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  • Kalyn McCall

Gospel Swamp: Some Newspaper Musings

The Gospel Swamp area, known for its fertile lands and humble "swamp angels," was often a center of land and labor conflicts in Orange County. In the time of ranchos and the transition to becoming a county, squatters in the area caused many headaches. As seen in some of the tensions with immigrant Asian labor, "swamp angels" could cause a fuss. Here are some of the descriptions of Gospel Swamp from the papers.

Most descriptions of the region focused on the agricultural richness of the land:

Gospel Swamp - Where corn grows so tall that the Grangers carry a step ladder when they go out husking, is located three miles southwest of Santa Ana and is settled with some of the best descendants of Adam and Eve. For big corn and big-hearted farmers commend us to Gospel Swamp. (Los Angeles Herald, June 3, 1874)

It is estimated that on the swamp lands extending from Santa Ana to the other side of Gospel Swamp there are at least four thousand acres planted with corn, an equal amount with wheat and barley, and about one thousand acres with beans and potatoes. When we remember that this land yields on average seventy-five bushels of corn to the acre, and other crops in proportion, it is easy to understand the prosperity of these people and the contentment they exhibit in their homes. (Los Angeles Herald, June 5, 1875)

However, while some people grew wealthy from their endeavors in the area, Gospel Swamp was often seen as the home of the less refined of the Orange County area. The country cousins of the more urbanized Santa Ana, "swamp angels" were typically regarded as the white working class, even in jest:

They have had a spelling match down in Gospel Swamp. There were twenty-seven contestants and twenty-six went down on the first word, "cat.," and the last man would have gone down too, only he stuttered and couldn't get the second "t" quick enough. (Los Angeles Herald, April 17, 1875)

Gospel Swamp (later Greenville) Church, has been in constant use by various denominations since it was built in 1877. Later used as a community Sunday-School
Gospel Swamp (later Greenville) Church (Courtesy of OC Public Libraries)

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