Yorba Linda History

Historic Documents

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close this bookRancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Collection
View the documentBotanic Garden and Herbarium Being Created in Santa Ana Canyon
Yorba Linda Star April 5 1929 page 1
View the documentMrs. Bryant Again Entertains Lemon Men's Club at Field Day Meeting
The California Citrograph June 1933
View the documentLocal Ranch is Sanctuary for Flora of State
Yorba Linda Star April 20 1934 page 1
View the documentPasture Fire on Bryant Ranch Burns 9 Hours, 160 Acres
Yorba Linda Star June 17 1938 page 1
View the documentRancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden Developing into Institution for Serious Scientific Research
Yorba Linda Star April 28 1939 page 5
View the documentCounty Home Makers Today Make Tour of Botanic Gardens
Yorba Linda Star May 5 1939 page 1
View the documentBig Grass Fire Covers 400 Acres of Bryant Ranch
Yorba Linda Star September 20 1940 page 1
View the documentFire Sweeps S.A. Canyon and Hills; North Edge Y.L. Singed
Yorba Linda Star November 12 1943
View the documentA Short History of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
by Philip A. Munz,
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden of the Native Plants of California May 1947
View the documentRancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens to be Open to Public
Yorba Linda Star March 26 1948 page 1
View the documentBotanical Garden Opens to Public
Yorba Linda Star March 25 1949 page 1
View the documentBotanic Garden to Open to Visitors
Yorba Linda Star March 17 1950 page 1
View the documentBryant Ranch Tentative Tract Map Approved Following Council Discussion on Area Roads
Yorba Linda Star October 7 1978 page 1
View the documentControversial Bryant Ranch as Yet Remains Untouched
Yorba Linda Star March 23 1979 page 3
View the documentHistoric Home Subject of City Excursion
Yorba Linda Star February 29 1984 page 1
View the documentBryant Ranch Property: A Look at Its Past
Yorba Linda Star March 7 1984 page 3
View the documentSusanna Bryant Leaves Botanic Legacy
Yorba Linda Star March 14 1984 page 6
View the documentBryant Ranch Project Enters First Phase
Yorba Linda Star January 30 1985 page 5
View the documentBryant Ranch Slated to be Museum
Yorba Linda Star January 7 1987 page 1
View the documentYorba Ranch Building to be Salvaged
Yorba Linda Star February 4 1987 page 1
View the documentBryant Ranch House Museum Opens
Yorba Linda Star February 26 1988 page 3
View the documentRanch House has a History
Yorba Linda Star December 14 1995 page 8
View the documentBryant Ranch House to Vie for National Registry
Yorba Linda Star October 17 1996 page 1

Susanna Bryant Leaves Botanic Legacy

Yorba Linda Star March 14 1984 page 6   Open this page in a new window

Editor's Note: The following article is the last installment in a three-part series on the history of the Bryant Ranch property. The research and writing for the stories was mainly done by Dolly McKenna, a Yorba Linda resident and a former member of the recently disbanded Cultural Heritage Committee, a city appointed group concerned with preserving Yorba Linda's history.

The last article discusses the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden, which once flourished on semi-arid eat Yorba Linda ranch land owned by C.W. Associates under the name Lomas de Yorba or Yorba Hills.

Ernest Braunton, a professional landscape architect in the early 1900s wrote the following about her:

“If that woman builds such a garden she will be the greatest benefactor the field of botany has ever known and when she passes away will leave a lasting monument by which the world of science will for all time do her honor.”

That woman was Susana Bixby Bryant, former owner of the Bryant Ranch property recently annexed to Yorba Linda after a lengthy court battle with the City of Anaheim.

The garden referred to was built and did become an institution devoted to public service, research, conversation and education in the field of California botany.

Susana Bryant's botanic legacy is no longer growing where she first planted it, though. That original location was the Bryant Ranch property, a 3,300-acre parcel that was part of the 13, 328-acre Spanish land grant made in 1809 to Don Jose Antonio Yorba and his nephew, Don Pablo Peralta.

In the granting of the lands after the secularization of the missions, the property was decreed to Don Bernardo Yorba, son of Jose Antonio in 1834. The grant was confirmed by the U.S. Land Commission in 1854, and finally patented by the United States in 1866.

It is in the confines of this historic rancho that the Botanic Garden was located.

John W. Bixby, Susanna's father, who came to California from Maine in 1873, bought the rancho from the Yorba heirs in 1875. Bixby became a wealthy man from raising cattle and buying land. One of his other land holdings was Rancho Los Alamitos, where Susanna was born in 1880. Bixby and his wife, Susan, also had a son, Fred.

Upon graduating from a finishing school in Boston, Susanna toured Europe with her mother, followed by a trip around the world with friends.

In 1902, she returned to California and lived in San Francisco. She proceeded to enjoy life on a sizeable inheritance from her father, who died at the age 39.

Two years later she met Dr. Ernest Albert Bryant, and married him the same year and set up house in Los Angeles.

When Susanna's mother died, she and her brother shared ownership of Rancho Santa Ana. Eight years and two children later, Susanna tired of her social life in Los Angeles and decided to take on active management of the ranch.

Within a year she had planted the first citrus orchard and built a small house. Eventually she bought out her brother and became the sole owner.

Inspired by a desire to memorialize her father, who is said to have been a great lover of the out-of-doors, and at the same time to establish a collection of California natives for scientific study, Susanna began building the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

She chose the 200-acre site for the garden herself, 70 acres of which were “fairly level, high, table land of excellent soil (from 500 to 600 feet above sea level and some 20 miles inland from the ocean),” according to a book written on the garden by Lee W. Lenz.

Her idea was to grow drought resistant pines on the hills, desert flowers, cacti and succulents on the lower and drier slopes, and on the table lands, varieties of native plants from other parts of the state.

Active work on the garden wasn't started until 1927. Two years earlier Susanna had started communicating with people she thought could help her realize and develop her idea. Several noted botanists of the era came to her aid, including such men as Theodore Payne, a noted horticulturist, Brauton, the landscape architect, who designed the garden incorporating ideas of Willis Jepson, a UC Berkeley professor and dean of California botanists.

Jepson was perhaps the most influential of the early garden supporters. He wrote to Susanna that “such a garden, holding our prized native flora, will be the pride of all Californians.” Another time he wrote: “Ever since California was born it has needed more than aught else, nearly, a botanic garden.

California did, indeed, get what it needed nearly ore than aught else.

More than 45,000 native plants were propogated in the garden, as well as a large and varied collection of cacti and succulents.

On a hill overlooking the garden, Susanna had an Assembly Hall built by a crew of Mexicans who set to work making adobe bricks for the structure which was completed in 1928. The hall once played host to hundreds of visitors and commanded an expansive view of the citrus groves that covered the family ranch.

A house said to be the Hearst Castle of Southern California also was built, but was torn down in the 1950s. The Assembly Hall still remains, though, and has been recommended for preservation because of its historical significance.

The garden continued to be developed through the 1930s and 40s but the war years took their toll on the botanic project. Programs were drastically cut or reduced and help was in short supply. And then, in November 1943, Santa Ana winds dried out the hillsides and a disastrous fire swept through the garden. The following February heavy rains filled the canyons with water, washing away soil, trees, and plants.

The garden is now open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free.

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