Main Street in Yorba Linda, circa 1920 (courtesy the Orange County Archives).

Main Street in Yorba Linda, circa 1920 (courtesy the Orange County Archives).

Notes Concerning Yorba Linda

By Eldo West

 Jesse Milhous listened to his brother Frank tell of the many advantages of living in California, more specifically at Whittier where a number of Friends had bought land and started a town.[1] The climate was ideal, not too hot in summer, no frost in winter, rich soil, an abundance of irrigation water, good schools and churches, everything a man could want.

 “Why not sell your farm, buy an orange or lemon grove out there that you could easily care for yourself and make more money than you realize off this farm with all the hired help and hard work. Besides, you’d have a chance to enjoy living. You and Molly have had your noses to the grindstone here for thirty years, it’s time to break away from this farm bondage and go where living can be enjoyed.”

 Jess talked it over with Molly. Could they be satisfied with ten acres of land after farming close to two hundred acres? Why, that wouldn’t be enough to turn around on and would cost almost as much as they could get for their whole farm. But if they could make a living on that much land it would surely be a much easier life than there on a Jennings County, Indiana farm.[2] Jess had been having attacks of rheumatism, sometimes in bed for a week, and Molly, never too strong but energetic and ambitious, needed to slacken her pace. So they gave the prospect much serious thought -- what about Grace and her children, could they go away and leave them? Grace’s first child, a girl, was her grandmother’s “pride and joy.” How could Molly go away out to California and leave Grace and the children there with a husband that would never be able to give them anything but a life of hard work?

 A year slipped by.

 A letter from Frank Milhous said he could buy them a newly planted seven and one-half acre orange and lemon grove, with a five-roomed California house and good-sized barn for $8,000 -- $3,000 cash and the balance in three years. He thought it was a splendid opportunity and suggested they close the deal at once.[3]

 During the last year Grace had had a severe sick spell and her doctor had advised she better move to a milder climate. Frank Milhous, answering an inquiry, said he could give her husband -- that’s me -- employment most of the time and that I could find plenty of work for other ranchers to keep busy.

 So we had a public sale and sold our farm equipment and household effects, told our relatives and friends good bye and took the train for California.

 I remember my father meeting us there at North Vernon to tell us good bye and his giving me a nice leather billfold, the last thing on earth I needed. I never have needed it and have it now, as good as new. After buying our tickets I had only about $150 cash to start housekeeping in a strange land and spent $12 of that for a new suit in St. Louis. My old one was hardly presentable to Grace’s well-to-do kin and I wanted to make as good an impression as possible.

 In the meantime Jesse had written Frank that he would take the seven and one-half acres, had borrowed $3,000 on the farm and sent it to make the down payment. This was in 1909.

 We reached Whittier May 1, 1909 and were soon settled in a four-roomed house on Colina Street where Uncle Frank and Emory Albertson had leased a small place to grow nursery stock.[4]

 We had managed to purchase enough used furniture to fill our needs and before summer was over had bought a horse and an open spring wagon, a light two-seated affair, and we began our exploration of the countryside -- a never-ending quest for new scenes, a longing to see what was over the next hill, a trait that has never been satisfied though it has sent us to the best scenic spots in America.

 The next spring -- 1910 -- we moved to the ranch Father Milhous had purchased on Russell Street (I guess by this time the reader is well-enough acquainted with all the characters that I can refer to them in more familiar terms). I had bought another horse, some farm implements and was to care for his place, Uncle Charlie’s two ranches, and such other work as I could do and find time for.[5]

 One Sunday that fall, Uncle Frank stopped by in the afternoon for a short visit and told us about a new tract that was being developed for citrus plantings out east of Randolph (now Brea).[6] He wondered if we would like to buy a ten-acre tract. What a question, what a possibility?

 Would a flying squirrel like to be an eagle? Would a ground squirrel like to be a lion? Of course I would be delighted to have a chance to buy a parcel of land that could be made productive and establish a home -- but how? Ten acres of raw -- though not virgin -- land would cost $3,000 to begin with and improvements as much more. How could I buy with no capital?

 Uncle Frank had the answer. The bank at Whittier had plenty of money that they would loan on good security and he reckoned that if he was to endorse my note for $300 that would be enough to make the first payment on a ten-acre tract -- 10% of the cost. He and some other men from Whittier were going out the next day; I’d better come along, see the land and see if I could find a plot I’d like to buy.

 I went, I saw, and I was conquered. Uncle Frank and the other men were buying and would need someone to improve their places. They thought I would have a good chance for full time employment with the chance to realize a profit on the investment in any event.

 So I selected a ten-acre tract that I thought to be about the best of the then remaining plots available and came home to talk it over with Grace. We decided to try it. We couldn’t lose, we had nothing to lose and a chance to acquire a home.[7]

 We borrowed the money to make the first payment and I made an agreement with Uncle Frank and Charles Hamburg to plant their places, in a small valley, to winter potatoes. They would furnish seed and we’d divide the returns equally. On their higher ground and on our place I would sow barley. I prepared to go out there and begin plowing in November.

 I procured a tent, an old oil stove, such cooking utensils as needed, an ample supply of bacon, eggs, canned milk, etc., also bed and covers, loaded them on the wagon with the farm tools and with old Silver for company, headed for our future home.[8]

 As I started out the road I passed an old tramp with a big pack on his back, and as I didn’t have to slow up to talk to him I asked if he’d like to ride, “Hell, no. I’m as well off here as I’d been ten miles ahead.”

 I wondered. Would that apply to me as well as him? Was I as well off as I would be ten miles, ten months, or ten years ahead? I was determined it must not. Here was the chance I had been praying for for the past ten years and I intended to make it succeed.

 I put up my tent at the northeast corner of the tract in a small valley a mile from any other habitation and the same distance from any water, which made it necessary for me to haul water for the team and myself.[9]

 My first night with only the horses and old Silver for company was rather lonely. I had been used to the chatter of Grace and the children and the howling of coyotes on the hills around me didn’t lend anything to the gaiety of the occasion. One old coyote was so curious about what was happening to his domain that he ventured down so close that old Silver decided to chase him away. The old coyote, wise to such adventures, led him away from any help or reinforcements and then turned on him with a savage ferocity that sent old Silver back to the wagon, howling as every jump. That was the last time old Silver ever tried to catch a coyote. However, he wasn’t the only one to learn by that experience. I found that that was an old trick for coyotes and it enabled me to kill a coyote with a 20-gauge shotgun some years later.[10]

 During November and December I was able to sow 15 or 20 acres of barley on our own place and on ground belonging to Uncle Lewis Hadley, who had bought the adjoining ten acres.

 The barley sowing job went along slowly, a lonesome job as I seldom saw anyone from one weekend to another. Other buyers were also starting work on their places but they were all too far away and too busy for social calls. After the barley was in I was back home until after Christmas and then went out again to get ready to plant potatoes.

 About this time Arthur Morris of Whittier, who had bought land with the Whittier group, contacted me on the possibility of his brother, Curtis, joining me in camping while pioneering.

 Walking along behind the plow one day I noticed a man approaching from toward the townsite, which was the end of the Pacific Electric line,[11] and figured he must be coming to see me, since there was nobody else in that part of the tract and no reason for anyone to come out there. While I speculated as to who and why, he continued to advance and when in speaking distance greeted me with, “How are you! Are you Eldo West?” I assured him I was and he said he thought I must be from what Grace had told him about where to find me. He then explained who he was, Sam Guthrie, Walter Milhous’ wife’s brother, and said he had come to California to look for work and to make his home here.[12]

 What could I do? How could I take care of company, a stranger, out there where I had barely enough of anything for only my own use. I couldn’t give him a job. I couldn’t afford to quit work and take him back to Whittier, but he didn’t let me worry long. He’d like to bunk with me for a time, he said, his bed roll was at the station and he would pay half on the cost of grub.

 And so he moved in with me, worked at anything there was he could do, paid his share of our expenses and refused to take any pay for work. As I was then getting ready to plant potatoes, his help was very welcome.

 The three of us decided to move headquarters to an abandoned sheepherder’s cabin near the aqueduct where the Anaheim Union Water Co. supply canal crossed a deep, narrow valley. There we would have a floor under our feet, a roof over our head, and water for horses and ourselves. We did not know who owned the house and corral and never did find out.

 The winter was a pleasant as California winters can be; plenty of rain, rightly distributed, no frost, and no winds, which I learned later was exceptional for the locality.

 Planting potatoes for Uncle Frank and Charles Hamburg was an entirely new venture for me. I knew nothing about the business of growing or marketing, but with their advice and cooperation, we were able to make a profit of a few hundred dollars each on the crop, which was shipped to commission men in Los Angeles -- the first money I had ever made except for wages for hard work.[13]

 The potato venture kept us busy -- planting, hoeing and harvesting -- well into spring. Sam Guthrie worked right along with me and would not accept one cent for his labor. After the potatoes were sold I thought to pay off some of my obligation to Sam by taking him on an excursion to Catalina Island. We had a fine trip but it was a rather mean trick to pull on Mother and the children, who had been holding the fort at Whittier all winter. They, too, would have enjoyed it even more that we men did.

 Sam Guthrie was a crack shot with a rifle and we had a continuous shooting match. The hills and cactus patches were full of ground squirrels and rabbits that made excellent targets, but they wouldn’t stand still to be shot at except when we were in the wagon, so we practiced on them as we drove to work each morning.

 Yorba Linda Townsite, as it was called for a long time, was beginning to build up, but no stores were available closer than Placentia, so Curtis Morris would take turns in driving over there to buy groceries and feed for our horses. Curtis was a penny pincher and it was especially noticeable to Sam, who couldn’t see anything smaller than a two-bit piece. We would kid Curtis quite a bit, but we never induced him to open his fists any.

 One day when we were about out of everything to eat, it was Curtis’ turn to go for the groceries. Not to waste any time he decided to get a load of lumber for his house on the trip and didn’t get back till late afternoon.

 Sam and I had dined on canned beans and crackers, while he had eaten a big meal, he bragged, at the lumberman’s expense. Curtis was cooking the supper and explaining that with the bacon he thought an egg apiece would be plenty. We both protested; he didn’t have to eat any more than he wanted, he had a big dinner while he left us there without groceries, cook what he wanted for himself but two eggs for each of us. We didn’t care for expenses and we were not going to starve ourselves. With a long face, he fried the eggs and when, before he passed the plate to us, he slid two eggs off on to his own plate, Sam looked at me and winked. Curtis Morris was going to have his third of the groceries if it busted him!

 After the potato crop was harvested and shipped to Los Angeles I began preparations to build a house on our place so we could move out there after school closed. Other ranchers were building; a few good houses, but mostly California-type houses. There were then three or four houses on the townsite and a small grocery store.

 During the two years we had been in California we had never seen a bad wind, so when we planned our house we gave no thought to the possibility of any wind damage. On the highest ground in the eastern part of the Tract I proceeded to build what was commonly known as a California house -- that is the walls were 1x12” redwood, straight up, with battened cracks. But instead of building it low as it should have been for that type of structure and especially in that location, I used 12-foot wall boards which gave us four rooms downstairs and two large rooms upstairs. It was an upstanding structure on top of a hill with a wonderful view of the Saddleback Mountains to the southeast, the foothills to the north, an open gap to the east through the Santa Ana Canyon, and to the west and south a fine view of the Yorba Linda Tract.[14]

 We moved out in the early summer of 1911 and at once became headquarters for all the ranchers for whom I worked and numerous relatives.

 We hauled all our water for the first few months from the Anaheim ditch, not the best source in the world but I don’t remember any ill effects from using it. The Yorba Linda Water Co. pipe line was completed to our house late in the summer and we had the luxury of water piped into the house.

 That first summer was a strenuous one for Grace. With three children to care for and five of us to cook for she had a real job. On top of that we had company for dinner nearly every day. I was taking care of ranches for several non-resident owners, and every one thought his meals were included in what he paid me for doing his ranch work. It was nothing uncommon to have two or three drop in for dinner two or three times a week. The cost didn’t amount to much, but it made a lot of extra work for Grace.

 And it didn’t stop with them; others took advantage of Grace’s hospitality. One man in particular took advantage so much I finally had to ask him to desist and discontinue. After we got established the owner of the next ranch west of ours came to see if he could obtain a place to sleep until he could get his house erected. We accommodated him for a month or so.

 Uncle Frank put up a house on the ten acres he had bought and Russell and Elizabeth Harrison moved into it soon after they were married and then welcomed their first child shortly thereafter.[15]

 Arthur Morris built a house on the ten acres he had purchased up against the foothills and moved out from Whittier. While Arthur had aided his brother Curtis to get established in Yorba Linda, they never got along well together.

 All during this time the Janss Investment Company were busy grading roads and putting in pipelines for watering the Tract.[16] That fall, after we were able to get water for irrigation I planted about one-third of our place to lemon trees.


 My most vivid recollection of the first winter we lived in Yorba Linda is of the Santa Ana Wind that came howling through the canyon with a force that we feared would blow the house down. The first one struck with a surprising suddenness soon after we had gone to bed. The house shook, swayed, trembled and groaned. Every minute we feared the next gust would either turn it over or cause it to collapse.

 I went outside and got some 2x6 timbers that were left over from building and put them up as braces on the west side. They helped but still we were afraid the house would come down in a heap and trap us in the pile of lumber, so we gathered up our bedding and went outside to sleep on the leeward side of the large concrete weir box close by the house.[17] The wind howled all night. Everything loose on the hilltop took off for lower ground and landed in the gullies somewhere westward.

 We didn’t sleep much, but we didn’t hear the house fall, and when daylight came we ventured back inside, glad to get out of the flying dust and debris. Our confidence in the stability of the house was strengthened but we still had some fear and either during that Santa Ana Wind or a later one we made our beds in the feed room of the stable where we used the barley hay to spread our bedding on and had a fairly comfortable night. And again the house stood. Our confidence in its ability to stand up against the wind was further increased. It would groan, creak and complain, but never left its base and always settled back after the hard gusts, seemingly as strong and stable as ever.[18]

 Except for Santa Ana Winds I don’t recall much that happened our first winter in Yorba Linda until a rainy day in March when Merle was born. We called Dr. Utter of Anaheim and he came out in his auto and drove up the trail from Yorba to the bottom of the hill east of our house, then walked up the hill.[19]

 The wind blew and rain poured all day. Merle was born sometime after noon, possibly 2:30 or 3:00 o’clock, so that Dr. Utter and Hannah Nixon both got home before night -- very considerate of Merle, and Grace, too.

 Dr. Utter told us that he got off the beaten track and mired down before he got out to the road and had to get Frank Shepherd to pull his auto out with a team, for which Shepherd charged $5. A hold-up, Dr. Utter thought, which I suppose he added to our bill.

 I don’t remember us having any special help after Merle’s birth. I think Jessamyn and I took over until Grace was able to be up and help, as well as oversee.[20]


 Father and Mother Milhous rented their Indiana farm to their son Walter, sold off all the surplus stock and equipment and were coming to California to take up residence on their ranch in East Whittier. We had not told them about Merle and when they arrived in April, 1912, we gave them quite a surprise! I didn’t say glad surprise for I doubt if they were too happy about the whole thing.

 I met them at the stop at the end of the Pacific Electric line called Stern, and I imagine they thought it rightly named. I can’t think of a more forlorn, Godforsaken looking place for an Easterner to step into California than that was.[21]

 They visited with us a day or two only and then went to housekeeping in their own home. Mother Milhous was not well; she had stomach trouble that she had been doctoring unsuccessfully for some time. She was delighted to renew her acquaintance with the grandchildren and enjoyed their company very much. However, her distress from the stomach trouble increased in spite of all the doctor could do and in August, 1912, it was thought best to operate.

 As was the custom of that time, I was selected as the member of the family to be present in the room during the operation. When the incision was made the doctors discovered the stomach was entirely involved in cancer, so that nothing could be done with any hope of success. The incision was closed and so far as I know Mother Milhous was never told that the operation was not completed or that she was suffering from cancer.

 For a while she got better, then grew worse and finally succumbed before she had been in California a year. She never attained the hoped for rest from hard work while able to enjoy it.[22]


 The summer of 1912 was a busy season for me. I undertook the planting of trees in several orchards, which involved considerable work for which I had to hire help. Grace had Merle to care for and the other children, too, besides trying to get to Whittier as often as she could to visit her mother. The older children were beginning to take care of themselves pretty well under Jessamyn’s leadership. Up to that time Carmen had been the baby of the family and managed to take every advantage of that position, even talked “baby talk” until she got big enough to be ashamed of it. I think Jessamyn and Myron explored every hill and valley within a three-mile radius that summer, besides doing their assigned tasks. They knew where all the native flowers and plants grew, where the birds had their nests, the coyotes their dens, where the ground squirrels lived and even where the trapdoor spiders shut themselves in. The land was full of things to occupy their inquisitive minds, and they made the most of their opportunities. I think it was a splendid place to develop both mind and body.


 In the earlier part of my work for the water company I used a Ford car to do the zanjero work and took Merle with me a lot of the time.

 On one occasion that I remember very distinctly, we were going west on Yorba Linda Blvd. just east of Richfield Road, where we saw an oil tanker rolling down the spur line that ran up to the Olinda oil field. In making up their train, the crew had evidently let it get away from them and it was rolling down the long grade with accelerating speed.

 I thought immediately that when it hit the derail that was undoubtedly set to keep cars from running onto the main line, it would leave the track and likely overturn, so I told Merle we’d drive down to Richfield and see the wreck. So we turned south onto Richfield Road and I gave the old Ford all the go ahead I could safely manage, but before we go to the railroad we saw the oil car cross the road going east on the main line at a good speed.[23] Then I figured it would spend its momentum on the slight up-grade and likely come coasting back. There had been no derail to protect the main line and now it was out there a menace to traffic.

 A few moments later we saw a huge volume of oil smoke coming up from the railroad tracks and knew there had been some sort of a wreck. About a half-mile east, where the railroad made a slight curve and the [Richfield?] depot sat on the inside of the curve so that approaching trains from either direction could not see beyond the depot, a passenger train from the east had met the oil car head-on a full speed. The engine crashed into the tanker, tearing it wide open, throwing oil all over the engine and front part of the train and then spilling the balance on the ground.

 Since the train was heavier than the single oil car, it pushed the oil car backward and came to a stop in a mass of flames, since the oil had immediately caught fire from the engine.

 Though we were among the first to arrive on the scene it was only a few minutes until a crowd had gathered. The engineer, fireman and baggage man were placed under orange trees to wait for the ambulance, then all they could do was stand around and watch the fire burn. Merle and I waited until after the injured had been sent to the hospital and the railroad wrecking crews had arrived to care for passengers and clear away the wreck

 A train crew, picking up the oil cars at Olinda, had let a car get away from them and the lack of a derailing safety device that would have cost but a few dollars resulted in the death of at least one person, serious injury to others, and a financial loss of thousands of dollars.[24]

 This reminds me of another incident of small moment except it gave me a big scare. Going east from Richfield along the Santa Fe I was going to turn across the track at Richfield Road to go south to the pumping plant. I saw there were no trains coming from the east and knew none was coming from the west, because I’d just come that way, so I turned casually across. On the track I saw an engine about on top of me but could do nothing but go on off the track, which I did. As I looked back the engineer was shaking his fist at me. At the plant I was so weak I could scarcely stand.

 Another wreck that Merle was more directly connected with was the overturning of an auto into the Anaheim ditch. This involved Teddy Janeway, Merle and two or three other boys who were enjoying a forbidden ride in Janeway’s topless Ford, used to deliver groceries.[25]

 Teddy had learned to drive, though only about ten years old, and one Sunday afternoon, when the folks were away from home, took the boys out for a drive. They went over to the southeast part of the Tract and in coming home took a short cut along the Anaheim ditch bank, where the road used by the zanjero was only wide enough for his horse and cart. For some reason Teddy took his eye off the road for a moment and it happened. One front wheel went off the bank and before he could stop or do anything about it, the car rolled off the levee, and down into the ditch, landing upside down with boys spilled out and under. Luckily, the ditch had been drained for repairs or there might have been several lives lost from drowning. As it was nobody was severely hurt.

 But they were unable to get the car back onto the road so they had to hike in home and inform Mr. Janeway of the accident. The car was rescued the next day, not much worse for the accident, except a windshield broken.

 Did that cure the boys? Not at all. They avoided the Anaheim ditch trail but would take the car out on virgin land . . . well, hardly virgin, but on barley stubble, and practice terraplaning with a sled tied on behind the car. When the car had picked up pretty good speed the driver would crack the whip and send the sled and rider rolling over the hard ground, real rough and tumble play. It’s a wonder someone didn’t get their neck broken, but maybe they used a little discretion.

 Another attraction for the Yorba Linda boys was the Yorba reservoir, southeast of town. Swimming was also forbidden here but boys would slip away and take a plunge in the reservoir any time they could escape the watchful eye of the caretaker, Navarro, or his daughters. This practice finally resulted in the tragic drowning of one of the Pickering boys.[26] Another of the same family, a girl, was the victim of poisoning by eating toadstools mistaken for mushrooms. Other members of the family were made sick, but recovered.[27]

 Speaking of Pickerings, I remember that when we sold the Buckmaster house to them[28] I reserved one side of the garage to store some of our belongings in until we got back from our trip to Indiana. Among the stuff stored was a partial sack of poison barley I had bought to poison squirrels on the ranch. I didn’t think to tell them the barley was poisoned and when we got back we found they had fed some of the grain to a big [hog?] they were fattening and it died as a result.


 On the whole Yorba Linda was an adventure in pioneering -- one of the last in Southern California. The area comprised in the district was rolling mesa land that had been dry farmed for years, growing nothing but barley. It was known to be as near frostless as the best citrus area and gave promise of being a good lemon district.

 One thing most buyers didn’t know was the prevalence of Santa Ana Winds at certain seasons, a fact they learned with sorrow since these winds could do much damage to crops besides being very disagreeable.

 In the early days, trapdoor spiders were common and their “nests” could be seen most anywhere, but they soon disappeared when fields were cultivated and I haven’t seen one for years.

 Also the “butcher bird” was a native of that district and his kills, ranging from all kinds of insects to mice, could be seen impaled on barbed wire and other places the first summer we were there. I think he, too, fled the advancing hordes.

 Coyotes and bobcats were reported common and coyotes are still -- well, not all the time. I helped reduce the bobcat population by one. I took a stroll over the hills just east of our house with a .22 rifle looking for rabbits sitting in clumps of cactus, where they could hide pretty safe from hungry coyotes. On looking in one clump I saw a couple of big eyes staring at me, so I took aim between them and bang! It proved to be a bobcat, though I had no idea what it was when I shot. That was the only wild one I ever saw.

 Myron and Merle were joking mother a few days ago about her attempt to make elderberry jelly. Mrs. Curtis Morris was working with elderberries and explained to mother she was making jelly when in reality she was making wine. So mother thought she’d better make some jelly, too. Six of us to feed required provender in quantity and variety. The boys secured the elderberries and mother made the jelly. It was tough as leather and about as hard! However, elderberries with a little lemon juice added made very good pies, especially when they were the only fruit obtainable.

 I never knew of anyone actually using cactus apples for candy flavoring or anything else, though people often spoke of the possibilities of doing so, claiming a delightful flavor for such products.


 For most of the people in the Tract the early days were filled with hard work and financial difficulties, since the majority were people with limited capital, trying to establish a home with income enough from their orange and lemon groves to afford a decent living. This meant at least five or six years of work before they could expect anything from their trees and in the meantime they had to secure enough work to live and pay water bills, pay for trees, pipelines, land, taxes, etc., besides building homes.

 The majority of the ranchers were buying their land on time, then going more into debt to purchase trees to plant. Where a rancher lived on his land and did the work of improving it, he would also do work for others to make a living. Some owners were from Los Angeles where they held good jobs and would continue to hold them and commute via the Pacific Electric Railway while hiring resident ranchers to do the planting, cultivating and irrigating of their orchards. This type of work furnished the bulk of the income for lots of the first settlers for a number of years. Adjoining oil fields were also a source of employment.

 Very few of the residents came to Yorba Linda with enough capital to buy land, build a home, and improve their property. Buyers who had money were usually well-established elsewhere and bought Yorba Linda land as a business venture, expecting to make a profit or a home for some relative or dependent.

 G.C. Kinsman was an exception. He located there as a place to spend the rest of his life and seemingly had enough money to pay his way.[29] There were possibly others, but most all of the early settlers were working to make a living.

 Dr. Marshburn of Whittier bought a place on Yorba Linda Blvd. (as it was commonly referred to) and moved out with his family. I think he practiced some after coming out there, but not very much. He was an ardent Friend, and took an active part in organizing the church and the building of the meeting house.[30]

 Father Milhous sold his Jennings County farm about 1914 or ‘15 and Walter sold the stock and equipment and came to California, buying five acres north of the townsite where he and Allie and their three boys lived until Allie’s death a couple of years later from tuberculosis.[31] Thirty years afterward Walter died in the same house from the same cause which had afflicted him practically all his adult life.[32]


I can’t remember exactly when we sold the ranch and bought the house Buckmaster had built.[33] I sold the ranch to Mr. MacClatchie for $5,000, making a profit of some $1,500, not counting labor in improvements.[34] At about the same time we bought five acres south of the road adjoining the townsite on the southwest.[35] This place I planted to citrus trees.

 Before that, however, I had gone to work for the water company. The change was made to cash in on the advance price on the ranch and to reduce our indebtedness; in addition to getting a better home, closer to my work.


 Our first automobile was acquired while we were living in the Buckmaster house, a secondhand Duro, chain drive, two-cylinder “horozontal” engine -- that spelling of horizontal is wrong, wrong but righter than you think. It could be “horror-zontal” and not be too wrong.[36]

 But while it developed trouble on nearly every trip we tried, we learned what an auto could mean in our lives and later secured a Model T Ford and from then on our firsthand knowledge of California grew rapidly. There was no mountain too steep, no desert too hot and dangerous, and no resort or park too distant to not be seen and admired.

 On a trip to the San Diego “Worlds Fair”[37] with all four children I insisted on having the top down, since it would offer less resistance to the wind and save gas, with the result that all of us were badly sunburned.

 Another time we headed for Tia Juana, but in crossing the sandy river bed near there we broke down -- sheared a new key in the hub of a hind wheel so we had no power and I had to make a new key out of an old screw driver. It took me so long that when we got going again we had to head for home and didn’t get to Tia Juana after all.

 On another trip in that old Ford we went out through Beaumont, Banning, and on down through the Coachella Valley to Brawley. Palm Springs hadn’t sprung yet, and we would guess the distance from one point around a peak to the other. Down south of Coachella we stopped to ask a farmer about the road and he asked about our water supply. When I told him we had a canteen full, he said to never attempt to cross that desert without more water, to go back to Coachella and get at least a five-gallon can full, which we did.

 The trip was uneventful; no trouble until we stopped to camp and made our beds near an irrigation canal and the mosquitos nearly drove us crazy. From Brawley we went on down through Imperial Valley and over the mountains to San Diego and home.

 That same Ford took us north through Bishop to Mono Lake and across Tioga Pass to Yosemite, a hazardous trip even today with much better cars. We explored Yosemite, climbed the mountains, and found an abandoned camp where cooking utensils, a huge coffee maker, dishes and an old cylinder phonograph had been left to the mercy of the elements and vacationers like us.

 Another trip I recall was up the Central Valley road to Sacramento, across Donner Pass to Truckee and to Lake Tahoe, where we camped on the western shore of the lake. Then on around the southern tip of the lake and over to Carson City, Nevada.

 I went a store there to get some supplies and found four men at a table playing cards. They paid me no attention and seeing no one to wait on me, I finally mustered enough courage to ask if the owner was in. Yes, he’d take care of me in just a minute he said, and he went on playing. When they had played their hands he told the others to excuse him, he’d be back in a minute and proceeded to get what I wanted, apparently forgiving me for the interruption.

 It was on this trip when we camped north of Mono Lake and Myron went down to the lake for water while we got supper and prepared for the night. He was gone so long we all got worried and his mother was really scared. We discovered later we were three or four miles from the lake and the water was unfit to drink, anyway.

 The climax of all our trips was the one back to Indiana, when we loaded every conceivable kind of camping equipment on our Paige Touring Car and headed eastward over mountains and prairies where in many places roads were simply two ruts too deep to get out of. If traffic laws had been enforced in those days as now we’d have been stopped for carrying too heavy a load on the road. Never was the touring car loaded so heavy before or since.[38]

 We had three camp beds -- iron frames, springs and bedding -- an oil stove, cooking utensils, table service for six, grocery supplies for two or three days, two or three changes of clothing for each, a large make-shift tent, tools and spare parts for the car, and six people -- two adults, two near adults and two children.

 Due to the overload and bad roads we had tire trouble continually. It took about two weeks each way and cost around $1,000 for the roundtrip. The contributing factor for that trip was ignorance.


 One thing I’d like to relate, if I had the ability to do it, would be to tell the influence of Yorba Linda upon my development, which I think was considerable. But I have neither the words nor the gift of character portrayal to do it.

 Although I was past thirty years old I had had but limited experience in business affairs, having up to that time served as an employee, two times at teaching school, a couple of seasons as a foreman of a construction crew doing railroad work, and the balance of the time doing farm work where my highest pay for 12 hours work was $1.00 per day.

 Under such circumstances a man doesn’t aspire to any substantial achievements and sees no examples to give him hope, or at least I didn’t in the community where my lot was cast. I had come to California for Grace’s health and a hope that I might be able to make a living for and educate our children, so when the opportunity came to acquire land and a home in Yorba Linda I accepted with alacrity and a thankful heart. I couldn’t lose anything but some time and labor as I had nothing to lose; even the first payment on the land was borrowed money. But my first venture, the potato crop referred to before, made more money than I could have saved in a year’s time from wages, enabling me to repay the first loan. That gave me a decided lift in my morale and erased some of my inferiority complex.

 Development work was increasing all around. I was busy every day helping prepare land and planting trees. Several new owners employed me to plant and manage their new groves, so that I gained confidence in myself and really felt that I was an equal member in the community.

 We built the house on the hill and established a home, the first I had been able to call “our house.” The trees we planted started growing fine, land was increasing in value, and I was happy and hopeful.

[Back to Introduction]


[1] Jesse Milhous (1851-1930) was the father of Grace West. Jessamyn West was named for him. His brother, Frank (1848-1919) came to California in 1897 with his wife Almira (1849-1943). Their daughter, Hannah (1885-1967), was the mother of President Richard Nixon.

[2] The Milhouses and their kin were not the only Indiana farmers to come to California. Whittier even supported a “Jennings County Association” for former residents (Whittier News, July 1, 1911).

[3] The Whittier News (May 14, 1909) reports: “Frank Milhous has sold the Hudson place, seven and one-half acres, near the East Whittier church to his brother for $8,000. The purchaser now resides in Indiana, but expects to move out with his family this fall.” Jesse and Molly Milhous first visited Whittier at the end of that summer. The News (September 3, 1909) notes, “He is here for a short stay and will take in the sights of Southern California before his return to the East. His expectations have been more than realized, and he is entirely satisfied with his ranch though purchased without seeing it.”

[4] Albertson also became a Yorba Linda pioneer, and was the first president of the Yorba Linda Citrus Association. For a photo of his (very nice) home in Whittier, see the Whittier News Annual Edition, December 20, 1915.

[5] Charles Milhous was another brother of Frank and Jesse (or Father Milhouse, as Eldo calls him).

[6] The first advertisement for the Yorba Linda Tract in the Los Angeles Times appears on February 9, 1908; the tract map was filed with the county a few weeks later.

[7] The ten acres was located at the northwest corner of Palm and Yorba Linda Blvd. on the very easternmost edge of the tract. The deed was executed September 6, 1910. The price was $3,000 at $300 per year for ten years.

[8] Jessamyn West remembered Silver as a long, black hound dog.

[9] In another manuscript Eldo explained, “We hauled water in barrels, two barrels on a wagon, and made about two trips a week.”

[10] Jessamyn West uses this incident in South of the Angels (Book I, chapter 10).

[11] The coming of the Pacific Electric trolley line (familiarly known as "The Big Red Cars") was an important factor in the founding of Yorba Linda. Jacob Stern and the other local property owners gave the company land for a right-of-way to make sure the line came through the tract. This branch line from Whittier was built in fits and starts between 1907 and 1910, when the tracks reached Yorba Linda.

[12] Walter Milhous was another son of Jesse, making him Grace West’s brother. Guthrie, then, was Eldo’s wife’s sister-in-law’s brother (got that?). In another manuscript Eldo recalled that Guthrie and Morris were absolute opposites in personality, and that the three of them were together for “two or three months.” Morris served on the board of the Yorba Linda Water Co. for more than 30 years. Guthrie also remained in Yorba Linda, dying there in 1945.

[13] Commission agents bought crops from ranchers to resell to packers and shippers. Their prices were usually not as high as selling direct, but it was easier for small growers. “I made about $600 from the deal,” Eldo wrote in another manuscript.

[14] The house was completed in 1911. In another manuscript Eldo described it as “a story and a half house of the very flimsiest possible construction, with a large combination kitchen and dining room, a living room, and a bedroom downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs.” That description still fit it very well when I first saw it in 1980.

[15] The Orange County Tribune (March 13, 1913) reports: “Mr. and Mrs. Russell Harrison have moved into the Milhous property just vacated by the [Arthur] Morris family.” Elizabeth Harrison was a daughter of Frank Milhous. She died in 1930.

[16] While Jacob Stern was the principal owner of the Yorba Linda Tract, in the spring of 1909 he and his partners turned the marketing and development of the property over to the Janss Investment Co. of Los Angeles, which specialized in community development. Founded in 1906 by Dr. Peter Janss (1858-1926) with his sons, Dr. Edwin Sr. and Harold, the company developed tracts in Boyle Heights, Monterey Park, Van Nuys, Canoga Park, Thousand Oaks, Norco, and (most famously) Westwood Village. After four generations, the corporation finally ceased operations in 1995.

[17] The weir box was used to regulate the flow of irrigation water. It still there -- with Myron’s name scratched into the concrete -- when the house was burned in 1982 but was later destroyed.

[18] It “is still standing now, some forty-four years later,” Eldo wrote in 1955, “though I suspect it has been strengthened by the later owners.”

[19] Merle West was born March 9, 1912, and was sometimes identified as the first baby born in Yorba Linda. Dr. John W. Utter, a native of California, began practicing medicine in Anaheim in 1910. In The Woman Said Yes Jessamyn West writes that the same doctor who delivered Merle (she calls him Dr. Thompson) also diagnosed her tuberculosis in 1931.

[20] “And since they are both alive today,” Eldo noted in 1955, “I conclude we must have done a passably good job.”

[21] The stop at Stern (there was no station), named for Jacob Stern, was a little below town. At one time, the Pacific Electric had considered continuing their branch line on out the Santa Ana Canyon to Riverside, but the extension was never built.

[22] Mary (Molly) Milhous died February 9, 1913. See the Orange County Tribune, February 20, 1913

[23] Though only three years old at the time, Merle West (1912-1998) always remembered that ride -- "he pulled the ears down on that Model T Ford." (Personal interview, October 10, 1980).

[24] The year was 1915. For more details, see the Fullerton Daily Tribune, August 1, 1915, and the Orange Post, August 6, 10, 17, 1915.

[25] Janeway was the son of Luther Janeway, who had bought a store in Yorba Linda in 1921 (Yorba Linda Star, July 20, 1921).

[26] Chauncey Pickering drowned in the reservoir in 1920. See the Yorba Linda Star, June 7, 11, 1920.

[27] See the Yorba Linda Star, March 18, 21, 1921. In a 1970 interview, Mrs. Cecil Pickering recalled, "We were all sick with mushroom, except for Eleanor, who didn't like them ... she didn't eat any. But the rest of us did eat them and we were all sick. Elizabeth couldn't go through it; she was only five years old." (Interview #933, California State University Fullerton Center for Oral and Public History.)

[28] On September 7, 1920.

[29] Kinsman (1850-1938) had been a telegrapher for the Wabash Railway for 44 years before coming to Yorba Linda in 1912. He built a house there that same year (Orange County Tribune, September 25, 1912) and lived there until his death (Yorba Linda Star, September 23, 1938).

[30] Dr. William Marshburn (1855-1938) had settled in El Modena in 1895, then moved to Whittier in 1903 before coming to Yorba Linda in 1912. His son, Oscar, married Rose Milhous, a daughter of Frank.

[31] Allie Milhous died May 31, 1917 (Fullerton Daily Tribune, June 5, 1917).

[32] Walter Milhous died in 1943 at the age of 63. "He was the sort of friendly man one naturally calls by his first name," his obituary notes, "and ... while illness incapacitated him much of the time ... it never made a complainer of him and it did not sour his genial disposition." (Yorba Linda Star, September 24, 1943.) His home was located on Plumosa Drive.

[33] The Buckmaster house was at 4891 Park Place. In 2002 it was at the center of a preservation controversy when the property owners proposed tearing it down (Orange County Register, March 27, September 26, 2002). Despite these protests, the house was torn down that same year and replaced with a modern structure.

[34] The Palm Avenue ranch was sold in March, 1914. MacClatchie ran a hardware store in Brea for many years. He and his family owned the old West ranch until 1949.

[35] The date was December 27, 1912.

[36] Jessamyn West remembered it as a 1910 model.

[37] Properly the Panama-California Exhibition in 1915, celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal. See Jessamyn West’s Hide and Seek.

[38] The trip was during the summer of 1920. On September 24, 1919 the La Habra Star reported, “The E.R. West family of Yorba Linda is enjoying a very classy new car.” (“Classy” was the Yorba Linda correspondent’s favorite description for new cars). On his return from the trip Eldo was quoted in the Yorba Linda Star (October 4, 1920) as saying, “After all there is no place like California, and I am glad to be home again and to work.” Jessamyn West writes about it several times in Hide and Seek and adds that the Paige was apple green in color.