It was sometime in the mid 1980s, when the family of local blogger (and scourge of three-fifths of Fullerton's city council) Tony Bushala acquired a unique piece of property near the Fullerton train station. A 375-square-foot building at the rear of the lot was used by the previous owners as a back house. Unbeknownst to Bushala, that old building with its pitched roof and wood-slat exterior was a nifty little piece of Fullerton history. By accident, it was discovered that the building used to be owned by local pioneer Peter A. Schumacher, a man whose legacy continues to grow beyond the borders of the land of citrus, and some say, beyond the grave.
Bushala said he realized the significance of the building by chance.
"We discovered it when a friend of mine saw a picture at the library," says Bushala. "He saw it in a book and recognized it."
The grainy black and white photo, dated 1910 and published in a Post Card History Series book clearly shows the building next to a sign with Schumacher's name and offering notary and real estate services. Back then it was located at the intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Wilshire Avenue where a Shabu Shabu now stands. The caption mentions that Schumacher was responsible for purchasing the first El Camino Real bell (it is prominently visible in the photo) in Orange County.
|Postcard History Series|
But for an entrepreneur who once had significant real estate holdings in Fullerton, not much is known about Schumacher. Why the building Bushala now owns ended up on E. Truslow Ave., several blocks south of its original location, is a total mystery.
A 1933 article in the Daily News Tribune reported Schumacher was born in Germany on May 21, 1843 and moved with his parents to a farm in Illinois in 1857. He joined the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War and was wounded several times. After bouncing around the Midwest, he wound up in North Dakota where he obtained extensive, but unidentified holdings. Making his way west he landed in Anaheim before ultimately settling in Fullerton. According to the article, Schumacher's son Roy Fullerton Schumacher, was the first child born in the city.
In 1887 he founded the Orange County Nursery which continues to operate today. According to company president Robert Veyna, 61, ownership of the nursery changed hands at least twice before the 1930's when Veyna's grandfather--an employee and Mexican immigrant named Margarito-- purchased the business. Now located in Ventura County, the nursery is still family owned and continues to supply the landscaping industry in California and the Southwest.
|Courtesy of Robert Veyna|
|Photo of nursery circa 1920|
Like Bushala, Schumacher was said to have taken a keen interest in the future of Fullerton, buying property and building houses around the city. His largest project was built in the 200 block of Spadra Rd., now (Harbor) across the street from his notary business. The building, with its handsome grey stone facade stands today, houses a salon in its lower level and apartment units upstairs. The upper level is where Schumacher kept his own residence and tragically met his demise at the age of 90.
Ghosts of the Past
On the morning of August 22, 1933, after returning from a shopping errand, his wife Julia found him dead in their bedroom. His death certificate said he was found hanging from a door, the victim of suicide. The Tribune said Schumacher had been suffering from ill health and left no note. He was buried in Loma Vista Cemetery on Bastanchury Rd.
|Courtesy of the Fullerton Public Library|
Recently the Schumacher building has been featured as a stop along the Fullerton Museum's annual haunted walking tour. Rumors abound of his ghost being sighted in the area.
Bushala says he spent eight years restoring Schumacher's old notary building and making it inhabitable for new tenants. His hope was to find someone who would appreciate the building's historical value. While we may know little about Schumacher, it's clear his life's blood was making things grow--first in the soil, then across the city of Fullerton. It seems the thought of facing advanced age, unable to ply his trade, may have been a prospect too overwhelming.
But as this story demonstrates, even old forgotten things have worth. Bushala says the notary building will have a new tenant beginning April 1. Maybe one night Schumacher's ghost will stroll down Harbor and see a light glowing in the window, and feel a little pride.