28 September 2010

Carbon Canyon and Rancho Santa Ana del Chino: John S. Cravens

The final partner in the Chino Land and Company's second edition, created with the purchase of the 46,000-acre Rancho Santa Ana del Chino in 1904 and led by Edwin J. Marshall, was John S. Cravens, yet another bigwig in Los Angeles business circles.

Cravens was the youngest of the partners, born in the Westport area of Kansas City, Missouri in March 1871.  He was the son of well-to-do attorney and later judge, John K. Cravens (1838-1892) amd Frances Frame (1841-1905), both natives of Indiana who married there and produced their eldest son, James, in that state.  By 1870, the family had relocated to Kansas City where John S. and his sister were born.

After completing his studies at Kansas City High School in 1888, Cravens moved on to Yale University, where he was an athlete, musician and Glee Club member and completed his degree in Spring 1893.  While at New Haven, he met Illinois-born Mildred Myers, whose father was the co-founder in 1873 of the Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company and the two were married at the end of 1893.  The Liggett and Myers company's prime product was L&M plug tobacco for chewing and the firm became the largest maker of that item in the world.  The company, whose predecessor under the Liggett family had been involved in it, also moved into cigarette production during the 1880s.

Cravens entered the family business and, at a prodigal age, rose rapidly in its ranks.  After partner John Liggett died in 1897, an offer was tendered by James Duke (who endowed Duke University in North Carolina) and his American Tobacco Company to buy out the firm.  Cravens was directly involved in the negotiations which were completed two years later with a sale.  While Cravens took his profit from the sale and moved to Los Angeles in 1900, the death of his father-in-law a decade later led to a dissolution of the merger and Liggett and Myers was reconstituted.  The company became famous for its Chesterfield, L & M, and, in the 1970s, Eve women's brand of cigarettes.  Liggett, the fourth largest American tobacco firm, is a subsidiary of a larger company and is still based in North Carolina.

As for Cravens, his move to Los Angeles was brought about by his election as the second president of Southern California Edison, this at the age of 28.  After two years, he left the firm to assume the presidency of Southwestern National Bank of Los Angeles, which included E. J. Marshall as a director and which soon merged with two other banking firms, Los Angeles National and First National Bank of Los Angeles.  Cravens was for years the president of the new concern.  Among his other business interests was the presidency of the Asphalt Paper Pipe Company, a firm that developed an insulated conduit system for electrical wire and which merged with the American Fiber Conduit Company.  He was also a director of the Los Angeles Extension Company, which, in 1912, bought and developed 4,000 acres in the Westchester area of Los Angeles that included today's Los Angeles International Airport. He was also a director of Los Angeles Trust and Savings Bank.  Cravens was a developer of Jared Torrance's namesake town, as noted in an earlier post.  Finally, he remained a partner in the Chino Land and Water Company until at least the early 1920s.

Cravens also had the distinction of serving in Washington, D.C., as the Chief of Federal Agencies for the Counsel of National Defense, created during World War I and which office he held from October 1917 through April 1919.  He was also the chair of the Executive Committee of the Military Training Camp Association, which advised on the management of officer training schools.

In the philanthropic and club realms, Cravens was the president of Barlow Sanitarium, which also was well supported by fellow Chino ranch partners Torrance and Isaac Milbank, president of the Pasadena Horse Show Association, a trustee of the California Institute of Technology, and endowed the Cravens Cup at the Pasadena Country Club.  Notably, Cravens was also infamous in Pasadena for his proclivity for high-speed driving and his predilection for ignoring speeding tickets!

He and his wife (there were no children) moved to Pasadena upon arrival in the region and bought a large parcel at 1001 S. Orange Grove Avenue, at the southern end of the famed Millionaire's Row.  The English Tudor residence they purchased served as their home for a quarter-century, but was razed in favor of a massive 20,000 square foot French chateau mansion that cost a staggering $310,000 to build, with the home completed in 1927.  The Cravens may have been childless, but they had up to 32 servants, including a full contingent of gardening staff, at their lavish estate.  Mildred Myers Cravens died in 1943 and her husband followed three years later.

While some of the large estate grounds were sold off and subdivided, notably the frontage on Orange Grove, which now contains upscale condos, the house was purchased in 1962 to be the San Gabriel Valley chapter headquarters of the American Red Cross.  My wife and I were able to get corporate tickets, for the second time, to this year's Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts, an upscale home tour that benefits the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and other music-related programs.  We'd attended, in 1997, a tour of the home that was used in the Batman TV series in the 1960s.  This year, however, it was the Cravens house, which was, as per usual with this event, decked out in extravagant room makeovers by local designers of note.  For more on the home as the Showcase venue this year, see


The above photograph, taken in late June, shows the grounds of Boys Republic, the historic location of the Rancho Santa del Chino adobe house built by Antonio Maria Lugo.  You'd be hard pressed to find anywhere in this area that looks this frozen in time!

26 September 2010

Carbon Canyon and Rancho Santa Ana del Chino: Edwin T. Earl

Yet another consummate and highly connected businessman invested in the Chino Land and Water Company when it was purchased in 1905 by Edwin J. Marshall and associated was Edwin Tobias Earl.  The only California native of the company's principals, Earl was born in Antelope near Red Bluff in the northern part of the state in May 1858.  His father Josiah was another of the argonauts who came to seek their fortunes in the 1849 Gold Rush, traveling from Indiana to New Orleans and then to the coast.  Rather than dig for gold, he became a freight hauler and spent a couple of years in Los Angeles and then was in Stockton and in Sonoma County.  Josiah married Adelia Chaffee, a native of Sandusky, Ohio who came overland to California in 1852 and whose brother was briefly a business partner of Josiah,

Josiah, who considered himself a physician by avocation, went to the Red Bluff area to farm, specializing in fruit orchards and ran a lumber business.  Two sons were born to the family, Edwin and Guy, the latter becoming a successful San Francisco attorney.  In the 1860s, the family moved to the silver mining boom town of Virginia City, Nevada and then to Independence, the seat of the small eastern California county of Inyo, where fruit farming and mining (more silver was found at nearby Cerro Gordo) continued to be the occupation of the Earls.

In 1872, after a massive earthquake rocked Independence and destroyed the family home and most of their possessions, the Earls relocated to Oakland with Josiah reestablishing himself as a merchant and his sons having better access to education.  At age 18, however, Edwin went into the shipping of fruit to the eastern United States and quickly became a success and something of a prodigy.  He started by shipping deciduous fruits from Lodi in central California to the east and specialized in this during the decade from 1876 to 1886.  He then became one of the earliest forwarding merchants to send oranges from southern California on the newly-completed direct transcontinental railroad (the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe route, specifically), with the first shipment leaving from the orange boom town of Riverside in early 1886.  The following year, he created the Earl Fruit Company to manage the handling of oranges for transport.  Meantime, his father sought a business enterprise in Australia but died shortly after arrival there in 1884.  Adelia Chaffee Earl died eight years later.

There was, however, an important inhibitor to the success of orange exports long distance: the tendency of the fruit to either freeze with existing ventilated box cars or to be lacking in ventilation in all-refrigerated cars.  Earl's solution, developed in 1890, when he was but 32 years old, was the C.F.X. ventilator-refrigerator car, used by the Continental Fruit Express company, which Earl formed to handle fruit shipments by the specific car he developed (rather than through his existing fruit company, which he intended to manage the ventilator-refrigerator car business.)  After a decade, Earl was bought out by Chicago's mighty food-producing giant, Armour and Company, for some $2.5 million.

Edwin Tobias Earl (1858-1919) was an investor in the
Chino Land and Water Company from 1905.

Earl almost immediately took some of his fortune and bought the Los Angeles Express, a newspaper of about thirty years' operation in the city, and he joined the ranks of powerful publishers in Los Angeles like Harrison Gray Otis and Harry Chandler of the Times and William Randolph Hearst of the Examiner (later the Herald-Examiner.)

Married to Emily Jarvis in 1884 with the couple having four children, Earl was a long-time resident of Wilshire Boulevard in the exclusive neighborhoods of west Los Angeles (his home was an early meeting place for the California Art Club, a noted arts organization started in the late 1920s).  He also bought a large ranch in today's La Cañada Flintridge that he called Alta Canyada.  This was later subdivided by Earl's son, Jarvis, who, in 1927, built a home intended as a model for the upscale residences he intended to bring to the community and which still stands today. 

He was also an investor, along with such notables as Harrison Gray Otis of the Times, Moses Sherman (Sherman Oaks developer), Leslie Brand (Title Guaranty and Trust Company executive and Glendale's Brand Library namesake), and railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington, in the San Fernando Mission Land Company, incorporated in 1905 (the year of the Chino ranch purchase) and which benefitted by the completion of the Los Angeles Aqueduct eight years later.  It was widely claimed that, because Sherman was a member of the Los Angeles Board of Water Commissioners, there was inside information he passed on to his associates so they could buy the land cheap before word of the aqueduct project became public and sell dear for a $5 million profit.

Earl, who considered himself a progressive Republican who was a major presence in Los Angeles politics, died in his Los Angeles home on 2 January 1919, at age 60.  His brother's son, Guy, Jr., took over ownership of the Los Angeles Express newspaper and also was owner of the early area radio station, KNX, still operating as an AM news station nearly 90 years later.  Guy Earl, Jr. sold the Express to William Randolph Hearst and the radio station to the Columbia Broadcasting System (it remains a CBS affiliate).

23 September 2010

Carbon Canyon and Rancho Santa Ana del Chino: Isaac Milbank

Amongst the high-powered syndicate led by Edwin Jessop Marshall that purchased the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino in 1905 and took over the Chino Land and Water Company was Isaac Milbank, another notable character with an interesting history.

Milbank was born in June 1864 in Fairfield, Connecticut, a city on the coast just northeast of New York City.  His father, Isaac, Sr. was a New York City-born merchant, who then followed that trade in Fairfield and also was a farmer and inventor.  In this latter capacity, he was responsible for the first version of a swinging block mechanism that provided more accuracy for the firing of rifles and for a zinc oxide manufacturing method that was used for breech loading firearms.  He also developed a type of gun cartridge, invented explosive compounds, and created a fertilizing and seeding machine.  The elder Milbank expanded his enterprises to include serving as a director of the Fire Insurance Company of New York.  Milbank's mother was Mary Nichols, whose father was a Fairfield-area farmer.

Milbank graduated from Yale Business College at New Haven and went to work for the New York Condensed Milk Company, which was founded by Gail Borden and Milbank's uncle, Jeremiah, younger brother of Issac, Sr. and with whom he had been in the mercantile business in New York.  Borden invented the condensed milk process in 1856 and struggled to develop a successful manufacturing model during the ensuing financial panic of 1857 when he met Jeremiah Milbank on a train, explained the process, and inspired the latter to take on a 50-50 partnership.  The two men formed the New York Condensed Milk Company and found, as so many manufacturers do, that war can be a financial boon.  In this case, condensed milk proved to be an important battlefield food item and boosted the company into immense prosperity.

When Issac Milbank, Jr, finished his studies at Yale and entered the business, he also married into the family as his wife Virginia Johnson was a Borden through her mother.  In addition, Isaac rose to be Vice-President and General Manager and, in 1899, helped in the renaming of the company to the Borden Condensed Milk Company.  As with so many other Easterners, whether through overwork, illness, or both, Milbank retired from the company and migrated to Los Angeles, almost immediately making business connections, including the one that led him into the Chino ranch syndicate.

Milbank was a director, with E. J. Marshall, of the Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company; a director of California Delta Farms, Inc., which owned land near Stockton; a director of the German American Savings Bank, along with Edwin T. Earl, another Chino ranch partner; and a director of the Union Oil Company.  With the latter, Milbank's financial wherewithal led him to be recruited to beat back an effort by Dutch-owned Shell Oil to take over the firm with Milbank leading the charge by recruiting New York investors.  In March 1922, Milbank raised enough capital from investors to fend off the Shell challenge.  Finally, Milbank and his wife lost their elder son, Laurence, to tuberculosis not long after arriving in Los Angeles and endowed a building at the Barlow Sanitarium at Elysian Park, a facility with which Jared S. Torrance, a Chino Land and Water Company investor, was also involved.  The Milbanks also had a second son, Lee, and a daughter, Phila.

In addition to the 1905 investment at Chino, Milbank founded a syndicate that bought a little under 300 acres, some 220 owned by the Los Angeles Country Club and redeveloped the golf course into the Country Club Park subdivision, an exclusive residential community between Crenshaw Blvd., Western Ave., Olympic Blvd. and Pico Blvd., a few miles west of downtown Los Angeles.  In 1913, Milbank hired architect G. Lawrence Stimson, son of developer George W. Stimson, to build a palatial residence inspired by the home Stimson had designed for the Wrigley chewing gum magnates in Pasadena (now the Tournament of Roses headquarters on Orange Grove Avenue).  The Milbank residence was retained by the family until 1976 and still stands, often being used for film and television shoots.  Milbank also built, in 1911, a summer home at the edge of Santa Monica adjacent to Pacific Palisades that is a city landmark, renowned for its Craftsman architecture, and which is still in family hands.

Milbank's delicate health and the vigorous effort he put into saving the Union Oil Company from a hostile takeover appears to have led to his early death in August 1922 at the age of 58.

21 September 2010

Carbon Canyon and Rancho Santa Ana del Chino: Jared S. Torrance

A fellow investor in Edwin Jessop Marshall's purchase in 1905 of the Chino Land and Water Company was long-time business associate Jared Sidney Torrance.  Torrance was born in August 1852 in Gowanda, New York, south of Buffalo.  His father, Cyrenus, was an attorney there and in nearby Collins.  Torrance was a lumber dealer in his hometown, but, during the great Boom of the Eighties, which took place in 1886-88 in southern California, Torrance migrated west and settled in Pasadena.  He worked, naturally, in the burgeoning real estate business, and, although the boom went bust by 1890, Torrance seemed to have been a success in the industry and quickly turned his attentions to other financial endeavors, becoming the classic capitalist.

Over the succeeding years he became involved in a wide array of business enterprises.  In 1897, he took over the ambitious but overextended Mount Lowe Railway, a famous funicular railway that climbed the San Gabriel Mountains above Altadena and took tourists on a thrilling ride that included steep inclines and carefully-engineered horseshoe turns.  Hotels, restaurants, view points, footpaths and bridges to waterfalls and other delights were included in the vision of its founder, Thaddeus Lowe.  Financially, however, the project was too much for Lowe and Torrance took over the project.  He made some improvements and then sold the franchise.  After 1902, the Pacific Electric Railway, owned by Henry E. Huntington, took over Mount Lowe and made it a major tourist destination, fulfilling Lowe's vision.

Torrance was an investor, director and/or officer with such projects as the Ventura Water, Light and Power Company (1901); Union Oil Company (along with Edwin Earl of the Chino Land and Water Company); the Union Annex Oil Company (1903); Home Telephone Company of San Francisco (1905); Fontana Land and Water Company (with E. J. Marshall of Chino, 1910); the Barlow Sanitarium, which still operates at Elysian Park near Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles; and the Montana Farming Corporation (1918), which included banker (and son of the famed financier) J. P. Morgan, Jr. as an investor in Indian reservation farm lands in Montana and Wyoming.  As mentioned in the last post on Marshall, it was Torrance who induced Marshall to buy the Santa Barbara County ranches that included Jesus Maria, long held by Marshall and his family.

Torrance, in 1910, formed a syndicate that, included John S. Cravens (also involved at Chino), W. J. Barlow (founder of the aforementioned sanitarium), and others, and created the Dominguez Land Company.  The Rancho San Pedro had been owned by the Dominguez family for decades, but, after 1900, was in the process of being divided amongst the daughters of the family, who were known by their married surnames of Carson and Del Amo.  Torrance and his fellow investors acquired about 2800 acres from one of the heirs and a little over 700 from the other for about $1.2 million and set about creating a planned industrial city unique to its time.  Torrance was the prime mover in the project and brought in famed urban planner Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., whose namesake father had designed New York's Central Park in addition to many other notable landscape features.  Olmsted, in turn, brought in Lloyd Wright, son of noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright, to design landscape elements and Irving J. Gill, a well-known residential architect, to design commercial and civic buildings.  Torrance pushed to have the new town called Dominguez in honor of the original ranch-owning family, but the post office already had a Dominguez station nearby.  After other considerations, including the mundane "Industrial, California," other stakeholders pushed, despite its founder's objections, to name the place Torrance.  In 1912, the community began development and it was incorporated in 1921.

Jared Torrance never lived in Torrance and, instead, lived in Pasadena and then South Pasadena, where his imposing Tudor-style mansion still stands.  He married late in life, had no children and died in 1921, remembered mainly for the founding of his namesake city, but should also be locally recalled as one of the many prominent persons involved in the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.

20 September 2010

Carbon Canyon and Rancho Santa Ana del Chino: Chino Land and Water Company 2.0

The 1900 purchase of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino by San Francisco investors, headed by Phoebe Apperson Hearst, mother of famed publisher (and Citizen Kane inspiration) William Randolph Hearst, led to the creation of the first version of the Chino Land and Water Company.  While some work was done to develop the ranch in succeeding years, the company found willing buyers from the Los Angeles area.  In 1905, the acquisition was finalized and a second version of the company was inaugurated.

The new Chino Land and Water Company had aggressively marketed the ranch, sold off significant sections of it and, more importantly, further developed the townsite of Chino, which was created by former owner Richard Gird back in 1887.  The growth of Chino was so market that, despite the economic downturn brought about by the Depression of 1907, the community decided to incorporate.  In 1910, the effort was successful.  The subsequent history of the town is being well-covered by Allen McCombs, publisher emeritus of the Chino Champion and historian of the city, in the newspaper's ongoing commemoration of the centennial of the incorporation.

The new owners of the Chino rancho were led by Edwin Jessop Marshall, whose name graces a Chino elementary school, but who is, otherwise, virually unknown by local residents today.  Yet, he was a fascinating individual as were many of his investing associates.

Marshall was born in March 1860 at Dulaney Valley, Maryland, just north of Baltimore and an area that was flooded to create a reservoir to serve the burgeoning population of the area.  His mother Amanda Jessop was from that valley.  His father Henry was descended from an old Quaker family of Chester County, Pennsylvania, just southwest of Philadelphia.  By 1850, Henry was working as a druggist for the Sharp and Doane firm in Baltimore, and married Amanda Jessop seven years later with the couple having seven children.  The family remained in Maryland for only a short time and then migrated to Olney, Illinois, a small town in the southern part of the state directly east of St. Louis and just west of the Indiana border.

In a later biographical sketch for a Los Angeles history, Marshall stated that, due to an uncle's strong suggestion that E. J. not attend the West Point academy he decided to strike out on his own at fifteen years of age and that he ventured to St. Louis to work as a railroad clerk.  That may well have been the case, but Marshall also did not want to publicly air a painful truth.  His father worked as a bank clerk and in 1877 was fired by his employer, the First National Bank of Olney, because of illicit exchanges of bank notes involving land trades in Richland County, in which Olney is located, and in Florida.  Henry Marshall was then indicted and convicted for his role in these activities and, in 1880, was listed as prisoner #1683 at the Illinois State Prison at Joliet.  The 52-year old convict listed his profession as a bank cashier, but his career was ruined.  Amanda Marshall died a few years later and, upon his release from prison, Henry Marshall remarried and lived until 1909.

Naturally, E. J. did not want to let on about his father's indiscretions, but it is likely that the disgrace forced the young man to abandon thoughts of a military career or higher education.  According to his biography, Marshall went to work for the Central Pacific Railroad at Atchison, Kansas.  After an illness forced him to leave his job, he went to work for the Pullman Palace Car Company, which made the famous railroad sleeping and dining cars used across the U. S.  He then landed a job with a regional railroad, working as secretary to the General Manager for two years, until the line was absorbed into the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (known simply as the Santa Fe.)  Marshall eventually lost his job in the shake-up.

Meanwhile, with $2000 in savings, the young man bought a ranch in Lampasas, Texas, roughly between San Antonio and Dallas (and near Killeen, founded by the railroad general manager Marshall worked for previously) and tried sheep ranching, but then followed his father's footsteps and became cashier at the First National Bank of Lampasas.  This was Marshall's first major calling, as he remained with the bank seventeen years and rose to be its president.  He also made his ranch profitable, but his big boon came in 1900.

Marshall was superintending the driving of 2,000 head of cattle to Oklahoma when news broke of the discovery of oil in the Beaumont field, east of Houston.  While land was quickly snapped up by investors, Marshall joined a syndicate with four other men and took an option on fifteen acres.  The craze was so strong that the group was able to sell half the land for $300,000 profit in a month.  In short order, the syndicate found that more capital was needed to build the infrastructure for oil prospecting on the land and brought in new investors from New York.  This led to the creation of the Texas Company, known commonly as Texaco, now one of the biggest multinational oil companies in the world, and Marshall, who had arranged the early financing of the first syndicate, served as the company's first treasurer.

Edwin Jessop Marshall (1860-1937) was the prime mover
in the newly constituted Chino Land and Water Company in 1905

Marshall was first married in 1887, but his wife appeared to have died within a few years.  In 1892, he married Sallie McLemore of Galveston and their only child, Marcus, was born the following year.  The young man had health problems, probably related to lung troubles, and so Mrs. Marshall and Marcus went to California about 1900 and lived there for a few years, while E. J. organized Texaco.  Ironically, the Spindle Top area where Marshall and his fellow investors started proved to be a short-lived oil field, affected by over drilling in close proximity and the poisoning of wells by excessive salt water.  Marshall actually made much of his fortune on land speculation and sold out the last of his Texaco stock in 1906.

On New Year's Day 1904, he arrived in Los Angeles to rejoin his wife and son and had a job waiting for him: the vice-presidency of the Southwestern National Bank, which was soon consolidated with the First National Bank of Los Angeles and Marshall declined to work with the new bank.  In the meantime, he was interested in continuing his ranching enterprise and bought three Santa Barbara County ranches from Jared S. Torrance, a real estate magnate and founder of the South Bay city of that name.  One of these ranches, the 42,000-acre Jesus Maria, north of Santa Barbara, became part of Vandenburg Air Force Base.  This ranch contained thousands of head of cattle and had thousands of acres under cultivation, including a thousand leased to sugar beets.  This crop, of course, made Chino famous from the time Richard Gird introduced it there back in the 1880s.  Marshall was the main investor, along with Torrance, John S. Cravens, Issac Milbank and Edwin T. Earl in the 1904 acquisition of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, amounting to 46,000 acres.  Torrance and Marshall, about 1910, were also investors with A. B. Miller in the Fontana Land and Water Company, which had been controlled by the San Francisco Savings Union (which, in turn, had loaned the money to Richard Gird that included the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino as collateral.)

Marshall made other notable acquisitons, including one near the Grand Canyon, acquired for $250,000.  But, the most amazing was, undoubtedly, the Palomas, a conglomeration of some thirteen ranches along the border of New Mexico and the Mexican state of Chihuahua.  Totaling a staggering 2,270,000 acres, the Palomas became the largest ranch in the world.  His partners included Jed Torrance.  Marshall was also the president of the Sinaloa Land Company, which owned 1,500,000 non-contiguous acres in the Mexican state. 

At one time, Marshall, on his several ranches, had 100,000 cattle and 40,000 acres of farmland within his domain.  By 1913, he was a director of an astounding thirty companies, including several Los Angeles-based companies, including the Los Angeles Trust Company, First National Bank of Los Angeles, Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Company, and Home Telephone and Telegraph Company of Los Angeles.  He was also part-owner of three major office buildings in Los Angeles and a member of several of the city's most exclusive social clubs.

After arriving in Los Angeles, he lived in a neighborhood just west of downtown and then lived south of downtown.  Finally, he moved to the westside, living on Wilshire Boulevard and then relocated to Pasadena, where he resided until his death in May 1937.  Marshall had two siblings who also came to the region: his brother Nathan lived in Chino and died there in 1915 at age 47 and another brother, Frank, passed away in Bell at the age of 72 in 1942.

Notably, just within the last month, a granddaugther, Marcia Marshall Long, died.  She was the daughter of E.J.'s son Marcus and his second wife.  After Marcus Marshall, who was also associated in banking with his father, died in 1930, her mother remarried and Marcia Long grew up on the Jesus Maria rancho before it was requisitioned to the military in World War II.  She then married and moved to Minnesota, where she lived the rest of her life.

Upcoming posts will discuss Marshall's four fellow investors in the Chino Land and Water Company:  Torrance, Cravens, Milbank and Earl.

11 September 2010

Carbon Canyon and Rancho Santa Ana del Chino: Chino Land and Water Company

The 1890s was a tumultuous decade all around--war, depression, drought, labor unrest, Populism challenging the established social, political and economic order and it was certainly tough at the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.  Richard Gird, whose grand ambitions for the ranch and the town of Chino proved to be too rich for even his substantial resources, mortgaged the ranch to the San Francisco Savings Union for $525,000 and then was unable to extricate himself from the demands of that debt.

Gird tried twice to find buyers for the ranch, using the San Francisco realty firm of Easton, Eldridge and Company as managers, that would allow him to pay off the mortgage and still enable him to reassert control over much of it.  The first effort was in November 1894 with Chauncey H. Phillips of San Luis Obispo and the resulting Chino Ranch Company.  Within two years, however, the Phillips maneuver proved fruitless, so a British consortium was concocted through Easton, Eldridge and Company and, in 1896, the California Beet Sugar Estate and Land Company, Limited, took root.  Once again, however, the effort failed, though not for lack of trying.

Drought was undoubtedly a major problem.  The last half of the 1890s saw far below average rainfall levels almost every year, which was devastating for the beet sugar industry on which Chino was heavily dependent and the expected British migrant settlers did not materialize.  Consequently, a new effort was put forth under new ownership.

This involved one of the most famous families of the era.  Phoebe Apperson Hearst was the wife of George Hearst, who came to California during the Gold Rush and became partner in one of America's largest mining companies.  He also was a state assemblyman and then U. S. Senator for five years and purchased the San Francisco Examiner newspaper along with other business interests.  In 1864, during a devastating drought, George Hearst bought the sprawling Rancho San Simeon for a fraction of its formal value and raised cattle on it.  He died in 1891 in San Francisco, leaving his widow and only child, William Randolph, a substantial estate.  The son took the Examiner newspaper in 1887 and created the mighty Hearst news syndicate that included over 30 newspapers nationwide, including the Los Angeles Examiner, later the Herald-Examiner.  William Randolph Hearst also took over management of the San Simeon ranch and, in the 1920s, built his staggering Hearst Castle, now a state park.

This California State Historic Landmark plaque, commemorating the site of the adobe home at Rancho Santa del Chino, is located at the fire training station next to Boys Republic in Chino

Meantime, Phoebe Hearst took to her own business and philanthropic interests.  Chief among the latter were educational interests, among which was her very significant support of the University of California at Berkeley, of which she was a regent for over thirty years.

The 5 May 1900 issue of the Press and Horticulturist newspaper published in Riverside in a review of the Chino rancho noted that Mrs. Hearst bought the Gird mortgage from the San Francisco Savings Union and satisfied the holder of the debenture bonds taken out on the ranch, which happened to be Easton, Eldridge and Company.  With Mrs. Hearst's actions, a new company, the Chino Land and Water Company was incorporated and she became its largest investor.  The Chino Estate Company, a subsidiary, was created to liquidate the assets of the ranch and then was to go out of business once its affairs in selling off ranch land was completed.

The Chino Land and Water Company was set up with $1.5 million in stock issued in 15,000 shares at $100 par value each.  In addition to 37,500 acres of ranch land and the townsite of Chino, the company inherited the $200,000 water system created by Richard Gird, which drew water locally and from San Antonio Canyon above Claremont.  The water system was expanded by the CLWC and included fifteen water wells and two pumping plants, one completed in 1901 and the other two years later.  The other main stockholders included Jacob B. Reinstein, a San Francisco attorney who was one of the first dozen graduates of the University of California in 1873 and was one of the select Committee of Fifty appointed to oversee the rebuilding of San Francisco after the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906. 

The CLWC made some significant efforts to develop the ranch, including leasing some of it for grain production and fencing in some 8,000 acres at the east end to the Euclid Avenue boundary.  Once again, however, ownership was short-lived, but not necessarily because of any failures on the part of the company.  Indeed, great success was had in 1904 when an enterprising new buyer and a group of investors purchased the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.  This story comes next in the series.

The above photo, taken in late June, of the state historic landmark plaque for the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino adobe site is located in front of the training building and former fire station that sits outside the grounds of Boys Republic, where the adobe was actually located.

09 September 2010

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #5303

This one just happened within the last half-hour: a vintage (1960s?) Ford one-ton pickup, a hefty sucker, decided to make a U-turn westbound on Carbon Canyon Road heading down from Olinda Village. 

If he'd had a 4-cylinder subcompact and could have made it in one quick maneuver. so be it.  But, with that massive vehicle he had to do a left swing, reverse back toward the hill and then turn back onto the roadway.  I had to slow down on my approach eastbound and, fortunately, no one came barreling down the hill heading to the west.

This is a stretch of road with some gentle curves, no street lights, and it was 9:15 at night.  Brilliant. 

03 September 2010

On the Skids in Carbon Canyon #5238: A Large Truck Bypass Route?

Officialdom has probably not noticed, but there has been an increasing frequency (at least, IMHO) of large trucks using Carbon Canyon Road in recent months.  The majority of these are gravel or dirt trucks with double loads variety, with an awful lot of them rumbling eastward and then turning down Chino Hills Parkway, presumably headed for the 71 and then to the 91 to bypass that notoriously busy freeway.

There are, however, also eighteen wheelers and similar-sized vehicles using the road.  This despite the fact that, at least on the eastbound side of Carbon Canyon Road in Brea, there are signs warning that vehicles over 30 feet long are not advised (now there's a loaded term for you) to use the highway.

Good example:  this morning when a truck well over 30 feet long drove ahead of me on the road eastbound.  When we reached the S-curves at Carriage Hills and then descended down to Old Carbon Canyon Road, the back end of this truck went literally off the roadway on curves THREE SEPARATE TIMES.

Twice, when taking a curve the truck had to come to a complete stop and make other vehicles coming westbound do the same because it could not negotiate the turn.  The second time, on the curve just past the entrance to Summit Ranch, the truck nearly collided into a school bus (the one my kids usually take to school) heading out toward Sleepy Hollow.

This is clearly a dangerous situation.  No vehicle should be on Carbon Canyon Road if it cannot safely traverse the highway within the lines painted on the roadbed to keep vehicles on it AND certainly not if part of the vehicle actually has to leave the roadway (much less three times) AND absolutely not if opposing traffic has to stop to allow it to negotiate it AND totally not if it comes close to shearing off the side of a school bus that could have kids (including my own) in it.

Alas, I suspect that this concern will dissipate noiselessly into the ether.  Then again, maybe there will be a major crash that will occur and then suddenly someone will take notice. 

Just a little more than a week ago, a gravel truck came careening down the steep grade into Santa Barbara on State Highway 154, which was not designed for that type of heavy vehicle and pulverized a house at the bottom of an offramp killing a small boy and his parents.  A year or two back, an eighteen-wheeler lost control descending State Highway 2, also not built for that kind of vehicle, and blew threw a busy intersection, crashed into some commercial structures, and killed a few people in La Cañada-Flintridge.  There are probably other recent examples, as well.

The reason:  high speed by drivers trying to save time by taking "shortcuts" or "cutoffs" on roads not built for their use from busier, congested freeways, which were built to accomodate their vehicles.

Does anyone really think Carbon Canyon Road is immune from a devastating accident involving large trucks that could claim lives?

Meantime, if you're driving the highway, especially on the Chino Hills side S-curve and you see or hear a large truck heading your way, be forewarned, because no one in positions of leadership seems likely to do it for you.

They seem to prefer playing the percentages and betting against the odds.