Historian Paul Spitzzeri will discuss “A. Otis Birch: The Strange Saga of Santa Ana’s Oil Tycoon” at the January 13, 2022 meeting of the Orange County Historical Society, 7:30p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., Orange.
Albert Otis Birch was an early Santa Ana resident who became an oil tycoon during the early 20th century, with gushers in Brea Canyon.
He also owned a furniture company in Los Angeles and was an insurance company executive, among other business endeavors. After living many years on a hilltop estate in South Pasadena, an aging Birch and his wife Estelle fell into the clutches of Pearl Choate, a Texas-born nurse with a penchant for having older husbands die not long after marriage and who served prison time in one instance. Not long after she began “taking care” of the Birches in the mid-1960s, Choate spirited them off to Texas where both died within a short period of time. But that’s just part of their strange story.
Paul R. Spitzzeri is Museum Director at the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry, was raised in Orange County, and lives in Carbon Canyon, a stone’s throw from the county line in Chino Hills. He has written extensively on the history of greater Los Angeles through articles, a national award-winning book on the Workman and Temple families, and blog posts and has spoken several times to the OCHS.