18 JUN 1897 – Land of Sunshine: A Magazine of California and the Southwest. p42-

One of the busiest men and the same time the pleasantest in all Southern California is Frank J. Capitain of the Alamitos Land Co., which together with the Alamitos Sugar Co. has within twelve months laid out the town of Alamitos in Orange County, sold a goodly number of lots, erected and equipped a modern sugar factory and planted many acres to sugar beets. The factory will expend about $400,000 for sugar beets annually, which means that Alamitos will be the metropolis of a large and and prosperous farming section.

Although little remembered by local historians, Frank J. Capitain was not only the architect who designed the street layout for the new city of Los Alamitos, as well as the building housing the Los Alamitos Sugar Factory, but according to the Los Angeles Times, he was also one of the prime forces for getting the factory built here in the first place.  It might well be said that it was only through his perseverance that the Sugar Factory project ever happened here.

Capitain was born in Germany and studied fine arts and architecture at the Royal Academies of Fine Arts of Munich.  He came to America and St. Louis in 1864.   [Creoles of St. Louis, by Paul Edmond Beckwith, p52] where he immediately began to build a reputation as an architect of quality.  He married Sophia Watson, the second daughter of wealthy businessman Ringrose Watson and his wife Marie Manette Chouteau.  Marie was the grand-daughter of Pierre Chouteau, who was appointed in 1804 by President Thomas Jefferson as the United States Agent for Indian affairs west of the Mississippi River. In his duties, Chouteau helped negotiate the Osage Treaty of 1808, in which the Osage sold large portions of their land in Missouri and Arkansas to European-American settlers for token annual payment amounts from the US government.[4]

Chouteau also founded the St. Louis Missouri Fur Company in 1804, and its fur trading success enabled him to become one of the wealthiest and most influential residents of St. Louis. His son, Pierre became one of the wealthiest merchants among the Indians as well.  Capitain’s marriage into this family indicated success as an architect in St. Louis.

The New York Times reports that Mr. and Mrs. Frank J. Capitain were aboard the ship ___ bound for Liverpool in 1870.

Frank and Sophie had four children, Manette Capitain, (b. 1871), Ringrose Capitain, Isabelle Capitain (b. 1876) and Chouteau Capitain.

In St. Louis, Frank apparently achieved some degree of success.  He rode on a prominent float in a parade as reported in the Globe-Democrat on Oct. 9, 1878.  He was also the architect on at least two buildings in 1885 in St. Louis, [source: American architect and architecture, Volume 18, p228].  In May 1886, St. Louis newspapers announced the partnership of F.J. Capitain and H. Steinmann, “both celebrated and experienced architects…They are graduates of the Royal Academies of Fine Arts of Munich and Stuttgart; have been continuously engaged for nineteen years in active business and have a thorough knowledge of everything pertaining to their art.”  Among the prominent buildings designed by the duo were the New Laclede Hotel, the Monastery of St. Alphonsus Church, the Boatmen’s Bank, the Merchants’ Grain Elevator, the residence of Mr. W. G. McRee, Cabanne Place, and scores of other residences and business structures. A business directory noted, “As a consequence of their great skill Messrs. Capitain & Steinmann have a large and steadily increasing patronage.”

But in 1888  Capitain’s wife, Sophie,  was declared legally insane and Capitain took his family to Los Angeles, possibly to improve her health.  Ringrose Watson had left a trust for  Sophia and her childen and Missouri court records over the handling of this trust, which apparently had to be overseen in St. Louis, verify the family migration.  After the Capitain migration, the new trustees sold Sophie’s land but Ringrose Capitain and his siblings would later successfully contest this in in a long lawsuit.

In Los Angeles, Frank Capitain hit the ground running.  An ad in the LA Times in November 1888 lists the architectural firm of Capitain and Burton.  The firm was the credited architects on the Los Angeles Theater (later the Lyceum Theater), an ornate Richardson-Romanesque building at 228 Spring Street which was built in 1888 by William Hayes Perry.  The building was demolished in 1941 to become an LA Times Parking lot.  Capitain is also listed as the architect for 24 Los Angeles area residences and businesses from January 1 thru August 1, 1889.

In June 1893, the Los Angeles Herald, lists Capitain as a director of C. Leonhardt’s Portland Cemement Factory that was to be constructed at El Toro.

Perhaps because of his close involvement with so many Germans, he was familiar with sugar beet growth and production.  In any case, he was soon very involved in the growth of the sugar beet industry in Southern Califonia.  He made it well known that the Chino beets produced more sugar than any other beets in the United States, and Europe. He was sending Anaheim area soil samples to the State Agricultural Station in 1892-93. and was apparently involved with additions to the Chino Beet Factory.  Noted Southern California architect John Krempel, who was employed as Capitain’s draftsman from 1888 to 1894 listed among his resume superintendent of the construction of the Chino and Oxnard sugar factories.  He did not leave Capitain’s employ until 1894.

Capitain was also the secretary for two aspiring sugar beet cooperatives.  The first was the Cahuenga Cooperative (for the farmers near Hollywood) which was formed in October 1891. Capitain tried to get commitments for 3000 acres of land — with stock being traded at $1 per acre deeded over to the cooperative. The Times reported that the smaller farmers responded well, but the larger ones — like J. Wolfskill and Mrs, Hancock (who owned 7000 acres between them) would only commit for 10 acres each. After a few months Capitain only had commitments for only 1,800 acres. In November 1891, Capitain was contacted by Henry Kroeger of Anaheim, who wanted Capitain to investigate the possibility of a sugar factory in their area. After thoroughly inspecting it, Capitain deemed the area ideal, not only nfor the quality of its soil but its transportation facilities. Many of the farmers were also already growing beets for shipment to the new Chino factory. December The Anaheim Cooperative was formed soon after, again with the hope of securing 3,000 acres, By August 1892, 6.000 acres had been secured and Capitain issued bonds for $400,000 for a factory which was to cost $350,000.

When Congress debated ending the sugar bounty, the Board of the Anaheim Sugar Cooperative sent a letter on the subject to Congress.  Capitain, is one of five signatories on the letter, and no doubt the driving force behind the letter.

Reports in the Anaheim Gazette indicate the Anaheim Cooperative had much support from the area farmers. Many were already sending sugar beets to the factory in Chino, a long drive either through Santa Ana Canyon or over the Coyote Hills.  But building a factory cost a lot of capital, which very few people had during the tough economic times of the 1890s.

In 1895 Capitain enlisted Los Angeles real estate agent (and insurance man) Philip A. Stanton to join the Anaheim Cooperative Board.  Stanton was also an agent for  the Stearns Rancho Companies and sold much land in the west Anaheim area, including a large tract for himself at Brookhurst and La Palma and another tract near Benedict, which is now in the city of Stanton.  Stanton, was also the principal agent for I.W. Hellman’s Alamitos Ranch properties and, after being named to the cooperative board, he tried to enlist the help of of I.W. Hellman in securing bonds to finance the construction of a sugar factory.  Hellman declined, citing the negative financial conditions.

In January 1896, Capitain formed an arrangement with E.F. Dyer.  Lewellyn Bixby, of course , had been an investor in the first California sugar factory, which was undertaken by Dyer’s father. That same month, Dyer and Capitain entered into an agreement to sell bonds for the Cerritos Sugar Company, which was undertaken by the Bixbys. They agreed to sell enough bonds to raise $4[00,000?]. After that sum had been reached, they could begin to deduct their expenses and [earn/draw] a commission; all of this had to be accomplished before November 1, 1896. Apparently, the bonds were never sold, which is not surprising since the United States was suffering through its worst economic depression prior to the 1930s.

But matters were obviously progressing.  Successful businessmen, buoyed by the seemingly assured success of Republican William McKinley winning the Presidency over William Jennings Bryan, seemed eager to invest their money again. By late May the LA Times was reporting that construction of a sugar factory near Bixby Station was all but assured.  Then on June 10, 1896, Dyer and Capitain made “satisfactory assurances that they have made arrangements for the erection upon the [land] a beet sugar factory,” the Bixbys and Flint would transfer 2,497 shares of the Bixby Land Company stock to them within thirty days. All of this land had to be accomplished by November __, 1896, the same deadline that was set for the sale of the Cerritos Sugar Company bonds.

On June 10, 1896, On June 10, 1896, the secretary continues in his minutes, Dyer and Capitain entered into an agreement with William A. Clark of Butte, Montana and J.Ross Clark of Los Angeles to build a beet sugar factory on Bixby’s land. To cement the deal, the Bixby Land Company granted 40 acres for the factory site, a right of way for drainage from the site into nearby Coyote Creek and an additional 520 acres to the Clarks.

On 13 JUN 1896, the Bixby Land Company was formally founded, to subdivide a portion of land for the raising and processing of sugar beets. Jotham Bixby was named president; Lewellyn Bixby, vice president, and other stockholders included Jotham’s oldest son, George H.; Dr. Thomas Flint, and and two men who were not family members, Edward F. Dyer and Frank J. Capitain, the company secretary .

About this same time, Capitain and Dyer tried unsuccessfully to get the Anaheim Cooperative to disorganize.  At a big meeting at Kroeger Hall, Capitain didn’t specifically reveal his knowledge but he assured the Cooperative farmers that good things were going to be happening very soon. At the time there was already rampant speculation about the construction of a new beet factory — usually being placed on the Cerritos. They were unsuccessful, and in the end the wait and see-ers won.

By late June the Bixby sugar factory was open knowledge.

The JUL 18, 1896 – LA Times, (p.6 – A Great Enterprise Announced, and p.9 “To Make Sugar”) ran a long story non the genesis of the sugar factopry project, giving most credit to Frank Capitain.

10 SEP 1896 – Anaheim Gazette – Factory spur to be Built from this city. Article describes how the SP spur line to the new Los Alamitos sugar factory will be connected from Anaheim.

LA Times and Santa Ana Newspapers falsely reported that 60-80 workers were already busy at Los Alamitos, causing unemployed laborers to head out that direction and then be disappointed to learn that hiring for the factory construction was at least a month away. The article also mentioned that Frank Capitain was in charge of the construction crews on site, which consisted of men cutting down wood along the New River. Capitain was living in comfortable quarters and had an office in the old shooting club. His daughter was living with him.

Judge I.N. Marks was the assistant secretary of the new beet factory company.

The factory is located in Section 19, 9 miles west of town. To get there, you head to Weisel’s Corner and then head seven mils straight west,


An article in December says that Capitain was the brains of the whole operation and that he operated his office out of the town hotel.

By January 1897, the LA Times reported that Capitain had sold his interest in the new town’s hotel to Gandolfo & Langamarsino.

Capitain kept things moving along. But soon after then publication of the Land of Sunshine article, and just one week before the official opening of the beet factory, this small blurb appeared in the personals column of the Anaheim Weekly Gazette. George Morenstrecher had been name the new secretary of the Bixby Land Company. Frank J. Capitain had resigned.

The circumstances behind his departure are unknown, but good things did not happen to Capitain after that.  In December 1898 he was sued for breach of promise by Nellie Wallace, a San Francisco woman who claimed that “El Capitan” had proposed to her the Christmas before and had given her money and many gushing letters.   The revelation in Los Angeles was no doubt embarrassing to Capitain, and. despite or perhaps enhanced by her insanity, was humiliating to his wife, Sophia, who filed for divorce.  The breach lawsuit was dropped, and the divorce was hushed, but Capitain and his wife,  never lived together again.  By some report he was left virtually homeless by the settlement.

By early 1900 Capitain had relocated to Rocky Ford, Colorado, a town east of Pueblo,  and had become involved in the building of a large hotel where his daughter, ___ Loring was to be head housekeeper.  On the night of the opening,

Capitain became “wildly excited and attempted to kill his daughter without  any apparent reason.  The bullet, however, did not dangerously wound her.  Capitain, think she was killed, turned the weapon against himself.

His wound was not thought to be fatal and he was taken to the jail pending trial or examination for insanity.  However, a sudden turn for the worse brought telegrams to his daughter to his remaining daughter in Santa Monica and to C. Leonardt, an old friend of the family who was in Denver at the time.

Capitain had not lived in Los Angeles for several years, and for the last eighteen months had been at Rocky Ford.  While he was in this city [Los Angeles] he was associated with JOhn C. Krempel in the firm of Krempel & Capitain, architects.  He was also interested in the Los Alamitos beet-sugar factory and was reputed quite wealthy.  Much notoriety was occasioned for Capitan by a sensational suit for $50,000 damages for breach of promise by a young woman opf this city with whom he was supposed to be on intimate relations.  Matters were complicated by a suit for divorce filed simultaneously by Mrs. Capitan, naming the same young woman as co-respondent and charging her with alinating her husband’s affections.  As Capitan was a married man, the sut for breach fell through and the divorce poroceedings were also hushed up, though Mrs. Capitan never lived with him again.  A peaceful separation was agreed upon, and soon after Capitan left Los Angeles for good, leaving Mrs. Capitan still residing in this city.

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