Notable People

NOTABLE LANDOWNERS

Read about some of the local landowners of the Whittier Unincorporated area below:

Carpenter, Lemuel (Samuel) Carpenter (1808-1859)

According to historical sources, Lemuel’s name is believed to have originally been Samuel, and was misspelled at some point, and he adopted his misspelled name.  Carpenter married Maria de Los Angeles Dominguez, who was the niece of Josefa Cota, the widow of Manuel Nieto and owner of Rancho Santa Gertrudes.  Carpenter bought Rancho Santa Gertrudes in 1843 from Josefa Cota.  Carpenter came to Los Angeles from Kentucky, and after operating a successful soap manufacturing business near the banks of the San Gabriel River, he had enough money to purchase Rancho Santa Gertrudes in 1843 from Josefa Cota de Nieto, widow of Antonio Maria Nieto, son of the original much larger Rancho Los Nietos, Don Manuel Nieto.  The approximate location of the Carpenter adobe is hard to pinpoint because the course of the San Gabriel River shifted after several major rainfalls during the 1800’s, but was thought to exist within the present day San Gabriel River near Blue Bird Lane in Santa Fe Springs.  In the 1800’s, Carpenter’s Lane (present day Los Nietos Road) led to his adobe that he rebuilt after a flood destroyed a previous residence in the formerly named Los Nietos, (present day Santa Fe Springs).  Sadly, Carpenter committed suicide after his inability to pay a debt to John G. Downey, who with his partner McFarland, took possession of Rancho Santa Gertrudes. 

Augustus H. Gregg (1870-1952)

Augustus Gregg arrived to California in a covered wagon from Texas with his parents.  His parents planted one of the first walnut groves in the area.  Gregg was a real estate agent, rancher, owned a citrus grove, and founded Rose Hills Memorial Park (previously named Whittier Heights Cemetery).  In 1929, his son John D. Gregg took over as owner and operator of the cemetery.  (Source: obituary article from the Los Angeles Times, May, 27, 1952.)  The elder Gregg owned several other businesses, including a door locks manufacturing company located at the intersection of Workman Mill Road and Sycamore Canyon Drive, the Cal-Baden Mineral Springs located on Workman Mill Road, and the Sycamore Canyon Gravel Company.  His home was referred to as Sycamore Canyon Lodge located in Sycamore Canyon off of Workman Mill Road.  A. H. Gregg participated in the surveying and layout of the City of Whittier, and served as Board President on the first Mill School Board of Trustees.  His brother Wallace Gregg served as manager of the Los Nietos Walnut Growers Association, director of the Whittier Citrus Association, and in 1920 organized the Whittier Building and Loan Association where he served as president and manager.

Bernardino Guirado

Bernardino Guirado served as County Supervisor for one term.  He was elected in 1859.  Guirado was one of the first settlers of the Whittier and Los Nietos areas arriving in 1833.  He was a very wealthy and prominent rancher of Los Nietos, and also had a large store, named the Pioneer Store, located on Los Nietos Road and Norwalk Boulevard.  The Pioneer Store was a popular stop for supplies for people traveling north along
Norwalk Boulevard (derived from “north walk”) which in those days ran from the Pacific Ocean to Workman's Mill along present day Workman Mill Road.  Guirado was a self-made man and had acquired large tracks of property that included one of the largest walnut orchards in California.  He owned property near Los Nietos that had formerly been the property of his brother-in-law, John Downey, who once served as Governor of California.  Guirado and his wife Maria de la Luz Sanchez, had one daughter, Margarita.  (Source: County of Los Angeles website-Board Member biographies) 

Ellen King

Read about Ellen King under “Agriculture”.

 Amelia Jane Mayberry (1863-1956)   

Amelia Mayberry was born on a cotton plantation in Arkansas during the Civil War.  She married Frank Mayberry and arrived in Los Angeles in 1905 with her husband and two sons.  She and her family moved to the Whittier Unincorporated area in 1910 from Barstow, where Frank had worked as a miner.  Mayberry’s son James married Inez Meyer, the daughter of Marius Meyer, a well-to-do livestock rancher (sheep) who owned over a thousand acres in South Whittier.  It is supposed that Inez Street, which crosses Meyer Road in South Whittier, was named after her.  When James and Inez moved to the South Whittier area, Amelia Mayberry and her husband followed.  James and Inez Mayberry built a home on what was then named Anaheim-Telegraph Road, between Painter Avenue and Carmenita Road, across from South Whittier School.  The home remained until it was torn down around 1962. 

 

After the big oil strike in Santa Fe Springs, the Mayberry’s leased portions of their land for oil drilling.  The Mayberry family lived at 13354 Telegraph Road where Amelia lived until her death in 1956 at age 92.  In 1924, she wrote a book called “American Canary Bird Culture” written for Canary breeders.  Referred to as “Grandma” by many local youth, she was known to provide food to local children.  She persuaded the Los Angeles County Board of Education to establish the first school cafeteria in California when her efforts to feed children in need grew too large.  Mayberry was a member of the Los Nietos Parent Teachers Association (PTA) in 1913 and served as president of the South Whittier PTA in 1913 and 1919.  She served as the librarian of the County Free Library from 1918 to 1931, which was located in a small room at South Whittier School.  

 

The Mayberry family leased ten acres of their land during the 1920’s to the Richfield Oil Company for oil drilling operations and also sold land for subdivisions referred to as Sunshine Farm Acres.  She campaigned to establish and extend the route of Telegraph Road east of Norwalk Boulevard and the building of South Whittier School.  (Source: Los Angeles Times Sept. 16, 1956).  She wrote a weekly news article on the happenings in South Whittier for the Whittier News for 25 years, and became friends with the owner of the paper, Rex Kennedy.  After Kennedy died, he left property for a park which the County developed and was named after Amelia Mayberry.  The park was dedicated on February 19, 1958.  James Mayberry was successful in annexing his property of six lots, on the southeast corner of Telegraph Road and Carmenita Road, to the City of Santa Fe Springs.  View vintage photos of Mayberry Park on the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive. 

 

 Ralph McNees (1858-1932)

 During the early 1900’s, Ralph McNees served as a member of the Board of Directors of the First National Bank in Whittier.  He owned walnut and citrus groves and served as a member of the California Walnut Growers Association when it formed in 1909 and later as president in 1927.  In 1928, he resigned from the Walnut Growers Association after selling his walnut groves for sub-divisions.  According to his obituary written in the Los Angeles Times in 1932, he served on the Board of Trustees of the Whittier Union High School District, served on the County Farm Division Board, and managed the Whittier Lumber Company.  In a Historic American Buildings Survey conducted by the National Park Service in 1990, McNees is listed as the possible original owner of the Whittier Theatre that was built in 1929 that once stood on the southeast corner of Whittier Boulevard (at Hadley Street and Gretna Avenue) next to McNees County Park.  The theatre location is described as built on a portion of the former McNees Ranch, near the McNees Ranch house, located south of Whittier Boulevard, bordered on the east by the railroad yard and on the west by Broadway Road.  In the study, it is not clear what the relationship was between McNees and the theatre builder.  In 1936, after McNees’ death, the development of over 50 homes was constructed in what was referred to as “McNees Park” along and around See Drive.  McNees Avenue and McNees County Park are named after him. 

Marius Meyer (1843-1915) (also known as Darius or Maurice Meyer) 

Marius Meyer arrived in the United States from France at age 18 in the mid 1860’s. He settled in the Los Nietos Valley, after purchasing land from John Downey and began raising sheep.  Meyer became wealthy from the wool sales.  The following is an excerpt from a South Whittier School District Study outlining the local history:

“Marius Meyer was a Frenchman who came to the United States and later to the Los Angeles area with twenty dollars in about 1869.  This was during the days of Pio Pico.  Getting a job as a sheepherder, (he once herded sheep where the Los Angeles City Hall now stands), Meyer took his pay in sheep until he built up a large flock of his own.  These he sold for nearly $24,000.  With this money he began to look for good grazing land to buy.  He came to what was then the easterly part of Rancho Santa Gertrudes, along the banks of the La Canada Verde, and found what he was seeking.  For about ten dollars an acre, in 1879 he bought a reported 1,365 acres extending south from the Los Nietos Road to Imperial Highway.  The water course and natural springs on Meyer’s property played a significant part in the development of the City of Whittier.  Governor Downey is supposed to have offered Meyer the present town site of Whittier for $4.50 an acre, but the water supply to the area was considered inadequate, and as a result, Meyer chose the region immediately south of the town of Whittier”. (Source: Historical Study of the South Whittier School District, Duane C. Ostgaard, 1964)

 

According to research gathered on Meyer, he held onto flocks of sheep during an economic downturn, and struck a natural oil reserve on his land while drilling for water in 1899.  He was twice married to two sisters of the Cota-Yorba Family, first Camille and then her sister Inez.  Inez Street intersects Meyer Road which is named after Marius Meyer.  Darius Meyer was the victim of a brutal beating by a robber in 1911 but survived.   A few years after Meyer’s death, Union Oil drilled and struck oil from a well on Meyer’s land.  During the 1920’s, the area contributed to massive amounts of oil production and Santa Fe Springs became a haven for promoters and prospective investors.  But not all were successful.  The Santa Fe Dome Oil purchased a lease from Meyer’s heirs and drilled for oil on Shoemaker between Beatty and Sunshine Streets, but came up empty handed.  (Source: American Oil & Gas Historical Society, Petroleum Companies, Santa Fe Dome Oil Company.)  In 1962, an article in the Los Angeles Times reported an interest in the possible relocation of the Meyer Ranch house, that was built in 1888, to make way for a housing development. 

 

Frank (Francois) Pellissier (1873-1961)  

Frank Pellissier was the founder, and owner of the Pellissier Dairy Farms and Creamery that was purchased in the 1890’s and operated on land that is now occupied by Rio Hondo College and the California Country Club.  He arrived in Los Angeles from France in 1888 with no money and worked on his cousin’s dairy ranch.  Pellissier purchased 50 acres of land near the edge of Whittier Narrows, and established his own dairy.  He later would own thousands of acres and named the operation Alpine Dairy and became president of the American Dairy Association of Los Angeles.  His four sons were later involved with the business.  A street and neighborhood now retain the name of Pellissier.  Read more about the Pellissier Family and his award winning cows at Elisabeth Uyeda’s blog site at http://losangelesrevisited.blogspot.com/2010/11/pellissiers-wiltern-theater-dairy.html.      

Thomas Hackett Phelan (father) and Daniel Hackett Phelan (son) (1875-1955)

Thomas Phelan purchased 300 acres from Pio Pico in 1873 and became a corn and hay farmer around what was considered the Whittier Downs area south of Whittier Boulevard (west of Pio Pico State Historic Park).  After his passing, he willed his property to his family that included son Daniel, who continued in the farming industry growing grain, citrus, walnuts, and grapes.  He retained the property until it was sub-divided for housing after WWII, and sold property for Phelan Elementary School.  Daniel Phelan attended the dedication of the school named after him in 1951 where he presented the school with a plaque with a chain of title to the school property dating back 182 years to the Spanish occupation of Alta California.  He died shortly afterwards.  See photos of Daniel Phelan at the school dedication at the Whittier Unincorporated Digital Archive. 

 

Eduardo Poyorena (Pollorena) Sr. (1825-1912)

Eduardo Poyorena Sr. served as County Supervisor for one term, from 1866 to 1868 and also as the Los Nietos Township Constable.  Poyorena was born in 1825 in Los Nietos where he grew up.  His parents had settled in the area around 1800 and his family was related to prominent families of the time.  On February 1, 1854, Poyorena purchased land from Pedro Perez for $1,000.  The land known as Paso de Bartola was originally granted to Juan Crispin Perez.  Poyorena was a rancher, became one of the co-founders of the Los Nietos Water Company, was appointed as the judge for Rancho Santa Gertrudes and served on the board of trustees for the first school district in Los Nietos, that he and his wife were instrumental in setting up.  After leaving the Board of Supervisors, Poyorena served as the County Marshal for more than 20 years.  (Sources: California Spanish Genealogy.com, Poyorena Family.)  Read more about the history of the Poyorena family at http://www.sfgenealogy.com/spanish/poyorena.htm

Poyorena/Downey/Swain/Wiggins Adobe: 8547 Norwalk Boulevard, Los Nietos (Demolished in 1965)

An adobe that belonged to Eduardo Poyorena Sr., and believed to be originally constructed by a member of the Nieto family, once stood on Norwalk Boulevard in Los Nietos.  Land titles show that John G. Downey and his partner James McFarland purchased property from Lemuel Carpenter, after Carpenter lost Rancho Santa Gertrudes at auction.  Downey and McFarland also purchased a parcel of land from Eduardo Poyorena Sr. that included the adobe.  In 1892, General (Corporal) Peter Swaine, a civil war veteran, bought the adobe.  His daughter Catherine Sophia Swain, married Sherman Wallace Wiggins at the adobe in 1898.  Their wedding reception was held outside amongst the walnut grove with supper tables under strings of Chinese lanterns.   Colonel Swaine died in 1904 and the Catherine and Sherman Swain moved into the adobe in 1915.  Wallace Wiggins worked as a teacher at the Nelles School for Boys (then the Whittier State School).  Later the adobe would become home to their son, Wallace Swain Wiggins, who married in 1933 and moved in with his mother Catherine, and his new bride Camilla.  He was listed as the last known owner before it was demolished in 1965.  Wiggins was a radio executive for Radio KREG, and had lived in the adobe as a child.  In their wedding announcement in the Santa Ana Register, the adobe was described as “the former gubernatorial mansion for the first American Governor of California” (Downey).  Wallace Wiggins later became a Trustee of the Whittier Union High School District and Los Nietos School District.  Wallace S. Wiggins Elementary school was named after him.  The school was closed in the 1980’s due to a decline in school population.  Catherine Sophia Swain Wiggins died at the adobe in 1953.  (Sources: Santa Ana Register, August 28, 1933, page 10; Los Angeles Times, April 29, 1956, and Historic Spots in California, Third Edition, page 153.)

Ramirez, Jose Maria Ramirez (1819 -1883)

A Los Nietos pioneer, Don Jose Maria Ramirez purchased 140 acres of land from Manuel Nieto’s widow in 1830, and more land years later.  Newspaper accounts describe his abundant grain crops during unusually dry seasons.  The “Ramirez Tract” was named after him after property sub-divisions were sold.  He and his wife, Josefa R. Ramirez, were believed to have had between 15 and 17 children.  Read more about Ramirez and the Ramirez Township at Elisabeth Uyeda’s blog site at https://losangelesrevisited.blogspot.com/2012/09/town-of-ramirez-near-whittier-cal.html

 

Adela Rogers St. John (1894-1988)

Adela Rogers St. John was a newspaper reporter, author and movie script writer, who built a “large old English type” home on Mission Mill Road in 1926.  She was also a recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Her home was named Shallow Brook Ranch, and was built on 15 acres near the San Jose Creek that included a small lake.  The home was demolished in 1982, and is now an industrial area of the City of Industry.  Read about Adela St. Johns and her neighbor Frank Lloyd Wright and his luxurious home, at Elisabeth Uyeda’s blog site at https://losangelesrevisited.blogspot.com/2015/10/shallow-brook-ranch-west-whittier-calif.html

Don Pio de Jesus Pico

(1801-1894) The last governor of Mexican ruled Alta California. (Courtesy of the Whittier Public Library Historical Photograph Collection)