Sunday, March 8, 2015

The McIntosh family of Wintersburg Village

The McIntosh family had a meat processing and packing facility in Wintersburg Village, on the west side of Nichols Lane a short distance from the Wintersburg Mission and Furuta farm, as well as a butcher shop on Main Street in downtown Huntington Beach. (Photograph courtesy of Douglas McIntosh.) © All rights reserved. 

"She bought Japanese food from (Tashima market)...there was a meat market owned by a hakujin, MacIntosh Meats.  So, she bought meat from them. Those were the only stores around here. There were no other stores."
               ~Yukiko Yajima Furuta, Issei Experience in Orange County, California, California State University Fullerton Japanese American Project, Arthur A. Hansen and Yasko Gama, 1982.

   Wintersburg Village wasn't just a farming town.  It was also a cow town.  

Right: This is what Wintersburg Village looked like in the late 1920s, a place where one might get to know the neighbor's cows while walking to school.  The McIntosh family, Furuta family, and others in Wintersburg Village walked the fields and country roads to the Ocean View Grammar School, once at the corner of Beach Boulevard and Wintersburg (Warner) Avenue. (Photograph courtesy of Douglas McIntosh.) © All rights reserved. 

   Once part of the Rancho la Bolsa Chica, cattle had grazed the fields and "little pockets" of grass in the wetlands for generations.  When French aviator Hubert Latham made his infamous duck hunt by plane over the Bolsa Chica wetlands in 1910, farmers complained the cows spooked and scattered in the fields. With the railroad, the countryside in and around Wintersburg Village was a perfect place for an enterprising business focused on beef and dairy cattle.

   John William "J.W." McIntosh made his journey to California from his birthplace in Prince Edward Island in eastern Canada in the early 1900s.  A century before, the "MackIntosh" family crossed the Atlantic from the Isle of Skye, Scotland.  Like many families who put down roots in Orange County, the McIntosh family was looking for open land, opportunity, and a place to create a promising life for their children.

Left: The McIntosh brothers emigrated from Prince Edward Island, Canada, to California.  J.W. McIntosh is far left in this 1929 photograph, captioned "brothers five are we." (Photograph courtesy of Douglas McIntosh.) © All rights reserved.   

   By 1909---the same year Huntington Beach incorporated as a city and the same year construction started on the Wintersburg Mission---J.W. McIntosh was running a butcher shop in Bishop, California.  It was there he met Californian Eunice May Adell Baldwin.  A 1975 McIntosh family history reports J.W. McIntosh gave Pasadena-born Eunice an "ultimatum: that he must be married by his 33rd birthday, or he would never marry."  They married in 1912, the same year Charles Furuta met and married Yukiko Yajima.

   After a brief period running another butcher shop in Santa Monica, California, J.W. and Eunice McIntosh made the move to a growing Wintersburg Village in 1922, where they would raise their family.  

   In the 1920s, Wintersburg Village boasted two churches, an armory, a railroad siding, blacksmith, the Tashima Market, a sandlot baseball field for Orange County's first Japanese baseball team, and lots of open farm and grazing land.  Charles Furuta had already tested out goldfish farming and the glittering fish were beginning to cover the five-acre Furuta farm in neatly organized ponds.

Left: Was there room for goldfish?  The McIntosh children found a fish pond handy as "the way they keep cool in summer, three at a time in the fish pond."  Huntington Beach boasted a saltwater plunge near the pier, but in Wintersburg Village, a backyard pond was a perfect solution to warm weather. (Photograph courtesy of Douglas McIntosh.) © All rights reserved. 

 J.W. and Ray McIntosh established themselves in downtown Huntington Beach, with a meat department in the Standard Market at 126 Main Street.  Unique for its time, the Standard Market was an open air building, with state-of-the-art refrigeration, the popular Rainbow lunch counter, and the Harris homemade candy store.  

Right: The Standard Market can be seen in this 1935 photograph, across from McCoy Drugs, on the right side of Main Street. (Photograph, City of Huntington Beach archives, July 4 parade, 1935).

Right: The McIntosh brothers provided fresh-off-the-farm meats at the Standard Market in downtown Huntington Beach, circa 1927. (Photograph courtesy of Douglas McIntosh.) © All rights reserved.

J.W. McIntosh also bought land in Wintersburg Village, off Nichols Lane, for a beef slaughter house and the Beach Packing Company facility next to the Southern Pacific Railroad.  The McIntosh home and cattle yards were within easy walking distance from the Furuta farm and Wintersburg Mission.  

Left: A letterhead image from correspondence in 1935 from J.W. McIntosh to the Bolsa Chica Land Company regarding grazing fees.  McIntosh was negotiating grazing for the period of one year for a fee of $300.  (Image courtesy of Douglas McIntosh.) © All rights reserved. 

   It was at the Wintersburg packing plant that the McIntosh family sold meat to their farm neighbors, as remembered in the 1982 oral history of Yukiko Furuta.  Descendent Norman Furuta recalls beef was often on the menu at home, as both his grandfather, Charles, and his father, Raymond preferred it.  

   Buying beef for the evening meal would have been a few minutes walk along the farm fields on Nichols Lane for Yukiko.  With cattle lots out back, it didn't get any fresher.

Left: An aerial image of Wintersburg Village from The Alpha Beta Story. Douglas McIntosh circled in red his family's home, right center, and the Furuta farm and Wintersburg Mission, upper left. The McIntosh meat packing facility would later become part of the Alpha Beta markets chain. (Photograph, The Alpha Beta Story, Esther R. Cramer, Alpha Beta Acme Markets, 1973)

Right: At the McIntosh family packing company off Nichols Lane in Wintersburg Village.  Sited next to the Southern Pacific Railroad, this site is now occupied by Rainbow Environmental Services.  In this circa 1940s photograph is Genevieve Straw McIntosh, center, with her children, and her brother, Archie Straw. (Photograph courtesy of Douglas McIntosh.) © All rights reserved.

Left: Images from the McIntosh family album, circa 1920s, give a glimpse into Wintersburg Village farm country life from a child's perspective. Open places to play and baby farm animals to watch over. (Photograph courtesy of Douglas McIntosh.) © All rights reserved.

   Near the McIntosh family ranch and home, were the Nichols family at Wintersburg (Warner) Avenue and what is now Nichols Lane, the Furuta family, and a host of neighbors from Mexico, Japan, Iowa, Georgia, and Kansas, according to 1940 data for their census tract.  J.W. and Eunice McIntosh raised eight children at their home in Wintersburg Village.   In the 1960s, when Alpha Beta decided to open on Sundays, J.W. McIntosh, a religious man, retired.

   McIntosh family descendent Douglas McIntosh has remarked on the influence of their Japanese neighbors on his family.

   "My family has personal ties to the Historic Wintersburg community," wrote Douglas McIntosh in his 2013 letter to the Huntington Beach planning commission, noting his great grandfather J.W. McIntosh also was an immigrant.  "Members of my family had extremely positive memories of the Japanese community at Wintersburg.  One of my great uncles learned to speak Japanese from members of the Wintersburg community during his youth, and later went on to become a linguist."

Left: The 1927 sixth grade class at the Ocean View Grammar School, with both McIntosh and Furuta families. Some of the notations on the back of the photograph: 2) Nellie McIntosh, 5) Juanita Gothard, 7) Fred McIntosh, 10) Harley Asari, 25) Sumi Akiyama, 31) Toshiko Furuta, 33) Lily Kikuchi.  Fred McIntosh was killed during World War II, shot down in a plane over Germany in September, 1944.  Nellie McIntosh married Robert Hoisington of Huntington Beach, although originally not impressed with him when he was expelled briefly from Huntington Beach High School for "turning butterflies loose in history class." (Photograph courtesy of Douglas McIntosh.) © All rights reserved.

   John Baldwin McIntosh, the great uncle of Douglas McIntosh, took an interest in Japanese culture and language, credited to his childhood in Wintersburg.  He later attended the Los Angeles Baptist Theological Seminary, afterwards continuing to work at the packing facility  in the 1930s with his family in Wintersburg Village.  The packing facility and cattle lots by then had become part of the Alpha Beta chain.  

   In a 1975 family history, John Baldwin McIntosh recalls his wife, Genevieve, "liked to garden and I liked to continue my study of Japanese."  He and Genevieve later went on to do mission and linguistics work with Huntington Beach's Wycliffe Bible Translators, including remote work with the Huichol Indians in Zacatecas, Mexico.

   Like his great uncle, Douglas McIntosh, an archaeologist, also was influenced by growing up with the Japanese community.  

Right: A 1927  image of the Nihongo Gakuen, or Garden Grove Language School, 10771 Sherman Avenue, one of four language schools supported by the Wintersburg Mission.  Although deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, this building was demolished by the Garden Grove Redevelopment Agency in the early 1990s and is now the site of a Costco shopping center.  The Language School building architecture is almost identical to the 1910 Wintersburg Mission building, which remains standing at Historic Wintersburg.  (Photograph, Orange County Register, December 24, 1991, originally from the Garden Grove Historical Society)

    Doug McIntosh's branch of the family had moved to nearby Garden Grove, California.  He was familiar with the Garden Grove Language School supported by the Wintersburg Mission as well as the Kikumatsu Ida tofu-making shop on the Language School property.  Doug attended school with an Ida family descendant, whose ancestors had delivered tofu by horse and wagon in north Orange County as early as 1914.   

Left: The 1915 Garden Grove Language School, supported by the Wintersburg Mission, March 1991, prior to its demolition in December 1991.  This building was noted as historically significant on the 1986 Historic Building Survey conducted by the Japanese American Council of the the Bowers Museum in Orange County, California.  It had been designated as an Orange County landmark by the Orange County Historical Commission and recommended for the National Register of Historic Places by a Comprehensive Historic and Architectural Resources Inventory conducted for the City of Garden Grove. (Photograph courtesy of Douglas McIntosh.) © All rights reserved.

   An Orange County Register article in 1991 quotes Phyllis Nakagawa whose children attended the school describing the school's historical presence, the wooden desks with iron legs.  Kumiko Swearingen described the loss of heritage.  To her, the pioneer school had "a sense of the new place we cannot touch anything.  It's not our classrooms."  

Left: Demolition of a McIntosh family house off Wintersburg (Warner) Avenue in Talbert (now Fountain Valley), circa 1964. (Photograph courtesy of the Orange County Archives)

   Built by Japanese pioneer farmers, the Garden Grove Language School organized in 1905 and graduated its first class in 1914.  The Los Angeles Times in 1991 described the Nihongo Gakuen as "one of the nation's oldest Japanese-language schools." It represented both the County's cultural heritage and an achievement as the first Japanese language school project in Orange County and most of the nation.

   When the Garden Grove Language School was threatened with demolition for redevelopment, Doug McIntosh was a voice for its preservation, as was the Garden Grove Historical Society.  The school's demolition by the City of Garden Grove in December 1991---counter to the pleas by the Garden Grove and County historical societies, and the Orange County Historical Commission---is something he doesn't forget.

 Right: The McIntosh house in Wintersburg Village can be seen circled in red in this World War II photograph from The Alpha Beta Story, which explains "much of the Alpha Beta beef was purchased by the armed services during the war." Ration stamps were issued to families for products like meat and butter.  At the time this photograph was taken, the Furuta family and other Japanese American families from Orange County were confined at War Relocation Centers, and the Wintersburg Mission was shuttered.  (Photograph, The Alpha Beta Story, Esther R. Cramer, Alpha Beta Acme Markets, 1973)

   Among the letters to Huntington Beach officials advocating preservation for Historic Wintersburg, are letters from Doug McIntosh.  He speaks as an expert on California history and archaeology, and also as a member of one of Orange County's pioneer families with ties to Historic Wintersburg.

Left: Doug McIntosh (at left), a California archaeologist, at a family homestead site, Live Oak Canyon, Orange County, California.  His family arrived in Wintersburg Village over nine decades ago. (Photograph by Chris Jepsen, courtesy of Doug McIntosh.) © All rights reserved.

   " nearly thirty years of doing professional archaeological work at several hundred archaeological sites throughout the state of California, I consider the Japanese Mission Complex and Furuta Site to retain a high level of integrity and to be extremely significant on a local, state and national level," states Doug McIntosh in his 2013 correspondence to the City of Huntington Beach.  

   "Because of the overall urbanization of southern California no other sites such as this remain," explains Doug McIntosh. "(It has) great historical value for not only members of the Japanese American community, but for researchers and general public of early California pioneer history."
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The Historic Wintersburg blog focuses on an overlooked history in Huntington Beach, Orange County, California, in the interest of saving a historic property from demolition. The author and publisher reserves the right not to publish comments. Please no promotional or political commentary. Zero tolerance for hate rhetoric. Comments with embedded commercial / advertising links or promoting other projects, books, or publications may not be published. If you have an interesting anecdote, question or comment about one of our features, it will be published.