“In Every Direction Lies a Rich Rancho and a Thriving Settlement”: The Promotion of Greater Los Angeles in the “Illustrated Los Angeles Herald,” September 1887, Part Three

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

As the regional center, Los Angeles obviously received the lion’s share of attention in the Illustrated Los Angeles Herald of September 1887 and its enthusiastic and boisterous promotion of Southern California during the great Boom of the Eighties then underway and during which William H. Workman, nephew of Homestead founders, was mayor.

The publication, however, dedicated plenty of space to the hinterlands and ranchos, valleys, townships and cities that constituted the vast and also rapidly developing hinterlands of the Angel City. The third part of our post covering this very interesting and informative artifact from the museum’s holdings deals with some of this content.

An early example was the tribute paid to “A Land of Richness,” namely “Cucamonga, the Beautiful,” which was averred to be “a new settlement that starts into life with the stately steps of a giant.” At the time, there were some 7,000 acres under the ownership of the Cucamonga Fruit Land Company with just a bit less than 40% owned by settlers, while the remainder was comprised, naturally, of “the finest semi-tropic fruit land in the world.”


There was a Southern Pacific railroad station in the tract, but the Santa Fe “have graded their new line and the track will soon be completed to Los Angeles” to further add to the ease of rail access. It was added that, at the north end of Cucamonga, “are the settlements of Hermosa, the Iowa colony and other scattering settlements,” and while vineyards, long established since the Mexican era, were mentioned along with the winery “on the side of the tract”, so, too, were oranges, lemons, limes, ornamental trees and flowers.

While it was, for several years, owned by San Francisco capitalists, the Cucamonga Fruit Land Company included local figures, including President Isaias W. Hellman, the prominent Los Angeles banker (and first partner of F.P.F. Temple and William Workman) and who bought the Rancho Cucamonga in 1870, along Moses L. Wicks, J.C. Lynch, M.E. Hodgkins, and ET. Wright, the latter formerly the Los Angeles County surveyor.

The firm created 20-acre tracts, with 20 miles of wide streets and avenues laid out and some 45% graded, while six reservoirs with a total capacity of about 12 million gallons of water were completed and 11 miles of cement and iron pipes laid. Two hotels were finished, up to 20,000 trees to be planted in the winter, and the sale of those 2,700 acres to settlers realized almost $200,000 in proceeds.


At the center, 320 acres were devoted to the townsite of Cucamonga, with the Santa Fe line to pass through the middle. To date, there was a Methodist church, a post office, a trio of stores, a school, a hotel and other elements to the new community and it was asserted that “an immense movement will take place this year” included many “elegant houses” and the connection through streets with Etiwanda, on the east, and Ontario, to the west.

Next was another new boomtown along the Santa Fe: Monrovia. William N. Monroe, former mayor Edward F. Spence, and attorney and judge John D. Bicknell were the prime promoters and their project tapped water from Sawpit Canyon in the adjoining San Gabriels and Santa Anita Creek which drew from the range. As was the case with other foothill communities, Monrovia was said to have a climate “unrivalled in its efficacy in the cure of all bronchial, catarrhal and pulmonary troubles” and several sanitaria were soon established there.

There were already 600 residents “and it is a specially eclectic class, largely embracing people of means from he East, and being recruited, besides, from the wealthier and more refined circles of Los Angeles county.” Among those was Samuel Keefer, formerly owner of the Grand Central Hotel in New York and whose Grand View Hotel recenrtly opened in Monrovia. Beyond the Santa Fe, the Southern Pacific was building a road through and a depot in the town, while the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley line also passed through.


It was added that the 1,800-acre tract, 60% of which was once part of the Rancho Santa Anita, owned by Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin (owner of considerable lands acquired by foreclosure from the estates of Temple and Workman) and the rest formerly in the Rancho Azusa de Duarte, included 200 devoted to the townsite. Additionally, it was claimed that “all the indications point to a growth at Monrovia as rapid as that which has already characterized Pasadena. There was a newspaper, a wide range of businesses, a pair of churches (and a Congregationalist peaching in the town hall), “and every adjunct of an advanced civilization.”

It would be a couple of years yet before Orange County was carved out of the southeastern part of Los Angeles County, but the Santa Ana Valley was highlighted in a couple of places with the larger article noting the tremendous growth in the area during the boom. In Santa Ana, a new hotel was being built and there was a gas works, a well-administered streetcar system, and the promise of greater growth to come thanks to the purchase of the nearby Rancho San Joaquin by Charles Crocker of the mighty Southern Pacific.


While growth was slow for years following Santa Ana’s establishment by W.H. Spurgeon in 1869, the last year saw an increase in population that was nearing 4,000 souls, with perhaps three times that in the valley at large, and it was stated that “so thickly settled is the region that it is difficult to tell where the town ends and the country begins.” Nearby, moreover, “are some of the finest fruit-growing lands in the world” (more so than Cucamonga?) and “vineyards and orchards cover nearly the whole surface of the country. The wharf at Newport was convenient for shipping out farm products.

Santa Ana boasted a fine school, five churches, two hotels, a bank, an opera hall seating 1,000, and two weekly newspapers. With these, along with stores and commercial houses and an abundance of fraternal orders, “Santa Ana will never again pause in her onward career of prosperity.” It was recorded that the Santa Ana Valley Fruit Company launched operations a year before and shipped some 300 cars of product, while five local wineries produced from 10,000 to 200,000 gallons each. The two banks were also given much credit for driving the local economy.


A half-dozen miles away was the new town of Modena (now El Modena) and it was stated that “within the last half year a village has sprung up as if by magic” and its elevated attitude was cited as particularly attractive as it drew those who wished “to avoid extremes of heat and dampness.” More established was the town of Orange, with some 2,000 residents on about 16 squar miles, including farmlands from the five-acre parcel to a 400-acre vineyard. While there was a branch of the Southern Pacific line from Santa Ana, the Santa Fe had a proposed line from San Diego that would be within a half-mile of the town’s center.

It was noted that “Orange has always been a quiet place and little known in the outside world,” but that was changing because “its famous raisins began to be recognized throughout the United States, and its future prosperity and renown are now established beyond a doubt.” Naturally, the orange also flourished and apricots were highlightd as “a very profitable crop,” even if less cultivated than the orange and the grape. As with the others, roads, schools, hotels, businesses, and churches were also cited as important to the growth of the town, as was the 1,000-volume library and the newspaper.


Close to Los Angeles was “Beautiful Glendale” touted as “A Young and Thriving Suburban City in a Land of Plenty.” Its “marvelous growth” was, naturally, “solely upon its supreme merits.” Ten years prior, the area, encompassing some 600 town lots and 2-5 acre villa lots, on 375 acres, was “inhabited by rabbits, quail and coyotes; now it is a beautiful village” with a fine school, two churches, several stores and a post office. While fruit raising brought an “immense yield” for citrus, peaches, pears, apples and apricots, in addition to grapes, it was added that “vegetables grow luxuriantly to an enormous size.”

Sited at the mouth of a glen, or Verdugo Canyon, that gave it its name, Glendale counted among its leading lights, Erskine Ross, former Los Angeles attorney and state supreme court justice and Cameron E. Thom, a long-time district attorney and former mayor of Los Angeles, to which he moved in the Fifties. Henry J. Crow, a well-known nursery owner, was also cited for the first cirtus orchard in the settlement, but who also profitablly raised peaches, pears and apricots.

The piece proclaimed that “the growth of Glendale has been a prodigy” as a half-decade before “it was nearly all a tract of uncleared brush and cactus land” but “now it is a paradise with a hundred happy homes” and the usual “salubrious” climate, pure water, and highly fertile soil. It concluded that “the proprietors may well feel proud of their possession, and have a brilliant prospect before them of a reward for all their labor and investment” attracting residents who were “intelligent and refined people.”


In what we now know as the South Bay, there was what was described as “a Phenomenal Land of Agricultural Wealth” and blessed ith a “most astonishing fertility that surpasses the valley of the Nile [Egypt] in its productions.” This tract, developed by Abram E. Pomeroy, founder with George W. Stimson, of Puente a couple of years prior, as well as Pismo Beach, is Gardena. Formerly part of the Rancho San Pedro (nearby is Compton, established by F.P.F. Temple and El Monte’s Fielding W. Gibson), the tract was known as a place “where strawberries are planted and yield fruit of onsrous size from Christmas till August.”

After further detail about the fruit, which established a profit deemed “most satisfactory and surprising” with some yields of $2,500 an acre each year, it was mentioned that Gardena did well in blackberries and raspberries, along with tree fruit like apples, apricots, peaches, pears and plums. Also successful was the raising of vegetables like peas, corn, cucumbers, asparagus and mushrooms (a separate piece in the publication was devoted solely to the fungi.)


Given the location and the swamps that once characterized large swaths of the area, it is not surprising that Pomeroy had four artesian (after all, the City of Artesia is not far to the east) wells supplying plenty of water. Of course, the town had ideal weather as sea breezes kept away sweltering heat, while “a soft evening breeze from the mountains fills all the day with health.”

Purported to be “probably the finest tract of land for gardening in the State,” this article was one of the few that referred to people of color in reporting that “Chinamen pay $20 an acre annually for the use of such land around the city for the cuture of cabbage and onions, and make large profits.” Later, Gardena would become a truck farming area of importance for Japanese growers unable to own land because of racist restrictions.

A lengthy piece noted that “the City of Los Angeles is the finest location for business on the Pacific Coast” and that “in every direction lies a rich rancho and a thriving settlement that finds in Los Angeles a place for the sale and purchase of goods.” It was further explicated that, “with far-seeing wisdom,” the Southern Pacific built railroad lines “piercing within the county about thirty-five of these opulent ranchos and the same number of settlements.”


From the 3,530 residents counted in the 1850 census (actually taken early the following year because of California’s entry inthe Union in September), though that enumeration was very low and led to the only state censuys being taken in 1852, the county’s population was over 11,000 by 1860, above 15,000 in 1870 (allowing for a likely steep decline during the flood and drought years in the first half of the Sixties), and then to above 33,000 in 1880. By 1886, however, it was estimated that some 80,000 persons lived in the county, including many who lived in the fourteen townships discussed in the piece.

These included Anaheim, Azusa, El Monte, San Fernando, San Gabriel, San Jose, San Juan, Soledad, Westminster, Wilmington, Los Nietos, Santa Ana, La Ballona and San Antonio. Many of the names are known as cities now, while others remain obscure. San Jose, for example, embraced all or part of four ranchos at the east end of the county, including Rincon de la Brea (part of Brea Canyon), Los Nogales (Walnut and Diamond Bar), San Jose (Pomona, Claremont, La Verne, San Dimas), and La Puente (the eastern section toward Pomona).


Soledad was in the sparsely populated northern reaches of the county, including the Antelope Valley, parts of what is now Santa Clarita, and the remote desert regions beyond Lancaster and Palmdale. Los Nietos was carved out of El Monte Township in 1857 and includes some or all of the ranchos Paso de Bartolo (Whittier), Santa Gertrudes (La Mirada), Los Coyotes (Buena Park, west Fullerton), and Los Cerritos (sections in east Long Beach and areas like Lakewood and Bellflower). San Antonio was south and southwest of Los Angeles and was mainly comprised of the nearly 30,000-acre ranch of that name, including such places as Bell, Bell Gardens, Maywood, Huntington Park, South Gate, Vernon and other areas, as well as the smaller Rancho Tajauta in modern Willowbrook and Watts.

Evern those familiar names embraced much larger areas than the modern cities under thse monikers. So, Anaheim Township took in 68,000 acres, including parts of Cypress, Buena Park, Fullerton, Garden Grove and other locales. Azusa was about 12,000 acres, but also included Glendora, Irwindale and parts of Baldwin Park, Covina and West Covina, including some 3,000 acres in the northern reaches of Rancho La Puente. El Monte embraced more than 86,000 acres within parts or all of the ranchos Duarte, Santa Anita, San Francisquito, Potrero Grande, La Merced, Potrero de Felipe Lugo, and, not mentioned, Potrero Chico (because it was so small, amounting to about 90 acres?) Such modern cities as Temple City, Rosemead, South San Gabriel, South El Monte and parts of Monrovia, Montebello, Monterey Park were included, along with El Monte.


San Fernando Township was basically the entirety of the valley of that name, containing some 121,000 acres, nearly 60% of it then devoted to wheat farming, but with the town of San Fernando laid out in 1874 at the east end on the line of the Southern Pacific. San Gabriel included mostof the western San Gabriel Valley, including Pasadena and the foothill towns from Altadena to Monrovia, as well as Alhambra, San Marino, South Pasadena, Arcadia. San Juan would mean San Juan Capistrano to us, but also took in the communities of the southeastern extremity of what became large swaths of Orange County from Irvine south to San Clemente and covered a massive 127,000 acres.

Westminster took in the Rancho Los Alamitos of 28,000 acres from east Long Beach to parts of the ranchos Las Bolsas and Bolsa Chica, with Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos, and, of course, Westminster, along with nearby sections, within its domains. Notably, Garden Grove and Fountain Valley, the latter said to be a township that included 36,000 acres, were listed separately. Wilmington as a large township embracing the ranchos San Pedro and Palos Verdes within its limits, so that the peninsula towns of Rancho Palos Verdes and Palos Verdes Estates, Lomita, Harbor City, Compton, and other communities of Los Angeles like San Pedro and Wilmington are included.


Santa Ana was the largest township in the county, covering nearly 172,000 acres including what became the county seat of Orange County, along with Orange, Tustin, Irvine, Newprt Beach, Costa Mesa and adjoining areas. Another large township covering the western reaches of Los Angeles was Ballona and taking in some 115,000 acres of ranchos like Rodeo de las Aguas (Beverly Hills), La Brea, Aguaje de la Centinela and Sausal Redondo (which Temple and Workman had an interest in during the mid-Seventies), San Jose de Buenos Aires (Westwood), San Vicente, Malibu and others. From Los Angeles city limits on the east to the Pacific on the west and Malibu on the north to Redondo Beach on the south, Ballona covered a good deal of territory.

Many of these townships were highlighted for their agricultural fertility and, in some cases, for grazing sheep, cattle or cows, but mention of small towns that later became larger cities was also notable because of how many either were founded in the earlier, smaller boom of the late Sixties through mid-Seventies or very recently established as part of the current boom.


There is still much more of note and interest in the Illustrated Los Angeles Herald, so we’ll return tomorrow for part four.

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