Put "Oneonta South Pasadena" on a Web search, and you'll find some interesting items. Oneonta Congregational Church and Oneonta Cooperative Nursery School are quickly found, and you'll see you're in California. A little bit further down, Oneonta Junction is in view.

There indeed is a connection the Oneonta of the Heartland of New York.

William Walrath was the secretary of the Oneonta Chamber of Commerce in 1920. Walrath received an interesting letter from the city clerk of South Pasadena, Calif., in April of that year. South Pasadena was a relatively new city near Los Angeles, considered to be that city's first suburb, and the clerk spoke about a section of the city called "Oneonta Park."

The clerk wondered what the origin of the name was, as well as the pronunciation. Was it O-ne-on-ta or On-e-on-ta?

Walrath knew who to go to for advice on the origin of the name. He spoke with Willard E. Yager, considered the local authority on American Indian matters.

Walrath also looked into Dudley Campbell's published history of Oneonta. Walrath offered the many interpretations of the name Oneonta, including "Where the Rocks Appear," "The Hills" and others.

According to The Oneonta Star, Walrath, "in replying to the communication, hastened to congratulate the California community on their adoption of the name and assured them that their namesake in the Susquehanna valley was pleased to stand as god-mother to the new residential section of South Pasadena."

The connection of Oneonta communities was brought about by Henry E. Huntington, a native of Oneonta who in the late 19th century had gone west to join his uncle, Collis P. Huntington, in the development of railroads in that and other parts of the U.S.

Collis Huntington was already in California in 1890 when he was elected president of the Southern Pacific Railway, with headquarters in San Francisco.

In 1892, Collis was putting together the Market Street Railway, and to help keep his eye on the Southern Pacific, he brought in the assistance of nephew Henry.

On the way to his new job, Henry had a stop over in Los Angeles and was awestruck by the surroundings and friendliness of the people.

Henry remained in San Francisco until 1900. That year his Uncle Collis, while vacationing at the family's remote lodge in Raquette Lake, N.Y., suddenly passed away.

Henry was not chosen as the next president of the Southern Pacific to succeed his uncle, but Collis left a nice fortune to his nephew in the will. Henry also sold his shares of Southern Pacific and decided to relocate in the Los Angeles area.

Los Angeles had a population of just above 102,000 at the time. Much of the early growth of the city and the areas around it can be attributed to the creation of an interurban railway system, the Pacific Electric Co., connecting about 50 communities in a large region. Henry got involved with the consolidation of nearly 100 individual transportation firms into the one corporation.

According to Selena A. Spurgeon's book, "Henry Edwards Huntington "" His Life and His Collections," it prompted Huntington to boast, "We will join this whole region into one big family." There was competition with the Southern Pacific as some tracks ran parallel to each other.

Huntington purchased a lot of property in beach areas where the rail lines were expanded. The population was rapidly growing and Huntington became the largest landowner and the largest taxpayer in Southern California.

Oneonta Junction was in South Pasadena, a growing community on the interurban rail system. Additionally, Huntington Palisades and Huntington Beach were named after Henry Huntington.

Huntington passed away in 1927 after years of enjoying his estate at San Marino, near Pasadena .

Next weekend: A record-breaking task was done in the D&H roundhouse in 1924.

City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or e-mail him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com.

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