By Marje Howard-Jones
Congress of History Community History Awards
San Diego Historical Society 1982 Institute of History
Carlsbad, the beach community just north of San Diego, and its connection with the old Bohemian spa of Karlsbad (now in Czechoslovakia) share more than a coincidence of names. This town, which is fast becoming a primary focus for San Diego county’s commercial and industrial growth, has substantial ties with the old country dating back to its founding in 1886. The intervening near-century is studded with records of German immigration to the “American Carlsbad,” right up to the present.
Gerhard Schutte, born in Oldenburg, Germany in 1838, was the first of his countrymen to discover the charms of the coastal area thirty miles north of San Diego. He had immigrated to the United States at the age of seventeen and served in the Third Wisconsin Regiment of the Union Army before set-tling down to a merchant’s career in Columbus, Nebraska. A veteran of battles at Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Cedar Mountain and Antietam, he married Bertha Miller at Mayville, Wisconsin in 1867 and became a naturalized American citizen in Nebraska in 1878.
Shutte prospered selling lumber, grain and agricultural implements but kept a grander ambition in reserve until retirement in 1885. Then he, his wife and nine children took advantage of reduced fares offered for Santa Fe Railroad passengers interested in purchasing California land and headed west for the fulfillment of Schutte’s ultimate dream: to establish a town “of small farms and gracious homes.” Once in San Diego, the eager city father-to-be waited only long enough to settle his family in a hotel before exploring sites selected for his consideration by Santa Fe land agents.
A description of 126 acres owned by John A. Frazier immediately caught Schutte’s attention. Originally homesteaded by Lafayette Tunnison, it had been sold to Frazier in 1883. Tunnison had hauled his household and agricultural water three miles from Marron Gorge but when Frazier moved down from Los Angeles, where he had founded the Good Samaritan Mission, he decided that a well would be more suitable for his needs. His neighbors’ skepticism turned to surprise when Frazier tapped an artesian spring 400 feet below the surface. Everyone was even more amazed when another fifty feet of drilling produced mineral water from an underground stream.
A 510-foot well tower soon arose behind Frazier’s house on a slight rise of land between the sea bluffs and the railroad tracks. Within months it became a landmark for passengers travelling between San Diego and Los Angeles. When engines of the Western California line of the Santa Fe Railroad stopped at “Frazier Station” for watering, Frazier’s missionary instincts prevailed and tourists also were offered cups of cool liquid refreshment. Before long word was spreading throughout Southern California that a sip of Frazier’s mineral water could cure all manner of ills.
By the time Gerhard Schutte arrived on the scene, Frazier’s backdoor platform had become a destination in itself. Schutte partook of the waters, gazed at the chaparral-covered landscape and offered Frazier $40 an acre for his property. Further negotiation was unnecessary; he who had devoted his life to giving had no objection to receiving—even a 400 percent profit! The land agents quickly recognized their cue and rounded up enough adjacent and available land for Schutte to return to San Diego with title to 400 acres of coastal land. His holdings included all of the land between Buena Vista and Agua Hedionda lagoons lying north of the northern boundary of Rancho Agua Hedionda, a Mexican land grant claimed in 1843 by Juan Maria Romouldo Marron II.
Schutte transferred the raw material for his future hometown to a partnership formed with Samuel Church Smith, whose daughter’s health needs had brought him west from Columbus, Nebraska also. Naming himself as president and Smith as secretary, Schutte filled out the structure of his organization with D. D. Wadsworth as vice-president and Henry Nelson as treasurer. Frazier was asked to join the firm as water superintendent.
The company principals selected sites for their own individual investment and initiated plans for the kinds of homes they hoped would set an example for the future growth of the town. Frazier added a French mansard roof to his existing home and Smith selected ready-made plans for a simple Craftsman-style bungalow but the Schutte and Wadsworth homes were designed to dominate the local scene. Obtaining the services of master carpenter Alonzo J. Culver, they planned elaborate Victorian mansions of the Queen Anne type popularized by English architect Sir Charles Eastlake. Identical but reversed, designs were commissioned. The houses with their matching gables, cupolas, fish-scale shingles and turned-wood gingerbread trims soon were assembled at either end of a street overlooking ocean and town.
After streets were named and marked with seedling eucalyptus the town founders turned to their most serious challenge: the encouragement of others to follow their lead. Realizing that it was the mineral waters that originally excited public interest in the area, they settled on the well as their primary attraction. The wisdom of their choice was affirmed when chemical analysis of the local mineral waters revealed identical properties to the already renowned waters drawn from Well Number Nine in Karlsbad, Bohemia, one of Europe’s most popular spas.
Such scientific authority for his enterprise struck an immediate chord with Schutte. His proposal to name the new town Carlsbad found quick agreement among his partners. Delighted with the ready-made identity that had been bestowed on them, they announced the official formation of the Carlsbad Land and Mineral Water Company.
It was the first step in an extensive advertising campaign. Soon an eight page pamphlet, recounting the popularity of the original Karlsbad spa and singing the praises of its West coast namesake, was distributed nationally. Urging its readers to “Read, Ponder, Drink and Live,” the pamphlet traced the German waters from bath cure to internal remedy in 1522 and claimed attendance of 30,000 visitors at the Bohemian spa by 1886.
“Now in Califoria,” it continued, “a water comes forth from the bosom of Nature. . . one of superior chemical analysis. Already many arise and call these waters blessed.” It described drives along the hard, sandy beach and bathing in the surf as well as mineral and fresh water baths. Finally, concluding with praise for a climate in which “we regale ourselves with strawberries April through Christmas,” it posed the cosmic question: “Is this not as near Eden as any the world has ever seen?”
The rhetoric was apparently irresistible, at least for a year. By 1887 the Daily Bee was reporting that “no town on the California Southern Railroad is growing faster than Carlsbad.” With a population of 200, the six-month old community already claimed a Wells Fargo Express and Post Office, a weekly newspaper “The Sea Lion,” a fancy Victorian-style train depot and the small but adequate La Palma Hotel. The Rev. Henry Daniels led a small Episcopal congregation and a tool shed donated by the railroad had been converted into an elementary school for the town’s fifty pupils. Plans for an “elegant, commodious hotel” were becoming a reality across the street from the mineral well tower.
But by the time the Carlsbad Hotel was ready to open its doors, the land boom had turned to bust and economic pressures were scattering eager land agents into a myriad of other occupations. Wadsworth went back to his jewelers’ bench, Frazier went prospecting for gems and minerals in the eastern portion of the county and Nelson disappeared from public record.
The fortunes of the Carlsbad Land and Mineral Water Company are reflected in news items of the day. According to the San Diego Herald of December 25, 1887, choice lots were available in Carlsbad for prices ranging from $175 to $500, with one third down, one-third in six months and the balance within a year. Less than six months later, in April, 1888, there were announcements of a railroad excursion to attend R. O. Weller’s auction of $11,000 worth of Carlsbad property. By November, 1890, another news item reported the availability of 1800 Carlsbad lots, a hotel, furniture and waterworks. Inventoried at $272,000, the entire stock was to be offered for $16,000 “for speedy sale to settle dissension among stockholders.”
According to the voters’ register for this year, only Schutte and Smith were still visible pillars of the Carlsbad community that claimed 300 inhabitants. An indication of Schutte’s progression can be gleaned from the San Diego City and County Directories of the century’s final decade. In 1888-90, he was identified as a capitalist but by 1892-94 he was listed as secretary of the Carlsbad Land and Mineral Water Company and as an accountant in the following edition.
A significant number of fellow immigrants had joined the Carlsbad citizenry by 1890. The Voter’s Register for that year records the presence of Charles Clauson, thirty-four, a laborer whose small frame home now is an architect’s office on Roosevelt Street; John Henry Gerhard Meyer, forty-nine, a storekeeper; Benjamin Kunze, forty-eight, a shoemaker; Theodore Steinhelber, twenty-nine, a printer. They were joined in 1894 by a forty-four year-old mechanic, George Shieffer.
By 1898, the town was at such a low ebb that its tiny school was about to close for lack of students. Families were preparing their children for a daily train ride to school in Oceanside when Charles Kreutzcamp and his family of nine offspring appeared on the scene. A German-born shoemaker, Kreutzcamp had married in the United States and embarked on an odyssey to see as much of America as possible, wife and children in tow. But once the family had moved into an abandoned lumber company office on Roosevelt Street, Mrs. K. informed her husband that they had stopped for the very last time.
The warm welcome that his children had received from school teacher Hattie Reece, and the ready employment he had found with an Oceanside cobbler, undoubtedly helped Kreutzcamp to abandon his gypsy ways. Walking to and from work to save money, he hit upon a more subtle method of satisfying his urge to move and as soon as he could afford to buy property, put his plan to work-moving buildings. He moved his office-cum-home to land at the north end of town, removed its store front to reveal a more residential-looking gable and announced to his family that they finally were home. Kreutzcamp next moved another of Carlsbad’s many abandoned structures to a site adjacent to his home where he opened a general store and, in 1904, took over the duties of the town postmaster. Years later, when he had become one of Carlsbad’s most solid citizens, Kreutzcamp donated a parcel of land on Harding Street for construction of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in 1926.
The Schutte and Kreutzcamp families were linked by the marriages of Hugo and Edward Schutte to Elizabeth and Anna Kreutzcamp, respectively. Two other Kreutzcamp sisters, Minnie and Emma, also married brothers: Robert and Roy Carpenter, the sons of Frank Carpenter. Alfred Schutte married Hattie Reece and his sisters also married within the small community; Ena to William Edmonsdson, Grace to Dan Cartwright, Della to William Sharp and Alma to Edward Langerbach. Paul and Oscar Schutte remained bachelors.
Gerhard and Bertha Schutte moved to National City in 1910 and four years later their home was converted into the Twin Inns Restaurant. The other “twin,” the Wadsworth home, was never occupied by its original owner. For many years it was a temporary home for newcomers to Carlsbad and then served as an annex for the Twin Inns. It was demolished in 1956.
The high expectations of the Carlsbad Land and Mineral Water Company were not to be realized until 1918 when a group of investors headed by Henry Huntington, C.A. Canfield and William Kerkoff bought up the remaining land and formed the South Coast Land Company. Its eventual success was based on the negotiation of rights to San Luis Rey river water obtained from the city of Oceanside. As irrigation pipes reached out east and south of the town, agriculture flourished and provided a new stable base for the local economy. While hometown boys such as Albert Kreutzcamp plunged into the planting of vast tracts of land, horticulturists flocked to Carlsbad from the worn-out growing fields of Los Angeles and the wintry climates of the mid-West.
E. P. Zimmerman, son and grandson of German nurserymen, arrived in 1922 bringing clivia seeds obtained by his grandfather from the conservatory of Lady Clive, duchess of Northumberland. He traced his unusual legacy to missionary tales of “pools of gold growing in the shade of cork trees on the banks of the Fish River in South Africa,” reports that had sent his grandfather to London for a closer look at the exotic plants. It was then that the precious seeds came into the Zimmerman family’s possession.
Immigrating to the United States in 1907, E. P. Zimmerman spent fifteen years in search of the right place to plant and develop new strains of clivias. Once settled in Carlsbad, it took him sixteen more years of hybridizing through four plant generations to achieve his goal. Nurserymen and plant enthusiasts sought out his long greenhouses to marvel at his collection of over 3,500 plants whose colors ranged from white to pastel shades of yellow, orange and gold. It was not uncommon for a single flower spike to hold as many as thirty blossoms. Zimmerman maintained the orange mother plant in order to have a basis for comparison to the new breeds he worked to stabilize. In spite of the patience and meticulous horticultural skill that his accomplishments represented, the soft-spoken gardener insisted that his success was based on a policy of benign neglect. He advised keeping clivias in crowded pots, giving them a minimum of care. “That’s the way they like it,” he declared.
The climate and conditions so favorable to plant life soon were recognized as beneficial to human beings, too. Growing fields and groves were slowly eroded by residential tracts following World War II. It was then that thirty-five refugee families from eastern Europe discovered Carlsbad. Released from concentration camps and displaced by the ravages of war, they had come to the United States to begin their lives again. A common heritage of life in the wide valley of the River Danube, known as Panonnia, brought them together; all traced their families back through 200 years of farming in what is now Hungary, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, and beyond that, to earlier roots in Germany.
By 1962 most of the refugees were working in Southern California machine shops and factories. Although they had made the transition from an agricultural (and captive) lifestyle, there still was the need for a deeper motivation for their ingrained habits of hard work. Also recognized was the need to build more tangibly for the future when working days were over.
It was then that Carlsbad, with its historical connection to Karlsbad, was discovered by Joseph Bauer, an immigrant working on the assembly line at General Motors. He found sixty acres of hilltop land offered for sale by the First San Marino Corporation of Los Angeles. The parcel was planted in tomatoes and overlooked Agua Hedionda lagoon and the horizon of the Pacific Ocean. To Bauer and his friends, it was the raw material for their dreams.
They formed the Panonnia Investment Company offering $800 shares which were purchased in various amounts by thirty-five families. The group made a $102,000 down payment on the entire parcel which was sold to it for a total price of $440,000. Tomato farmers continued to lease the land and there was little change except for the sale of one acre and adjacent easements for a City of Carlsbad water storage tank in 1972.
The Panonnians’ original intent to develop their own land for their own use eventually had to adjust to the realities of escalating land values and skyrocketing development costs. The complexities of land use legislation and a diminishing money market also contributed to their decision to sell the Panonnia land to a real estate subdivider and then buy it back as finished lots and houses.
Bauer, like his countrymen, past, and present, has successfully applied the old country tradition of hard work and sacrifice to the American tradition of unlimited opportunity for all. The resulting bond of cultures has created a truly unique community of high yielding significance.
The primary source for this article is Seekers of the Spring: A History of Carlsbad, by Marje Howard-Jones (Carlsbad, California: The Carlsbad Friends of the Library, 1982).
Engelhardt, Fr. Zephyrin, San Luis Rey Mission (James H. Barry Company, 1921).
Files and related resource materials:
The Carlsbad City Library
San Diego History Center Research Archives
Harmon, John B., Jr., History of Carlsbad (The Carlsbad Friends of the Library, 1961).
George Bauer, 1982
Emma Kreutzcamp Carpenter, 1978
Delene Schutte Stromberg, 1978
THE PHOTOGRAPHS are from the San Diego History Center’s Title Insurance and Trust Collection.