Rivers Run West Chapter 1 page 1
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The Titchenal Saga
Part One

The Rivers Run West

Chapter 1

The End and Beginning

225 years of travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific
Hartford, Connecticut in 1644 to Santa Ana, California in 1869

"History is not something that was.
History is with us and in us"
Yuri Tritonov

"The little domicile 'neath' the old sycamore in our today's sketch of old Santa Ana was the result of a deal between W. H.. Titchenal and W. H.. Spurgeon in 1869, the latter selling the former one lot at $15.00 and giving him another one on condition that he would build a house thereon. Thus the nucleus for a town was started. Santa Ana it was called. Other buildings followed fast."

The above quotation and sketch of the little house appeared in the Santa Ana Daily Herald January 2, 1902. The paper published sketches of the city of Santa Ana as it looked in 1877, eight years after the town began in 1869. William H. Titchenal, my great grandfather, was the first man to purchase property and build a home in Santa Ana, California. This deal was the first tangible beginning of Santa Ana, California.

That day back in 1869 not only marked the beginning of a city, it also ended more than 200 years of westward movement of the Titchenal family. While we don't actually know what William and his family did or thought that day, one thing is certain: not even the wildest dream of my great grandfather or Mr. Spurgeon could have foreseen Santa Ana 125 years later, with more than 250,000 people. It is now the capital of Orange County, and considered one of the richest and fastest growing sections of the country.

Why William Titchenal came to Santa Ana and why Mr. Spurgeon offered the extra lot as an incentive to buy, we will never know for sure. Charles Swanner in his book Santa Ana, tells about the country before Santa Ana;

"Prior to the founding of Santa Ana a few hardy settlers lived at widely separated locations within what are now the present boundaries of the city. The land around was uncultivated, mustard grass growing profusely, an indication of the fertility of the soil. A few sycamore trees were scattered throughout the area. There were no roads to connect Santa Ana with the established cities of Anaheim or Los Angeles. So Mr. Spurgeon had to build a road connecting his new city with the "Los Angeles, San Diego Stage Coach Line."

After the gold in northern California diminished (about 1855), dreams of agricultural riches in the south were drawing people from the north as well as the east. In the ten years prior to 1869, Los Angeles tripled in population, reaching about 4,500 people. New cities were sprouting up all around, however; the real boom didn't start until the 1880's.

Mr. William H. Spurgeon had migrated to Southern California from Missouri, he saw growth all around, and wanted to be a part of the growth and riches that could come. So, early in 1869, he and his partner Ward Bradford purchased a 74 acre tract of the original "Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana" from Jacob Ross for $8.00 an acre, or $592.00. William Spurgeon's half took most of his life savings.

Spurgeon believed in the future of Southern California. Nevertheless, it took courage and foresight to use his limited capital and resources to lay out a townsite in such wilderness. The story is told that, "the mustard grass was so high in this new townsite that he was unable to see above it even on horseback, so he climbed one of the few sycamore trees to survey the boundaries."

By April 1869, he and his partner had lain out the town, built a small store and post office. By November 9, 1869 when my great grandfather, grandmother and family arrived, Mr. Spurgeon was very anxious for a sale.

My great grandfather, William Titchenal, was also looking for a place to settle. He had been searching for some place to stay for the last 20 years. In 1849, he had left Fort Smith, Arkansas looking for a better life. He had tried many things, including the mercantile business in Texas, gold mining, stock raising, a wine vineyard, and farming in northern California. Nothing had satisfied him or his family. William was 52 years old and had been going west all of his life. He couldn't go much farther.

He had learned the blacksmith trade from his father and had "teamed" (driven a team of horses to grade land, transport goods or people) & "farmed" much of his life, sometimes for himself and other times, hiring himself or his family out. He would have recognized the tall grass to be proof the soil was good, not desert like most of the soil around Los Angeles. The lot he bought had a tall sycamore tree on it. Maybe, he also climbed the tree so he could see all around.

If William Titchenal did climb the sycamore tree, the feathery mustard grass would have swayed gently in the breeze. He would have been able to see for miles in every direction.

No house or building of any kind, just a few scattered sycamore trees interrupted the hills on the distant horizon. Even though it was winter, the sun would have been hot, but the breeze high in the tree would have cooled him. The grass would have looked beautiful, it is a golden color in California during the summer and fall. In fact, the warm, peaceful scene may have looked like gold to him, maybe this was the gold he had been looking for all his life.

When Mr. Spurgeon offered a second lot alongside the first, both for $15.00, provided William would build a house on one of the lots, William jumped at the chance to get settled. His wife, Sarah Ann [Dickason] Titchenal, my great grandmother, agreed. She was ready and anxious to stop traveling and settle down.


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