Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Rea Family & Katella Ranch

The popular street known as "Katella" has been around almost as long as Anaheim itself. 
But, how did the street get it's name? Well, that is a story all on its own. Before I get to that, first let me take you back, way back to the beginning, so you can know the entire history of this beautiful name.

 The Rea Family

Rea Home, El Cajon, CA
Born in 1848, John Rea, was raised in his native country of Canada. Having contracted Tuberculosis in his early twenties, the weather in Canada seemed to worsen his condition making John yearn for a dryer climate. By 1873, John chose to leave his homeland and head south, to the United States. John chose to first settle in San Francisco, but soon he realized that had been a poor choice.

His next venture to find the right climate for his health was when he boarded a Steamer headed for Southern California. Arriving in Los Angeles, he had grown so ill that he had to be hospitalized for his conditions. An issue of the Orange Coast Magazine (1989) states that while John was hospitalized, he was asked by his nurse what he would like to eat. He asked for something he had only dreamed of at his prior homeland, strawberries and cream. It was said that once he had eaten the delicious treat, he realized that hard work and outdoor living would be the best thing for him. This epiphany of sorts, was said to have prompted him to join his brother in San Diego.

Rea Family
It was in San Diego, in an easterly town known as El Cajon, where John became a bee-keeper and later went back to Canada to marry his wife Margaret, and move her down to El Cajon to his farm. Their daughters were born in their small home in El Cajon. Kate, being born in 1876 and Ella in 1881. The family lived in their small house for many years, using whatever means they could to provide a living to the household.

Being that the home was situated near a stage coach line, many times they would offer meals to hungry travelers. This became a lucrative business move because it allowed them to save to purchase the very first grocery store in the city of El Cajon. In fact, there is a street named after John Rea right in town, Rea Street (also, the Rea Arts District is named after John Rea).

Katella Ranch

Rea Home (224 E. Broadway)
By the late 1890s, John chose to sell his property in El Cajon and move up to Anaheim. The economy had become crippled after the terrible disease to the vineyards, and John took the opportunity to purchase land at a good price. After moving the family to Anaheim, he chose to start a walnut orchard. Wanting to be creative and have have a memorable name for his ranch, John combined the two names of his daughters, Kate and Ella, thus creating "Katella." Not only the ranch was known for this name, but also the dirt path that crossed the property up to the school house took the name as well.
Although his ranch was located at present day Katella Ave., John Rea chose to move his family to a home closer in town, at 224 E. Broadway in Anaheim.

Rea Sisters
By the time the family had moved to Anaheim, his daughters were already teenagers, so they lived in Anaheim only a few years before both the girls and their mother moved to Northern California to attend college at the University of Berkeley.  While there, Kate earned her master's degree in education, and later came back to Anaheim to be a school teacher at the first Anaheim High School.

Kate taught at Anaheim High School from 1901-1904 and Fullerton Junior College until she retired in 1921, after her father died. She was very involved at the Carnegie Building when the Anaheim Public Library was opened. She also served as the first chairwoman on the Library Board and remained on the Board for 45 years. She was a member of the Ebell Club and other various groups and charities, and also helped start Anaheim's first PTA. Her sister Ella, married William Wallop on May 19, 1909. Unlike her sister, Kate never married, but instead threw her life into her work and taking care of her mother until she passed away in 1931.

What I found interesting is that the archives state that the home John Rea built at 224 E. Broadway was sold in 1919 to a former Anaheim mayor, Louis Miller. The home was then moved in 1922 to 125 W. Elm Street. Then in 2007, the same home was moved once again, now to the location at 129 W. Stueckle Ave.  The odd part about this, is that Ella Rea Wallop's obituary states that Kate (who was still alive) was living at 224 E. Broadway.  Does that mean that Kate moved back to the spot where her family home once stood? Interesting thought.

Many people are unaware of when Kate died, and where she is buried. Her sister Ella was buried at
Loma Vista Memorial, in Fullerton in the Mausoleum. However, Kate was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale under her legal name "Ellen Kate Rea"-- (Born: March 21, 1876- Died: February 24, 1972) Why her real name is very rarely mentioned, any information on her death and why she was buried so far from Anaheim, I guess is a mystery for us all. Hopefully, one day I can find out and you can bet I will write about it here.

E. Kate Rea, 1970
The  next time you drive around Anaheim and you see the street sign "Katella," please take a second and remember that it once was known for the walnut ranch owned by Mr. Rea and his family. Remember that the street was once just a small dirt path that crossed the property up to the old school house.  Do not forget that its humble beginnings started in the mind of an eager man who came to California to start life anew and lived the American dream to the fullest. This path witnessed Anaheim in its early beginnings, only to become the large street that remains today. Think of who it was who started that name, and the family legacy they have left Anaheim for generations to come.

All photos from Anaheim Public Library Archives Collection
Orange Coast Magazine, 1989
Early Anaheim-(Book)
Great California Registers
Census Records,
Birth and Death Records,
San Diego- El Cajon History
Anaheim History (APL Archives)
Obituary Notices
Loma Vista and Forest Lawn Cemetery