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The marsh that has blossomed into Fountain Valley once was known as Gospel Swamp, where cattle grazed and itinerant preachers set up tents on small islands.

But a severe drought in the late 1870's turned the marsh - fed by the Santa Ana River - into rich farmland, blessed with natural springs and artesian wells.

Abel Stearns, a Massachusetts investor, sold off large chunks of the fertile land to wheat, sugar beet, barley and lima-bean farmers, according to the historical society.

By the late 1890s, the area had a blacksmith shop, the Fountain Valley School, a general store and a post office. When pioneer James T. Talbert formed a drainage district in 1903 that channeled the wandering Santa Ana River, land values jumped from $10 to $500 an acre.

At the turn of the century, the population was 20,000. By 1920, there were 61,000 area residents, and two small villages were forming.

During the 1930s large farms gave way to truck farming, mostly by Japanese-American farmers, in the community then known as Talbert.

The 1950s brought freeways and talk of incorporation to fend off possible annexation to the cities of Santa Ana or Garden Grove. Supporters of an independent city favored a return to what they considered the town's original name - Fountain Valley, after the old school.

In June 1957, 160 voters overwhelmingly supported incorporation, and Fountain Valley became Orange County's 21st city. The first City Council, made up primarily of farmers, pledged to keep the new city a farming community. But in the early 1960s the new San Diego (I-405) Freeway sliced the community in half, driving up land values and luring housing developers.


Historical Site:

Courreges Ranch - 8572 Talbert Ave.
Home of Roch Courreges, a Basque sheep rancher who came to the area in 1878 from San Francisco. In 1896, he purchased 80 acres of land. He founded First National Bank of Huntington Beach, the Smeltzer Telephone Co. and the Farmer's Cannery. The water-tank house built in 1898, and the main house, built in 1912, still are standing. The ranch is not open to the public.



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