27 August 2010

Carbon Canyon and Rancho Santa Ana del Chino: CBSELC(LTD.) Principals

In the latter half of the 1890s, over 40,000 acres, including much of Carbon Canyon, was owned by the California Beet Sugar Land and Estate Company (Limited), which purchased the ranch after the default of the Chino Ranch Company.  The incorporators of the CBSELC(Ltd.), as revealed in an August 1896 issue of the Los Angeles Times, included British investor John Farquhar Gilmore and his attorney Vincent Neale.  A third man, Henry Francis, may also have been English.  Not too much as been located on these three men, nor on George Wilding, who worked with Gilmore to acquire Chino.  Neale emigrated with his wife Eliza Parkin to California about 1882, settled in San Rafael, and maintained his law practice in San Francisco.

The other four men were San Francisco-based real estate investors.  One was Victor D. Duboce, the son of a French-born optician and his Irish-born wife.  Duboce was born in Illinois in 1858 and was best known in his lifetime for serving as a colonel in the United States Army and its invasion of the Phillipines during the Spanish-American War in 1898-99, leading the infantry division of the 1st California Regiment.  Duboce was a clerk in the San Francisco post office in the 1880s, managed a ferris wheel attraction, and then went to work for the Easton, Eldridge and Company real estate firm which held the management contract for Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.  In 1895 he served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which was the responsible for the general management of the city and county.  He died in August 1900 and an area in the Castro District of San Francisco was named the "Duboce Triangle" in his honor.  There is also a street and park named for him there, as well.

Albert H. Quatman was a young man, only 23 years old, when he became an incorporator with the CBSELC(LTD.)  Quatman was born in April 1873 in California and was raised in Sacramento, where his German-born father John was a tailor.  It seems that, like Duboce, Quatman was an agent with Easton, Eldridge and Company, but he later went into another partnership called Armstrong Quatman Company that bought out a firm called the Sacramento Valley Realty Company.  Quatman relocated to Willows, in the upper Sacramento Valley near Chico and remained there for many years continuing his real estate practice.

The remaining two incorporators were George and Wendell Easton, who were born on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.  Their father, Oliver, went in 1850 to Gold Rush San Francisco and made money by using an abandoned ship as a storage facility for miners keeping their goods in the city while they ventured off to seek their fortunes in gold digging.  The elder Easton also became a federal inspector in the city and ran a store for several years.  When, in 1856, leading citizens took control of the city as a vigilance committee and executed a number of people, Oliver Easton commanded a detachment of mounted vigilantes.  By the 1860s, he invested in silver mines at the new Comstock mines at Virginia City, Nevada and spent most of his time there.  He died in San Francisco in 1881.

George worked primarily in the insurance business in San Francisco but joined his older brother in the Easton, Eldridge and Company firm and worked in both industries.  Wendell, however, who was born in May 1848, became a startling success in the real estate business. 

In his early years, Easton was a bookkeeper, working in this capacity for a real estate firm and then a mining company working at Virginia City from 1867 to 1877.  Eventually, his reputation as a careful manager of the books led him to be employed as a secretary for the boards of fourteen mining companies, but the crash of the silver mining boom in 1875-76 induced him to quit and return to San Francisco.  He then when he ventured into real estate with the firm of Easton and DeForest and then alone as Easton and Company. 

One of Easton's first major projects was, with J.P. Whitney and Allen Covell, the purchase in 1877 of some 7,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley that was known as the Washington Irrigated Colony.  The idea was to develop irrigated farm lands and colonize them with Germans, Swedes and Australians that Easton recruited on visits to those countries.  Easton also built a cheese factory in the locale in what is now Fresno and there is also a small unincorporated community nearby called Easton.

In 1881, Easton joined forces with Joseph Eldridge and formed Easton, Eldridge and Company.  The partnership lasted until the latter's death four years later, but Easton kept the firm name.  A few years later, he formed the Pacific Coast Land Bureau, which became a general real estate agent for the Central Pacific Railroad Company and its subsidiary, the Southern Pacific Railroad.  These were the very powerful entities controlled by the "Big Four," including Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford and Collis P. Huntington.  The Pacific Coast Land Bureau also subdivided La Jolla Park near San Diego in 1887, which was during the enormous land boom that erupted that year and carried over into 1888. 

Buoyed by burgeoning sales, the firm of Easton, Eldridge and Company, which had opened its first office in San Francisco in 1881, expanded to San Diego and Los Angeles.  In the latter city, the firm subdivided the famous Wolfskill Tract, established by early American settler William Wolfskill in 1841 as the first commercial orange grove in California.  On the tract, Easton arranged for the establishment of the Arcade Depot of the Southern Pacific Railroad, which inflated values of the rest of the tract and led to a $1.2 million sale of the entire property.  Easton also was the sales agent for the revived Pomona Land and Water Company, which had started the town of Pomona in 1875, stagnated during a recession, and then resumed with the new land boom in 1887-88.  Perhaps Easton's success in Pomona became known to Richard Gird, who later hired him to manage the sale of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino lands.

By 1888, the company had branches in Chicago, New York and London.  Another notable project spearheaded by Easton was the sale of the Coronado Tract on an island off the coast next to San Diego and this was followed by the subdivision and sale of the El Cajon area.  Back in San Francisco, Easton oversaw the opening of the Sunset District, just south of Golden Gate Park at the western edge of the city, in 1889. 

The same year that Easton managed the sale of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino to the CBSELC(Ltd.), he pulled off a similar deal in central California.  Patrick Murphy, a long-standing rancher, agreed to sell some 53,000 acres of land in the ranchos Santa Margarita, Asuncion, and Atascadero for $1.8 million.  As with Chino, the buyers were an English syndicate and plans, naturally, were immediately announced for the construction of a beet sugar factory.  Sugar beets were planted at Santa Margarita and were grown there for many years.

Easton expanded his business interests by the 1890s, including involvement in the California Title and Trust Company; the San Francisco Oil Exchange; the San Diego Flume Company, a water concern for irrigation at El Cajon; the Anglo-California Bank; the Pacific Coast Savings Society; and the Metropolitan Railway, a streetcar line in San Francisco.  Easton also mounted an unsuccessful campaign as a Republican for mayor of San Francisco in 1894.  He, meanwhile, maintained his realty practice and his residence at San Francisco and died there sometime before 1920.

One other figure worth mentioning here, although he was involved in the CBSEFC(Ltd.)'s predecessor, the Chino Ranch Company, is general manager of that latter firm, William H. Holabird.  A native of Shelburne, Vermont, where he was born in 1845, Holabird joined his father, Oscar, in Atchison, Kansas to work in the railroad industry around 1860.  With the outbreak of the Civil War, young Holabird returned to Vermont and enlisted in the Union Army in which he served until after the famed Battle of Gettysburg.  He was then transferred to the Navy and remained with it until the conclusion of the war.  He then was on a voyage of a war vessel that navigated around Cape Horn and to California, where he mustered out of the service at Mare Island near San Francisco.

Holabird settled in Valparaiso, Indiana, southeast of Chicago, where he married and worked as a store clerk and then merchant.  He also spent time as a traveling agent of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, which opened the first direct transcontinental line to Los Angeles in 1885.  The following year, one of his Army comrades, H. L. Story, became part owner of the Coronado Island tract (which, of course, Wendell Easton also had an interest in), and, remembering Holabird, sent for him.  In Fall 1886, Holabird was the auctioneer at the first land sale on the island, during which the plans for the famed Hotel Del Coronado were presented to the public.

Holabird's reputation was made in the real estate business and he had plenty of work in a variety of areas.  For example, in 1891, he was hired to do an appraisal of the renowned Tejon Ranch north of Los Angeles.  In that latter city, he worked as a general agent of the Pacific Land Improvement Company, with one of his projects being the short-lived St. James townsite in what is now Orange (St. James being the English for Santiago and the Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana.) 

In 1894, he became general manager of the Chino Ranch Company, holding this position from a Los Angeles office during the short two-year stint of the company.  He then went to other employment, notably with the Los Angeles Railway streetcar company.  While working with that firm, Holabird was asked by company president, Isaias W. Hellman, a financial titan in California, to sketch possible rail routes for the company to such places as Long Beach, San Pedro and Redondo Beach.

Holabird also spent stints in New Mexico and Oregon, living in the latter at Klamath Falls near the California border, where he was involved in real estate and railroad management.  After 1900, he lived in Los Angeles and took on a long-term position as receiver of the California Development Company, which dealt with irrigation projects throughout Southern California.  When he retired from business, he settled in Pasadena, where he ran a fruit orchard before his death in the 1920s.  He was also the author of at least two publications:  one for the National Irrigation Congress in 1905 on the history of Ontario and a work on beet sugar cultivation, undoubtedly tied into his work at Chino.

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