08 March 2011

The Tonner Canyon and Carbon Canyon Connection, Part 5

Tres Hermanos Ranch, the 2,500-acre parcel in Tonner Canyon purchased by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler, former Los Angeles County Sheriff and oilman William R. Rowland, and oil executive William B. Scott, was generally a gentleman's ranch for the three.  Initially, there were some publicity afforded to the ranch when the "three brothers" were owners.

For example, in the 8 June 1919 edition of the Times, there was a rotogravure page of seven photos with very brief captions detailing "The Spring Rodeo on the Tres Hermanos Rancho."  The top image showed hundreds of cattle gathered during the roundup, others showed some of the vaqueros or cowboys who assisted in the proceedings, which were depicuted in the remainder of the images showing separation of animals and the lassoing and branding of calves.

A few months later, a short article in the same paper, headlined "Ranch Owners Entertain," appeared.  The 12 October piece noted that "a six-course dinner was served to a congenial group of guests . . . at Tres Hermanos Ranch," which it was observed, "is owned by William Rowland, W. B. Scott, and Harry Chandler, and located in the beautiful Puente hills near Walnut."  Two young ladies, Leola and Anita Weigle of Pomona, provided the entertainment with voice and piano.  Dozens of guests were listed, including Chandler and Scott, members of their family, friends, and business associates such as Moses Sherman, William Astley and F. X. Pfaffinger, who were directors of the Columbia Oil Company.  The hosts were denoted as Thomas Green and wife.

With Scott's death in 1920 and Rowland's six years later, the ranch was largely managed by Chandler, although Scott's son, Keith, was active, as well, and was involved with the Chandler family's real estate holding company, Chandis Securities, which held legal title to the ranch.  Mention in the Times was rarer as years went on, though there were occasional interesting references.

Josephine Scott Crocker, daughter of Tres Hermanos Ranch co-owner, William Benjamin Scott, next to what is probably Tonner Canyon Road looking north toward the hill where Grand Avenue now runs behind, 16 September 1925.  Courtesy of Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry.

For example, in late 1931, an article was devoted to William Banning, whose father, Phineas, was the first important promoter of the area that became the Port of Los Angeles.  After the elder Banning died in 1885, William became the driving force in the family's business empire, which included ownership of Santa Catalina Island, a wide array of real estate interests, and other elements.  The article, however, was not about capitalism and commerce, but about Banning devotion to an antiquated skill his father had passed down: the art of driving a stagecoach.  The lengthly piece articulated in great detail Banning's passion for his 1875 Concord coach, which he still drove for parades, events and his own personal pleasure, and which was kept at his ranch in Walnut.  In fact, the article began by putting the reader in the driver's seat: 

You're out somewhere between Walnut and Chino, about you a Los Angeles countryside of such beauty as runs throguh dreams, and then . . .

Shades of the Pioneers!  There, beyond the wire fence, rounding a shoulder of an undulating hillside dirt road, come six beautiful dashing horses drawing a glistening, swaying Concord coach such as was the proud boast of the early West.

The piece went on to note that as the automobile age ensued and the dirt roads trod upon by horse-drawn vehicles were paved, Banning decided to practice his pastime of coach riding at the furthest eastern reaches of Los Angeles County.  Specifically, "out to his friend T. J. Green's delightful farm near Walnut, twenty-five miles or so east of Los Angeles."  Recall that the 1919 entertainment detailed above was hosted by Green and his wife, so it seems that Green may have been a manager at Tres Hermanos before acquiring his own spread closer to Walnut. 

That escape meant that Banning had "specially built coach houses . . . blacksmith shop . . . like a small village now and is a place to delight the delver into pioneer California history—a really fascinating museum recalling a colorful phase of pioneerdom."  Indeed, it wasn't just the Abbott-Downing Concord coach that was housed there, but also a four-horse hack coach, two tourist stagecoaches from Catalina Island (sold by the Bannings to Chicago chewing-gum titan William Wrigley in 1919), a mail wagon, and other historical relics.

But, rather than have a museum that featured antique items only on display, Banning wanted to keep his skills intact, so he and Green arranged for "a coach road from the home place to Chino.  It would have to go through the Thatcher, Currier, Diamond Bar, Tres Hermanos and the English ranches and so on to the old Chino ranch.  The route a winding, dipping, climbing delight of hill and dale scenery.  The ranch owners said a hearty O.K., some of them helped put in the road, and friend Green, expert road builder, supervised the construction.  Banning, in all his antiquated glory, the article concluded, even painted on the side of his beloved Concord, "Overland Stage Coach Club," even though he was its only member.

Interestingly, the road that is described in the above paragraph would almost certainly have started at or near Valley Boulevard and gone east.  The Thatcher and Currier families were connected through marriage with Alvin T. Currier, a native of Maine, coming to the region in 1869 and acquiring 2,500 acres of the Rancho Los Nogales (which means "walnut" in Spanish).  Currier was married to El Monte native Susan Glenn Rubottom.  Susan's sister, Ruth, had a second husband, former Los Angeles County supervisor and El Monte farmer, Michael F. Quinn.  One of their daughters, Inez, who was raised with her aunt and uncle on the Currier ranch, married Hugh Thatcher, an Iowa native who lived in Topeka, Kansas before coming to Pomona in 1889.  He was a druggist in Los Angeles before purchasing an orange grove near Walnut.  Today, the Thatcher/Currier landholdings would be in the general area between the 60 Freeway and Brea Canyon Road on the south, the 57 Freeway on the east, somewhere around Valley Boulevard on the west and up to Lanterman Developmental Center to the north.  Much of this land falls within the extreme northeast sections of the City of Industry, which, in developing its Grand Crossing industrial subdivision in the 2000s, moved the 1907 Currier House from its original location between Valley Boulevard and the 60/57 interchange to the Phillips Mansion historic site a few miles away in Pomona (the building is gradually being restored by the Historical Society of Pomona Valley.)

To the east is the Diamond Bar Ranch, which, in the 1870s, was mainly in the holdings of two men named Butler and Beach.  Much later, as was recently noted in this series, Pittsburgh doctor, Walter F. Fundenberg acquired a sizable portion of this land and then sold off two large parcels--one to Frederick Lewis in 1918 that became the Diamond Bar Ranch and the other, about 1914, which became the Tres Hermanos.

Finally, there is mention of the "English ranches."  This refers to a family that included Wharton English (1835-1914), a native of Carrollton, Illinois, who died in Chino and his son, Revel Lindsay English (1878-1953) who was born in Kane, Illinois and ran the Sierra Vista Stock Farm in what is now the city of Chino Hills.  Today, there is English Springs Park and English Road, which were part of the family holdings.  Revel English was a breeder of thoroughbred horses and swine and it is notable that much of the area around English Road is still horse ranch property now.

Immediately due east of English Road, leapfrogging over Ayala High School, is Boys Republic, the young men's institution that is the historic location of the headquarters of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino.  When one puts all of this parcels together, from Walnut to Chino and spanning through the Currier/Thatcher, Diamond Bar, Tres Hermanos, and English properties, it seems pretty likely that the "stage road' used by William Banning in his nostalgic rumblings on his 1875 Concord is actually Grand Avenue, today the main arterial roadway running from the Chino Spectrum shopping complex on the east through Chino Hills, Diamond Bar, and Walnut before heading north and terminating in Glendora and Azusa.

Another interesting historical association with Tres Hermanos Ranch (and neighboring areas) came in the Great Depression years.  In June 1935, the Times reported on a "brand mix-up," in which Chino local judge Edwin Rhodes (author of The Break of Day in Chino, an early history of the area) heard a case involving counterfeit cattle brands.  These involved "a score of cattle owners from San Bernardino, Riverside, and Los Angeles counties [who] were rounded up [he he!] to straighten out the brands worn by several hundred head of cattle on the range at the Tres Hermanos ranch during the winter and spring."  The crime was that these brands were not properly registered with the state and, it was reported, the annual roundup "held in the hills" south of Chino took place, some stock owners noticed fewer of their animals were present than should have been.

Of particular interest is this passage:  "Tres Hermanos ranch, now known as the Stewart ranch [italics added for emphasis], consists of 12,000 acres in the rolling hills at the western edge of San Bernardino county."

Two days later, the paper reported that eleven Chino-area ranchers were "charged with applying unrecorded brands to cattle" and that these owners were "rounded up on the Tres Hermanos ranch" before being taken before Judge Rhodes.  The jurist then issued fines of $40 to those who pled guilty, but allowed that $30 of the amount be suspended for reasons not specified.  The $10 net fine must have ruffled the feathers of one rancher, Robert Knittel, who chose to stand on principle and pled not guilty so he could face a trial.

More to come soon on some later history involving Tres Hermanos Ranch and the life-giving water that has created the southern California in which we live.


Deb said...

50 years ago, there was an empty Spanish style home on the Tres Hermanos Ranch. The house sat on a mound, surrounded by oak trees, and looked out over the flat valley, bounded to the west by the hills to Diamond Bar and to the east to Chino. The house was rectangular in shape with all rooms opening onto an interior atrium. But what I remember most about the abandoned house were the of bull fight images painted on the walls. I was entranced by this house. I recently looked at the Google satellite image of the Tres Hermanos Ranch. The buildings for the working ranch are still there as is the mound and surrounding oak trees. But the house itself appears to have been demolished. Do you know anything about the house and what happened to it?


prs said...

Hello Deb, thanks for the comment and I’ll leave this response where your other comment was left. Someone who has done quite a bit of research on Tres Hermanos told me a couple of years back that the house was torn down maybe 10 years ago. All I know is that the “three brothers”, who were oil operator W. B. Scott; former county sheriff and oil operator William Rowland of the Rowland Heights namesakes; and L.A. Times publisher Harry Chandler, built the house sometime around the late 1910s or perhaps shortly after. From the time the City of Industry acquired the property in the late 1970s, it was used by the lessees, but I don’t recall if the source I spoke to knew why the house was torn down. Hope this helps.