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First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage

Although homesteading in the canyons was serious business, it didn't preclude romance.

June being the traditional month for weddings, I’d like to share this charming photo of El Toro pioneer John Osterman and his bride, Sadie Anette Osterman, née Havens.

(Although I have to admit they didn't marry in June but on a Thanksgiving Day in November—Nov. 28, 1895, to be exact.)

What were John and Sadie's thoughts as they posed for the camera in their wedding finery? Could they ever imagine that two generations later one of their grandsons would be writing books about El Toro history and telling their story, as well as the stories of many other Saddleback Valley pioneers? Or, for that matter, that their photo would be posted on something called the World Wide Web, for anyone interested to take a look.

You may remember  mentioning that John Osterman emigrated from Sweden while in his early teens and went to live with his Uncle Sven’s family in Wisconsin. Then about five or six years later, the entire family—John included—moved to the far less weather-intensive Redondo Beach, Calif.

But let’s have John and Sadie’s grandson, , continue the story, along with some help from his father, George, who was the youngest of John and Sadie's two children, and Lois Smith Osterman, George's wife and Joe's mother, who wrote an unpublished history about the family.

Joe: [Once] in California, John went to sea with a fishing crew for a short time, part of the Scandinavian heritage it would appear, and he also toiled as a farm worker for one year in an enterprise headed by Ben Kohlmeier in Redondo.  When Kohlmeier moved his lease form the beach area to Orange County, Osterman moved with him.  An expert machinist, mechanic, and craftsman, he was in great demand by the grain farming firm, and when Kohlmeier took his farm outfit to the Trabuco Mesa in 1893 to introduce grain to that region, John went along. 

George: He was the first man to put a gang plow into the Trabuco mesa. That's up where Rancho Santa Margarita is now. 

Joe: Through the years of working for wages, Osterman had been laying away a nest egg which he would use to purchase property of his own.  By 1895, he had acquired the necessary capital and bought 100 acres near present day Trabuco Oaks, the area known first as Wild Rose Canyon.  The Rose Canyon homestead was typical of the mountain properties of the day. It consisted of olive, peach, and apricot trees, bee hives, and pasture land. 

George: It was just the homesteaders up there and they were mostly bee raisers and people like that. There was very little farming. Well, up in the upper end of the Trabuco mesa where the Robinsons and Shaws were . . . they had a little farmland there. They had their vineyards and little fruit orchards, and stuff like that.

Joe: John Osterman continued to work for wages, doing expert work in machinery, blacksmithing, harvesting and plowing. He also became the road superintendent in the Trabuco area for a number of years, using his teams and equipment to build and maintain the roads from the Aliso Grade through Live Oak Canyon to the Adkinson Ranch in the Trabuco Oaks area. 

George: My Grandfather Havens and his family were already up in Trabuco when my dad went up there. [Grandfather Havens] had been on the Union side [in the Civil War].  He was a young man, of course. He had to be. He was up in Colorado, in the mines, and all the boys had their saddle horses. So when war was declared, [a group of them] were mustered into the Union. They never got into the big battles. They were chasing the guerrillas, he called them bushwhackers . . . [after the war] he married Miss Millie Copeland and went to New Mexico by covered wagon. They had five kids when they came by train to California.

Lois: After Millie's death in 1894 the older children took care of the smaller ones, all receiving some education at the Trabuco school.

George: My mother [Sadie Anette Havens] was out of grammar school when she was fourteen and, of course, there wasn’t any way to get to high school from up there. [So] she went over to take care of a Mrs. Rowle in Trabuco, who had what they called consumption then. I suppose it would be tuberculosis now. So when she was fourteen years old, she lost her right lung.

Joe: Typical of those days in mountain circles, narrow social relationships were developed due to limitations on travel and outside contacts; romance and marriage among families was common.  Entering into these social activities, young John Osterman became romantically involved with Sadie Anette Havens, daughter of George Havens, one of the early settlers in the Trabuco area. 

Lois: Picnics, occasional parties and dances offered social contacts in a rough and rugged section of Orange County.

George: They had parties in the little old [Trabuco] schoolhouse. That's where dad met my mother.

Joe: The romance culminated in their marriage in Santa Ana on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1895.  After a brief honeymoon in Los Angeles, the couple returned to their new home in Rose Canyon and the rugged pioneer life continued . . .

. . . just as the story of John and Sadie will continue in an upcoming El Toro & Before.

But for now I'd like to acknowledge my sources:

  • Joe's comments and the quotations from his mother's unpublished history are from his 1992 book, Fifty Years In "Old" El Toro: A Family, A Time, A Place.
  • George's comments are drawn from an October 1990 interview, conducted under the auspices of the Orange County Pioneer Council and Cal State University at Fullerton. 
  • And the photo illustrating this story? With continued thanks, it is one of many used on this site through the generosity of the Saddleback Area Historical Society!

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