Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Piru City, California.
An Important Trade Center and a Highly Favored Horticultural Section.

Distributing Point for the Oil Wells.

Two Thousand Acres Near the Town in Apricots, Oranges and Lemons; Besides Prunes, Apples, Peaches, Etc.

Home of Ramona Near Piru.

Education, Religion, Temperance, Horticulture and Happy Homes.


The purchase of the Temescal Land Grant in 1887, from the Del Valle brothers, by David C. Cook of Elgin, Ill., was quickly followed by the founding of the present town of Piru City.

Work began in 1887 and continued energetically through 1888. During the winter of 1887-8 the large M.E. Church was erected. In June 1888, the postoffice was opened, with G.R. Walden as postmaster, succeeded in a few months by R. Sampson. C.J. French, who arrived May 29, was appointed assistant postmaster.

In the meantime, a general merchandise store had been opened, and in September 1889 was sold to James Parsons and C.J. French, who did business under the firm name of C.J. French Co. W.H. Fleet is also one of the pioneers of Piru City, and well known as the Superintendent of the ranch. The public school was opened in June, 1889. Leslie F. Gay arrived in 1892 and for seven years was general manager, until succeeded by the Hon. A.B. Lucas, the present incumbent.

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Its Business Houses, Etc.

Piru City has a large Methodist Church, a beautiful new public school house, two general merchandise stores, postoffice with four daily mails, Wells Fargo's express, Western Union Telegraph office, Sunset Telephone Company's office, meat market, livery stable, barbershop, two blacksmith shops, carpenter shop, paint shop, a fine two story hotel, restaurant, dressmaker, notary public, warehouse and packing house, poultry yards and dairy, fruit drying yards, and oil shipping station with lank and pipe lines.

Robert Dunn conducts the meat market, livery stable and store. F.E. Woods is postmaster, dealer in general merchandise, paymaster, Piru Fruit Rancho and agent, Sunset Telephone Co. C.A. Barrows is station agent, S.P.R.R., agent, Wells Fargo Co. and Western Union Telegraph Co.

J. Hunt is proprietor, Piru poultry yards. Messrs. Arthur E. Geer and E.D. Eberhardt conduct the Piru dairy. A.C. Dominguez is the tonsorial artist. Geo. Messenger is the popular blacksmith, Francisco Real, a private settler, has a blacksmith shop adjoining Piru, on his ranch. Miss Marie Willis keeps the restaurant, and Miss Blanche Willis is the dressmaker.

C.W. Roth manufactures gopher traps. David Felsenthal is notary public. Rev. Sidney C. Kendall is pastor of the Methodist Episcopal church. Mrs. Arthur Geer is principal of the school and Mrs. Alice Gay is the popular manager of the Piru Hotel. Miss E.A. Wood is the accountant of the Piru Fruit Rancho.

Its Location, Trade, Etc.

Piru City is on the line of the S.P. railroad, 34 miles northeast from Ventura, and 49 miles from Los Angeles. Its altitude above sea level is 695 feet.

Like other parts of Southern California the climate is delightful. Being 30 miles inland the dry warm air, free from heavy fogs, is preferred by many to that of the sea coast, especially in bronchial throat troubles. The altitude above sea level is another important consideration.

This beautiful town is situated at the foot of the mountains, near the junction of the Piru and Santa Clara Rivers, not far from the upper end of the Santa Clara valley. The mountain scenery is varied and picturesque, massive and grand. In the mountains near the town are numerous oil fields. The town is the postoffice and distributing point for supplies for the many wells.

The chief glory of Piru City, however, is in the fact that in a few short years it has forged to the front as a horticultural center. It has already become famous for its oranges, lemons, apricots and olives, apples, peaches and other fruits. This is due to the untiring and prodigious energy of David C. Cook, owner of the Piru Fruit Rancho. Many other owners of model orchards are contributing to the fair name of this garden spot of Ventura county. Citrus fruits and apricots are the universal favorites.

The production of barley, beans, honey, alfalfa, horses and cattle also add to the business importance of the town.

The large amount of freight received at Piru City is indeed surprising. The monthly average is almost 500 tons, or 1,000,000 pounds. Some months the total freight received exceeds these figures. This big freight business is caused, not only by the large orders of the Piru Fruit Rancho, but also by the numerous oil wells in the vicinity. Oil well supplies are received here, causing a great deal of teaming. The demand for hay is consequently incessant, and farmers find a good local market. Hauling lumber, pipe, machinery, etc., to the wells keeps many teamsters busy.

Residence of D.C. Cook.

The elegant and costly mansion of David C. Cook is located at the base of a steep mountain, only a few hundred yards from the depot. It is on bench land, overlooking the town. As the visitor walks through the grounds around the house he almost imagines himself in a tropical country. Attached to the house are a conservatory and fountain, and close by a summer house, covered with creeping vines.

There are flowers, shrubbery and ornamental trees in great profusion; such as peppers, gravillas, varieties of palms, weeping willows, locusts, catalpas, gums, pines, cacti, lemons, oranges, olives and other fruit trees; large umbrella trees, century plants in bloom, etc. It is quite evident that trees, flowers and shrubbery grow to perfection in Piru City. The beautiful banana tree (a tropical plant) demonstrates that the Cook mansion is in a region exempt from killing frosts.

Piru City has a lodge of the Fraternal Aid Society, — a life insurance company. Meetings are held once a month, on Tuesdays. The officers are David Felsenthal, Pres.; Mrs. Arthur Geer, Vice Pres.; A.E. Geer, sec.; J.H. Alcock, Treas.; C.O. Power, Guide; Rev. B.A. Johnson, Chap.

New Buildings.

Four beautiful cottages have been erected by the Piru Fruit Rancho, to accommodate the growing population. Several more will soon be started. The Piru City home life, religion, education, temperance and horticulture make a happy combination. It is a prohibition town.

M.E. Church.

Visitors to Piru City are surprised to find the large Methodist Church so well attended. Rev. Sidney C. Kendall, late of Long Beach, is the pastor and is very much appreciated by the people. The following are the officers: E.W. Spencer, Sunday School Superintendent and Chorister. Board of Stewards. — W.H. Fleet, Mrs. Geo. L. Cook, Geo. L. Cook, J.H. Mobley, Thos. Cayton, Mrs. Alice Gay, M.E. Cowden. Trustees. — A.B. Lucas, Robt. Dunn, C.J. French, W.H. Moore and W.H. Fleet. Epworth League. — W.H. Fleet, President; Mrs. A.A. Martin, Secretary; Miss E.A. Wood, Treasurer.

The town of Piru City is the property of David C. Cook, Esq. He is not offering any land or lots for sale.

During the fruit season, one of the pleasantest sights to be seen is whole families of American children, educated in our public schools, and brought up in the horticultural sections of California, cutting and pitting fruit. This occupation is suitable for families; for little children as well as the older ones, and combines pleasure and profit. During the fruit season several hundred are thus employed in Piru City, most of whom live in tents and camp out under the trees.

David C. Cook.

Not many years ago, this section of Ventura County was but little known. The people of Southern California had a vague idea that the country was devoted to honey, sheep and stock raising. Since 1887, however, when David C. Cook of Elgin, Ills., bought the Temescal Land Grant from the Del Valle brothers, a wonderful change has taken place.

A vast irrigation system has been constructed, containing 30 miles of pipes, flumes and canals, and mammoth orchards, amounting to about 1,200 acres, have been planted and cared for, until Piru City is widely known as a great horticultural center, producing immense quantities of the finest oranges, lemons, olives, apples, apricots, peaches and prunes, and likewise as the distributing point for the great oil industry.

People are inquiring, more than ever before, who is David C. Cook that is engaged in so large an enterprise and is spending so much money on the Piru Fruit Rancho?

It is right and proper, that the curiosity of the people should be gratified. The following information is gathered from a pamphlet issued by the David C. Cook Publishing Co.

David C. Cook was born in New York State in 1850, and was the son of a Methodist minister. As a child he took great interest in Sunday Schools. He has always been actively engaged in church, temperance, and Sunday School work. At the age of 57, he first came into notice, as a teacher in Ward's Rolling Mills Sunday School in Chicago. He was greatly interested in missionary work among the poor of that great city. At that time, a great necessity existed for cheap Sunday School lesson papers and other literature. He proceeded to supply the demand, and soon found the same want existed in other Sunday Schools. Mr. Cook quickly found himself engaged in a rapidly growing and prosperous business, one that has grown to be the largest of the kind in the whole world. Every day his establishment turns out several tons of books, pamphlets and papers. The vast business now requires in Elgin, Ills., several large buildings of three and one of four stories, employing several hundred people. Photographing, engraving, typesetting, stereotyping, electrotyping and binding are all conducted on a large scale. The business also includes a Chicago office and salesroom. The buildings are warmed by steam and lighted electricity. Business is done, not only with every State in the Union, but also with foreign countries. Mr. Cook paid the government in one year more than $30,000 postage. Several weekly papers are published. One of them, the "Young Peoples' Weekly," years ago had a circulation of 215,000 copies. Mr. Cook published a prize story entitled "Titus," for which he paid $1,000. The book has had a circulation of a million copies. Mr. Cook's mammoth establishment has a large and perfect line of expensive modern printing machines, also a multi-color printing fast press. It prints a sheet in four colors. In truth, the David C. Cook Publishing Co. has distanced all competition and made Sunday School literature cheaper.

A.B. Lucas.

A.B. Lucas, the general manager of the Piru Fruit Rancho, arrived from Chicago January 28th of the present year, and assumed the duties of his responsible position, succeeding Lester F. Gay. Before coming to California, Mr. Lucas had been connected with the Deering Harvester Co., one of the great agricultural implement firms of the world. Mr. Lucas was born and raised in Iowa and afterwards moved to South Dakota. His father, Capt. W.V. Lucas, was a prominent citizen of Iowa. He was a member of Col. Shaw's regiment, State Auditor of Iowa, served ten terms in Congress from South Dakota and was Register of the U.S. Land Office. A.B. Lucas, his son, has had a varied experience as farmer, legislator, banker and real estate dealer. He was formerly member of the Legislature of South Dakota and chairman of the committee on irrigation, likewise a member of the Constitutional Convention. He was member of the State Board of Agriculture six years and vice-president of the same four years. Mr. Lucas is therefore well qualified to fill the responsible position, which he now occupies.

F.E. Woods.

F.E. Woods is the well-known dealer in general merchandise, has a large stock of goods and does a fine business. He is also postmaster, telephone agent and represents several fire insurance companies, besides being paymaster for the Piru Fruit Rancho. He has one of the largest and best stores in this county, and for a country town, keeps a splendid and varied stock of merchandise. He is the oldest established merchant in business for himself and receives a large share of the public patronage. Mr. Woods is well known in Ventura, where he formerly resided.

C.J. French.

C.J. French is one of the oldest residents of Piru City, having arrived here 11 years ago on the 29th of last May.* He bought the general merchandise store from the Rancho, and carried on business with James Parson, under the firm name of C.J. French & Co. Last December he sold out and removed to Los Angeles; but has since returned, and is now manager for Robt. Dunn. Mr. French is a pioneer citizen and takes great interest in public affairs. He was a candidate for Railroad Commissioner on the Prohibition ticket, at one time. At the last election he was candidate for county Auditor and Recorder. Mr. French was born and raised in Indiana. He subsequently lived in Iowa and came to California 11 years ago, where he ran for office on the Prohibition ticket. He polled more votes than all the other candidates combined, for the same office.** Mr. French is one of Piru's highly esteemed and public-spirited citizens.

* This probably means: As of two months ago (May 29), it had been 11 years.

** This probably means: more votes than all other Prohibition Party candidates.

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