History and Progress of Westminster Colony – Its Location and Manner of Settlement – Its Soil, Crops and Wells

(Southern Californian, June 28-July 5, 1873)


The proposed new county of Anaheim embraces within its limits more evidence of what thrift, energy and perseverance can accomplish than any other county in the State. Anaheim is the nucleus around which, during the past few years, prosperous settlements have spring up. Richland, Santa Ana and Tustin City, we have heretofore described, and we no propose to impart some information concerning Westminster colony – a settlement which is at present attracting an unusual amount of attention among the many who contemplate making their home in our part of the county.


Westminster colony is a part of Las Bolsas, one of the numerous “Stearns’ Ranchos,” and is situated about six miles in a south-westerly direction from Anaheim, and four miles north-east from Anaheim Landing. About 7,000 acres are set apart for the use of the colony, 200 acres of which is only of use for grazing purposes, the balance being good farming land. Before deciding to locate the colony at this place, the projector – Rev. L.P. Webber – closely examined the entire coast counties, from San Francisco to the Mexican boundary line, but nowhere could he find so many combined advantages as at the present location. Having found a spot peculiarly adapted to his purpose, he interviewed the Los Angeles and San Bernardino Land Co, whose land it was, and succeeded in making satisfactory arrangements with them, and the control of ten square miles of land was given him. This was in November 1870, and the price of the land at that time was fixed at $13 per acre, 50 cents per acre being added every six months, on parts unsold, as interest, which makes the price at the present time $15.50 per acre. The terms of payment are one fourth cash, balance in 1, 2 and 3 years with interest at ten per cent per annum, payable at the end of each year. Immediately after making the agreement with the Land Co. a prospectus was issued and the work of populating the colony was begun.


In order to show the motives which actuated Mr. Webber, and induced him to enter upon his arduous task, without hope of adequate pecuniary reward, we will take the liberty of quoting from his prospectus.

“It has long been a cherished purpose of the projector of this colony, to establish a settlement of persons whose religious faith, notions of morals and education, should be so nearly alike, that they might cordially co-operate from the first, in the maintenance of a Christian Church and a superior school. It has seemed to him that, if instead of scattering about, without definite purpose, persons of like views, in regard to the value of morals, founded upon the Bible and sustained by a broad education, would settle together in a proper locality, they might at once secure the blessings of well regulated society, and enjoy the most permanent prosperity. That their children, instead of growing up in ignorance and irreligion so sadly apparent, in most new countries, might enjoy opportunities which would go quite as far toward rendering them good, useful and happy in their day and generation, as if brought up in the older portions of our country.”

These then, are the motives of a Christian gentleman, who has devoted nearly three years of untiring activity to the carrying out of a cherished purpose – that of gathering together a number of people holding like ideas on the subject of morals and education and who believed in maintaining a house of worship in their midst. There are, doubtless, some who will question the motives set forth by the projector, and who will maintain the existence of some other incentive than a desire to promote the interests of religion and education. But to have their motives questions and their actions misjudged has been the fate of all who have ever tried to benefit their fellow-man, since the days of our Saviour himself. We do know however, that the slight pecuniary reward promised by the Company – and which has not yet been paid – would not cover one-fourth of the necessary expenses incurred by Mr. Webber in the advancement of the interests of the colony. We will again quite from the prospectus.

“The moral and religious features may be stated as follows:

1. The members of this colony, although not strictly required to be members of any church, yet shall be such as can conscientiously and heartily unite with the other colonists in encouraging and supporting the sanctuary service to be established at an early day by the Presbyterian Church. It is not intended or desired that any one’s religious views shall be interfered with or constrained. Yet only those who freely and from principle can endorse this requirement, and can feel at home with the Presbyterian Church are invited to cast their lot with us.

2. Each colonist shall solemnly pledge himself not to manufacture, buy or sell intoxicating beverages or liquors except for sanitary or scientific purposes, and to use his influence to prevent such manufacture and traffic.

3. The members of this colony will be expected to make Liberal provisions for the education of the children and youth, making such expenditures from time to time as circumstances and resources may warrant.”


1. The 160 acres near the center of the tract, will be laid off as a town site and divided into lots, of which each purchaser of a farm shall have the privilege of buying his fair proportion, at the same price per acre as his farm, allowing only for streets, public square, etc., to be donated by all. 2. Next outside the town site will be laid off farms of 40 acres; next outside these will be farms of 80 acres; and next outside these will be farms of 160 acres each. No farm shall contain more than 160 acres. 3. The same person will not be allowed to purchase more than one of these farms. He may own one farm only of 40, 80, or 160 acres, within the settlement. 4. The purchaser of a farm shall be pledged not to sell it to the owner of another of these farms, unless by written agreement of two-thirds of the colonists. 5. Each purchaser of a farm shall be bound to occupy it, and place thereon at least $500 worth of improvements, within two years from the date of his purchase. 6. Every approved purchaser, upon making a deposit of 50 cents per acre, shall have the privilege of selecting immediately and receiving a contract of the Trustee for any unchosen farm, provided he shall within three months comply with the terms of the purchase. In case of failure to comply within three months, the choice and deposit is agreed to be forfeited. 7. No sale will be made except upon presentation of written order from the Superintendent of the colony, stating that he is satisfied, from evidence furnished, that the applicant is a proper person to become a member of the colony.


Who own quarter sections are C.B. Turner, Thos. Edwards, M. Rodgers, L.P. Webber, S. Lyman, Thos. Goldsworthy, W. McPherson, Geo. Crittenden, G. Yates, F. Gibson, J. Harris and W. Penhall. Those owning 80 acres are J. McFadden, J.Y. Anderson, J. McV. Moffat, A.H. McDowell, M.B. Craig, Wm. Mitchell, A. Johnson, Wm. Crowther, J.T. Stewart, Robt. Strong, J.H. Dobbins, Con. Howe, H.H. Howe, W.F. Peters, Robert Eccles and J.S. Merritt. Those owning 40 acres are J. Mack, P.M. Napier, John Davis, H. Stevens, Jessie Davis, E. Davis, E. Wallace, W.F. Poor, J.T. Lewis, J.H. Knapp, W.J. Patterson, J. Colgate, Jos. Bingham, D.W. Lawton, – Simpson, Geo. Damskin, J. Taylor, R. Ralph, J.D. Bowley and F.S. Bowley.

Among the most notable features of the colony, and one that will more particularly commend it to the notice of strangers, are the flowing artesian wells, of which there are thirty-one. They all give forth splendid streams of water, the average flow being about 2,500 gallons per hour – enough to irrigate at least 80 acres of orchard land. The depth of the wells vary from 70 to 190 feet; only a few of them, however, being over 100 feet in depth. At the last meeting of the Academy of Sciences, A.W. Chase of the U.S. Coast Survey read an interesting paper on the artesian wells in Los Angeles county, in which he described two of the wells in the colony, those on the farms of Mr. Edwards and Mr. Stevens. That of Mr. Edwards has a depth of 171 feet. The temperature of the air at the time of observation was 71 deg. Fah., and of the water 64 deg. The water is soft, and brings up mica and sand. The strata penetrated consists of sand and loam 3 feet; tough blue clay, 23 feet; alternate layers of clay and sand, 67 feet; tough blue clay 40 feet; and quicksand and fine gravel, 38 feet. At depths of 140 and 150 feet holes were made in the piping, which admitted the water from the quicksand and gravel formation. Stevens’ well is 94 feet deep, and the bottom stratum is of the same nature. The temperature of the water, when tested, was 65 deg. Fah., and of the air, 60 deg. The other wells resemble these closely. The water only flows to the surface after the layer of tough blue clay has been penetrated and the quicksand reached, at depths varying from 90 to 180 feet.

In July, 1872, the “Westminster Well-boring Association” was formed by the colonists. The number of shares was limited to twenty, and the price fixed at $20 each. With the money thus obtained, well-boring instruments were purchased, and by subsequently levying an assessment of $5 per share, they now possess the most complete apparatus in the State. The manner in which the Association work[s] may be stated as follows: They hired a foreman to superintend the boring, and the shareholder desiring a well has the machinery and foreman furnished him. The first well costs him nothing but his own labor, but should he desire a second well, ten cents per foot is charged. Those not owning stock in the Association are required to pay one dollar a foot. The money thus earned has been found sufficient for the payment of the foreman’s wages and all incidental expenses. The well-pipe is procured in Anaheim from Stewart & Hill, and costs from 80 cents to $1.25 per foot.


The soil embraces dark, damp, rich, and also light sandy loam, and retains the moisture a remarkably long time, some of the irrigable land being moist eight inches below the surface, though no rain has fallen since February.

As might be expected, under the combined influence of soil, climate and water, the crops look remarkably well, the rye especially being large and well filled. The growing corn promises a large yield, while vegetables of all kinds grow in luxurious profusion. If farming can be made to pay anywhere in Southern California, it certainly ought to be a profitable pursuit in Westminster; if a plentitude of water and a rich soil are all that is necessary to the growth of the cereals, then the colonists of Westminster have no lack of material out of which to care a goodly inheritance.


On the southern end of the colony is a peat bed of 200 acres. The peat is found about two feet from the surface, and is from two to four feet in depth. The formation is not old enough to be of any great practical value, but as Mr. Webber sagely remarked, “in the course of five hundred years or so, it will be a great source of revenue and profit.” Nevertheless, there are families on the colony who have dug out and dried this peat, and who, for months at a time, have used no other fuel.


There is a difference between the climate of Anaheim and Westminster – not a great deal – but still perceptible. Being only four miles from the sea, it receives the ocean breeze in a rarer state than we do and consequently it is a few degrees colder than in Anaheim. This, instead of being a detriment to the colony, would be considered by some people a positive advantage. And here we would beg inform those in search of a climate suited to their health, that the southern part of Los Angeles county embraces a variety of climates, each healthy in themselves, but still differing widely. The temperature of Westminster is that of Anaheim, only tempered a little by the ocean breeze; while in the mountains west of Anaheim the atmosphere is considerably rarer, and all these different degrees of temperature are adapted to different stages of pulmonary disease.


Nearly every settler on the colony has planted more or less trees and vines. A great many have willow fences around their farms; and in some instances they are surrounded by the more beautiful but more costly pepper tree. The following orchard trees have been planted on the various farms of the colony: 2,500 almond, 1,200 walnut (3 years old) and 500 different varieties of fruit trees. Of vines, there are 15,000 Mission and 25,000 White Muscat, while there are still in nursery rows 5,000 oranges and lemons, 10,000 seedling almonds, 5,000 walnuts, 1,000 seedling apricots and 800 young grafted fruit trees.

The School House is a neat and substantial structure. The average attendance is thirty-six. The teacher is Con. Howe, a gentleman whose scholastic abilities are unquestionable, and whose long experience in his profession is a sure guarantee of his competency.

We regret that our limited space renders it necessary to bring this article to an abrupt conclusion and compels us to omit any mention of the many points of interest, which we saw during our days drive over the colony, but we shall refer to them at some future time. We will, therefore, close this article by thanking Rev. L.P. Webber and Mr. Robt. Strong for courtesies extended.