Aliso Beach has an incredible history. The area was inhabited by Native American groups said to number between 5000 and 10000 people prior to the arrival of the Spanish with explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492. With Spanish exploration and the drive to spread Catholicism and Christianity through the missions, the Native Americans were forced out, relocated and exposed to diseases that their culture’s immune systems were not prepared for. The Spanish used missions to to convert the Native American Groups to Christianity. Talk about cultural shock. One day you live in a tribe in which you live off the land and trade with neighboring groups to make sure that your people have everything they need and the next they are being pushed out, forced to assimilate, and exposed to diseases that their immune systems were unprepared for. This was the beginning of a deterioration of their way of life.
Spaniards born in the New World combined with mestizo people (Spanish and Native American Indian Blood) and Native Americans gained Mexican Independence in 1821. Mexican rule in what is now California and the West was short lived. In 1848 western states and California were ceded to the United States. On May 20th, 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Homestead Act. From 1862-1976, Americans were incentivized with the promise of land if they relocated to the west with the Homestead Act. It is considered the largest land give away in the history of the United States and it has been given credit for the rapid development of the United States of America. Before Lincoln signed this document, undeveloped government lands were reserved for the wealthy. There was a fear among government officials that the rich would monopolize the land if they continued to sell land to only those who could pony up the cash. Lincoln changed this with the Homestead Act Women that were the heads of their households were eligible. Citizens and those who dreamed of gaining citizenship were able to qualify. Former African American slaves were made eligible after the 14th Amendment to the Constitution Of the United States of America was passed in 1868. According to a Smithsonian Article by T.A. Frail and Megan Gambino, 4 million people applied for the land grant through the Homestead Act and 1.6 million people succeeded. As far as I can tell, all you had to do with the land was plant it and develop it enough to warrant your being given title to it.
Citizens that came west were afforded a grant of a 160 acres so long as they planted 40 acres of trees. That was not a problem for early settlers of the Laguna and Aliso Beach areas. Eucalyptus trees, not known for their usefulness in building homes, building furniture or building instruments qualities, were planted in these early days. This variety of trees were said to have helped provide shade to settlers in the new Mediterranean Coastal Climate found at Aliso Beach and Laguna! We love Eucalyptus Trees ourselves! There is nothing like the smell that comes from Eucalyptus Trees after a period of rain. In the early 1900’s, families and individuals committed to making their ways and building new lives out west settled Laguna Beach. In the 1920’s, the Wilson Family developed the Aliso Beach area. Their home and Aliso View Store supported summer camping and vacations on the beach but also visits from the Mounted Cavalry from the modern confines of Camp Pendleton. Can you imagine military personnel in full uniform riding up to your store on the grounds of the present day Montage Resort and ordering a sandwich? Or better yet, could you imagine military personnel going through the drive thru at one of your favorite fast food joints? That isn’t as interesting as picturing military officers on horseback riding into your town to get some lunch. The image that paints is both incredible and of historical value. We have come a long way in United States and the State of California, but it is always a good idea to never forget where we came from, or how we got there. Histories must be preserved and stories must be told! The Wilson Family had a lot to do with the development of the Aliso Beach area because the father, Howard Wilson, was a building contractor that loved the area and maintained an active role in the construction, development and leadership of the area. He also had an active role in the politics spending time as a city council man. Everything I have read suggests he was gracious with his time and that he always gave back. Building the Aliso View Store and helping the community build offices, businesses and homes shows that he worked to serve others. He loved this area and the time his family spent there without question impacted the history of Laguna Beach and the Aliso Beach area. We know that there are more stories to be told out there and we hope to engage people in Laguna Beach that care to tell this amazing story based on photographs, momentos, and stories preserved by people that cherish the memories and those that came before us. We know these people are out there and we know that some would love to talk. We believe that we will be able to expand upon our history section as we reach out into the community to speak with them.