Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Piru Church
Piru, California

David Caleb Cook, a publisher of Methodist Sunday School tracts in Elgin, Ill., came to California in 1866 to escape the harsh winters and muggy Midwestern summers that offered no relief for his insufferable coughing spells. He settled in Piru, where he purchased 14,000 acres of the old Rancho Camulos and proceeded to establish his idyllic town.

Cook had a plat map drawn up and built this church at the corner of Center and Park streets, complete with what may have been the oldest pipe organ in California, built in 1860 or 1862 in Westfield, Mass., and shipped around Cape Horn.

Near the church he planted a garden with fruits from the Garden of Eden as specified in the Bible, such as grapes, dates, figs, apricots and pomegranates, and he planted many thousands of acres of oranges, walnuts, peppers and olives.

At the top of Park Street he built his residence, a huge, three-story Queen Anne mansion modeled after the design of Joseph and Cather Newsom.

In 1887 the Southern Pacific Railroad punched through from Saugus to the sea at Ventura, no doubt bringing with it many heathens from Los Angeles. Within two years Cook pulled up stakes, returning to Elgin where, despite earlier health problems, he held on until his death in 1926.

Piru became just another tiny flag stop along a now-deserted rail line, its subsequent history punctuated with little more than a 1925 robbery of a long-gone bank.

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