Reading Between the Lines with William Workman’s Anaheim Connections in Letters from March and April 1870

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Tonight’s post features a trio of March and April 1870 letters from the donation of the Josette Temple Estate and which concern William Workman’s connection to Anaheim. While the specific content has a variety of interest relating to his newly remodeled house, still standing at the Homestead, as well as his investment in the wharf at Anaheim Landing, there is also broader context from that time concerning the Anaheim, wine-making, and a few notable figures with whom he was corresponding.

Anaheim was established as a “mother colony” of German settlers comprising the Los Angeles Vineyard Company in 1857 at a time after which the Gold Rush had ended, but farming, including grape raising, was expanding. Among its founders were Augustus Langenberger, born in 1824 in Bielefeld in the Lippe region of what later became the unified nation of Germany, and Benjamin Dreyfus, a Jew from Westheim, southwest of Nuremberg in Bavaria, who was the same age. Langenberger arrived in California in 1848 just after the discovery of gold in the north, while Dreyfus, after several years in Baltimore settled in Los Angeles in 1854, becoming a merchant and brewery manager.

The 1860 federal census recording merchants Benjamin Dreyfus and August Langenberger in the same household with the latter’s wife Petra Ontiveros and their children, at Anaheim.

Langenberger married Maria Petra Ontiveros (1831-1867), whose father Juan Pacifico, son of an early Spanish soldier in Alta California and who served in the army as well, was grantee, in 1837, of the nearly 36,000-acre Rancho Cajon de Santa Ana in what is now north Orange County. Juan Pacifico sold about 60% of the ranch to Abel Stearns, an early American settler of Los Angeles, just after fellow Massachusetts native Jonathan Temple and who extended his ranching empire east of his Rancho Los Alamitos to acquire much of what became Orange County.

While Juan Pacifico soon moved to a ranch in northern Santa Barbara County near Santa Maria, where the ninth generation of the Ontiveros clan still is today, raising grapes and making wine, he sold, in 1857, over 1,100 acres to surveyor George Hansen, acting on behalf of the German colonists who made their way south from San Francisco to establish Anaheim, combining “Santa Ana” and “heim,” German for home and comprised of 20-acre plots for grape raising and wine-making. Two Ontiveros sons, Juan Nicolas and Patricio, were given about 4,000 acres of Cajon de Santa Ana, but this was sold to their brother-in-law Langenberger.

When Anaheim was started, Langenberger and Dreyfus opened a store, followed by a hotel and tavern. It appears that the former did most of the active management of the business and he was an early Wells Fargo agent as well as a Los Angeles County supervisor. Dreyfus devoted more of his time to viticulture and making wine and brandy and was one of the founders of the United Anaheim Growers’ Association, which seems to have formed in 1861, just a few years after the first grapevines were planted in the new colony. One of his co-founders was Hermann Meese (1826-1912), who planted his first vineyard at Anaheim in 1858 and whose great-grandson is former counselor to President Ronald Reagan and then United States Attorney General under Reagan, Edwin Meese III.

Dreyfus and Langenberger, whose wife died along with their son while giving birth in 1867, residing side-by-side at Anaheim in the 1870 federal census.

An account about Anaheim in the 23 February 1861 edition of the Los Angeles Star noted that its denizens were “among the most respectable, enterprising and industrious in the State” with the three-year old grapevines “in a state of good forwardness” while “the fruit trees are in fine condition.” In 1860, it was reported, some 2,000 gallons of wine were produced and it was deemed “of very fine quality,” especially given the age of the grapes and the fact that the vintage was just three months old when tested.

Given the positive situation found so early, the paper opined that “of the complete success of the experiment of establishing an agricultural community at Anaheim, there is no longer any doubt.” Also mentioned were “good houses, one a very large two-story adobe, Langenberger and Co.’s” and Riser’s two-story brick building were “both finished in the very best style.”

With “evidences of thrift, energy and perseverance, which command the respect and admiration of the visitor,” it was determined that “Anaheim is a great fact, and will soon turn out wine of such a quality as to challenge the attention of all consumers.” The paper warned that “Los Angeles must look to the care of her wines, or she will find a formidable competitor in the produce of her offspring, young Anaheim.”

Los Angeles Star, 23 February 1861.

That same year of 1861, disaster struck Anaheim and almost all of California, when, on Christmas Eve, a storm hit and a succession of them kept coming for about 40 days, hence the term “Noah’s Flood” used for the El Niño system that may have dropped an estimated 50 (yes, 50!) inches of rain through that period. The Star of 29 January 1862 reported “there is every reason for believing that B. Dreyfus, who kept a store at Anaheim, was drowned during the recent flood at that place” as he was seen going into a cellar as the Santa Ana River crested. A couple of days later, it was revealed that he’d survived after all and that relatively little damage was done to the settlement.

Dreyfus, who died in 1886 and once owned thousands of acres of the Rancho Verdugo in modern Glendale, continued to develop his wine-making enterprise and the United Anaheim Wine Growers’ Association began to distribute its product elsewhere in California and then beyond, through an office established in San Francisco. By 1863, for example, Christian F. Scholl, an early investor at Anaheim began to sell wine from his vineyard in Marysville, where he had a gun shop, in which was “Scholl’s Anaheim Wine and Brandy Depot.” Joseph Bloch was, by the mid-Sixties, an agent for the Association at Oroville.

At Port Townsend, Washington, on Puget Sound, Rothschild and Company, a dry goods emporium, became agents, as well, by the later part of the decade and branches were established in Chicago (though the Great Fire of 1871 destroyed it) and in New York, among other locales. The Los Angeles News reprinted a report from the New York Gazette concerning California wine and it was stated that the Association shipped out nearly 238,000 gallons over 21 months from 1868 to 1870 with Benjamin D. Wilson’s Lake Vineyard Wine Company second on the list at just under 153,000 and the well-known Kohler & Frohling (who started in Los Angeles and moved to San Francisco) at 116,000. William Workman produced large quantities of wine, but not in that league.

[Marysville] California Express, 10 June 1861.

Meanwhile, Dreyfus and Langenberger were among the prime movers in the development of Anaheim Landing, a wharf and port where Coyote Creek, which emanated from what is now northwest Orange County, emptied into the ocean. On New Year’s Day 1865, the opening of the facility was announced as “shippers of freight to Anaheim, and the adjacent country” were advised to use it as a “lighterage & storage business, etc., will be carried on by the Anaheim Lighter Company,” which built “a large and commodious warehouse” with ample space and reasonable rates. The agents were Dreyfus in San Francisco, Langenberger in Anaheim and a third man at the Landing.

In the winter of 1867-1868, heavy rains and flooding led to the creation of a new San Gabriel River channel, which followed existing irrigation ditches from Whittier Narrows and which then took over the Coyote Creek channel down to the ocean, where Seal Beach meets Long Beach today. One of the investors in the enterprise was William Workman, as we know from an 8 March 1870 letter written to him by Langenberger, who passed away in 1895, in reply to a missive from Workman.

[Davenport, Iowa] Quad City Times, 6 March 1871.

In his answer, the Anaheim merchant wrote,

I must state that for the present I wuld [sic] not buy your shares as times are so very hard. The Lighter Co is doing a good business now and installments are not to be feared anymore. I honestly think that in one year from now, we are out of debt, if we have no Banning & Co. to freeze us out. A few hundred Dollars is a small object to you and I hope that you will not help our enemy to put a wedge in our body for the sake of this small sum, and particular[ly] as in a short time our shares must pay a premium, and if you sell them now, you will not get over 75% of their value.

If it had not been for you and Don Juan Forster our Lighter Co. would not exist anymore, of which we all live in happy remembrance and therefore hope you will not sell to Banning & Co.

The reference to the “enemy” was Phineas Banning and partner David W. Alexander, a close friend of Workman, who had a substantial enterprise at Wilmington and San Pedro, the long-established but less-than-impressive port that was challenged by the upstart at Anaheim Landing. Notably, Langenberger closed by saying “I wish I could accompany you on your trip to Europe, but money is too scarce.” Workman returned home to England once, in 1851, and it was not known previously that he considered another long journey to that part of the world, especially for someone who’d just turned 70 years old. The trip, however, was not undertaken.

Workman’s ranch was closer to the latter than the former and a map of Rancho La Puente when he and John Rowland divided it in 1868 after getting their federal land patent, includes a notation of “Workman’s Road to Anaheim Landing,” possibly where Colima Road is now, while there was also “Rowland’s Road to Anaheim,” likely Hacienda Boulevard. John Forster was the brother-in-law of ex-governor Pío Pico and controlled a vast domain near the Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Los Angeles News, 17 January 1865.

Three weeks later, a representative of the firm of Blochman and Company, which later had Langenberger as a short-lived partner, sent a brief note from Anaheim Landing to Workman to say, “I send you Surface lumber, as you ordered. We have no Posts at present no bolts. No Pickets have arrived for you. We expect Posts this week, and think that by the early part of next week, we will surely have them. We have Pickets here.”

This clearly indicates material for a fence to surround the Workman House, which was nearing completion of the major remodeling into the structure we have at the Homestead today. On 7 April, on the letterhead of the United Anaheim Wine Growers’ Association, Dreyfus wrote Workman:

I have send [sic] part of the lumber you ordered per “Gen. Ord” [a two-masted schooner], now discharging at the Landing. The pickets I could not get dressed [finished from raw lumber] in time to ship them with the Ord, but as in a few days another schooner will be chartered I shall send them right on; but should you wish to have the pickets sooner, I wish you would send me a few lines and I [will] send them by Steamer. But as the freight per steamer comes rather high I think it best to delay them a day or two and ship them per sailing vessel.

1870 was actually a very interesting year for young Anaheim, the so-called “offspring” of Los Angeles. The region was in the early stages of its first significant and sustained period of growth and the fall 1869 completion, several months before these letters were sent, of the Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad was an attempt by Banning and other capitalists to improve the situation with transportation and the rough port at Wilmington/San Pedro.

Los Angeles News, 10 May 1870.

This was especially the case because of the competition being generated by the folks at Anaheim and their Anaheim Landing facility. In its 10 May edition, the Los Angeles News wrote of “Anaheim and Enterprise,” stating that “whatever notions they may have brought from ‘faderland,’ [a reference to the German accent] enterprise certainly is the most prominent one.” A wagon road was recently finished to San Bernardino, almost surely built where the 91 Freeway is now through Santa Ana Canyon and into our “Inland Empire.”

Such a project would divert traffic from the interior, as far away as Arizona, and away from Los Angeles and the paper commented that “the superior enterprise of our rising neighbors has outstripped us in the securing of trade from the outside world.” It complimented Anaheim’s “simply industry and liberality” in drawing away trade that should have gone to the better port with its new railroad and goods were taken from steamers at the Landing and shipped by teams to the interior cheaper in lightering, storage and transport.

Star, 2 July 1870.

The News continued,

We like Anaheim. We admire its pluck and energy . . . And while we may regret the fact that a hitherto unimportant German village has captured so large a portion of the trade and commerce that naturally belonged to this city, we can only condemn the inertia and shortsighted policy that has controlled the people of this place, and applaud the very laudable ambition, industry and energy displayed by our Teuton friends, and call the attention of our more phlegmatic readers of this city, to the fact that while they are dozing away their time fancying that this is the natural business center, the active population of Anaheim are securing to themselves a trade that years of time and millions of money will not take from them. We are glad to see the prosperity of Anaheim . . . we think it would be just as well for this city to emulate the example set by the good people of Anaheim.

A letter from Anaheim published in the 2 July edition of the Star replied to the paper’s “Anaheim vs. Los Angeles City” editorial and criticized the comment the paper made that “we have a rival town in this county, whose success depends on our destruction.” The rejoinder was that the development of Anaheim Landing was for the benefit of shippers in San Bernardino and Arizona “by giving them a chance to save money and distance.”

News, 23 July 1870.

The writer also addressed recent efforts to divide Los Angeles County, so that the southeastern portion would become Anaheim County, with the county seat an incorporated city (in fact, Anaheim was briefly incorporated, though this was soon undone.) He (presumably it was a male) derided Los Angeles, suggesting that supporters of secession “were probably of the opinion that the head was too small for so large a body.”

It was also claimed that “Anaheim, without a doubt, has got a very material geographical advantage over Los Angeles, regarding the location of a railroad” because of the ready access to almost 300,000 acres of farmland and the future boded far better for Anaheim than for the Angel City. A projected extension of the Los Angeles and San Pedro through a branch to Anaheim was “for the good of Los Angeles, the Railroad Company, and the community living south [and east] of the San Gabriel river.” Eventually, the road would push through Santa Ana Canyon and out to San Bernardino.

Star, 30 July 1870.

Consequently, any idea that an extension would “disregard our valleys and skim along the foothills of the Sierras,” meaning through the San Gabriel Valley, was to be dismissed and it was averred that “if you do extend the road, you must bring it through Anaheim.” He ended with the view “that Los Angeles cannot destroy Anaheim is pretty certain; Anaheim does not wish to destroy Los Angeles. Therefore, let us work in concert, and steam will win.”

When Charles R. Johnson was hired to run the Anaheim Lighter Company, the News praised the selection and lauded Johnson’s abilities. Johnson (1830-1904) was a native of Massachusetts who came to Los Angeles in the early 1850s and ran a store with John O. Wheeler, co-publisher of the briefly-lived but colorful Southern Californian newspaper. After some years engaged in trade in México during the Civil War years, Johnson returned to Los Angeles and was associated with his brother-in-law Stearns (the two were married to sisters from the prominent Bandini family), running cattle on Stearns’ large landholdings in what became Orange County.

Star, 5 November 1870.

The Star, however, in its vitriol towards Anaheim manifested by publishers Henry Hamilton and George W. Barter (who, however, soon launched the Anaheim Gazette, quoted the San Diego Bulletin as agreeing with the paper about Johnson’s abilities, but adding “we think we are safe in pronouncing the Anaheim Landing a humbug—and an unmitigated humbug at that.” Even with Johnson’s admitted “business qualifications and well-known capacity,” the San Diego sheet offered, “we are afraid the thing will go up before another winter” had passed.

Naturally, the folks in San Diego were concerned about its inland trade with Arizona and championing its naturally far superior harbor and it was reported in September that there were plans for a new port facility east of the Santa Ana River—this, of course, became Newport Harbor. In November, Johnson and Anaheim partners including Max Strobel and John Fischer incorporated the Anaheim Railway Company to build a 14-mile line from the Landing to the northwest corner of Anaheim, while parties in San Bernardino were entertaining the idea of building a line to Anaheim with parties there.

In 1871, however, two major developments transpired which transformed the regional transportation arrangement and tilted the power base back to Los Angeles. First, Banning successfully lobbied, having secured federal patronage for Wilmington during the Civil War with Camp Drum keeping a Union Army presence in a Confederate-leaning region, for appropriations from Congress for a breakwater to improve the harbor at Wilmington and San Pedro.

Secondly, when the Southern Pacific announced plans to build a line south from the Bay Area to Yuma, Arizona for purposes of future expansion into other areas of the southern United States, local power brokers pushed hard for Congress to force the railroad to build its line through Los Angeles on it way to Yuma. Benjamin D. Wilson, a partner in the Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad and a state senator (following Banning in that office), traveled to Washington and was given credit for a substantial role in engineering this mandate.

Forced to come through the Angel City, the Southern Pacific demanded concessions, including its taking over of the Los Angeles and San Pedro and a cash subsidy towards the construction of lines from the north, east through the San Gabriel Valley and out to the desert and towards Yuma and, lastly, a branch from the Los Angeles and San Pedro at Florence (South Los Angeles) to Anaheim.

This was, of course, not what the folks in Anaheim wanted, though having a railroad connected to Los Angeles was something of a benefit. With the federal government committing, at least modestly at the start, to improvements at Wilmington/San Pedro, Anaheim Landing was, indeed, doomed (though Newport did make a go of it for some years).

Workman was contacted by an Anaheim resident, F.W. Kuelph, about supporting a secession plan for an Anaheim County, though we don’t know what his response was. The division finally did take place, in 1889, and not long afterwards the railroad through Santa Ana Canyon, built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, finally did happen, though it did not run through downtown Anaheim, but instead through the new town of Fullerton.

These letters, specific as they were about fencing for Workman’s remodeled house and about whether he’d sell his stock in Anaheim Landing, do have quite a bit of context around them, which is why we wind up, on this blog, “Reading Between the Lines” with correspondence like this.

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