History

Established in the late 1800’s as a rough-and-tumble mining town, Acton is today the home of city folk who want a little country life. When Henry T. Gage, owner of Acton’s Governor Mine and Red Rover Mine, was governor of California from 1899 to 1903, he tried to relocate the state capital to Acton. Even news of a possible oil boom in 1900 couldn’t budge Gage’s opponents. The capitol stayed in Sacramento.

Around 1860, When news got out that gold was discovered in Soledad Canyon, the gold rush was on. A number of miners, arrived in Soledad Canyon and set up various mining camps near the canyon’s rich veins of silver and copper. A conglomeration of log cabins and tents moved up and down the canyon with each new strike. Called “Soledad City” wherever it was plunked down, it provided such basic needs as faro tables, rye whiskey and ladies of the evening. A portable grocery was operated by James O’Reilly, a flaming-haired Irishman of medium build, pug nose, and happy-go-lucky air about him.

It wasn’t long before a post office was needed, the U.S. Postal Service rejected the name “Soledad City” out of fear that it would be confused with the city of Soledad in Monterey County. O’Reilly suggested the name “Ravenna” in honor of the local merchant and saloon keeper, Manuel Ravenna. The name became official on June 12, 1868.

Ravenna became a shipping point from which the canyon’s gold, silver and copper ores were hauled off to the port at San Pedro. Freight wagons drawn by oxen or mules were used at first, then gave way to rail cars after the first steam locomotives chugged through the canyon in 1876.

When the railroad came through Soledad Canyon , most of the large mines were inactive. Ravenna became a ghost town as miners moved up canyon to the new railroad siding where Acton now stands. Acton was reportedly chosen as the name of the community by a miner from Acton, Massachusetts.

Completion of the railroad brought families, and change to Acton. From rough and rugged, Acton became a quiet place to build homes and raise families. A more genteel way of life came to the town. A building boom hit Acton in 1885 as homesteading families and businessmen arrived. Businesses included farms, ranches, apiarists, hotels, stores, a brick-making kiln, a rock crusher and a paper mill.

With a need for a place to live and stay in Acton, a two-story brick building built by Bruno Nickel in 1889 served as a hotel/boarding house until 1897. It was constructed of red brick on the northwest corner of Smith Avenue and 4th Street (now Crown Valley Road). Residents rescued some bricks from this historic building which were used in a monument at the Acton Community Center dedicated on July 4, 1994.

Rudolph Eugene Nickel, who later became known as the "Father of Acton", came to town in October of 1887 and by December, his application for a post office was approved and plans were made for his home, a general store and post office. In 1895, he built a new home and the two-story home and store was converted into the Hotel Acton, a lavish, Victorian structure with a loft. The hotel opened in 1897 and prospered until 1926. It was a private home until 1942 when it again became the Hotel Acton, which burned on October 19, 1945, under mysterious circumstances.

Acton's original schoolhouse, known as the "Little White School," was built in 1881 and was used until the brick "Soledad School" was built in 1890 at the west end of Cory Street. It’s now used as a private residence.

The first two-story house was built by R.E. Nickel on the northwest corner of Cory Street and Crown Valley Road. Nickel also built a store on the side of the house and sold general merchandise, miners supplies, hardware, groceries. dry goods, boots, shoes, drug and confectioneries. During an 1891 camping trip to Mt. Gleason, 17 year old Lou Henry Hoover (later to become President Herbert Hoover's wife), stopped in Acton and posed for a photo on a burro outside the store.

The first saloon, the ’49er, and a livery stable next door, was opened in 1889 by Gustav Kruger. The saloon is still open, although it has been enlarged to include a restaurant.

Today, most residents commute to the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles. The few farmers remaining in the area come to town for supplies and some stop in at the “’49er” for a cool drink and leisurely lunch.

Nestled in a mountain valley, Acton enjoys four distinct seasons. Every winter, morning winds peel away clouds to reveal fresh snow deposited on the mountaintops during the night. Snow storms drop two to four inches of snow about four times a year. Spring and autumn brings the colorful canyons to life and summer temperatures range between the 80’s to the low 100’s.

THE OLD WEST....IT’S ALIVE AND WELL IN ACTON