Spring 2014 History Hike: Silverado’s Blue Light Mine – Guides: Mike Boeck, Phil Brigandi

Blue Light Mine crew
Photo courtesy Orange County Archives

Join us for a trip into the Santa Ana Mountains through Pine Canyon to visit the ruins of the Blue Light Mine, founded by Santa Ana residents Hank Smith and William Curry after they discovered silver (which gave the canyon its name) in 1877. After staking their claim, digging commenced and didn’t stop until the mid-twentieth century, during which time zinc, lead, and gold were mined, as well.

This isn’t for the faint of heart. The hike to the lower Blue Light Mine is a reasonably easy mile each way with a gain of 100-200 elevation. However, the hike to the upper mine, where guide Mike Boeck claims, “the views are grand and the look-see into the mine is more interesting,” doubles the distance and more than triples the elevation gain. (If you arrive at the lower mine and don’t feel as if you can continue, someone will take you back to the trailhead while the rest of the group continues.) Phil Brigandi will offer the history of the area along the way.

Date: Saturday, April 12, 2014
Time: 9:30 a.m.
Length: 4 hours
Bring: plenty of water, snacks, and a lunch

This is a very rare opportunity, but the hike is limited to 20 people.

Reservations are a MUST. Confirmation will be made by email and will include additional information regarding the trek.

This hike sponsored by the Orange County Historical Society in partnership with the Silverado Modjeska Recreation and Park District (SMRPD).


Follow up to the History Hike:

April 2014 Meeting – Program: History of the City of Cypress – Speaker: John Olson

Walker St. at N. Vonnie Ln., Cypress, circa 1960
Photo courtesy Orange County Archives

Local historian John Olson will discuss the history of the City of Cypress at the Orange County Historical Society meeting on Thursday, April 10, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. Olson’s talk will begin with the little western Orange County town of Cypress in the 1940s, tell the story of its incorporation as Dairy City in 1956, and will, he says, “with any luck get to the wild times of 1960-61” (at which time it had been re-re-named Cypress again).

Although Cypress’ origin dates back to about the turn of the 20th century, by the time it incorporated in 1956, it still only had a population of 1,616 people… and 24,000 cows. Today the 6.61-square-mile city boasts 49,647 human residents and not a single bovine. In place of the old dairy farms are housing tracts, schools, Cypress College, shopping centers, the Los Alamitos Race Course, and the offices of such notable businesses as Vans, United Health Group, Fuji Film USA, Mary Kay, Yamaha Motor Corporation USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Bandai America, and Siemens Medical Solutions. The story of the community’s transition from agriculture to suburbia in some ways reflects the story of much of Orange County, but it also features many curious, unique, and sometimes surprising twists and turns.

Dairy in the City of Cypress, 1969
Photo courtesy Orange County Archives

John Olson’s interest in researching history began in 1971, after he started a baseball team. When his mother found out he’d named the team “The Baseball Blues” (after a song he liked), she said, “Oh, you named it after your father’s team.”

“My father,” Olson said, “had died in 1954 of a botched surgery when I was just five years old and no one in the family had bothered to tell me much about him, most specifically that he had ever played my favorite sport professionally. I asked a bunch of questions, but basically got no answers. So, I started researching, and I never stopped.”

Thus began his love of ferreting out forgotten stories of the past.

Olson, who holds a degree in Communications from CSUF, was hired in 1986 to create and run a television program for the City of Cypress. He has worked for the City ever since, running their cable access channel and meeting their other video production needs.

“When I applied for the job, I didn’t know where Cypress was,” said Olson. “But after producing hundreds of video programs about the City over the last 26 years, and attending more than 600 council meetings, plus the research habit I developed back in 1971, I got to know a lot about the little town of Cypress.”

Olson is currently working on a book about the history of Cypress—the first of its kind—and has become a familiar and welcome face in Orange County’s local history libraries and archives.

March 2014 Event: Field trip to Calico Ghost Town – Lecturer: Phil Brigandi – Town Guide: Serena Steiner

Calico Ghost Town, photo courtesy O.C. History Roundup Blogspot by Chris Jepsen

On Saturday, March 22, 2014, OCHS will take a day trip to the fascinating Calico ghost town in San Bernardino County. Our group will be escorted by motorcoach and provided an onboard lecture by Phil Brigandi. Once arriving at our destination, Calico historian Serena Steiner will give us a walking tour of the town. After the tour, we will have free time to wander and explore the town, visit the Lane Museum, and maybe even see Boot Hill.

Lunch is on your own, so be sure to bring additional cash for your meal at the Calico House Restaurant, as well as some optional attractions you may want to check out:

  • The Maggie Mine – Tour this 1890s mine ($2.00)
  • Pan for Gold ($2.00)
  • Mystery Shack – Cousin of Knott’s Haunted Shack ($2.00)
  • Calico-Odessa Railway – Tour Calico on the type of train that used to haul at the mines ($4.00)


Follow up to the Calico Ghost Town field trip:

March 2014 Meeting – Program: What’s New (and Old) at the O.C. Archives – Speaker: Chris Jepsen

O.C. Archives, courtesy Chris Jepsen

Get a “virtual backstage tour” of the Orange County Archives, learn about some recent additions to its collections, and see a new selection of rare historic photos at the OCHS general meeting on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 7:30 p.m., 2400 N. Canal St. in Orange. Our speaker is OCHS president Chris Jepsen, whose day job finds him serving as Assistant Archivist at the O.C. Archives.

Although its mission is partly to identify, collect, preserve and make available records of the county’s history, the Orange County Archives is more than its name might imply. A central hub for Orange County history, the Orange County Archives is a research center open to the public, and its collections belong to the people of Orange County.

The majority of the Archives’ records come from county government, beginning with Orange County’s separation from Los Angeles in 1889. However, the resolution that created the Archives also provides for the collection of “historical materials which are not official County records but which document the history of Orange County.” This has allowed the Archives to build a collection that is not only extensive but diverse.

Chris Jepsen at O.C. Archives

The Archives is a division of the Orange County Clerk-Recorder Department, located in the Old County Courthouse, 211 W. Santa Ana Blvd. It is open on weekdays (except holidays), 9:00 a.m. to noon, and 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. During these hours, Archives staff members are on hand to help anyone and everyone find their way through more than 120 years of records in order to solve various historical, genealogical, and legal mysteries.

In addition to these duties, staff members also organize historical exhibits, speak in public on subjects relating to county history, and sometimes help provide guidance for historical projects undertaken by county agencies or commissions.

Our speaker Chris Jepsen has served as the Assistant Archivist at the Orange County Archives since 2003. He loves his work, collecting and preserving historically significant materials, and helping people discover the history of their families, homes and communities. Chris, a local historian who is author of the O.C. History Roundup blogspot and the “O.C. Answer Man” columnist of Orange Coast Magazine, is also an avid photographer and president of OCHS since the 2011-2012 membership year.

For more information about the Archives, visit OCArchives.com, call Chris at (714) 834-4771, or just stop by for a visit.

February 2014 Meeting – Program: History of Carbon Canyon – Speaker: Paul Spitzzeri

Old Carbon Canyon post card

Paul Spitzzeri will give a lecture about Carbon Canyon on Thursday, February 13, 2014, 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

Tucked in the northeastern corner of Orange County, Carbon Canyon is mostly known as a commuter alternative to the busy 91 and 60 freeways to and from the Inland Empire. The canyon and its surrounding areas, however, have a varied and interesting history, dealing with oil development, mineral hot springs, concrete outdoor ski slopes, hippie hangouts, hit jobs, and much more.

While the canyon was certainly a place for native peoples to gather plant material, hunt for game, and serve as a trading spot between coastal and inland regions, little is known about how the area was actually used over time. During the Spanish and Mexican eras, neighboring rancheros used Carbon Canyon as part of the common public land set aside for grazing and watering of cattle.

Map showing Olinda/Carbon Canyon area

In the late 1880s, William H. Bailey bought land outside the canyon’s mouth and named his domain “Olinda Ranch,” after his family’s Hawaiian pineapple plantation. Several years later, Edward Doheny, developer of the famed Los Angeles oil field, brought in a still-operating well that inaugurated Orange County’s oil industry.

Oil workers, it is said, used the natural hot springs in the canyon for pain relief, and by the 1910s the La Vida Mineral Springs resort was opened. For nearly a half-century, the Miller family operated La Vida’s baths, pools, motel, and café, and its water was bottled and sold widely. After most of the facilities closed, the La Vida Roadhouse continued operation until the early 2000s. Little remains of the original site to date, except a water tower with the faded “La Vida” logo still emblazoned on it.

Paul Spitzzeri

In recent years, sub-urbanization has crept into the canyon and has transformed it. Wildfires, traffic and other concerns remain ongoing issues as the area faces an uncertain future in this century.

Our guest speaker is the Assistant Director at the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum in the City of Industry, California, where he has worked since 1988. He received his B.A. and M.A. in History from California State University, Fullerton and has published pieces on local, regional and state history in many journals and anthologies. His book, The Workman and Temple Families of Southern California, won the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History in 2009. A resident of Sleepy Hollow in Chino Hills within Carbon Canyon, Paul has blogged extensively on the history of the canyon on carboncanyonchronicle.blogspot.com.

January 2014 Meeting – Program: History of the Santa Ana Fire Department – Speaker: Roberta Reed

Restored 1926 fire engine in front of SA Fire Museum. Photo courtesy Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society

Guest speaker Roberta Reed will lecture on the history of the Santa Ana Fire Department on Thursday, January 9, 2014, 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange. Founded in 1883, SAFD’s first fire house was built on the west side of Sycamore Street, between Third and Fourth Streets. By 1970, SAFD included 200 members and nine stations. The fire department was disbanded by the City of Santa Ana on April 20, 2012 due to budget constraints, and fire services were contracted with the Orange County Fire Authority.

Roberta has had a connection to SAFD from her early years, with Santa Ana Station 5 being the station where her father spent a good part of his career. A long-time treasurer of the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society, she was instrumental in negotiating the agreement between the City and Orange County Fire Authority to transfer the Santa Ana Fire Museum to SAHPS and continue to house it in Station 5. In May 2013, a signed license agreement between SAHPS and OCFA allowed the Museum to operate in OCFA Station 75. A grand opening for the Museum was held on Saturday, August 24, 2013, and the public was invited to view its extensive collection of artifacts from the 1880s to the 1960s.

Born in St. Joseph Hospital and raised in Santa Ana, Roberta is an Environmental, Health and Safety manager at 3M where she has been employed for the past 15 years. Her deep involvement in the history of Santa Ana is evidenced in her numerous “outside” efforts. Author of Arcadia Publishing’s Santa Ana: 1940-2007 (Images of America: California), Roberta organized the City’s first walking tours; chaired numerous home and garden tours, and cemetery tours for SAHPS, and was involved in the grassroots effort to save the Howe-Waffle House during the Orange County bankruptcy.

Roberta celebrates her 23rd wedding anniversary with husband Nathan in the week she delivers her program to OCHS. The family’s home includes canines Max, Cliff and Samson; a collection of glassware from the Depression era up to the 1960s; antique furniture; Santa Ana memorabilia, and fire-related items.

December 2013 Meeting – Program: Show & Tell Night – Speaker: You!

“Show & Tell” night returns to OCHS on Thursday, December 12, 2013, 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

We welcome you to bring in any artifact, memorabilium, or item pertaining to Orange County history you wish to share or further explore with us. A sign up sheet will be posted at the front door, and those who brought an item to share will be called forth—in the order on this list—to share their item. This is a great opportunity to learn more about a variety of aspects about our county’s history from each other. So bring it on!

Follow up note: Presenters at this year’s event included: Chris Jepsen, Gordon McClelland, Josh McIntosh, Leo M. Castro, Ed Murashie, Dick Pierce, Barbara McIntosh, Harriet Friis, Naomi Estrine, Denny Hayden, Bobbie Prentice, Sandy Currie, Eldon Gath, Emmett Raitt, Edward Velasquez, Clay Rickerl, and Phil Brigandi.

Below is a photo taken at this event. Click here to go to the slideshow created from photos taken at this event. (This slideshow may take awhile to load in your browser, depending on the speed of your connection to the Internet.)

OCHS president Chris Jepsen at Show & Tell Night 2013

OCHS 2013 Fundraiser – Breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Ruby’s Diner in Anaheim – Members to meet for dinner on Friday, November 22nd

From November 17th through the 23rd, have breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Ruby’s Diner on 1128 W. Lincoln Avenue in Anaheim and 20 percent of your bill will be donated to OCHS when you bring in our Ruby’s Diner flyer.

If you would like to join us, several OCHS members plan to meet for dinner on Friday the 22nd from 6 to 9 p.m.

Happy dining, and thank you in advance for supporting OCHS!

November 2013 Meeting – Program: Authors’ Night and Orange Countiana IX

Orange Countiana, Volume IX

Join us on Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. when Authors’ Night returns with new authors and books pertaining to Orange County history topics. Orange Countiana IX, the latest volume of our annual publication, will also be unveiled, with copies to be distributed to members in good standing. The program will be held at our general meeting site, Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

Pioneer Ranch Life in Orange: A Victorian Woman in Southern California

The story of Mary Teegarden Clark will be presented by Paul F. Clark, great-grandson of the subject. This memoir centers itself in the Southern California community of Orange through the years 1875 to 1887. Mary Teegarden Clark speaks about crossing the continent by train with a child and participating in the ground breaking of a new orange orchard named the “Yale Grove” by her husband, Albert B. Clark. The author graduated with degrees in history from California State University, Fullerton.

Naughty Newport: Judge Robert Gardner

In the wild, new sequel to Bawdy Balboa, author Gordy Grundy takes us on a jaunty romp through the early years of Newport Beach, California, featuring crusaders and con men, surfers and sots. Judge Robert Gardner is well known for his pragmatic justice, body surfing and witty articles in national magazines and local newspapers. The author, an artist, writer and member of the well-known Grundy family of Newport Beach, has served as editor and point-man for the publishing of this posthumous tome by Orange County history buff, Judge Robert Gardner.

Santa Ana Mountains: History, Habitat & Hikes

Author Patrick Mitchell has compiled the first comprehensive volume of the natural and cultural histories of the Santa Anas, home to Native Americans, Spanish missionaries, vaqueros, sheep barons, bandits and suburban developers. This book tells how these mountains were traversed by mountain man Jedediah Smith, explorer John C.Fremont, lawman Wyatt Earp and other historic figures. The author has also written Santa Ana River Guide: From Crest to Coastand has been a museum natural history director, ranch manager, resort landscapes director, park naturalist, herb farmer and field ecologist.

Images of Baseball: Mexican-American Baseball in O.C.

Richard A. SantillanSusan C. Luevano, and Luis F. Fernandez‘s book celebrates the once-vibrant culture of baseball and softball teams from Placentia, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Westminster, San Juan Capistrano, and nearby towns. Baseball allowed men and women to showcase their athletic and leadership skills, engaged family members, and enabled community members to develop social and political networks. Author Richard A. Santillán, professor emeritus at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, specializes in Mexican American history. Co-author Susan C. Luévano is librarian at California State University, Long Beach, and co-author Luis F. Fernández is a public historian. This book is made possible due to the many photographs donated by community members.

A Brief History of Los Alamitos & Rossmoor

Author Larry Strawther traces the histories of the interdependent sister communities of Los Alamitos and Rossmoor, which epitomize the reality in the legend of the Orange County lifestyle. Los Alamitos evolved from cattle ranches and sugar beet factory town to a World War II military town, and ultimately residential neighborhoods, while the planned “walled ‘city’ of Rossmoor” was created between 1955 and 1961. Despite annexation talk, Rossmoor and “Los Al” co-exist apart together, so to speak, on Long Beach’s outskirts. The author has been writing professionally since high school—for newspapers, musical comedy groups, television, movies, and local history articles.

October 2013 Meeting – Program: “Last of the Wild West”—Los Alamitos Lawman Gunned Down, Forgotten – Speaker: Phil Brigandi

Los Alamitos’ main street with the “Old West” look in 1910
Orange County Historical Society

Join us on Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. as our guest speaker, local historian and author, Phil Brigandi, uncovers lost history about the final days of the Old West as evidenced in Los Alamitos in 1907. The program will be held at our general meeting site, Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

Our engaging guest speaker will tell us the true tale of Deputy Juan Orosco who was the first law enforcement officer gunned down in the line of duty in the final years of Orange County’s “wild and wooly” pioneer era when bandits, horse thieves, saloons, and shoot-outs were as much a part of our towns as any other place out West.

Brigandi, an avid researcher who has penned more than 20 books about local history, tells us he uncovered these facts about Orosco a couple of years ago and then realized the story was forgotten in time because there are no longer “constables… or any successor agency to keep a list of their own fallen officers.”

Phil Brigandi

This will be the first time Brigandi has delivered this presentation. The program is open to the public.

Follow up note: Phil Brigandi is still researching the mystery of Deputy Juan Orosco’s life and death. If you have any photos or information about him, please contact Phil at orangecountiana@orangecountyhistory.org.