Friday, May 30, 2014

Theodore Rimpau- One of Anaheim's Earlier Pioneers

Anaheim Public Library Archives
The patriarch of the Rimpau family of Anaheim, was none other than Theodore Rimpau. A Native of Germany, Theodore was born on September 28, 1826 to Matilda and John Christian Rimpau. Born into a very prosperous family, Theodore was schooled by only the best and was said to have spoken more than six different languages. His father, involved in exporting grain in Germany, was well connected with all the titled families of Europe and had many business affiliations with other countries in Northern Europe as well as Great Britain. Being so involved in the business, Theodore watched his father and learned well by him.

When he was still a teenager, Theodore traveled to Cuba to start one of the first sugar factories there. Sadly, the yellow fever epidemic was rampant and spreading while they were there, and Theodore's cousin, who had traveled with him to embark on this new business venture, grew ill and passed away. Theodore then left Cuba and headed for the states, via New York. By the time that word spread throughout the country of the discovery of gold in California, Theodore decided to try his hand at making a life for himself there instead. He claimed that he secured passage on the very first sailing vessel to travel from New York to California, via the passage of Cape Horn. The trip was dangerous and took months. The sea around Cape Horn was, and still is, one of the most treacherous passages in the ocean. Thankfully, Theodore made his way to present day San Francisco when the vessel arrived on February 28, 1848.

He hadn't been off the boat for long before he started making business dealings again, purchasing many vessels and starting his own trading company that would serve up and down the coast of California from San Francisco to San Diego. On one of his travels south, he stopped in Los Angeles  and opened a mercantile store there. It was there in Southern California that Theodore met who would soon be his young bride, and the mother of his children, Francisca Avila. Sadly, during the first year of Theodore's trading company and mercantile business, he suffered a major set back. A terrible storm swept through and sank all his boats, and a sudden fire burned down his store. You would think that might have discouraged Theodore, right? Wrong! He came back stronger than ever.
APL Archives

He became very good friends with the Alcade of Los Angeles, Don Francisco Avila, who was also one of the richest ranchers in Los Angeles. A native of Sinaloa, Mexico, Don Francisco owned the Rancho Las Cienegas and the the Avila Adobe on Olvera Street (which is the oldest standing house in Los Angeles). A little fun fact is that not only did the Avila family reside in this home until 1868, but for a short time during the Mexican-American War, Commodore Robert F. Stockton took up residence in the home as well.

After asking Don Francisco for permission to marry his daughter, Theodore Rimpau and Francisca Avila were married December 23, 1850 at the Church known as La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles.  After the marriage, Don Francisco put Theodore in charge of many responsibilities in the family, including supervising the family estate while living in Los Angeles. By the mid 1860s, the Rimpau's moved from Los Angeles to Anaheim settling there and establishing roots that would last generations.
Plaza Church- L.A. Library Archives

During his lifetime, Theodore Rimpau and his wife had 15 children: Adolf, Albert, Fred, Edward, Frank, Claudina, Matilda, Robert, Theodore jr., Sophia, John, Benjamin, James, Maria and a young son who died around 3 years of age which I cannot identify his name.

Anaheim Public Library Archives
Mr. Rimpau had a very successful life in Anaheim. Not only did he start another mercantile business, but his was the most prosperous in town for over 20 years. He also was a very successful sheep farmer, where he raised his sheep in land which would be present day Fullerton. He served 25 years on the Board of Education and also two terms as City Councilman. The Rimpau family became one of the main families in Anaheim, socially active and involved in community affairs. They lived in a very beautiful, and upscale home located at 209 South Palm Street (present day Harbor Blvd). 
Theodore lived to be 87 years old, passing away at his home on October 3, 1913. He was preceded in death by his wife, Francisca who had passed away at the age of 71, on February 7, 1903 while visiting her son in Los Angeles. They are both interred in the Rimpau Mausoleum at the Anaheim Cemetery located at 1400 East Sycamore Street.

(Copyright 2014- J'aime Rubio)

Some related sources: "California and Californians"- Lewis Publishing, 1932
Photos: Anaheim Public Library Archives, Digital Library Collection,
Los Angeles Public Library Collection (Public Domain).

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