner also published a more general reminiscence in 1971 – Those Were the Days; Recollections of Charles D. Swanner. Richard Ayotte, a longtime employee of the Orange County Law Library, prepared an index for Swanner’s legal reminiscences (O.C. Biblio, item 4556).
T[homas]. B. Talbert, My Sixty Years in California. Memories of Pioneer Days of Long Beach; Drainage of Talbert District and of the Lower Santa Ana Valley; Development of Orange County Institutions; County Farm and Hospital, Irvine Park, Highway System; Orange County Coast; Bolsa Chica, Huntington Beach, and Newport Harbor, Huntington Beach: Huntington Beach News Press, 1952. 125 pp, illus., pb
Who needs a summary of the contents of a book with a title like that? But then, Tom Talbert (1878-1968) was never one to hide his light under a bushel. One of the most prominent public officials in Orange County in the first half of the 20th Century (particularly as a County Supervisor from 1909 to 1926), Talbert writes with verve and enthusiasm about the role he played in the development of the county.
Huntington Beach author Mike Heywood published a brief biography of Talbert in 2015 – Thomas B. Talbert 1878-1968 Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and Orange County Pioneer. His biography can also be found in the following item:
Thomas B. Talbert (honorary editor-in-chief), The Historical Volume and Reference Works … Orange County, Whittier: Historical Publishers, 1963. Volume 1 (Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Tustin), 901 pp; Volume 2 (Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Cypress, Dairyland, El Modena, El Toro, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, La Habra, Los Alamitos, Midway City, Modjeska Canyon, Olive, Placentia, Stanton, Trabuco Canyon, Yorba Linda), 910 pp; Volume 3 (Costa Mesa, Dana Point, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Orange, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Seal Beach, Villa Park, Westminster), 870 pp; illus., hb
Longtime County Supervisor Tom Talbert did little more than lend his name this project. The historical chapters that begin each volume were largely written by historians Don Meadows and Mildred Yorba MacArthur. But as with other mugbooks, the bulk of these volumes are filled with paid biographies. Sales did not go well, and the unsold books were sold off by the publisher just a few years later. Legendary Los Angeles book dealer Glen Dawson bought up part of the run, stripped out the biographies, and published a number of Don Meadows’ chapters with a new title page as Orange County Under Spain, Mexico, and the United States (Los Angeles, 1966). Two years later, a collection of Mildred Yorba MacArthur’s chapters was issued in a small run as Orange County During the Spanish Period (Los Angeles, 1968). Historical Publishers also issued a similar mugbook set for Los Angeles County, in seven volumes.
Joseph S. Thurston, Laguna Beach of Early Days, Culver City: Murray & Gee, 1947. 198 pp, illus., hb+dj
An interesting view of life in early Laguna Beach, but perhaps even more interesting for its glimpse into its author. Joe Thurston (1868-1957) settled in Aliso Canyon with his family in 1871, and by any measure he lived a hard life as a young man. But even that can hardly justify his almost Shakespearean portrayal of his father. In fact, his sister objected mightily, and wrote a 1,300-page rebuttal (never published). Still, Thurston’s recollections of his family’s early life on their homestead make interesting reading, and he does tell us a little bit about the early days of Laguna Beach as well.
Richard Ayotte also prepared an index for Thurston’s memoirs, published only in typescript (O.C. Biblio, item 1719). Thurston’s book was reprinted by The History Press in 2017 through the efforts of one of his descendants.
Karen Wilson Turnbull, Three Arch Bay; An Illustrated History, Santa Ana: Friis-Pioneer Press, 1977. 109 pp, illus., maps, hb+dj
Turnbull traces the story of the little community of Three Arch Bay, on the South Laguna coast, through documents, interviews, and rare photographs. Her family had a home there for many years, making the story a personal one.
Long out of print, in 2008, Turnbull finally agreed to a reprint edition of her book, the last title published by the old Friis-Pioneer Press.
Doris Walker, Dana Point Harbor/Capistrano Bay: Home Port for Romance, Dana Point: To-The-Point Press, 1981. 256 pp, illus., maps, index, hb. “Published to commemorate [the] grand opening of [the] Orange County Marine Institute … May 1981.” Second edition (1982), 263 pp; Third edition (1987), 272 pp (also a “Special Edition,” with a tipped in page signed by the author describing how certain copies were brought in to Dana Point on “the State’s Official Tall Ship,” the Californian, on October 4, 1987); Fourth edition (1995)
No one knew the history of Dana Point better – or had a better collection of historic photographs of the area – than Doris Walker (1933-2011). A South Coast resident since 1963, she had witnessed (and documented) much of the area’s modern development. Along the way we also learn about sea otters, failed real estate developments, bootleggers, surfers, the Coast Highway, and half-a-hundred other topics.
As her reputation grew as a leading South County historian, Walker was also commissioned to write histories of San Clemente (2000), and Mission Viejo (2005). After her tragic death in a house fire, the City of Dana Point a memorial sculpture at the new “Doris Walker Overlook” above the harbor at Compass Point.
Doris Walker, Orange County, A Centennial Celebration, Houston: Pioneer Publications, 1989. xviii+350 pp, illus., maps, index of corporate sponsors, hb+dj
Doris Walker was always proud of having been commissioned to write the historical sections of the official Orange County centennial history. She organized her chapters around the theme of transportation, from footpaths to freeways, which naturally led her through the county’s development.
But like the mugbooks of old, Walker’s contributions only fill the first 130 or so pages of this hefty tome. Then it switches (without any warning) to the typical business profiles the fill the remaining 200+ pages. Some are purely local firms (including several major real estate developers), while others are national corporations which did business here.
J. Albert Wilson, History of Los Angeles County, California, with Illustrations Descriptive of its Scenery, Residences, Fine Blocks and Manufactories from Original Sketches by Artists of the Highest Ability. Oakland: Thompson & West, 1880. 192 pp, illus., map, hb
The first substantial history of the area, published nine years before Orange County separated from Los Angeles County. Brief accounts of several local communities are included, along with brief biographies of a few pioneers and a number of interesting lithographs of homes, farms, and businesses. In 1959 it was reprinted in facsimile by Howell-North books with a new introduction by famed Los Angeles historian W.W. Robinson, and is available online via The Internet Archive.
Bob Ziebell, Fullerton; A Pictorial History, Virginia Beach: The Donning Company, 1994. 184 pp, illus., maps, index, hb+dj
Longtime local journalist Bob Ziebell took on the daunting task of compiling a history of Fullerton on behalf of the Fullerton Museum Center. He was greatly aided in his journey by the Launer Local History Room at the Fullerton Public Library, which provided many of the sources and most of the photos.
Disdaining the title “historian,” Ziebell, like a reporter, built up his book story by story from his various sources, quoting amply from them when needed. Also noteworthy are his lengthy, information-packed photo captions.