The New Haven Seed Company
Orange County, California

The Haven Seed Co. was a family operated business throughout its life and as such, the corporate records cannot be understood completely without reference to the accompanying mélange of the personal and business papers of family members. The company existed in one form or another, in one place or another, and in the hands of one family member or another for 73 years as seen through the surviving records; outside sources, such as the Orange County directories in the Santa Ana History Room of the Santa Ana Public Library, indicate the addition of at least 10 years to that figure, but they tell nothing of the human involvement that was present.

In the beginning, the seed business was located in Bloomingdale, Michigan, and at first may have been called G. W. Haven and Sons as early as 1873, but no later than 1875. This name has been applied by the arranger to the earliest of the papers. It is derived from a letter sent in 1878 by Edwin M. Haven., one of the sons, stating that his new seed enterprise was the successor to his father's. Some years before, in the spring of 1875, young Edwin had spent some weeks in Rockford, Illinois observing the seed trade as operated by J. B. Root; on his return home, he stepped out on his own.

"Bloomingdale Seed Farms" founded in 1875 was, from the company point of view, the starting place of all that came later. It proposed to grow seed for retail customers as well as the wholesale seed merchants. In 1878 Edwin Haven married., and a number of his children were born before both company and family moved to South Haven, Michigan in March, 1891.

South Haven was a railroad and steamer terminus on the east shore of Lake Michigan. The Haven Seed Co. was incorporated here in 1893, and officers some friends, some family, some local business people - served it in various capacities until the fall of 1903. Both wholesale and retail aspects were continued and expanded. "Sales agents" were employed - sometimes family (most notably son Arch B. Haven), but a number of local people as well. The remaining children were born during these years; there came to be nine in all, and seven of these grew to adulthood.

Edwin M. HavenEarly in 1903 Edwin Haven started the wheels turning toward a rove of both seed company and family to the gentler climate of California. This was accomplished by late November of that year after travels that took him from Los Angeles to San Jose, Modesto, and finally to San Luis Obispo County. Once in this area, he settled on the town of Arroyo Grande as the location for the Haven Seed Co. of California formed on November 30, 1903. Local business men were willing to invest in its operations and serve on its board of directors. Son Arch was appointed vice president but stayed in South Haven until early 1904 to wind up affairs there. The new company proposed to grow seed for the wholesale trade only.

A severe disagreement developed in late 1904 between the Havens and the members of the board of directors. As a result, Arch Haven traveled north to Acampo, California (near Lodi) to make arrangements for relocation. The Haven Seed Co. of California was dissolved July 6, 1905, and both business and family became residents of the Lodi area after that time.

Starting over once again and with simply Edwin and Arch in control, the Haven Seed Co. continued its emphasis on growing for the wholesale trade only and moved toward tomato seed as a specialty. Various lands were leased for growing crops, and many workers (a number of Japanese) were employed. Despite all efforts however, by December, 1909 Arch was forced to declare bankruptcy.

Arch B. HavenLeaving Edwin in charge at Lodi, Arch Haven came south as far as the Santa Ana-Tustin area through the winter of 1909 - 1910 to look over the possibilities for the relocation of the company. Once in Orange County he made the acquaintance of C. E. Utt and other local people who became interested in the venture; by July 1910 the move was announced.

Hardly was the crop of 1910 a certainty than came the news of the illness of Edwin Haven's second son., Harris. The family left Lodi to divide itself between Banning to be near Harris and Tustin to oversee the seed business. Arch Haven and Lizzie Hattie Brown of Tustin were married in the summer of 1911; their first home was "a horse-drawn cook house" so that "they could move from place to place so that she could cook for the help." After Harris' death in January, 1912 the family was reunited in Tustin. The seed company had been given a Santa Ana address from the beginning.

Lawrence S. HavenEdwin Haven died September 15, 1917, and Arch Haven and his brother Lawrence carried on the seed business as president and secretary respectively. In 1918 a large seed warehouse was constructed by the J. S. Fluor Co. of Santa Ana on the southwest corner of Flower St. and Edinger Road within the city limits. A barn, designed by Arch, and other out-buildings together with equipment for cleaning and drying seeds adjoined the warehouse. Tomato seed was the specialty and was grown for the wholesale trade only.

After their early experience living in the horse-drawn Arch and Lizzie Haven resided in Tustin and also on the warehouse property at Flower and Edinger. Around 1928 they took their growing family to a leased house and property on the Rancho Santa Margarita in San Onofre in northern San Diego County. It was at this time that the Haven Seed Co. records were first packed into crates for storage. Lawrence and Robert Haven remained in Santa Ana, and the company affairs were handled by all three brothers for a number of years.

The latest seed company record in the collection is a time book dated 1944 to 1946. The Orange County directories available to researchers in the Santa Ana History Room of the Santa Ana Public Library indicate that sometime after 1940 Arch Haven was less connected with the seed business; that Lawrence Haven became president around 1947 and had several non-family partners; that he lived on or near the warehouse site from about 1933 to perhaps 1956; and that after 1955 the Haven Seed Co. no longer showed up in a separate listing.

The company records were moved to Oxnard to the ranch of A. B. Haven, Jr. in the early 1960s and fork-lifted into the barn. In the 1970s they were brought little by little to Orange County by Mr. Haven's step-son, Randy Ema. In 1978 he presented them to the Orange County Historical Society; they resided at the Society, Archives/Depository in the Special Collections section of the CSU Fullerton Library from 1978 to 1980. They are now in Orange County Historical Society's archive storage facility.[1]


  1.  "A biographical account of Edwin, Arch B., and Lawrence Haven with information concerning the Haven Seed Co.," 1921 edition of Samuel Armor's History of Orange County, California with Biographical Sketches, p843.

  2. "Why Tustin isn't the 'Tomato Seed Capital'," Juanita Lovret, Orange County Register


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