08 May 2016

Carbon Canyon Historic Artifact #51: Joseph Bridger Adobe at Los Serranos Country Club

In 1865, when Robert Carlisle, the hot-headed husband of Francisca Williams, who inherited Rancho Santa Ana del Chino from her father, Isaac Williams, upon his death in 1856, was killed in a famous shootout at the Bella Union Hotel in Los Angeles, the ranch became supervised by trustees, principally Los Angeles banker Isaias W. Hellman (as recently covered here in this blog) on behalf of Francisca and her children with Carlisle.

Hired to manage the ranch was Joseph Bridger, born in Tenneessee in 1830, and who married one of Isaac Williams' daughters from an Indan wife, the daughter of Chief Pablo Apis of Temecula.  While some sources state that Bridger bought the Chino Ranch from Francisca Williams Carlisle, that is not the case.

For example, journalist Benjamin C. Truman's 1874 book Semi-Tropical California, states very clearly that
The property of the heirs of Robert Carlisle deceased it is managed and supervised by Mr Joseph Bridger and it was from his hospitable residence that I sallied out upon the several tours which I made through its broad acres
Francisca Carlisle married Frederick A. MacDougall, a mayor of Los Angeles in the late 1870s, and moved to Los Angeles with her children, leaving Chino in the very capable hands of her half brother-in-law Bridger.

A real photo postcard, dated 1 February 1927, of the "Home Ranch" adobe house on the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, built by Joseph Bridger after 1865, used by Richard Gird after 1881 and then, from 1924, serving as the clubhouse for Los Serranos Country Club, until it was razed.  The site is now the current clubhouse, opened in 1995.  
Note that Truman stated that he toured the massive ranch with Bridger "from his hospitable residence."  Eventually, this became known as the "Home Ranch" and another confusion about the history of the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino is that this was also the original ranch home of Antonio María Lugo, grantee of the ranch in 1841, as well as Isaac Williams, who was given control of the domain.

Yet, in 1938, Bridger's son Andrew and the Carlisle's two surviving daughters, Mary and Laura, provided a statement clarifying the situation, observing that the original Chino ranch house was:
upon the site of the former main building (pink house, as its color designated) at what is now known as the George Junior Republic dairy—an adobe, the headquarters of Mr. H. J. Stewart, 1874—since then destroyed, we understand, by fire and demolition.
This "former main building" of the "George Junior Republic dairy" is the site of today's Boys Republic facility in Chino Hills, a couple of miles north of the "Home Ranch" adobe house Bridger built after 1865.  It should be noted that a California State Historic Landmark plaque commemorating the 1846 Battle of Chino, which took place at the original adobe of Lugo and Williams, stands at the Chino Valley Independent Fire District training building (a former fire station) just outside the Boys Republic complex on Eucalyptus Avenue, just northwest of the intersection of Pipeline Avenue.

Traveling south on Pipeline today gets you to the western boundary of Los Serranos Country Club.  After Joseph Bridger's sudden death on 23 September 1880, it was decided to sell the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, the buyer being Tombstone, Arizona mining magnate Richard Gird.

Gird moved into the Bridger adobe and significantly added and improved it, turning the structure into a showplace for his magnificent domain.  After Gird lost control of the ranch and it moved through several owners, eventually falling into the hands of oilman E.J. Marshall, the adobe stayed intact.

Finally, in 1924, the Campbell-Joralmon real estate firm, working with the Marshall Estate, sold the Bridger-Gird "Home Ranch" adobe and surrounding land to a syndicate of Long Beach investors who established the Los Serranos Country Club and Los Serranos subdivision.

The connection to Carbon Canyon is that the owners of the new country club actively promoted improvements to Carbon Canyon Road, because it provided a shorter route to the facility from Los Angeles.  A complete paving of the road was completed by the end of 1920s, a few years before it became part of the California state highway system.

The real photo postcard shown here is of the adobe and is titled "Los Serranos C. Club / Club House."  On the back of the unused card, is a pencil inscription with the date 1 February 1927, less than two years after the golf club opened to the public.

The image shows much of the two-story structure, with a broad balcony along its length, largely obscured by palm and other trees, as well as tall hedges.  In the foreground is a large open lawn with wood chairs scattered about it.

The old adobe and clubhouse are long gone now and the site is the location of the current clubhouse, which opened in 1995.

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