Thousands of cars travel up and down Holt Avenue
between 17th Street and Newport Avenue every
day, according to traffic surveys done by the
However, despite the huge number of drivers
and passengers involved, probably not one person
in a hundred gives a moment's thought to the
origin of the street's name.
John Holt, for whom the street is named, was a
native of Sweden who immigrated to the United
States. Facts about his life vary depending on
the source, but the following information comes
from the 1911 edition of "History of Orange
County, California." The book contains
biographical sketches of the men and women of
the county Samuel Armor identified as
participating in the growth and development of
the area at that time.
Holt came to the United States at the age of
13 when his father, Sven Holt, immigrated here
to become a brass worker, employed first in St.
Louis, then Chicago. The elder Holt returned to
Sweden in 1860, but John remained in this
He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1866
and served on several battleships, mainly in the
Asiatic waters, visiting both China and Japan.
At the end of his enlistment, he transferred to
the merchant marines, shipping out of
Philadelphia and Portland, Maine harbors. His
next employer was the U.S. government, which
hired him to do harbor improvement work on the
Holt then came to California, arriving in
what would become Orange County in 1882. After
deciding to locate in Tustin, he first bought an
unimproved tract of 10 acres. Four years later,
he purchased an additional 10 acres at the
intersection of First Street and a road which
would become known as Holt.
After marrying Louise Deathelms, a resident of
New York, he used his carpentry skills to build
a cozy cottage on his property. Before long,
Holt became known for his experiments in
After planting walnut and apricot trees on
his first pieces of land, he began a long and
extensive series of experiments to discover how
the various fruits would adapt to the soil. His
first experiment of planting a vineyard failed
when the grapes died before they came into
He next planted a variety of fruits,
including prunes which he soon found to be a
money losing crop. Disillusioned by their low
market value, he abandoned them in favor of
crops that would bring in revenue in keeping
with the high cost of the land.
When he found that oranges, apricots and
walnuts would earn the highest profit because
they were the best adapted to the climate and
the soil, he concentrated on planting these
species in his orchard.
In addition to experimenting with fruit, Holt
enjoyed raising poultry. He was recognized for
his skill in selecting birds and caring for the
flock. His pureblood White Brahmas were judged
to be the finest specimens of that breed in
Although Holt was a Republican, voting for
party candidates in both state and national
elections, he was known for supporting the man
he thought best able to promote the welfare of
the county and not the party line, in local
elections. He belonged to the Masonic Lodge, the
Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the
Foresters of America.
Since Holt was included in the U.S. Census in
1900, 1910 and 1920, he is assumed to have died
between 1920 and 1930.