Moreton Bay planter to be honored with grave marker dedication

June 06, 2007
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesDescendents of a Santa Paulan whose love of family resulted in one of the city’s finest landmarks is being celebrated, including the community dedication of a grave marker, the result of a partnership between the descendents of Ebenezer Hugill Orne and the Santa Paula Historical Society.More than 40 descendents of Orne, who planted the city’s Moreton Bay Fig Tree on July 4, 1879 to celebrate the birth of his fourth daughter, Cecille, will gather in Santa Paula for the gathering on June 16 and June 17.The reunion will include the June 17 dedication of the marker on Orne’s grave at Santa Paula Cemetery and special “Founders’ Day” service and luncheon at the First United Methodist Church which Orne, a former circuit riding preacher, helped organize.The dedication, led by the Rev. Paul Kim, will be held at approximately 1 p.m. and the public is invited.According to Betty Hogan, Orne’s great-granddaughter, a highpoint will be the presence of Oregon resident Leona Larson, “at 100 years of age, the only living grandchild of Ebenezer and Lizzie” who will attend the celebration with her children and their spouses.Orne, a Wisconsin native, was born Feb. 3, 1832 as one of 18 children. He died Aug. 4, 1903 near Santa Paula in an oil tunnel explosion...sadly, Orne had survived an earlier explosion that left him seriously injured.Hogan, a resident of Huntington Beach, said her husband Bob’s interest in genealogy connected her to other Orne descendents.“Bob particularly became interest in my family side, the Ornes, my maternal grandmother was Cora,” the middle daughter of the five Orne girls.In September 2004, not long after the July 4 community celebration of the 125th Anniversary of Orne’s planting of the Moreton Bay Fig Tree, located at the corner of 10th and Santa Barbara streets, the Hogans stopped in Santa Paula.The couple, unaware of the tree planting celebration, had been on a genealogy road trip that included visiting the gravesite of Orne’s father in Placerville, “but no one knew where his son was buried” noted Hogan.A research visit to Santa Paula and Blanchard Community Library led the Hogans to the First United Methodist Church and the Rev. Kim, “who was extremely interested in all the historical information I had” that linked Orne to the beginnings of the church, the first in the city.Reverend Kim copied Hogan’s research and invited Betty to speak at the Founders’ Celebration marking the 135th Anniversary of the church.Hogan had been “aware of Eb’s planting of the tree” through family and “when I used to go with Grandmother” to see her sister up north Santa Paula was a frequent stop to admire the towering Moreton.Hogan herself had attempted - and failed - to find Ebenezer’s unmarked grave but the expanding branches of the Orne family tree finally led to a cousin who knew exactly of Ebenezer’s final resting place.
“She had the plot number, everything to the last detail,” that proved that Ebenezer Orne was buried in the Fansler plot, the family name of the man whom Cecille had married.“When Ebenezer died his family was improvised and it’s obvious that the Fansler’s buried him,” but did not provide a grave marker noted Hogan.Irene Tavis, a Fansler descendent, helped purchase the plaque: “We felt he was an important man in town and that this would be a good family project,” said Hogan who with Tavis called “everyone we knew” to raise the funds for the marker.Not only did Hogan make contact with recently discovered relatives, she and Tavis met their goal including a “generous pledge” by Mary Alice Orcutt Henderson and the Santa Paula Historical Society.“I designed the marker myself,” noted Hogan. “I’m not an artist so it was not an easy thing but it was important to me to have a fitting tribute to a man important to the city,” as well as symbolic of the landmark tree.Hogan received photos of the now placed marker from Henderson and promptly sent it on to descendents including the idea to “all get together and meet each other and celebrate” Orne’s life.That life included deep love and devotion of family: “I’ve heard that every time a child was born he hoped for a boy, but he loved his daughters... everyone in the family knew his children and when I was a childthey all said he was a wonderful father, a very loving man” noted Hogan.The Ornes at one time lived at the corner where the tree was planted, just one of the many facets of their widely admired garden.But the tree, imported from Australia, was much, much more: “It was popular at the time, a thing that was being done at that time by people who wanted to do something big and impressive,” said Hogan.And the majestic city landmark, courtesy of Ebenezer Orne, is big and impressive indeed, providing wide branches for shade, its twisted rambling trunk set against the backdrop of the mural of famous Santa Paula artists.Orne proved that art - and legacy - could be as simple as planting a tree from the heart.

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