Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ostriches in Anaheim?!

The thought of ostrich farms in Anaheim sounds quite odd to me, but history records prove that it did happen. In fact, there were quite a few different people who had ostrich farms within Anaheim and Orange County in the late 1800s.

Dr. Sketchley

Starting around 1883, a man known as Dr. C.J. Sketchley started the very first ostrich farm in Anaheim, California, on a 640 acre ranch that once belonged to Abel Stearns. A native of Cape Town, South Africa, Sketchley was the first to bring ostriches to California. 

They brought the first 21 birds to the farm from Africa. None of the birds were lost or died on the trip over, except for one female who killed her mate. Being that ostriches were so foreign to locals, Dr. Sketchley's farm became a magnet for hundreds of people daily, showing up uninvited to the farm to get a look at these enormous, flightless birds. Soon after opening the farm, Dr. Sketchley grew frustrated with the constant impositions that visitors made to his business. Constantly worrying about visitors and dogs coming on to his property and annoying the birds, or attempting to steal the valuable feathers, he started to charge $ .50 per head which would be the equivalent today of about $12 per person to visit, hoping to get rid of visitors. Unfortunately, that didn't do much good. Being that feathers were worth so much at the time, people risked their own safety by sneaking onto Sketchley's property to pluck feathers off of the ostriches in order to sell them.

L.A. Herald, January 29, 1887
In an interview for the New York Times in October of 1883, Sketchley was quoted saying, "when you ask me what are the greatest drawbacks I have met with I must answer dogs and visitors,  and perhaps the visitors are the worst."  Eventually, Anaheim became too much for Sketchley so he moved to a farm just outside of Los Angeles, leased by G. J. Griffith.  Later a rail line from Los Angeles to the farm was put in, and Sketchley gave in to allow a tourist attraction along with his ostrich farm located where Griffith Park stands today.

Dr. Sketchley wasn't the only one who went into the Ostrich farming business either....

Edward Atherton

The next fellow to come to Anaheim with ostriches on his mind was Edward Atherton. Another fellow South African, just like Sketchley, Atherton was well experienced as an ostrich farmer. 
Edward Atherton was born in Cape Town, South Africa on May 29, 1860, who was the son of Cape Town pioneer John Atherton, a native of Manchester, England.  His father, being business savvy, not only owned a farm of over 500 acres for grain, vineyards and stock, but he also owned two factories, one for distilling liquor and another for scouring wool. 

"The History of Orange County" claims that in December of 1886,  Edward came to Anaheim to acquire the 21 birds that had originally came to Anaheim a few years earlier. I had originally assumed, given this exact number, this was Dr. Sketchley's original birds but it doesn't appear to be so. It also states that upon arriving, Atherton learned that the 21 birds had grown to 46, after breeding. 

The book goes on to state the original 21 birds sent to Anaheim, came in 1882 after being in an exhibition in San Francisco in 1881. Then they were moved to Anaheim in 1882 by the California Ostrich Farming Company, managed by R.J. Northam.  Atherton eventually settled on a farm close to Fullerton and bought out Northam's interest in the business. Towards the end of his career in ostrich farming, he sold all but eight birds and kept most of his land for growing Valencia oranges and walnuts.   The wedding photo of Mr. Atherton and his wife can also be seen on the mural of the Chase Bank (fka Home Savings of America) at 101 S. Harbor Blvd on the corner of  Lincoln.

OSTRICH FARMER, EDWARD ATHERTON~ Born in Cape Town, South Africa on May 29, 1860. Edward Atherton came to California via Cape Horn. In 1886, Edward came to Anaheim and became one of the first Ostrich Farmers. He married Carolina Sellinger in 1897 and they had three children: Malcolm, Miranda and Dalton.
Edward Atherton at farm

 Ostriches Were Useful!

Although ostriches are not well tempered birds, they seemed to be useful for different things, such as delivering mail. Well, not exactly, but at least pulling the mail cart to deliver the mail! Honestly, I don't know how anyone managed to deal with these birds, as I had my own run in with an ostrich when I was just a teenager and I thought it was going to attack me. Let me just say, calling these birds grumpy is an understatement. They are very violent and prone to kicking anything they see. Somehow or another, they were able to use them successfully around town.

  MAIL BY OSTRICH!-- In this photo you will see Anaheim barber, Willard A. Frantz standing next to a cart and R.F.D. (Rural Free Delivery) postman Frank Eastman in cart on a dirt road, drawn by pair of harnessed ostriches named Napoleon and Josephine. (1896)

 Ostrich Racing?!

And let us not forget animal trainer, Gene Holter and his ostrich races. I found many advertisements in archived magazines and books for his many races of ostriches in Anaheim, and all over.

Apparently he had his farm at 8901 Kathryn Drive in Anaheim for a while. (Note: There are two streets with that name, one being spelled Kathryn and the other Catherine. I know, because I grew up on Catherine Drive in Anaheim, too.) It appears as if his races were during the 1950s and 60s.

Well there you have it folks, a brief but educational glimpse into Anaheim's past and it's strange intrigue over ostriches!

(Copyright 2014) J'aime Rubio, Dreaming Casually Publications

Photos: Anaheim Public Library Archives, Anaheim Historical Society
Various newspaper clippings, L.A. Herald, New York Times, and History of Orange County.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Historic Anaheim Homes - Then & Now!

 This will be one of many posts to this blog showing "Then and Now" photos of some of Anaheim's beautiful historic homes. I have had the privilege to work with another fellow Anaheim history buff to compile these great photos to give you a glimpse at some of our local history.

Anaheim resident and history teacher, Ed Wiesmuller has caught the eye of many Anaheim history lovers lately. His new spin on an old favorite type of comparison photography has all the vintage flare with just enough history mixed in it to be entertaining and educational.  It was just last Summer when Ed decided to join in on the "History of Anaheim" group page via FACEBOOK, where he quickly dove in head first, immediately contributing his photography, Anaheim history knowledge and also added his own style to the group.

Ed's signature is his "Then & Now" photography of historic homes throughout Anaheim. This will be the first of several posts that feature Ed's photos, which usually feature one of his classic cars, along with historic information on the homes. This unique and very interesting style used by Mr. Wiesmuller, captures the Vintage aura that many of us "Anaheim'ians" love so much.

188 N. Vintage Lane

The Backs' house originally stood on Los Angeles Street (now Anaheim Boulevard) and Lincoln Avenue. Built in 1902, this house belonged to early Anaheim residents, the Backs family. The moving of this home in the late 1980s ignited a law suit that allowed many of the other Anaheim historic homes to be moved and restored to their former grandeur.  To read more about the history of the home, see L.A. Times article from 1986, click here.

902 W. Broadway

This home was once the residence of Joseph Fiscus, a walnut and citrus rancher, and was originally located at 1001 South Los Angeles Street (now Anaheim Blvd.) at Vermont Street. It was later moved to 902 West Broadway.

Note from J'aime Rubio: My mother used to babysit at that house in the early 1960s, and she always said the house was creepy!

500 N. Clementine
One of the first homes built on this tract, the Boege home cost a reported $8,000 at the time it was constructed in 1922.  Designed by architect, Frank Benchley for Vice President of  First National Bank and City Treasurer, Charles Boege and his family. This 7-room house was considered one of the most costliest of the time. Thankfully this home still stands in its original location.

521 N. Lemon St.

Built in 1922, this was the home of William E. Duckworth.  William was the son of  J.W. Duckworth, the postmaster of Anaheim.  A member of the Degree of the Woodmen of the World, Duckworth was also a local fuel and feed merchant and land developer. This home is still in its original location.


(Copyright 2014) J'aime Rubio, Dreaming Casually Publications

Photos:  Archived Photos c/o Anaheim Public Library Archive Collection
              Newer photos c/o Ed Wiesmuller, All Rights Reserved.

Enid Rimpau & The Mystery on Zeyn Street

Rimpau House on Zeyn Street

When I was a young girl visiting my Grandparents as usual in Anaheim a few blocks from where I lived, I went down good old Sycamore Street to the Park (Pearson Park) where the ducks roamed. There was plush green grass and a pond that ascended over the entire property. I loved to go there as a kid. There was also a certain house just down the street from this park that always caught my eye. It is located at 503 Zeyn Street.

At the time I knew nothing of the history within its walls. All I knew is I was drawn to the house for its beautiful appearance. I became so interested by the house I began asking about it. There was something about this house that was so beautiful and so rare, unlike any other on the block. I imagined myself there, as if I could step back in time to a different era. When things were simple and life was pure. Staring into the windows of that old house I felt sad. Sad that I knew there was a history behind its walls, but I was unable to know it it truly since I was born 66 years too late.

I soon forgot about the house, distracted as so often children are. Years later, I moved back to Anaheim and unexpectedly one day I passed the very same house I had been so intrigued by so many years before. I stopped and stared at it, looking upon the large columns and "Juan Costa" mahogany front door. I began to remember all questions and interests I had originally had as a child flooding back into my mind.

Then and there I decided that as an adult I would investigate. I quickly googled the address and came upon a few stories of Historic Anaheim. I decided to go to the Anaheim Library and look up its history further. Later, I came across an article from the Anaheim Gazette (an 8-page newspaper) dated October 21, 1915. What I found there was astonishing.

First and foremost, Anaheim’s name is derived from the German word “heim” meaning home, and Ana after the Santa Ana river….”home by the river". Many hundreds of people settled in Anaheim in the 1800’s and many places are historical landmarks now. One of which would be that home on Zeyn Street. For you to understand the history I must then tell the tale……
APL Archives

Born in 1891 to parents William Stanley Williams and Catherine Ferguson, Enid lived with her parents in Los Angeles until she married Charles Stone of Glendale on Sept. 21, 1910 at the age of 19. The couple was said to have moved to Long Beach, but within a year of their wedding, Enid left Charles and filed for divorce due to his "intemperate habits."

In 1913, she moved to a small town of German immigrants surrounded by orange groves known as Anaheim, California. It had already been nearly 4 years after leaving her husband when she met Robert Rimpau (Born: Theodore Robert Rimpau, son of Adolph Rimpau and grandson to Rimpau patriarch, Theodore Rimpau).  Enid met Robert while working at Weber's book store and the Millinery Store. Robert Rimpau worked at Miles Grocery store. She was said to have been "beautiful, sweet and always had a sunny disposition". She was well liked within the community and that is how she captured the attention of her soon-to-be second husband, Robert Rimpau.

Mr. Robert Rimpau had been Head Clerk for the Miles Grocery Store Company for several months when he began courting then 22 year old beauty Enid. Enid had been previously married to Charles Stone of Long Beach. They had been divorced about a year into the marriage due to Mr. Stones "intemperate habits", according to the Anaheim Gazette article.  By 1915, Robert had courted "beautiful" Enid and proposed marriage to her. They were wed on July 5, 1915.

After the construction of the beautiful home was finished (built by Chas Trudeau), they were married and moved in. Just four months after wedding Robert, Enid was said to have told her friends she had become so lonesome at home that she would rather be working to pass the time then be home alone. All the while, she kept her bright and positive demeanor even up until the weekend of the tragedy.

Then that Sunday morning on October 17, 1915 something went terribly wrong. As usual Mr. and Mrs. Rimpau came to St. Boniface Church located on Lincoln Ave to attend Sunday Services and Enid returned home alone as her husband stated he needed to run an errand. Just an hour after returning from his errand, Robert found his wife dying from cyanide poisoning. Robert claimed that she was dying at the time of his arrival to the home.

Dr. Truxaw came to the residence only to find out it was too late. They found a small vial of Cyanide of Potassium Solution that was still pretty full. Only a small amount had been taken out of it. The means to which Enid acquired this poison is still unknown to this day. Some say she must have kept it for quite some time without her husband having any knowledge to the fact.

The Coroner deemed it a suicide and that it was unnecessary to hold an inquest, claiming that she must have acted on temporary insanity. The few who claimed to be friends (none of which were named in the article) said she had been quite melancholy weeks leading up to her death. Yet, others who spoke of the story during that time and years later, who state that they did know Enid well said they could not believe such an even tempered and lovely person could have become mentally disturbed enough to end her own life.  Even at Mass the very day in which she died witnesses claimed she was her bright and happy self.

There was a suicide note found that was "allegedly" Enid's. It was never said whether it really was written in her hand. It did state that she was sorry and hoped that God would forgive her. The motive of her self-inflicted demise is still questionable. This alleged note was never examined or questioned by the authorities.

It was said that a life insurance agent Al Nowotny gave a statement that she had asked him if the insurance was covered in the event of a suicide. In answer, Al Nowotny explained that only after the policy had remained for a year, then in the event someone died then the insurance would pay out.  So why then would Enid kill herself? That doesn't make any sense at all.


Robert was in fact, a descendant of the Anaheim founders. Was there a possibility that Mr. Rimpau could have paid off Al Nowotny to make it believable that Enid did in fact seem suicidal before her death? All it took was one witness to say something veering towards a mentally unstable condition to verify that suicide was a possibility. That way if in fact she was murdered, no one would be the wiser and it would go undetected as a suicide. The perfect crime really if you think about it.


Was Robert Rimpau jealous enough to poison his own wife ?

Perhaps Enid's ex-husband Charles Stone may have come looking for her and he did it?

Was Enid sad that she had divorced Charles, and regretted it?

Or maybe Enid was afraid of Charles, and that is why she divorced him and fled?

Did Enid's husband Robert poison her thinking she would leave him for her ex?

Or could it have been a member Robert's prestigious family?


The Rimpau's were considered a pretty high caliber family in that small community, and are seen in various historical photographs through out Anaheim's vast historical albums. Is it possible that they were unhappy with the union of man and wife that took place between their beloved Robert and newly divorced Enid?

Remember back in that time period, divorce was certainly frowned upon and many people made judgement based on gossip and circumstances in ones class or status. Maybe they were worried she would put a damper on their clean and polished family reputation, being that she was a divorced woman with a past. Perhaps they wanted their son Robert to marry into a wealthy socialite family instead of someone as common as Enid.


What reasons would Enid have had to end her young life? She had friends and a new life in Anaheim. Maybe it was Robert's family, or maybe her husband was just not as nice as he appeared. That would lead me to the conclusion that Enid's husband may have been the one who poisoned her.
Now, recently when my paternal grandfather passed away from old age in 2008, we laid him to rest in good old Historic Anaheim Cemetery. I was walking around the grave sites by the Anaheim Pioneers where grandpa’s grave is set and I stumbled across many historic grave sites of the old Pioneers including the Mausoleum for the Rimpau family.

I could not help but to feel emotion for this young woman who died way too soon, to feel sorrow and sympathy for her broken heart. Someone was hurting her enough that she died, whether she took her own life or another person who cause her death. Either way, there must have been serious problems brewing.

Will we ever know how she really died? Or maybe I should rephrase that, why she died?

Courtesy of Mark Daniels
Did she really take her young life?

Was she that sad that ending her life was more appealing that continuing on in the world?

Did her husband kill her?

Or perhaps it was someone within the very family she married into?

The world will never really know what happened since the secret is buried with her.
Enid Rimpau died on a Sunday, October 17, 1915. She was laid to rest on that following Tuesday morning in the Anaheim Community Mausoleum, in the Anaheim Cemetery, not the Rimpau Family Crypt as many others will have you to believe.  (Note: her grave says she was born in 1893, however she claimed she was younger than she actually was on her wedding license, thus when she died her husband put the year of birth she told him- despite the fact she was actually born in 1891.)

To read more about Enid's life and death, as well as learn about other various mysterious of the past, order a copy of "Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous & Unremembered" today!  Available on Amazon.

Vintage Painting of Young Bride

There are no known photos of Enid in circulation so we have no idea what she looked like. This beautiful photo above is what I have envisioned she may have looked like. (This is NOT a photograph or painting of Enid Rimpau).

Visit Enid's findagrave memorial!

When I go to see my grandparent's grave, I will always remember this woman's story that was left unsaid. The story that only a few left know. This story will remain a mystery, one with a question we will never know the truth to. Our minds will keep searching for an absolution to know why this beautiful young woman died.  Let us never forget Enid!

-J'aime Rubio (copyright) originally written in 2006 and revised in 2008 on "Dreaming Casually" blog. 
Sources: October 21st, 1915 issue Anaheim Gazette
and Anaheim Library