08 February 2011

The Tonner Canyon and Carbon Canyon Connection, Part One

A previous entry on this blog (1 October 2009) discussed Tonner Canyon as adjacent to Carbon Canyon, which is, geographically speaking, true and also gave a little history.  Some poking around, however, has revealed that there are far more direct connections in terms of ownership of areas within the two canyons.  There will be a series of entries in coming days that will detail some of this history, especially concerning the Tres Hermanos Ranch in Tonner Canyon and the Columbia Oil Producing Company and Union Oil Company, which operated in Carbon Canyon as well as Brea Canyon and other areas.

Most of the focus will be on the notable characters who owned the Tres Hermanos Ranch and the larger parcel that included it and what became the Diamond Bar Ranch, precursor to the namesake city.  Some searching still needs to be done regarding the history of these areas prior to 1910, but, for now, it should be noted that these areas were, in the Spanish and Mexican-era rancho system, public lands, not subject to private ownership.  These common areas were to allow neighboring stock owners to graze their animals, such as Isaac Williams and his heirs at Rancho Santa Ana del Chino; Ygnacio Palomares, Ricardo Vejar and Louis Phillips on Rancho San José (Pomona); and John Rowland and his descendants on Rancho La Puente; among others.

In an 1877 map of southern California, these public areas appear to have largely or completely been purchased by two men named Butler and Beach, of whom more research needs to be done.  This also holds true for whoever else came along and owned these parcels prior to about 1910.  It was sometime around then that some 10,000 acres came into the hands of William Founder Fundenberg [there's a mouthful!], a native of Allegany, Maryland, who lived for years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania before coming to the southern California area sometime around or just after 1900.

Fundenberg came from an illustrious family of physicians and dentists in the Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia areas at a time when the professionalization of these disciplines was just underway.  His uncle, also Walter F. [Franklin] Fundenberg (1828-1908) was a graduate of the University of Maryland when it was located in Baltimore, receiving his degree in 1850, though in that year's census he was residing in Wheeling, West Virginia and was still a student along with James Hullihen, whose brother Samuel (married to Walter Franklin's sister Elizabeth) is known as the "Father of Oral Surgery" for his pioneering work in that field.  Shortly afterward he migrated to Pittsburgh where he operated a practice with a man named Depuy.  In 1852, Walter Franklin cofounded the Dental Association of Allegheny County, the sixth professional organization for dentistry in America.  During the Civil War he was a surgeon for two infantry divisions from Pennsylvania in the Union Army.  For several decades he continued his dental practice in Pittsburgh, eventually creating a firm with his three sons, before retiring before 1900 and moving to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he died in 1908.

Walter Forward was the son of George B. Funderberg (1811-1885) and Ximena Horton.  George was a physician who was not nearly as prominent as his younger brother, but seems to have made a decent living.  In 1850, George and Ximena were in Wheeling, West Virginia, living next to George's brother Walter Franklin, and with their three children, including 2-year old Walter Forward.  A decade later, the family was in Somerset, Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh and then moved again to Allegany, Maryland in the mountainous area of the northwest part of the state.  By 1870, the 21-year old Walter Forward had completed his education at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (founded in 1820 and still operating [!] near Gramercy Park in Manhattan) and was practicing medicine with his father and remained in that area for at least another decade.  In 1879, he was moving between Allegany and Keyser, West Virginia, a border town to the southwest.  There he advertised as an "oculist" and "aurist"--essentially an eye and ear specialist and was reported on in the local newspaper for his succcessful cataract surgeries.


A woman on horseback on the Tres Hermanos Ranch in Tonner Canyon, 16 September 1925.  The land was owned by Dr. Walter F. Fundenberg (1848-1928) during the 1910s before it was sold and became Tres Hermanos.  The original photo is blurry, unfortunately.  Courtesy: Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum.

By 1881, however, Walter Forward had relocated with his father and family to Pittsburgh, registered with the Pennsylvania Board of Health and opened his practice of medicine (he was known as an allopath, meaning standard medicine, as opposed to an osteopath) on Penn Avenue, a main thoroughfare in the city and where his uncle and cousins also operated their dentistry.  He remained there for some two decades.  In 1895, he married a woman, Agnes, who had a child from a previous marriage, though the couple were themselves childless.

It is unclear what brought Walter Forward to southern California after 1900, but, by 1910, he was operating an orange grove and living on Victoria Avenue in Riverside, one of the main centers of the region's citrus industry.  Notably, his neighbor was Hiram Dupuy, who had practiced dentistry with Walter's namesake uncle and cousins back in Pittsburgh.  It was presumably around this time that Walter Fundenberg purchased 10,000 acres of the former public lands mentioned above and, in 1912, he acquired another 1,000 acres in what is now northeast San Dimas for more orange growing.

Fundenberg's ownership of the Tonner Canyon/Diamond Bar area land may have been for investment.  The national depression of 1907 had eased and there was another land and development boom enveloping the Los Angeles region after 1910.  It is worth noting that huge tracts in the eastern San Gabriel Valley were being sold and developed after the 1909 death of "Lucky" Baldwin, a land baron who had held tens of thousands of acres from Arcadia to La Puente.  By 1910, the townsite of Chino was able to incorporate as the economy improved and farming and land sales were on the rise.  Finally, the discovery of oil in the general area, which started in the Puente Hills in 1885 and continued with the Olinda field in 1897, was leading to oil speculation nearby.

Why Fundenberg sold his holdings within a decade or so is not known, but, in 1918, he transferred some 7,500 acres in Los Angeles County to Frederick E. Lewis, who created the Diamond Bar Ranch.  This ranch remained intact until it was sold and subdivided in the post-World War II years.  Meantime, the remaining 2,500 acres, some 800 in Los Angeles County and the remainder in San Bernardino County, was purchased (either in 1914 or 1918) by three well-connected businessmen from Los Angeles who called themselves the Tres Hermanos, or "Three Brothers."  More on them in upcoming posts.

As to Fundenberg, he had moved to Pasadena sometime in the 1910s (a younger brother, George, also came out to Pasadena from the East to practice medicine) and then out to Covina, where he secured his state medical license in 1922, though within a couple of years the Great Register of Voters listed him as retired.  If this was so, it didn't last long, as he returned to Pasadena and his medical practice.  He was in Pasadena living at Los Robles Avenue near Colorado Boulevard when he died on 18 March 1928 at the age of 79.

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