Historical Snippets

The McFadden Letters

William McFadden was the second white settler to arrive in Placentia around 1870. He was an educated man, the first teacher in the area and a mover and shaker in affairs of early Placentia. In the History Room there is an assortment of letters from the McFaddens; Sarah Jane and her husband William McCormick McFadden, to their sons as they entered Stanford University in 1899. There are also letters between their children after the deaths of their parents. These are preserved for posterity as a record of documented family affairs in the earliest days of 1900. Jean Christiansen who handled Ysidora McFadden Brower's affairs contributed these originals to the Placentia History Room. Ysidora, granddaughter of William and Sarah, died in 1998. The letters were written from 1899, about 1911. A telegram notifying Tom in Bellingham, Washington, of the death of his brother Will is also included. Will died in 1912.


After their parents died in 1902 and in 1908, the surviving children attempted to manage the ranch. There was wrangling among the boys and their older sister Carrie as they formed a corporation. Since they did not all live in the immediate vicinity of the Ranch, the discussions were handled by mail. While there appear to be gaps in the correspondence, it is a most interesting account of what happens in big families when a large estate remains. It also includes much detail of the ranching activities and the problems caused to the crops by the weather. It is interesting to know that from another source, we found that the property remained in the family until 1949. In the 1960's apartments replaced it.


There is an oral history by Robert McFadden, the youngest son, wherein he describes his childhood on the Ranch. It is in the collection at CSUF and at the Placentia Library. The McFadden Ranch was on Placentia Avenue where it intersects Madison Avenue.

Placentia: The Name of Our City

Have you ever wondered about the source of our city's name? Perhaps friends have asked you its derivation.

Reference to Placentia can be traced to Greenwich England. In 1445 Henry IV and his Queen, Margaret, acquired ownership of a grand manor house with a moat and battlements situated along the Thames River at Greenwich. They renamed this castle, which was their honeymoon place, "Placentia, a Pleasant Place." In 1553, Henry VIII's daughter was born there. She later became Elizabeth I, or as some would call her, "Good Queen Bess."

How then did that name become part of Orange County's History? In "Placentia, A Pleasant Place" author Virginia Carpenter attributes the origin of the city's name to Sara Jane McFadden, wife of William McFadden and teacher in the first school which was called Cajon District. When the school board sought a more suitable district name in 1874, Sara Jane's suggestion of "Placentia" was chosen. From that date on, when events occurred in the district, the newspapers referred to the Placentia School District. In 1926 Placentia was incorporated as a city and took the name from the existing school district.

There are other Placentias: in Newfoundland and in Belize. A city in Italy named Piacenzia has the same translation. While the first mention we find of "Placentia" is the royal castle at Greenwich (which no longer carries that name), the city's name is perpetuated now in the name of almost fifty businesses listed in the telephone directory — as well as our own Round Table.

With the year 2001 as its 75th anniversary, the city of Placentia is certainly "on the map". (For additional reading on this subject, see the works by Thomas B. Talbot, Vol. II, pp. 249 - 272 and Placentia, A Pleasant Place by Virginia Carpenter)

What Local Young Woman Posed for a Citrus Packing Label?

Gordon McClelland, an Orange County author visited Placentia when he was doing research on his books relating to the Citrus Industry. He owns a remarkable collection of citrus labels deriving such interest as a student when he worked part time in the local packinghouses. One day, a lady came up to him at the Tlaquepaque Restaurant, revealing that it was she who posed, costumed as a Pirate Girl on one of the Bradford Brothers' Tesoro labels. We now know that she lives in town, but who is she? In the Placentia History Room we have a modest collection of labels, donated by Dave Trecker, and we would like to hear her story and perhaps have a photograph of her to display with the label. The Tesoro Label is probably dated from the forties. If you are reading this and know that person, please ask her to get in touch with somebody in the Library!

Placentia Founders Society

The Bradford House has been a part of North Orange County since 1902, when the prosperous rancher, Albert Sumner Bradford, built it. A successful orange grower, Bradford was a founder of the City of Placentia in 1910 and convinced the Santa Fe Railroad to run a line into Placentia to serve his and other citrus packing houses. He was instrumental in bringing businesses, a post office and a newspaper to Placentia. A founder of the Chamber of Commerce, he served as president until his death in 1933.

The Bradford home, a modified Queen Victorian-style, is an excellent example of an elegant turn-of-the-century home. It boasts 15 rooms in two stories and a full basement. The house is furnished in typical 1900-1920 style. A ruby glass window, covered ceilings, handcrafted hemlock staircase, pocket doors and a double fireplace separating the library and dining room enhance the first floor. The large kitchen features built-in, ceiling-height, pass-through cupboards and a massive worktable with sugar and flour bins. Four of the seven upstairs bedrooms are open for viewing. In 1973, Mr. Bradford's descendents gave the house and surrounding 11/2 acres to the City of Placentia for the community's use and enjoyment. The Placentia Founders Society was established in 1974 to preserve and maintain the Bradford House. Now it is a popular location for weddings and community events. PFS sponsors a chamber concert series and Halloween "haunted house" and hosts hundreds of children on school and scout tours.

The Bradford House is open to the public from 2-4 p.m. the first Sunday of each month. Donations are welcome. Ongoing project of the Placentia Founders Society: Oral History Tapings - Community members may record family histories on audiotapes... Guides and equipment will be furnished. Donation of $40 is requested. Call 993-2470 to make your appointment. For more information, please contact the Placentia Founders Society at:

136 Palm Circle
Placentia, CA 92870
(714) 993-2470

The Placentia Round Table

Do you know the name of one of the oldest philanthropic organizations in Placentia? The Placentia Round Table Women's Club celebrated its 100th birthday in the year 2002. At a gathering of interested women in the home of Mrs. Laura Parkins, they agreed to meet monthly for the "purpose of cultivating literary pursuits." Around Mrs. Parkins' large round table, each member at a specific meeting reported on an assigned topic. After a year's time, the group formally associated with the General Federation of Women's Club, the largest service organization of women volunteers in the world. Membership soon outgrew the Parkins "round table" and the need for a clubhouse was evident. At Bradford and Chapman, in 1912, the ladies settled into their new building; Mr. A. S. Bradford, who donated the land, and the other husbands, had helped make it possible. Because the community at large needed a venue for events such as concerts, receptions, and fundraisers, a rental policy was established and the proceeds made it possible for the ladies to pay off the mortgage. The very first rental was to a lady who taught the art of china painting for which the "students" paid $1.00 per week.

The founders established the pattern of supporting community needs with volunteer service and with financial support. The Christmas Clearing Bureau was an early project of the Round Table and continues to receive its support until the present time. Over the years, support has been provided to Placentia Library, Boys and Girls Club, Meals on Wheels, H.I.S. House - to name just a few beneficiaries of the women's efforts. Two major fundraisers provide monies to support its philanthropy. Many Placentians look forward each year to the Festival of the Trees at the end of November.

The current Club House is located on Bradford Avenue. The membership enjoys social themes based on individual interests through small groups concentrating on bridge, crafts, quilting, reading, singing, local travel, and cooking. The Round Table's goal is the same today as it was 98 years ago: to be of service to the community. Today's members continue to fulfill the vision of the dedicated founding women.

History of Placentia United Methodist Church

In 1962, two hundred and twenty-four years after John Wesley founded the Methodist Church in England, a small group of people wanted to organize a Methodist Church in Placentia, California. Reverend Edwin Swenson was assigned to the task. Residents with a Methodist background were contacted and held their first meeting in a garage. Soon they moved to a mortuary on Santa Fe Street in the business district, also using the bakery next door for Sunday School classrooms. On May 24, 1964 the church was chartered and services were moved to the newly built Charles Wagner Elementary School in North Placentia. The multipurpose room was used for worship services and the kitchen, lunch tables and some classrooms provided space for the Sunday School.

It was 1965 and Placentia was growing with many new businesses and homes being built. An orange grove was purchased to be the site of the new Valencia Methodist Church. The first building constructed was the education facility. A large room on the southeast corner of the building doubled as a sanctuary for worship and for Sunday School classrooms. At this time the Methodist Church and the United Brethren Church merged and we became known as Valencia United Methodist Church. In 1970 we were able to build what is now our sanctuary.

In 1984 the Fellowship Hall was constructed. It provides a place for members and friends to enjoy Bible Study, meetings, social events, community outreach, receptions, programs and a number of celebrations. On April 2, 1995, in a special service, our mortgage was burned and Placentia United Methodist Church was debt free. Since the Church began, we have had nine Pastors. In August 1996, the name of the Church was changed to Placentia United Methodist Church.

Between 1984 and 1996, a Korean Congregation shared our facilities until they were able to acquire their own church. We have a Music Ministry with the Chancel Choir, two Children's Choirs, Handbell Choir and Praise Team. The Green Valley Day Care Center leases our education building on weekdays. Our Fellowship Hall accommodates weekly meetings of a Boy Scout Troop, A.A. Group, Mighty and Mini Methodists children's groups, Bible Studies, Methodist Youth Fellowship, United Methodist Women and Men's Fellowship. From the beginning our church has opened its doors to people who seek the Gospel, who reach out to those in need and who enjoy fellowship in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Nenno House

You probably have seen the house at the corner of Placentia Avenue and Palm Drive. It's the Nenno House and is one of the City's historic landmarks. Who were these early residents? John Nenno and his wife, Antoinette, were three years married when they arrived in Placentia from Pasadena in 1892. Employed by the Berkenstocks as a fumigator, he bought a parcel of about nine acres and built their first modest home, consisting of three rooms. The back porch contained a handpump, which pumped water from a cistern for use in the house. During the winter the cistern collected the rainwater and in the summer the cistern was filled from the nearby irrigation ditch of the Anaheim Union Water Company. Drinking water was hauled by Mr. Nenno from the school well about a mile and a half from his house in wooden barrels covered with a sheet.

The three Nenno girls, Orpha, Bernice and Faustina saw their father go off to his dangerous but highly lucrative job. The orange trees had to be tented and sprayed with lethal chemicals to maintain a good crop. One night he nearly lost his life when he accidentally inhaled too much of the poison gas.

While the Nennos and the three little girls lived in this first little house, the floodwaters were so deep one winter around the house that the parents debated about taking the girls up into an orange tree for safety. Orpha, their first born died at age six after a long illness, just about four years after their arrival in Placentia. Mrs. Nenno recounts in a later Courier newspaper article "it was typical of the spirit of friendliness in the neighborhood that the school was closed on the day of the funeral, and all came to pay her respects, though she was too young to have ever gone to school".

That was no mean feat when you consider that the roads at that time were dry and dusty in the summer and muddy and treacherous in the winter. Placentia Avenue was the first paved road in the town. Thomas Strain, one of the Nenno's good friends, was the first in the area to have an automobile. Antoinette Nenno wrote: "Living on the main road as we did, I could see the cars pass, the women struggling with their hats in the wind or wearing silk scarves that puffed out on each side and I said I wouldn't have one of those things".

Daughters Beatrice and Faustina were delighted with the playhouse their father built using tule from the Tuffree Reservoir for the sides and palm fronds for the roof. About this time, they were aware that their mother was excited about the founding of a club, the Round Table, and Beatrice and Faustina decided to interest their friends in organizing a club to meet in their playhouse.

Certainly, Antoinette was honored and thrilled to be invited to the home of Mrs. Parkins in 1901 along with Mrs. Bradford, Mrs. Hale, Mrs. McFadden, Mrs. Pendleton, and Mrs. Chapman, to mention a few. From this first meeting evolved the Placentia Round Table. Antoinette served many years on its board.

At the time the Round Table was being organized, there was a spurt in home building among the early families, roughly around 1903-1904. The Bradfords, the Pierottis, the Keys, and the Berkenstocks, as well as the Nennos all built homes larger and more attractive than their original dwellings. Housewarmings were the happening of the day. In addition, the Nenno's were proud to provide their huge new barn as a venue for gatherings - parties, Christmas programs as well as Round Table events. Daughter Faustina often sang as part of the entertainment, trained by her mother who for awhile gave singing lessons. To Antoinette Nenno wrote: "In those early days when there were few people in the community, when all were struggling along together, and when entertainment depended entirely upon our own resources, the ties of friendship were close. Everyone knew the joys and sorrows of everyone else and sympathized and rejoiced accordingly.... Though many changes have come down through the years, there still remains in Placentia a friendliness among all its inhabitants that makes it indeed a pleasant place in which to live." Next time you drive north on Placentia Avenue, note the house on the Northeast corner at Palm Avenue and think of the Nenno's.

The Tanker 'LA PLACENTIA'

In the hey-day of the oil industry in the early twenties, there were over nine hundred producing oil wells, feeding tax money into the coffers of the county. This was probably an important factor as the local citizens promoted city hood for the area.

In 1921 Placentia received a unique honor. With so much business from the Kraemer and Chapman gushers, Union Oil Company expanded and started a line of ocean-going tankers. Three of them were named, La Montebello, La Brea and La Placentia. The La Placentia was the largest ship of her type ever built in Southern California. Built by the Southwest Shipbuilding Company, she was 457 ft. long with a cargo of over 80,000 barrels. She had quadruple 3000 horsepower engines and a speed of 12 knots. On March 15, a large crowd gathered for the launching. Nearly all of the Placentia people contributed to the purchase of a silver tea service for the captain's cabin.

This information was gleaned from material sent to me from the Union Oil Museum in Santa Paula. When the Placentia Historical Committee was being organized we brainstormed to find artifacts which might be appropriate for the historical committee to gather to add to the few items that were on hand at the time for a museum. I recalled seeing the model of La Placentia at the Los Angeles County Museum of Science and Industry in the mid fifties. I contacted the Union Oil Museum and was told that the model La Placentia was no longer in existence because the it did not survive the move.

Now as time passed and interest in memorabilia has heightened, Pat Irot and I took a trip to the Santa Paula Museum. Our mission was to locate the tea set. Maybe the Museum would like to loan it to our city if it was available. The trip for that purpose was in vain. The curator there never heard of La Placentia.

Much later, as I was perusing Virginia Carpenter's book, I found new information. On March 15,1921 a large crowd gathered for the launching of La Placentia. Mrs. E. W. Clark wife of the Union Oil General manager christened the ship at 8:26 a.m. but the gift was changed. Maybe a silver tea set was inappropriate for a tanker. Tom McFadden made the presentation speech and gave A. V. Andrews for the Union Oil Company an order for a new Edison Phonograph to be delivered to the ship. La Placentia was taken over by the Maritime service and continued hauling oil all through WWII. She was scrapped in 1945. (Marie Schmidt 2/11/2000)

Adopt-a-Flag

What better was to mark the Heritage Parade route than with flags flying along the entire route? That was the thought of the Heritage Festival Committee in 1983, when they first came up with the idea. The committee felt that many businesses and individuals in Placentia would want to "adopt" a flag at a specific location to be their flag, not only during the festival, but also during all of the major patriotic holidays. At that time, Ed Houston was working at one of the military bases in the area, and could purchase good quality flags at the PX for just $10.00 each. Marv Reid initially designed mounting brackets for the flags, and the City Staff later found ready-made brackets that would clamp on the light poles. The flags initially were mounted along Bradford, Madison and Kraemer Boulevard to mark the parade route, but this has been expanded to the major streets in Placentia. Anyone can "Adopt" a Flag for $100.00. For that amount they get a small brass plaque at City Hall, a certificate describing the precise location of the pole on which the flag is mounted, and recognition during a council meeting when the certificate is presented. Flags can be adopted in an individual's name, for a family, for a business, or in memoriam of someone who is deceased.

History of the Placentia Library District