How Railroads & Citrus Transformed Southern California


Postcard reads: Train passing through Orange Groves in Winter. Photo courtesy of Chris Jensen

Dr. Benjamin Jenkins will present “Octopus’s Garden: How Railroads and Citrus Transformed Southern California” at the June 13, 2024 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. The public is welcome!

Benjamin Jenkins’s new book, Octopus’s Garden, explains how citrus agriculture and railroads together shaped the economy, landscape, labor systems, and popular image of Southern California. Orange and lemon growing boomed in the 1870s and 1880s while railroads linked the region to markets across North America and ended centuries of geographic isolation for the West Coast. Railroads competed over the shipment of citrus fruits from multiple counties engulfed by the orange empire, resulting in an extensive rail network that generated lucrative returns for grove owners and railroad businessmen in Southern California from the 1890s to the 1950s.

Our speaker, Benjamin Jenkins, MLIS, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of History and Archivist at the University of La Verne. He teaches U.S. and California history and directs the Public History Program. He received his Ph.D. in History at the University of California, Riverside, in 2016.

Please join us at the June 13, 2024 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. The public is welcome!

Treasures of CSUF’s Local History Collections

Photo courtesy of Patrisia Prestinary

Archivist Patrisia Prestinary will present a special look at “Highlights from Cal State Fullerton’s Local History Collections” at the May 9, 2024 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange.

Cal State Fullerton (CSUF) boasts expansive archives and special collections that enable researchers, students, and the community to uncover forgotten stories and study the forces that shaped our region over time. Attendees will learn about the breadth of the university’s unique local history holdings.

CSUF’s collections document Orange County’s evolution from agricultural powerhouse to suburban sprawl, including trade journals, packing house records, and ephemera. Researchers can also explore the experiences of marginalized groups, including Japanese American WWII internment through oral histories and camp artifacts, as well as Vietnamese refugee resettlement preserved in photographs, newspapers, and manuscripts. Additional collection highlights include the records of the Orange County Press Club, materials from the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s Orange County chapter, subject files covering major industries like water, energy, and aerospace, decades of regional periodicals and ephemera, and the Smart Studio collection containing thousands of photographic negatives chronicling everyday life.

As the Archivist at CSUF’s Pollak Library, Patrisia enables the use of special collections through primary source instruction, research consultations, processing acquisitions, and student supervision. She served on the OCHS Board and as Editor of the County Courier from 2014 to 2016. Driven by a passion for connecting scholars to historical materials, Patrisia co-founded the Orange County Archives Bazaar, bringing heritage institutions together to engage the public.

Please join us on May 9, 2024 at the meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. The public is welcomed!

Early Tales and Trails of the Santa Ana Mountains

Historian Eric Plunkett will present “Early Tales and Trails of the Santa Ana Mountains” at the April 11, 2024 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange.

Santa Ana Mountains view from Trabuco Canyon 1946
photo courtesy of Eric Plunkett

The Santa Ana Mountains stretch to the north and south of the double peaks of Old Saddleback, forming Orange County’s rugged eastern border. While much of the mountains’ history has been told by county historians Terry Stephenson, Jim Sleeper and Phil Brigandi, their early indigenous history and story throughout the Spanish and Mexican eras (1769-1848) has remained obscure. In this talk, historian Eric Plunkett will tell of the mountains’ indigenous trails and villages, exploration by Spanish missionaries and soldiers, the so-called Black Star Canyon Massacre of the people of Puhú by American trappers, and the first recorded ascent of the county’s high point, Santiago Peak, by a posse pursuing thieves. Saddle up and ride along and learn how early Orange County was a part of the great story of the American West.

Detail from map by Jean Goodwin, 1929
photo courtesy of Eric Plunkett

Eric Plunkett is the author of St. Junípero Serra and the Founders of Mission San Juan Capistrano and Orange County and many scholarly articles and is co-author (with Phil Brigandi) of the OCHS publication, The Portola Expedition in Orange County. Plunkett teaches in the Placentia Yorba-Linda Unified School District. A native of Placentia, he graduated with a degree in history from CSU Fullerton. He has led numerous OCHS tours and History Hikes (including OCHS’ upcoming Flores Peak hike) and has addressed OCHS on numerous occasions. He blogs about the early history of Orange County at

Please join us on Thursday, April 11, 2024 as historian Eric Plunkett shares information about the “Early Tales and Trails of the Santa Ana Mountains” at the meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30 pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. The public is welcome!

History Hike: Flores Peak

Flores Peak
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

4/12/24- This hike is full!

Join local historian, Eric Plunkett on a hike to the top of Flores Peak (California Historical Landmark #225) located in the beautiful confluence of Harding and Modjeska Canyons. Flores Peak rises 1,834 feet tall and is named for notorious criminal Juan Flores. In 1857 Flores and his gang escaped from Los Angeles after killing Sheriff James Barton and three of his deputies and hid out on top of this peak. It is an incredible story that includes Flores’ escape down the steep cliff of Flores Peak on horseback and his eventual capture by a Los Angeles posse.

The route is 1.5 miles in length with an elevation gain of 465’ and considered a moderate to strenuous climb. The trail is clearly marked; in addition, there are some steep sections with loose dirt. The entire hike should take about 2-2.5 hours including top of the mountain historical interpretation. If you went on the last History Hike in Weir Canyon, this will be similar.

You’ll need to complete and submit a liability waiver (sent with your confirmation) in order to participate.

**There are no restrooms on this route.**

Date: Saturday, April 20, 2024 (if it rains the hike will be held on April 27th)

Meet at 8:30 a.m. Hike leaves promptly at 9:00 a.m.

Additional information (directions, parking meeting location, liability waiver) will be provided as part of your email confirmation. The hike is limited to 20 vehicles max due to private residence parking limitations. Carpooling is strongly advised!

This hike is recommended for ages 13+.

HIKE IS FULL as of 4/12/24 (if you register now you are on a waiting list).  Priority will be given to OCHS members. To register for this hike, please follow this link:

Any other questions, please contact:

La Vida Mineral Springs of Carbon Canyon

Beautiful pool at La Vida Mineral Springs, courtesy of Paul Spitzzeri

Historian Paul R. Spitzzeri will present “’This Miraculous Health and Curative Wonder Water’: The La Vida Mineral Springs of Carbon Canyon,” at the March 14, 2024 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30pm, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. The public is welcome!

Historic La Vida Mineral Springs, circa 1920, courtesy of Paul Spitzzeri

For most of the 20th century, La Vida Mineral Springs was a popular resort in the Brea portion of Carbon Canyon, offering hot mineral water baths and pools, a motel, cabins, a café and more. Its carbonated water was widely sold in many flavors and was promoted for its many purported health benefits. Today, little is left of La Vida, but Paul R. Spitzzeri will share with the OCHS some of the fascinating history that has flowed from the site.

La Vida Mineral Springs picnic benches,
Courtesy of Paul Spitzzeri

Born in Chicago, raised in Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and Placentia, and with a B.A. and M.A. in History from CSU Fullerton, Paul R. Spitzzeri is Museum Director at the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, where he’s been since 1988. In addition to writing extensively about greater Los Angeles history, Paul, a resident of the Carbon Canyon neighborhood Sleepy Hollow in Chino Hills (2/10 of a mile from the O.C. border), has delved deeply into the history of the Canyon over the last twenty years and maintains the Carbon Canyon Chronicle blog.

We look forward to you joining us on March 14, 2024 to discover the history of the La Vida Mineral Springs,7:30pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange.

Let’s Celebrate Joseph E. Pleasants’ Birthday Together!

Judge Pleasants — from UC Irvine, Orange County Regional History Collection (date unknown)

 Rescheduled for JULY 27th See below! Those who signed up for original  March 30th will be contacted for first opportunity to register for the July 27th date.

Who, you may ask?

Judge J. E. Pleasants – farmer, rancher, homesteader, beekeeper, and the original property owner of what is now known as Arden. Moreover, Pleasants was one of the founders of the Orange County Historical Society.

In honor of his 185th birthday, please join us as we celebrate him with a presentation about his life, provided by OCHS president Chris Jepsen, tours of the property, including his original pioneer cottage, Arden—as envisioned and built by Madame Modjeska and her husband, Count Bozenta—birthday cake, and a group photograph of our attending membership, recreating the well-known 1921 OCHS photo seen below.

Orange County Historical Society at Arden, May 1921
“At the historic home of Helena Modjeska in what is now called Modjeska Canyon.

  • Date: Saturday, July 27, 2024
  • Time: 10:00 a.m. (gates open at 9:45 a.m., program begins at 10:30 a.m.) – 12:45 p.m.
  • Location: Arden, Modjeska Canyon
  • Cost: FREE Complimentary shuttle bus between parking lot and Arden for OCHS members. There will be a $15 charge for non-member riders on the shuttle.

You MUST be registered to attend and must check-in at the parking lot on the day of the event.

Confirmation emails will include all pertinent information (location of parking lot, etc.) and will be mailed after reservations (and payment) have been received.

For more information, please contact:

Everyone who plans on attending should register individually via the link below.

To register:  Click Here For Pleasants Registeration

Richard Henry Dana

Richard Henry Dana, Jr in 1842

“The Life and Times of Richard Henry Dana, Jr.” will be the subject of local historian Bob Minty’s presentation at the February 8, 2024 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society (OCHS), 7:30p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange.


Locals know Richard Henry Dana as the namesake of Dana Point and the author of Two Years Before the Mast — a treatise on the harsh life of sailors, which happened to also describe his 1835 visit to what’s now Dana Point. But Dana was far more a merchant seaman and memoirist. He was a lawyer, a politician, a student of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a friend of Herman Melville, a prominent abolitionist, and a champion of the downtrodden. As U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts during the Civil War, he even went before the U.S. Supreme Court, defending President Lincoln’s blockade of Confederate ports.

The Brig Pilgrim, photo from 1989

Bob Minty has been the program chair of the Dana Point City Historical Society for several years, is a Life Member of OCHS, and has been portraying Richard Henry Dana, Jr. as a reenactor for the Pilgram Program at the Ocean Institute since the 1980s. He is the go-to person for anything relating to Richard Henry Dana and has given presentations to members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and numerous professional organizations. Some OCHS members will also recall Bob’s memorable presentation before the Society in 2017 regarding the whaling industry that once existed off the coast of Orange County.

Westminster’s History and Its Influence on Orange County

This history of Westminster, California will be the subject of local historian and author Nick Popadiuk’s presentation at the January 11, 2024 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St. in the City of Orange. The public is welcome.

Celery fields, Westminster, circa 1900. Photo courtesy First American Corp

The founding of Westminster Colony in 1871 marked the appearance of a third sizable settlement in what was then southeast Los Angeles County. Many of its early residents had close ties to Anaheim and during the colony’s first decade its population rivaled that of Santa Ana. This program focuses on seven individuals and families whose influence was felt beyond the agricultural community in which they lived. It will feature photos of Westminster from the Westminster Historical Museum that haven’t been available or widely seen before.

Odd Fellows Hall, Westminster, 1920s, Photo Courtesy Don Dobmeier

Westminster’s famous Post Brothers Plow, photo from 1938, photo courtesy OC Archives

Nick Popadiuk first moved to Westminster with his parents in 1958. He attended Blessed Sacrament School during the 1960s and graduated from Evergreen State College in Washington in 1975. Following a career in the sign business, he has dedicated his time to researching local history. He is on the Westminster Historical Society board of directors and is assistant archivist at the Westminster Historical Museum. He and his wife raised their family in Westminster and still live there. He recently authored the book, Images of America: Westminster. 

Please join us to learn more about Westminster on January 11th, 7:30pm Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St. in the City of Orange!

Asian Garden Mall, Westminster, photo by Chris Jepsen

The SoCal Landmarks Project

Interested in local historical landmarks? Learn about the ongoing SoCal Landmarks documentation project from project manager Andy Schmidt at the December 14, 2023 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. All are welcome. Landmarks are so very cool!!!!

Lovell Beach House, 1926, Newport Beach- a favorite landmark of one of the OCHS Board members!
(courtesy of SoCal Landmarks)

SoCal Landmarks is an ongoing photography project documenting the myriad sites, buildings, structures, monuments, and other natural and historical points of importance/interest that are considered landmarks in the ten southern counties of California. Since the launch of the project in February 2020, a small, dedicated group of photographers has contributed content for the project’s archives, its website (, and presence on five social media platforms.

Balboa Pavilion, 1906, Newport Beach
(courtesy of SoCal Landmarks)
Casino San Clemente, 1937
(courtesy of SoCal Landmarks)

Project manager Andy Schmidt moved to Orange County in late 2005. As a member of the Photographic Society of Orange County, he was involved with the Slice of Orange photography project organized by John Bare of Laguna Niguel, for which he provided administrative and technical assistance. In mid-2019, Andy approached John and one of the other photographers in the Slice project, Al Russell, about helping organize and administer an open-ended project focusing on historical landmarks. Already, the project has documented more than 600 landmarks with many more still to go.

Southern Counties Gas Co, 1923, Santa Ana
(courtesy of SoCal Landmarks)

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday, December 14, 2023 at 7:30p.m., at the Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange. You do not want to miss this presentation!

Elephant Packing House, 1924, Fullerton
(courtesy of SoCal Landmarks)