From the Trunk of a Wild Sycamore Tree: The Discovery of Santa Ana

Posted August 05, 2014 by Chris Epting
Spurgeon Building in Santa Ana

William Spurgeon 

William Spurgeon

Photo courtesy of OC Archives

He may have founded Santa Ana, but William Spurgeon originally hailed from Kentucky. Born in 1829, Spurgeon first arrived in California in 1852, where he had some success as a miner. After a number of trips back and forth to the East Coast, Spurgeon arrived back in California in 1869 after an engineer in Los Angeles described to him an area in today’s Orange County that sounded favorable to Spurgeon.

­­When he rode through on horseback to look it over on October 10, 1869, Spurgeon saw that the area was completely uninhabited by people, but was rife with tall sycamore trees, yellow bushes of mustard and pockets of elderberries. In fact, to see over all of the mustard, Spurgeon climbed a Sycamore tree (in what was then simply cattle land) and envisioned what is today called Santa Ana. He paid $595 for 74.2 acres, and Santa Ana was born.

The Birth of Santa Ana

As Francelia and Allen Goddard wrote in their book “A Hundred Years of Yesterday: A Centennial History of the People of Orange County and Their Communities:”

“William H. Spurgeon started his town with twenty-four blocks of about ten lots each and named it Santa Ana. The boundaries were: First St. at the south; West St. (now Broadway) at the west; Seventh St., north; and Spurgeon St., east. He spent the rest of his life in active service for what became his city. He died in 1915 at the age of eighty-eight. Spurgeon opened a small general store that was also patronized by families to the south and west of town. In 1870 he became postmaster and kept the mail in a wooden shoebox. He became the first mayor when the city incorporated on June 1, 1886.”

Santa Ana Today

The original sycamore is long gone, but it was replaced in 1976 by a historical society.

Sycamore tree planted in honor of Spurgeon

Standing there today at the corner of Fifth and Sycamore, you are at the birthplace of one of California's most culturally rich and diverse cities. And from that vantage point you can even see the Spurgeon building.

Spurgeon Building

Spurgeon Building in Santa Ana

Photo courtesy of OC Archives

The marker by the tree reads, “Here on October 10, 1869, his 40th birthday, William H. Spurgeon climbed a sycamore tree to inspect this mustard covered valley. Impressed, he bought 74.2 acres of the Santiago de Santa Ana, and laid out a townsite between First and Seventh, Spurgeon and Broadway.”

Related Blog Posts:

Stay Connected:

 

comments powered by Disqus

Archive

Discover America