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Long Ago and Farm Away

The photo above is Aliso Canyon circa 1891 looking southwest toward the ocean, faintly visible past the canyon’s mouth.

It’s the Thurston farm in Aliso Canyon, but at least 20 years after the family--George, Sarah and eventually 13 children--established their homestead. Back in 1871, it was even more primitive and isolated.

Going to Santa Ana then was like driving to San Francisco today, but a lot less comfortable. The closest town was tiny Laguna Beach, where Thurston carted his vegetables to sell.

It was a meager existence, and eventually the family sought a living in Santa Ana, leaving son Joe to run the place alone. He did for seven years, then moved to Laguna Beach in 1921, where he became active in Chamber of Commerce and real estate circles. He leased the land, then disposed of it.

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For a while it served as a Girl Scout camp. In 1950, the nine-hole, public Laguna Beach Country Club was built. Today it’s the Aliso Creek Golf Course, above.

Though the homestead is gone, there is still a trace of the Thurstons in Laguna Beach. In 1921, Joe Thurston married a Laguna Beach schoolteacher, and it is after her, Mary Thurston, that Thurston Middle School is named.

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OC Then and Now calls, (714) 966-5973; e-mail, OCthenandnow @latimes.com.

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