Sept. 20, 1897 – Long Beach Comes Back

Gerrie Schipske

Long Beach is like no other city in California because it is the only city that was incorporated, disincorporated and then incorporated again.

The problem was booze and a city government that stuck its thumb in the eyes of the voters who wanted a say in the matter.

A lot of the settlers were conservative Methodists who wanted the area kept “dry.” In fact, William E. Willmore, the English gentleman who leased optioned 4000 acres of Rancho Los Cerritos to form the American Colony, made it a requirement in all the land titles – no liquor.

Now for those folks who could take a horse and buggy over to Alamitos, they could drink to their liver’s content. But the residents of what was soon named Long Beach insisted that no liquor could be sold in the city boundaries.

The city government, headed by trustees, pretty much kept the no liquor pledge. Well, except there was this one saloon in the outskirts of the city that was left alone. The good  tea totalers became furious that three trustees who were Methodist deacons would not shut it down. So the same voters demanded that the issue be put to a vote of the people. The trustees refused the petition and the voters pushed for disincorporation of the city in an election held July 1896.

Disincorporation meant that all assets and debts of the city now belonged to the County of Los Angeles. It also meant the county could tax the residents of Long Beach to maintain the city. However, if you wanted the dust kept down on your streets, you need to privately pay to have them sprinkled.

The same trustees refused to count the votes cast for the disincorporation and outraged voters filed suit that landed in the California Supreme Court. Supreme Court ordered the vote count and the city was formally disincorporated. 

On Sept. 20, 1897, a new petition was filed by voters with the count to incorporate a newly drawn map of the area to be known as Long Beach. The new boundaries would include 1,500 residents and be bounded on the south by California State line, three miles out from shore, on the west by the San Gabriel River, on the north by Anaheim Road and on the east by a line running not far from the Alamitos Park. This area includes the thickly-settled portions in an about the town.

The county supervisors could cut down the size of the district but not extend it. An election was approved and new city officers were elected so there was little delay in organizing the municipality. 

On Dec. 1, 1897, 293 ballots were cast with spoiled and two rejected. The city was incorporated and the new officers elected: I.C. Dunn, J.C. Hart, C.F.A. Johnson, G.D. Sandford, and W. Pen Wilson, trustees. H. Barndollar was elected clerk; G.C. Flint, treasurer; and J.C. Baker, marshal. 

Alcohol continued to be a major political issue in the city for many years.


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