In Fullerton, the surname Hiltscher is one of the oldest, one whose holders made their mark on the city in its earlier days. Patriarch August ran a farm off Orangethorpe Avenue; his sons operated the Center Meats butcher shop for decades. August Jr. was a Fullerton council member from 1913 through 1918 and has Hiltscher Park, a beautiful expanse of trails and trees, named after him. His son, Herman, served Fullerton for decades–as a planning commissioner, a city engineer and administrator, as well as in other positions. And Hiltscher Photography was a mainstay of the city for more than 40 years until very recently.
But the person we really care about is Herman.
Ol' Herm is probably most infamous in Fullerton's history for not being able to secure the Norton Simon Museum in Fullerton–you know, even though Simon ran the Hunt tomato cannery, one of the largest in the United States, within the city limits. But records show Hiltscher was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in Orange County at some point during the 1920s–records are unclear, but he does show up in the Klan's membership rolls as “H.A. Hiltscher,” then just a purchasing agent for the city.
Later in life, Hiltscher tried to justify the existence of the Klan in Fullerton by telling a chronicler that “one of the main objectives is to see that you have a good, clean city without corruption.” That, of course, is bullshit. Unlike the Klan in Anaheim, the Fullerton kluckers were adamantly anti-Mexican and did their damndest to harass the wabs who were making the city wealthy by picking all those crops. In 1919, more than 100 Fullerton residents (including August Hiltscher, Herman's dad) presented a petition to the Fullerton City Council demanding they force the Santa Fe Railroad to stop construction of housing for the company's Mexican workers in the city. The council asked the Santa Fe, and the company agreed on condition they get compensated for the money they had already spent. The council refused, so the construction went on despite a massive protest led in part by the Hiltschers.
Funniest part about the episode? The Hiltschers were Catholic–and one of the few documented hate crimes the Klan in Orange County committed during the 1920s was the burning of a cross in front of St. Boniface in Anaheim, the very church that some of the Hiltschers attended. Talk about self-hate. . . .
Part one of our weekly series exposing Orange County city fathers who were Klan members. Tune in every Monday at 5 p.m. for the latest entry!