William T. Glassell

Early Life


William T. Glassell was born January 15, 1831 in Culpepper County, Virginia. He was appointed a midshipman in the U.S. Navy from the state of Alabama (March 15, 1848). When he was still a midshipman, his ship, the St. Laurence was sent to the World's Fair in London. Lady Byron, widow of the famous lord, visited the ship and invited only Glassell to dine with her the next evening. He accepted and "had a very pleasant interview."

Promoted to lieutenant in 1855, he was aboard USS Hartford off China when the Civil War broke out. When Hartford reached Philadelphia, Glassell declined to swear an additional oath of allegiance prescribed for Southerners, and was consequently imprisoned at Fort Warren and dropped from the U.S. service (December 6, 1861). Confederate authorities issued him a lieutenant's commission, arranged his exchange, and assigned him to CSS Chicora in the Charleston Squadron
William T. Glassell

Army Experience


Glassell commanded his ship's forward division during the squadron's attack on the Union blockade (January 31, 1863). Intrigued by the army's experiments with torpedoes and mines, he requested and received assignment to a special command training to attack the blockading fleet's monitors.

On the night of October 5, 1863, Glassell and a crew of three in the diminutive torpedo boat David attacked the most powerful ship in the U.S. navy, New Ironsides. The Confederates rammed a spar torpedo against the ironclad six feet beneath the waterline. The explosion threw a geyser of water over David, extinguishing its fires and leaving it immobile in a hail of small-arms fire. The Confederates abandoned ship. The pilot and fireman soon reboarded the drifting boat, relit the fire, and reached the safety of Charleston Harbor. Glassell, however, was captured and returned to Fort Warren. New Ironsides, initially thought undamaged, was leaking so badly that repairs kept it out of action until the last months of 1864.

Glassell, while in prison, was promoted to commander for his attack on New Ironsides. Exchanged in the last six months of the war, he returned to Charleston. On the evacuation of that city he was transferred to Richmond and assigned to command the ironclad Fredricksburg in the James River Squadron. With Richmond's evacuation, the squadron's personnel were reorganized as artillery and infantry, and Glassell commanded a regiment. He was paroled at Greensboro, North Carolina, on April 28, 1865.

Plotting Orange


The city of Orange was founded by attorneys Andrew Glassell and Alfred B. Chapman, who had participated in the partition of Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana and were active in similar lawsuits in other parts of the county. Glassell and Chapman employed the former's younger brother, Captain William T. Glassell to plot the town site.

Captain Glassell is reputed to have been a man of refinement. His health had been broken as a result of his experiences while in the Confederate Army, both by his hazardous undertaking, and subsequent capture and eighteen months in a northern military prison. It was the climate of Southern California that decided him to stay, when he came on a visit to Los Angeles, and help in developing the Richland Tract in the capacity of surveyor.

Captain Glassell surveyed the 600-acre section of land for his brother and Chapman in 1871. He divided the tract into 60 ten-acre lots surrounding a 40-acre town site, consisting of eight city blocks, each containing twenty building lots, which he called Richland, and served as sales agent for the property. In the center of the town eight lots were set aside for a plaza or city park. Around the town site land was laid out in ten-acre tracts, 600 acres. In 1872 the Richland subdivision was placed on the market. On the southwest corner of west Chapman and Plaza Square, a two-room batt-and-board house was built as a home and office for Captain Glassell. Captain Glassell acquired the irrigation ditch from the Santa Ana River, developed by the Yorba family during the Mexican days.

Glassell Family


In 1873, when a post office was sought it was discovered that there was a town in Sacramento County by the name of Richland. As an alternative, Orange was chosen, possibly as for the Glassell family's home county in Virginia.

William T. Glassell died in Los Angeles, California on January 28, 1879.