Boom of 1880s brought cultural awareness
and the Ebell Society

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

No doubt the newly organized Ebell Club of the Santa Ana Valley
was discussed when Mrs. S.W. (Stella) Nau (left) and Miss Jeannette Wilcox
met for tea. Miss Wilcox later married Adolph A. Kraft.


By the Boom of the 1880s, a time of prosperity in Southern California, Tustin had grown from a small frontier settlement of shacks to a lovely community with tree-lined streets and beautiful Victorian houses.

Wealthy people who were used to being socially active came to Tustin from cities such as San Francisco and Cincinnati. Before long they were hosting elegant parties.

Evenings in their homes were devoted to programs of violin, piano and vocal selections. Poetry readings and dramatic skits were organized. Attendance at the Opera House in Santa Ana swelled. Culture and self improvement became popular.

David Hewes, a wealthy San Francisco contractor, and his second wife, Mathilda, came to Tustin in 1881, seeking a mild climate more suited to her health than the dampness of the Bay Area. Soon after their magnificent Victorian home was completed at the corner of Main and B streets, Mrs. Hewes’ daughter and son-in-law, William S. and Franklina Bartlett, also moved to Tustin.

The two couples became active members of Tustin society. Mrs. Bartlett missed the educational stimulation she had experienced in an Oakland organization based on the philosophy of Dr. Adrien Ebell, a Berlin, Germany, scholar who visualized a world movement “to promote the development of the feminist mind in the systematic study of the exact science, including music, art and language.”

As the first president of the Ebell Society of Oakland, Mrs. Bartlett had helped to organize a program of monthly meetings. After she moved to Southern California, she was asked to aid in organizing the Los Angeles Ebell Society.

Then she decided Tustin needed such an organization. It didn’t take long for her to arouse the interest of a number of Tustin women including Mrs. E.D. Buss, wife of the cashier of the Bank of Tustin and a member of the school board; Mrs. Edward M. Neally, whose husband was a citrus grower, secretary-treasurer of the Tustin Protective Association, and a school board member; and Mrs. S.W. Nau, socialite and wife of a citrus grower.

The Ebell Club of the Santa Ana Valley formed in 1894 with 70 charter members, including many from Tustin. Meetings were held at various locations in Santa Ana, the Rossmore Hotel, the Opera House and the Presbyterian Church, but by 1924 when there were hundreds of members, the ladies decided they needed their own clubhouse.

Frederick Ely, a prominent Santa Ana architect, designed a 12,400 square-foot Spanish Colonial clubhouse to be built in the French Park section of Santa Ana by Sam Preble, a Tustin contractor. The building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2001.

The Tustin ladies planned well. During the early 1960s the membership of Ebell swelled to 1,200. Now, more than 100 years since its founding, the organization still has more than 200 women enjoying its stimulating programs.


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