Anaheim has been called “The Mother Colony,” and in addition to being Orange County’s first town, has helped hatch – somewhat inadvertently – two other communities.
The better-known story is that in 1911 residents of the community then called Benedict incorporated as the City of Stanton in order to foil Anaheim’s plans to use their area for a sewer farm. The new city was named after Philip Stanton, who helped residents create their municipality.
However, seeking to attract county-financed roads, the original Stanton – 16 square miles! – was disincorporated in 1924 and would be revived as a (much smaller) version in 1956.
Less known is Anaheim’s influence in the creation of Westminster. That community, was originally established in the 1850’s by German immigrants desiring to found a wine-making industry, which was popular with tipplers but not so much with teetotalers.
According to Jim Sleeper in his “Second Orange County Almanac” (1976), the minister of the Presbyterian Church in Anaheim was Lemuel P. Webber. A dedicated opponent of drinking spirits, he responded by establishing a temperance colony in 1870 about seven miles to the southwest.
Together with other pioneers whom he attracted by selling “choice forty-acre farms at $13 an acre,” he established Westminster, which drew its name from the Westminster Assembly of 1643, which outlined the basic principles of the Presbyterian faith.
According to Sleeper, Webber vetted the moral standing of each new member of the community, where “manufacturing, buying or selling intoxicating beverages except for sanitary or scientific purposes” was prohibited.
According to Jerry Howard, a Westminster historian, Webber actually spent most of his time in Anaheim, tending that flock. Anaheimers ridiculed the pastor’s real estate decision.
“Westminster was known for being a very damp, marshy place with [bad) drainage,” said Howard. “Westminster people complained about Anaheim making fun of their efforts and calling them idiots and fools for settling there.”
The founding father of Westminster was, by that time, approaching the end of a difficult life. “I see Webber as an emotionally ravaged visionary,” said Howard. “He had watched his wife and child die under primitive circumstances” in the still Wild West of the time.
He was also in poor health and died in 1874 of “consumption,” now called tuberculosis. After his death, the Presbyterian church in Westminster split, and a group built a Congregationalist church. The Methodists had their own sanctuary and the Presbyterians finally built the church [building] that Webber didn’t live to see.
“It’s Our History” focuses on the fascinating past of the cities of Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Stanton and Westminster. Have an idea for a story about the people, incidents and places that preceded us? Write to orangecountytribune @gmail.com .
Categories: History of Orange County