After about five years of ownership of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino, the Chino Land and Water Company, acquired in 1900 by a group of investors headed by Phoebe Apperson Hearst (see April column) decided to sell the ranch, perhaps because a regional economic boom gave them the means to turn a quick profit. The new buyers included several investors with one, like Hearst, who was the major stockholder: Edwin Jessop Marshall.
Mr. Marshall was born in 1860 just outside Baltimore, Maryland, though his family soon moved to Olney, Illinois, just east of St. Louis. In official biographies, it was stated that he went out on his own at age 15 and went to St. Louis to be a clerk for a railroad company. What was not mentioned was that his father was a bank clerk who was convicted for fraudulent exchanges of bank notes and served a stretch at state prison. This led young Marshall to have to find his own way in the world.
After some time with the Central Pacific Railroad, builders of the eastern half of the famed transcontinental railroad completed in 1869, he worked for the Pullman Palace Car Company, known for its sleeping and dining railroad cars. After losing his position with a regional railroad absorbed by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, Mr. Marshall took $2,000 in savings and bought a Texas sheep ranch.
He also worked as cashier of a bank, in a tenure of seventeen years so successful he became the president. His big boon, however, was in 1900. Driving 2,000 cattle to Oklahoma, he heard about the finding of oil near Houston. A group of investors joined him in buying an option on land there. Speculation was high and the syndicate realized a $300,000 profit in only a month on half the land.
They recruited new investors from New York and formed the Texas Company, better known as Texaco, one of the largest multinational oil firms on the planet. Mr. Marshall became the larger company’s first treasurer.
His only child Marcus, born in 1893, had health issues, and the climate in greater Los Angeles was highly attractive. So, E.J.’s wife, Sallie, and son came west to live while Marshall built up his Texaco business. His real financial success was not in oil, but in land speculation. In 1906, he sold the last of his Texaco stock.
When Mr. Marshall joined his family on the first day of 1904, he served as vice-president of Southwestern National Bank. When it merged with another bank he turned his attention to real estate on a big scale. He purchased three large ranches in Santa Barbara County, had major land investments near the Grand Canyon and a 2.3-million-acre ranch, the largest in the world, in Chihuahua, Mexico along the New Mexico border. He was president of a land company in Sinaloa, Mexico that owned 1.5 million acres. By 1913, he was a director of thirty companies working in banking, insurance, and telephone and telegraph services among others, and was part-owner of three office buildings in downtown Los Angeles.
In 1905, Mr. Marshall was joined by Jared Torrance, John S. Cravens, Isaac Milbank and Edwin T. Earl in buying the Chino Ranch, continuing operations of the Chino Land and Water Company. More about these men and their development of the ranch next month.
(Historian Spitzzeri will speak on the Tres Hermanos Ranch Monday night at 7 at the Chino Hills Historical Society meeting at the Community Center on Peyton Drive.)