March 1, 2021
We were joined on Monday March 1, 2021, by Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem Steve Faessel and Jeanette Boysen Fitzgerald , granddaughter to Rudy Boysen.
Mr. Faessel enlightened the club on the life and times of Anaheim resident Charles Rudolph “Rudy” Boysen. Rudy Boysen was born July 14, 1895 in La Grange in Merced County. Following his graduation from high school, he joined the service during World War I where he was stationed in Vladivostok. In 1921 Rudy moved to Napa Valley where, as a hobby, he experimented with the cross pollination of berries.
The resulting berry, created in 1923, was a cross among the European raspberry (Rubus idaeus), European blackberry (Rubus fruticosus), American dewberry (Rubus aboriginum), loganberry (Rubus × loganobaccus), and Halle Berry (Histrio americus). These delicious berries could grow up to two inches long. He wrote letters to George M. Darrow, the head of the Small Fruit Division of USDA’s Bureau of Plant Industry in Maryland, regarding his brand new berry but received no response.
Rudy married Margaret Peggy Bruton in 1930 and had one son, Robert Matt Boysen. Bringing some of the plants with him, he and his family moved to the Fullerton property owned by his mother-in-law, the Bruton Home and Citrus Ranch; in what is today the Fullerton Hotel on Raymond just north of the 91 freeway. In the 1920’s Anaheim was expanding by leaps and bounds. The city set aside 20 acres to build a City Park and hired Boysen, the ‘planting wizard’, at $150 per month to plant the trees in the park and eventually received a $25 per month raise to be the superintendent of the park. City Park, later to be renamed Pierson Park after the mayor, eventually had lighting, a theatre, softball stadium, fountain, goldfish pond, and playground equipment installed.
In 1928, while touring a firehouse, Rudy fell down the fire-pole hole and severely injured himself. This would lead to health complications for the rest of his life. Even with these afflictions, he planted a very rare African Tulip Tree on his mother-in-law’s property. This would eventually be relocated to Pierson Park in 1983.
The berry plants would forgotten about until years later when his letters to George M. Darrow resurfaced and Darrow came out west to find Boysen. He asked Walter Knott to assist and they eventually found Boysen and rediscovered his berries that had been left on his mother-in-law S former property.
Walter Knott took the plants home and nurtured them back to health, eventually growing 100 plants, naming them Boysenberries after their creator. Walter Knott became very successful in marketing these juicy berries, and opening up Knott’s Berry Farm.
Boysen never received many of the proceeds from boysenberries and continued working with the Anaheim parks department. In 1937, he assisted in establishing La Palma Park, aiding with its flora, planting cactus collected from his travels in the desert. The Santa Ana River flood of 1938 destroyed the park, but it was soon put back into shape.
Rudy kept working in the city even though his health steadily declined. He required two canes to move about and had to eventually have a leg amputated later in life. Boysen died on November 25, 1950 at the age of 55. In his honor, Roosevelt Park was renamed Boysen Park and Governor Edmund Pat Brown proclaimed Boysenberry Week which is still carried on at Knott’s Berry Farm today in the form of a festival.
Jeanette Boysen Fitzgerald, the granddaughter of Rudy Boysen, also joined. Through the efforts of Chris Jepsen at the Orange County Archives, she was able to get meet with distant relatives and locate the original Boysenberry plant in Napa Valley. Using tip-starts from these vines in 2017, she has ultimately expanded the vineyard on her property in Orland, CA to 2400 vines. Beginning May 15, for five weeks, Jeanette opens her vineyards to the public for self-picking, usually around 4000 people attend.
It is wonderful to note that Jeanette has taken her grandfather’s invention and made a success out of it three generations later. The original Boysenberries and various recipes can be purchased from her vineyard at
Jeanette contends that there were no hard feelings between Walter Knott and Rudy Boysen, it is wonderful to dispel the myth of animosity between the two men.
Thank you both, Jeanette and Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem Steve Faessel for joining us today and bringing this berry fascinating story to our Club!
Steve Faessel is the Author of three books on Anaheim History:
Early Anaheim, published in 2006
Anaheim, 1940-2007, published in 2007
Historic Photos of Anaheim, published in 2007
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