Early in 1876 Anaheim was visited by two Polish gentlemen, Henry Sienkiewicz and Jules Sypniewski. They were in search of a suitable location for a small colony of their countrymen who desired to settle in the land of freedom. The promoter of the enterprise was Karol Bozenta Chapowski whose wife was Madame Helena Modjeska, an eminent actress under life contract with the Imperial Theater of Warsaw.
Thirty-one year old Sienkiewicz had already shown great skill as a writer and was destined to literary immortality through his great novel, "Quo Vadis." Sypniewski had become a friend of Chapowski during their imprisonment in the Polish uprising of 1863. Both men were delighted with Anaheim and Sypniewski returned to Poland and enthusiastically described southern California as a veritable paradise.
Sienkiewicz remained on the coast, but sent glowing letters of encouragement. While awaiting the arrival of his friends, Sienkiewicz wrote articles for the Warsaw Gazeta Polska, loafed at Anaheim Landing and enjoyed a month in the Santa Ana Mountains. He witnessed the performance of a travelling French circus which inspired him to write "Orso", the love story of a circus strong man and a girl acrobat, with the plot laid in Anaheim.
In July the Chapowski's sailed for the new world with Madame Modjeska's son Rudolphe, their maid Anusia, the Sypniewski family and Lucian Paprocki, an amateur caricaturist and relative of Chapowski. Upon their arrival at San Francisco all of the colonists immediately went south except Madame Modjeska and her husband who tarried a few days to see Edwin Booth in the roles of Shylock and Marc Antony. When they arrived at Anaheim they were greeted by their friends who escorted them to a small house on west Center Street which Sypniewski had rented for them. Madame Modjeska was disappointed.
In her Memories, written thirty-seven years later, she said, "The commonplaceness of it all was painfully discouraging, and the front yard with its cypresses, shaggy grass and flower scattered at random, looked like a poorly kept graveyard. The only redeeming point was the view of the mountains of the Sierra Madre to the north and the Santa Ana Range to the east. But my disappointment was great, and I was on the point of exclaiming,'Oh, why do we not live in tents,' but feared to wound the feelings of Mr. Sypniewski who had chosen for us the farm and cottage which he thought cozy and pretty."
Shortly after his arrival in Anaheim Chapowski purchased a small ranch on State College Boulevard, but the colonists were ill suited for farm life. Madame Modjeska recalled, "Everything seemed to be a sad failure. We had several cows, but there was no one to milk them. .. We had chickens, but our fine dogs made a regular meal of the eggs. We had a vineyard which yielded beautiful muscat grapes but there was nobody to buy them... Our crop of barley was fast disappearing in the mouths of neighboring cattle, although I tried to shoot at them with my revolver." Homesickness seized the emigres.
In the midst of their discouragement the Chapowski's decided to visit their newly made friends, Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Pleasants, who lived in Santiago Canyon. After a delightful ride they arrived unannounced at the Pleasants ranch in the evening.
The Pleasants were not at home and as their house was small their Indian servant, "Tio" Ramon, guided the CMhapowski's to the larger house of Samuel and Lucius Shrewsbury who lived about a mile away. The hospitable brothers placed their home at the disposal of their guests and repaired to the barn to sleep.
Madame Modjeska marvelled at the excellent library these men possessed. In the morning the brothers appeared and prepared an ample breakfast of flapjacks, bacon, eggs and coffee. The Chapowski's were enamoured with the beautiful location of Shrewsbury's homestead.
Several years later they acquired it from Pleasants who in the meantime had purchased it from Samuel Shrewsbury. Madame Modjeska called the place "Arden" because, she explained, "like the Forest of Arden in 'As You Like lt,' everything that Shakespeare speaks of was on the spot,--oak trees, running brooks, palms, snakes, and even lions--of course California lions,--really pumas.
The Polish colony proved financially disastrous. Chlapowski spent more than $15,000 in the venture and Madame Modjeska was compelled to pawn some of her furs to borrow money. She resolved to resume her career on the stage and went to San Francisco where she employed a tutor to teach her English. Her ambition was realized and she became one of America's most distinguished actresses. Between seasons she lived at Arden in a home designed for her by Stanford White. She died at Bay Island in Newport Bay, on April 8, 1909. " Sienkiewicz returned to Poland.