Cypress, CA History

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Native Americans

The first inhabitants of Cypress were immigrants. They continued the diaspora out of Africa by modern humans some 50,000 years ago, reaching Cypress about 13,000 years ago by way of Asia and the Bering Strait. Until the Europeans arrived, Chumash people lived a semi-nomadic life in Southern California hunting, gathering, and fishing on tar lined canoes.

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Then came the Spaniards who established the legal basis of land ownership (thereby expropriating the commons of the natives). Their king gave 300,000 acres of land, of which Cypress was a part, as payment for military service to Manuel Nieto. The land was divided among Nieto’s heirs of which the portion containing Cypress became Rachos Los Alamitos and Coyotes. The heirs sold Los Alamitos to the Mexican governor and Los Coyotes to a Juan Baptiste Leandry, a French merchant immigrant.

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United States & Ranching

After the US-Mexican War and subsequent expropriation of Spanish control by the United States, Able Stearns, a Yankee merchant immigrant, bought both holdings and turned them into a huge cattle and hide empire. Despite the boom during the gold rush (price of beef skyrocketed), a crash during subsequent droughts abruptly ended traditional ranching.

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Agriculture & Dairy Farming

As Stearns’ cattle empire crumbled, investors took over and parceled the holdings, selling the land in pieces of 120-160 acres and started a boom in agriculture. One of these investors was John Bixby whose descendants are said to still own a lot of land in Orange County.

The first successful cash crop in the area were white and sweet potatoes. The Bixbys later promoted the growth of sugar beets whose tops and refuse in turn supported the growth of dairy cattle farming. Sorghum was the other cash crop. The dairy cattle provided milk for Buena Park where it was bottled for consumption in Los Angeles.

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Before the town was incorporated, the area was known as “Waterville” due to the preponderance of artesian wells. By the 1940s, Cypress became the third largest dairy district in the US. With this legacy, it was incorporated as Dairy City in 1956. Anticipating urban growth and the decline of dairy farming in the area, however, residents renamed the city Cypress shortly thereafter in 1957!

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Origin of the Name, Cypress

The name Cypress is taken from the first Cypress School established among the farmers in 1895. The school was named after the Cypress trees planted to protect the school house from the seasonal Santa Ana winds. Of note, Margaret Landell, after whom Landell Elementary (opened in 1966) is named, was the first teacher of the school. She taught grades 1-9 consisting of a total of a whopping 23 students. A.E. Arnold Elementary would come two years later in 1968, named after Alfred E. Arnold, the first Mayor of the city of Cypress.

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Growth of the City

As the area grew, the Pacific Electric built a railroad station near the corner of Lincoln and Walker and named the station after the school, Cypress. The station became a local transportation hub and the town grew around it. But Cypress became what it is today during the growth of suburban sprawl surrounding Los Angeles in the 1960s and early 1970s. The district served by Arnold and Landell – or west Cypress – are the product of that building boom. Check out when your home was built- most likely it was in the late 1960′s-1970s. Broker Charles’s home on Livermore Pl was built in 1969. Sorrento, Woodside and other smaller pockets here and there were the last to be developed, being built in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000′s.

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Population Growth

1956 – 1,616 (plus 24,000 dairy cows!)
1961 – 4,100
1970 – 31,026!!! (a lot of people sure moved out here in the late 1960′s – 1970′s)
1980 – 40,391
1990 – 42,694
2000 – about 48,000
Today – about 50,000 (US Census not completed for 2010 as of 6/1/2010)

Resources: Adapted from and