“We Have the Location, Soil, Water and Climatic Conditions”: A Letter to a Prospective North Whittier (Hacienda) Heights Investor, 14 July 1914

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Nearly four years ago, John and Barbara Clonts donated a valuable cache of papers left in the 1960s in the home they bought from the original owner, Grover T. Russell, who built the dwelling in 1916 and who was the on-site sales manager for the North Whittier Heights, now Hacienda Heights, subdivision, which was created in 1913 by Edwin G. Hart and associates in the Whittier Extension Company.

Several posts have featured some of the materials from this important collection and tonight we share a few more from this date (and the day before) in 1914, a year after the project was launched. The first is dated 14 July and was from Sidney E. Rousseve of New Orleans, who wrote his missive on the letterhead of the Operative Plasterers’ International Association of the United States and Canada’s Local 93 in the Crescent City.

Los Angeles Express, 1 July 1914.

Borin in 1878 in New Orleans, who later indicated he was Argentinian, though one census showed that his father was also from New Orleans but his mother from Tampico, a city on the Gulf of México in the state of Tamaulipas, México, Rousseve was also sometimes listed as black or mulatto in censuses in his hometown. His father, a vegetable dealer, died when Rousseve was young and he became a plasterer at the end of the 19th century. Married in 1901 and the father of several children, he owned a saloon when enumerated in the 1910 census.

In his letter to Hart, however, Rousseve wrote:

desiring to purchas[e] a five acre orange or lemon grove in southern Cal after seeing your advertis[e]ment in the Los Angeles Examiner of July 8, 1914 of your North Whittier Heights, I have decided to aske [sic] of you to please send me your prices on planted and unplanted tracks [tracts] with full particulars.

Please send me your information as soon as possible as I wil leave New Orleans for Los Angeles by July 29, 1914.

It is not known if Hart responded, but, by the end of the decade, Rousseve and his family were in Bloomington, near Fontana, where he raised fruit and chickens and it was in the 1920 census that he idenified himself as Argentinian (revealing his black/mulatto ancestry would undoubtedly have made it impossible to buy land).

Los Angeles Times, 7 July 1914.

By the end of the Twenties, however, he’d returned with his family to New Orleans, though he was listed as being from California, and his occupation was given as “tropical fruit sales.” A 1932 New Orleans city directory, though, showed him as a plasterer. Yet, he returned to the Golden State and died in Los Angeles in June 1938.

The second letter featured here was from Frank L. Drew and was written on the letterhead of the Pacific Light and Power Company of Los Angeles and dated 13 July. Yet, Drew was not an employee of that firm, though the 1910 census did show that his daughter Florence was a stenographer for an “electric mfg. [manufacturing] company.” Drew, who was born in Iowa in 1856, was educated as a Congregationalist minister, though he did spent some time as a farmer in Tempe, Arizona before migrating to Los Angeles with his family and taking up his religious vocation again, including a stint as pastor of the Congregational Church at Palms, now a neighborhood of Los Angeles near Westwood.

The 1910 census listed Drew at Redondo Beach and his occupation was given as a minister, though, like Rousseve, he was soon looking for a change, specifically a potential return to farming. His brief missive to Hart simply stated that “seeing your ‘ad’ concerning ‘North Whittier Heights’ land, would like to know by letter, the price & terms on this land, etc.” In this case, however, there was a response in the form of an unsigned draft letter, though the signature section did have the title of “Sales Manager,” which may indicate that Russell was assigned the responsibility of replying.

Los Angeles Times, 11 July 1914.

In any case, the return letter is comprehensive and notable, as Drew was told that a separate correspondence included a promotional folder with a map of the tract and the region showing the location of North Whittier Heights within southern California and articles concerning climate, soil and water found in the subdivision.

The document went on to say:

The North Whittier Heights subdivision is divided into tracts of 5,10, 15, and 20 and up to 50 acres in size and these unplanted tracts with water are being sold at prices ranging from $400.— to $800.— per acre according to the location and lay of each particular subdivision. The cheaper properties are the low rolling foothill portion of the holdings and the higher priced properties are some particularly choice locations for scenic homesites in addition to their being excellent fruit lands.

It was added that there were tracts of five to 20 acres that had Valencia oranges, Eureka lemons and Marsh seedless grapefruit planted a little more than a year ago when North Whittier Heights was opened for sale and prices were from $750-1025 an acre. There was another 150 acres of walnuts that were planted the past spring and which were offered at $700-850 per acre. Waterallotted for each acre of land, planted or not, “is salable outside of our tract at $150.—per share.”

Whittier News, 10 July 1914.

Beyond this, the letter continued, “we expect to subdivide a modern townsite on a portion of the property which faces on the Salt Lake Railway [now the Union Pacific line] during the coming Fall.” Moreover, the anticipated opening at that time “of the boulevard from Whittier through Turnbull canyon of the Whittier [Puente] Hills and the North Whittier Heights property to the Pomona [Valley] boulevard,” this being built by the county and the Board of Trade in Whittier, meant that “the demand for and value of the North Whittier Heights subdivisions are certain to increase materially.”

That month of July, there were articles discussing the grand plans of folks in Whittier to celebrate the completion, slated for October, of Turnbull Canyon Road, which, in an overabundance of enthusiasm, was strangely denoted the “Panama of the Puente Hills,” an attempt at reference to the damed canal that was finished in mid-August.

Note the reference to sales agent Russell’s acquisition of just over 6 acres, where he soon built his home, now owned by John and Barbara Clonts, Express, 25 July 1914.

The letter boasted that

some of the most successful orange and lemon growers and nurserymen in Southern California are investing at North Whittier Heights which indicates that we have location, soil, water, and climatic conditions necessary for growing “citrus groves that pay” and that the prices at which we are selling our property are reasonable.

For testimonials, Drew was directed to “the Pollard brothers of South Pasadena;” a trio of Whittier men, including Charles H. Hamburg and John R. King, who were discussed in a recent post here, as well as prominent citrus grower Harley M. Jordan; and the Los Angeles County Assessor, Ed Hopkins.

Times, 23 December 1917.

The Pollards were Eusebius, Jr., born in 1870, and William (b. 1872) whose parents, Eusebius and Mary Ann, migrated from Cornwall, England, the tin mines of which were undoubtedly where the senior Pollard earned his living. In 1863, the family migrated to California and settled in Grass Valley in one of the prime areas of the Gold Rush. Six years later, the Pollards headed south and settled in the Sunnyslope area of Leonard J. Rose in San Gabriel Township (now Rosemead), where Eusebius, Sr. identified himself as a miner in the 1870 census—perhaps he was working the mines of San Gabriel Canyon.

After a decade at Sunnyslope, the Pollards settled on a ranch situated in modern Alhambra between Almansor and Hidalgo streets, not far from where Walter and Laura Temple lived with their family from 1917 until her death in 1922. They occupied this property until Eusebius, Sr. died in 1894 and, two years later, his widow and children resettled on the Los Robles Ranch in what became San Marino.

By the1900 census, Eusebius, Jr. and William operated a nursery and a decade later the former was denoted an “orchardist” while the latter, residing with their mother, was still operating the nursery. Given that Hart lived in Sierra Madre and then in San Marino, there was likely a strong connection there that led the Pollards to buy property at North Whittier Heights just after it opened for sales. The reason the letter stated that they were from South Pasadena was because, as William’s World War I draft registration showed, the local post office for San Marino was in that neighboring town.

While the brothers continued to reside in the tony subdivision, best known for the large estate of Henry E. Huntington, who built a library, art gallery and botanical gardens that has become internationally known, they worked their North Whittier Heights property extensively and there was a “Pollard & Martin” nursery with addresses there and in Puente in the late teens and into the 1920s. Eusebius, Jr. died in 1931, but his brother, who later retired to Seal Beach in Orange County, lived until 1963.

Harley M. Jordan was born in Kansas in 1874, but his family was among the earliest settlers to Whittier, a Quaker colony established during the great Boom of the 1880s at the end of that decade, with his father Orin raising walnuts. The family home, formerly on Whittier Boulevard south of town and moved in 1926, still stands, having been extensive restored after a long period of neglect, on Comstock Avenue south of Whittier Boulevard and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Jordan settled nearby with his wife and children in what was commonly known as East Whittier, operating a nursery and raising citrus along Whittier Boulevard near College Avenue near what is now known as the “Quad at Whittier” shopping center. As was the case with other Whittier growers, Jordan invested in North Whittier Heights to expand his citrus raising enterprise. Like William Pollard, he lived to his nineties and died in 1965.

Finally, there was reference to the county assessor, Hopkins, whose first name was actually Ed, not Edward or Edwin. He was born in 1863 in Iowa, where his father was a doctor and a farmer, but Ed studied law and was admitted to the bar in the Hoosier State in 1887. His practice there was short-lived, however, as he headed west to Los Angeles in 1890 or 1891 and got involved in real estate, even though the great boom went bust just before that and then a national depression erupted in 1893.

Hopkins, however, secured a steady government job in 1895, when he was appointed a deputy assessor for the county. At that time, the total assessed value of property was some $84 million. After a dozen years, he was elected assessor, a job he held through some eight terms for a remarkable thirty-one years, during which time the value of property rockedted to some $2.5 billion. He was known as an expert on taxes and tax law, but decided to become a country gentleman farmer with his investment at North Whittier Heights during its early days.

Long a resident of the Highland Park area northeast of downtown Los Angeles, where his office, of course, was located, Hopkins moved to his country place during the Twenties. Very shortly after he’d decided not to run for reelection, declaring that it was time for him to retire and to leave the job to a younger person, Hopkins was seated in a chair in his residence on Turnbull Canyon Road, very close to Russell’s place, when he suffered a massive heart attack in early June 1938 and died within a few hours.

Who knew when these letters were selected for this post last week that they would involved people and places from New Orleans, England, Iowa, and Kansas, much less a variety of locales in greater Los Angeles. That’s one of the most interesting thing about John and Barbara’s donation—these documents, which might seem like dry office correspondence, actually can reveal a great deal about the people involved, or potentially so, with the early history of Hacienda Heights, most of which was once part of the Workman family’s massive half of the Rancho La Puente.

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