"I will give you a little story of two Christmas days in Los Angeles. One the first of these Christmas days, I have reason to believe, was held the first Christmas tree ever prepared in Southern California. In 1857 Los Angeles could boast of but a limited residence section. The plaza formed the center of the city. North of it were the adobe homes of the native Californian population, while south of it were the few business houses of that date and the homes of the American residents. Los Angeles street marked the eastern boundary, and beyond large vineyards and orchards extended toward the Los Angeles river. First street, open only to Main, marked the southern limit of population, except, perhaps, a few homes just the other side of it.
On Main street, between First and Court, there was in those days a long row of adobe houses occupied by many of the best families of primitive Los Angeles. This neighborhood was often designated "the row", and many are the pleasant memories which yet linger in the minds and hearts of those who lived there in "good old days" and who still occasionally meet an old time friend and neighbor. In "the row" lived an Englishman and his wife-Carter by name. Their musical ability was often a source of great deligh to those about them, and they possessed the faculty (well called happy) of bringing to a successful issue matters pertaining to the social entertainment of others. So it was that about the year 1857, when it was proposed that a union Christmas tree be prepared, Dr. Carter and his wife were prime movers in the affair.
Where not stands the McDonald block was the home of Dr. Carter, and it was there that many Los Angeles families enjoyed in common the gaily decorated tree which had been so lovingly prepared by the many willing hands of friendly neighbors. The childer were, of course, the honored guests, for the thought of the littles ones had incited the work of preparation.
Los Angeles, into which no railroad came, was in those days far away from the world, and the limited resources of the time would restrict even Santa Claus' possibilities. But on that Christmas eve no limitations were felt, for the true spirit of the Christmastime illuminated each and every heart. Dr. Carter officiated as Santa Claus, while music and songs, dancing and games and the pleasant chatter of friends completed the evening's festivities. That night the children of Los Angeles, than whom none of their successors are happier, did not retire until the wee small hours of Christmas day."
From: "Olden Time Holiday Festivities" by WH Workman, as found in the Publications of the Southern California Historical Society, Volume V, p. 23. Published 1901.