Olive Through the Ages

Historical overview of Olive: Descriptions

Historical descriptions | Maps and photos | Olive boundaries

Thinking how I would describe Olive, I consulted historical newpaper articles and old books in search of common, general statements about the community. But over a period of 100 years—from 1892 to 1992—I found differing descriptions of Olive, based on the industry currently driving the community's economy and affecting its status in Orange County.

The vision of Olive as an enterprising town before the turn of the 19th century is altered when the region is identified as a citrus haven because of its fertile soil and mild climate. Towards the latter half of the 20th century, when real estate became increasingly valuable in Orange County, Olive is viewed as a prime residential area. In recent times, however, much of Olive's identity with its boomtown days and citrus growing history has diminished with the loss of each recognizable landmark from the past century, leaving this residential island with but a few glimpses into its glory years of yesterday.

Instead of creating a single compilation from these various sources, I thought I would include portions from each piece so you can see how Olive was perceived at that point in time. It is interesting to compare these descriptions of Olive and even more interesting to see how a particular event in Olive's history was viewed in retrospect.

In regards to Olive's population for a given year, it is important to note the boundaries of Olive changed during the course of 100 years, expanding beyond the Olive Heights area during the citrus growing years, and then scaling back to that region in the early 1960s when much of the land surrounding Olive Heights was annexed to the City of Orange.

My thanks to Gordon McClelland for finding several of the textual sources referenced on this page. Thanks also to Chris Jepsen of the Orange County Archives; the Anaheim Heritage Center Disney Resort Reading Room; Sherman Library and Gardens; Orange Public Library History Center, and Richard Rutter for the historic images and/or source materials presented here.

NOTE: Click/tap the thumbnail images in the sections below to view larger images in a separate browser window or tab.

Click/tap a link below to go to the historical description of Olive for that given year:

1892 | 1899 | 1913 | 1930 | 1931 | 1954 | 1963 | 1992


Olive, March 27, 1892

Orange County map, 1901  
1901 map of Orange County with Olive and Rincon marked, among other cities of the era  

Distance from Los Angeles, 36 miles; elevation, 231 feet; population, 300.

Leaving Rincon the train follows the windings of the Santa Ana River, which courses through the low range of mountains dividing Orange and San Bernardino counties, and after passing Yorba diverges at Olive, a wide-awake and enterprising little town nestled at the foot of the hills. The land surrounding the town is all in a high state of cultivation, water in abundance for irrigation purposes being brought from the Santa Ana River through a concrete tunnel, 700 feet long and six feet nine inches in diameter, having a capacity of fully thirty heads of water. The construction of this tunnel is now being completed at a cost of $5000.

Active upon acres of oranges, vines and other luscious fruits have been planted the past two years, and preparations are now being made for heavy planting the coming season.

The principal manufacturing enterprise is the Olive Milling Company, the only establishment of its kind in the county. This one establishment ships over 125 tons of freight per week, and is obliged to run day and night to fill its orders. The mill is run by water power, and of this there is a sufficiency to run all the manufactories in the county were they located with a view to utilizing the water.

Four passenger trains per day furnish ample transportation to all points. Several stores, postoffice, blacksmith shops, express office and other establishments furnish the necessities and luxuries of life. There are good schools and a church hard by, and a comfortable hotel. Bonds will soon be voted for a new schoolhouse to be located on sightly grounds, overlooking the entire valley. Arrangements are now being made to put in a fifteen-horse power Pelton wheel, to give the power necessary for existing and projected manufacturing enterprises, and a small dynamo will furnish electric light for residences, stores and shops.

As a residence locality Olive has not its superior in the Santa Ana Valley. Its people are contented, prosperous and happy, and have great faith in its ultimate importance, not only as a beautiful residence portion of the valley, but also as a manufacturing center.

Besides the mill and warehouse of the Olive Milling Company, Small & Hildreth have a general merchandise store, livery and warehouse and D.J. Watson a grocery store. The Olive Hotel is run by F. Cowlin.

Source: ProQuest Historical Newspapers, Los Angeles Times, Mar. 27, 1892

1892 | 1899 | 1913 | 1930 | 1931 | 1954 | 1963 | 1992


Olive in 1899

Olive, 1899  
Orange-Olive Road in 1899, looking north towards Olive Heights  

Olive is at the base of the foothills, on the Santa Ana River, four miles north of Orange. There are some fine residents on Olive heights and a fine large public school. The soil about Olive is adapted to the raising of citrus and deciduous fruits. Considerable hay, grain, wool and honey are shipped from this point. The elevation about sea level is 228 feet. The Olive Flour Mill is located here. The population of the precinct is about 675.

Source: Orange County Directory 1899-1900, Santa Ana, Cal., p.167 (from the collection of Anaheim Heritage Center Disney Resort Reading Room at the Muzeo)

1892 | 1899 | 1913 | 1930 | 1931 | 1954 | 1963 | 1992


Olive in 1913

Olive, 1912  
Orange-Olive Road at Lincoln Ave. in 1912, looking east  

When one travels from almost any of the cities of Orange county in Riverside he is almost certain to pass through Olive. Here is a place that should demand his attention. For variety, quantity and quality of products, and for an outlook upon the rich Santa Ana Valley, even to the ribbon of ocean in the distance, Olive is without equal.

The village is situated upon the point of a range of hills between the mouths of the Santa Ana and Santiago canyons. Gathered about this point is a fertile, irrigated section of some three or four square miles known as the Olive section, where oranges and lemons grow to perfection and vegetable crops are gathered the year around. In many particulars the district is much like Villa Park, which adjoins Olive on the south side of the hills.

The story of Olive takes one back into the early days when the location was known as Burruel Point. Forty-five years ago ruined adobes marked the residences of early-day Spaniards, and along the river were ditches in which these romantic pioneers took water on to their lands. From that day to this the fertility of the section has never been questioned. It is an old saying that whatever is planted at Olive grows and thrives, and the saying is as true as it is of any place in the world.

Experiments have proven that Japanese persimmons, loquats, avocados and cherimoyas grow well in this protected section. Old residents declare with truth that Olive thermometers register from seven to eight degrees higher in winter than do the thermometers down in the valley.

Winter vegetables are shipped continually during the season from the depot of the Santa Fe, which passes through Olive, between Orange and Riverside. Cabbages, tomatoes, potatoes, string beans, green peas, peppers and other vegetables bring good prices.

Some of the best producing walnut and citrus fruit orchards of the county are here. One of the most notable features of the development of the section in the last five years has been the large number of new orchards set out, in which the late Valencia is a favorite. Water from the Santa Ana Valley Irrigation Co., the main canal of which passes through Olive, and from an occasional pumping plant bring the fruit to an excellent quality and quantity. Even tender nursery stock goes unharmed by frost in the coldest snaps. As a sample of climate, U.E. Squires used to tell of cotton that grew to be five years old on his place, at Christmas bearing blooms and ripe cotton.

Located here is the mill of the Olive Milling Co., which gives employment to about twenty-two men. Water power from the pipe line of the S.A.V.I. Co. is the chief source of power, though steam power is also used. This mill makes an excellent flour, cornmeal and food stuffs, utilizing so far as possible the products of the county, and the mill itself has a wide patronage among the people of the entire valley. The output of this splendid institution in round figures is about $250,0000 annually.

Recently much interest has centered in the possibilities that Olive may become oil-producing territory. Engineers who have examined the section thoroughly know no reason why the deposits of oil found at Olinda should not be found to extend cross the canyon. The Standard Oil Co. has faith enough in the possibility to put up a derrick and begin drilling. It has leased several hundred acres of hill land from the Jotham Bixby Co., and has made overtures for leases on other lands adjoining.

Olive has many pretty houses and some very handsome ones; an excellent school, situated upon "The Point," overlooking the valley; a new German Lutheran church; a German private school; hotel, two stores and other businesses that go to make up a village. On the railroad is located a packing-house operated by a private firm.

Old-timers say that Olive got its name by reason of the fact that a group of old olive trees, planted possibly three-fourths of a century ago, grew upon the hillside. Well and good! Olives do grow most excellently at Olive. The growing of olives was one of the first industries, perhaps, but today Olive is a place of numerous industries. Cattle feed in the uncultivated hills. Barley, beans, oranges, lemons, walnuts, apricots, peaches, loquats persimmons, vegetables — oh well, name them all; they all grow at Olive; and if versatility of horticulture and excellence of climates amount to anything — and they certainly do — Olive will get its share of attention in the future growth of Orange county.

Source: Santa Ana Daily Register, 1913 (article courtesy of Gordon McClelland)

1892 | 1899 | 1913 | 1930 | 1931 | 1954 | 1963 | 1992


Olive in 1930

Orange Daily News, 1930  
Olive booster ad from 1930  

The town of Olive has many live and up-to-date business houses, chief of which is three orange packing houses.

Olive is located right against the foothills in the center of the frostless Valencia section, surrounded by many beautiful orange groves.

The Olive Improvement Association is composed of its leading citizens and business people, who work for the best interests of the community.

Adjacent to Olive is one of the largest tile and brick plants in the county, that does a thriving business.

The shipment of fruit from this district runs into several hundred carloads of citrus fruits, the value of which runs into the million dollar mark.

The ladies of the Lutheran church have a live society which serves dinners and is a social factor in the community.

The Parent-Teacher Association is another live organization of the community.

Olive has two fine schools, one the Olive Grammar school and the Lutheran Parochial.

The following merchants and business men contributed to publish this booster page: A.C. Fletcher, First National Bank, Mission Clay Products Co., Olive Bakery, Olive Pharmacy, Olive Department Store, Olive Mercantile Co., Olive Meat Market, Olive Heights Citrus Association, Art Middlebrook, Olive Garage, Olive Hillside Groves, Olive Cafe.

Source: "'The Gateway to Santa Ana Canyon' Extends Greetings to All, and Bids You Welcome to the
Orange County Fair," Orange Cal. Daily News, Orange County Fair Edition, 1930 (ad from the collection of Sherman Library & Gardens)

1892 | 1899 | 1913 | 1930 | 1931 | 1954 | 1963 | 1992


Olive in 1931

Olive is a new town built on the site of an old settlement. It was one of the three oldest settlements in the confines of the county, and was the original Santa Ana, or one of them. The settlement that we now call Yorba was then called Upper Santa Ana, and the little settlement at Olive was Lower Santa Ana.

But all vestige of this early settlement has disappeared. Not even a wall of the old buildings is now to be seen to remind us of the past, and a new settlement of entirely different character has taken its place. The last of the old Yorba family to live there was one of the Burruels, a son-in-law of Don Teodosio Yorba, with his family. The point on the hill was named for him, and the place went by the name of Burruel Point, until the present town of Olive was started during the boom of the 1880s.

From the old orchard of the Yorbas, which was of deciduous fruits and olives, there remained a few old olive trees. These gave the name, which was first Olive Point, afterwards shortened to Olive.

Some time after the founding of the town of Olive, there was built a flouring mill, which was run by water-power from the canal of the Santa Ana Valley Irrigation Company. This mill was owned and operated by local business men of the county for a number of years, but was sold to the Central Milling Company, who operated it for a few years. Now it is abandoned. Olive has two tile factories which are putting out a good product. It is on the Santa Fe line that runs through the Santa Ana Canyon. The town, which has a population of 250, is now in the center of orange groves.

Source: History of Orange County California: Volume I, by Mrs. J.E. Pleasants, Los Angeles, CA: J.R. Finnell & Sons Publishing Co., 1931 (from the collection of Sherman Library & Gardens)

1892 | 1899 | 1913 | 1930 | 1931 | 1954 | 1963 | 1992


Olive, July 18, 1954

The town Olive, gateway to Santa Ana Canyon, is a community of beautiful homes set on the hills above the town. Scarlet and magenta bougainvillea drape the hillsides. The Olive Civic Center is nucleus for social and community affairs and is located near the modern Olive Elementary school of which it is a part. The county library branch is located in the building.

Two large packing plants, Olive Hillside Groves and the Olive Heights Citrus Assn., are located in the town and last year 873 cars of citrus fruit were shipped from the Santa Fe station.

The wholesale vegetable plant of Lawrence Kokx is located near the Santa Fe tracks and large shipments of cabbage, tomatoes and corn are sent out in seasonal shipments.

For many years the Santa Fe station has been a shipping point for cattle and corrals have been located near the depot to fence shipments. Cattle are shipped when half-grown from other states—including Oklahoma and Colorado—and are handled by the Nohl ranch six miles up the canyon. Some of the cattle are fattened on the ranch and some shipped to Montana and other places.

St. Paul's Lutheran Church is located in Olive and the church has a social hall and church school.

The Mission Clay Works has been in operation for many years, now manufacturing pipe and at various times making tiles, bricks and urns and vases.

A new industry recently was established in the old Olive Flour Mill, a concern assembling collapsible trailers. The mill has been used as a grapefruit juice cannery and for other industries.

Source: "Olive County's Gateway To Santa Ana Canyon: A Community Of Homes Set On Hillside," The Register, Santa Ana, Cal., Sunday, July 18, 1954 (article from the collection of Orange Public Library History Center)

1892 | 1899 | 1913 | 1930 | 1931 | 1954 | 1963 | 1992


Olive, 1963

Olive area, mid- to late-1960s  
Orange-Olive Road at Lincoln Ave. in the late 1960s, looking east  

The oldest community in Orange County, excepting San Juan Capistrano, is the village now called Olive.

Like most boomtowns of the '80's, Olive went dormant until the 1920's when a second mild boom drifted through the village. A bank was opened, new store buildings were erected, a fruit-packing house and a tile plant were opened, and real estate values moved upward to what they were in 1888. During the depression years the bank closed, the packing house stopped operating, and but a few stores stayed in business. In 1958 a fire wiped out most of the business district.

At the present time, Olive is going through a new revival. Subdivisions in and around the town are extending the residential area and the future of the rural community is bright. The population is approximately 1000.

Source: Vol. 2., The Historical Volume and Reference Works: Orange County, Whittier, CA: Historical Publishers, 1963 (from the collection of Sherman Library & Gardens)

1892 | 1899 | 1913 | 1930 | 1931 | 1954 | 1963 | 1992


Olive, March 16, 1992

The fading hulk of a former orange-packing plant. A splendid Victorian hilltop mansion. Venerable olive trees.

Like children playing hide and seek, bits and pieces of the past peek from the corners of Olive, a tiny, unincorporated pocket of Orange County bordered roughly by Lincoln Avenue, Eisenhower Park, Bixby Avenue and Orange-Olive Road.

An article in the Orange Daily News on May 10, 1923, described Olive as "a gem city nestling in the foothills, its brow tenderly caressed by the golden California sun."

Residents now describe it as a cozy enclave with picket fences and stone walls—a place where the crowing of roosters and clanging of church bells aren't drowned out by the din of traffic.

There are no sidewalks. No street lights. No sewers.

From the top of the hill, the area's early settlers could look out over a vast expanse of orange groves.

What residents see now from the peak are the rooftops of houses, apartments and shopping centers.

Population: about 600; size: 37 acres; topography: olive trees, pepper trees, and narrow, hilly streets; location: surrounded by Orange, its boundaries are roughly Lincoln Avenue, Orange-Olive Road, Eisenhower Park and Bixby Avenue.

Source: "Past is preserved in Olive: Artifacts may be new link to history," by Gina Shaffer, The Orange County Register, March 16, 1992 (article from the collection of Orange Public Library History Center)

1892 | 1899 | 1913 | 1930 | 1931 | 1954 | 1963 | 1992

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