It’s doubtful that there will be any grandchildren of Chino pioneers at Sunday’s traditional Pioneer Picnic at the Chino Community Building. Sunday’s event is labeled as a celebration of Chino’s pioneer heritage and is open to anyone interested in the community’s history.
When the first gatherings were held, a Chino pioneer was considered one whose family had arrived by around 1910. The first ones settled in “Rincon” by the Santa Ana River on the old Yorba land grant obtained by Fenton Mercer Slaughter from the Yorba family. Among them were James Thomas Mayhew’s “first family,” Edward and Joseph Clegg Lester in 1875 and A.R. McCarty in 1876, followed by Samuel C. and Beatrice Pine.
Then came Richard Gird, a silver king from Tombstone, Arizona, who bought Rancho Chino originally owned by Antonio Lugo and his son-in-law Isaac Williams. Mr. Gird established the town of Chino, and its settlers were the ones considered its “pioneers,” some enticed by low railroad fares to leave farms in the East and Midwest to seek a new start in California
The new town attracted an interesting assortment of people, good and not so good. Life was tough and sometimes full of tragedy, including diseases that took their children, fires that burned them out, rains that turned dirt roads to mud and communications that were slow.
Among those who became respected and important members of the community were William J. Tebo, a first town resident in 1887, Edwin Rhodes (1890), O. J. Newman (1891) and merchant B.K. Galbreath (1894).
Mr. Tebo, short of stature but tough as nails, farmed, ran a business, owned oil land in the southwest hills and became a renowned town constable. The Tebos’ baby Harry was the first born in new town, only to die three years later of diphtheria.
A first settler after Mr. Gird subdivided the ranch was J. E. Bettler who bought 10 acres west of town in September 1887, later expanding to 40 acres. He built a 2-story house and planted potatoes and vegetables, later putting in nursery stock and planted trees along Central Avenue for Mr. Gird. He was secretary of a school improvement group and his two children were among the first students.
In July 1891, his wife charged him with threatening the lives and property of her and the children and “extorting a promise of money.” Later a divorce was granted, and he sold the ranch. He landed in jail a few days for battery when he returned to Pomona after a big drunk in San Francisco, according to the Champion.
The first merchants who set up shop in Mr. Gird’s building on Seventh (the present Chamber of Commerce) were George Wilbur and B. R. Durrell, who split up soon a few months later. Mr. Durrell opened a barber shop which he operated for many years. Mr. Wilbur set up shop at another location.
An early storekeeper was F.E. Stocker, who left town mysteriously one day. W. J. Tebo bought his stock at auction, then sold his interest to Isaac Goble. M. Moyse took their space in what is now the Gray Building. Mr. Moyse became one of the town’s foremost merchants.
One of the most prominent merchants was B.K. Galbreath, who came to Chino from Pomona in 1894, and in 1907 built the two-story store building at Sixth and D, on the site of the present Neighborhood Activities Center. His original store was a wooden structure just to the east.
Another early merchant was George V. Holcomb, member of a prominent San Bernardino family (Holcomb Valley) who came here in 1894 to work in the “sugar mill.” Two years later he opened a store which burned to the ground a short time later. He soon opened another and finally ended up in a two-story building on the southwest corner of Sixth and D, where he took in as a partner Elmer Jertberg, member of another pioneer family.
Chino’s first sidewalks, before the advent of motor vehicles, were made from a molasses compound from the sugar factory, installed by Jacob Sholander. Later they were replaced by a rock-based cement by another pioneer, Otto Bertschinger. Peter Loubet surfaced the street in front of his meat market with decomposed granite in 1896.
The first bricks to build the town came from Patrick Harrington who died in 1888 when tossed from his buggy near his quarry in the Chino hills. He had a contract to provide two and a half million bricks for Mr. Gird.
Chino’s beginning population was about 45. During 1890, 200 were employed to build the sugar factory and by November 1891, 99 homes were reported. Two years later the population was figured at 1,400.
Mrs. Gird, as wife of the founder, was the most prominent woman, playing a large role as a leader in social life, schools and community betterment. Women also ran boarding houses and hotels, private schools and shops. Mrs. Galbreath was the first president of the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union organized in 1897 to combat the evils of liquor, and a woman’s Suffrage Club organized in 1896.
Chino got a woman’s doctor in 1897 when Lucy M. Gardner MD and her husband, Dr. F.M. Gardner came here from Riverside. They specialized in women’s illnesses, set up a clinic with beds for the ill and a nurse in attendance.
The first doctor here was Dr. G. A. Wood, from Tulare, who stayed until 1891. He was followed by Dr. F. M. Siebert in 1892 and Dr. T.V. Kellogg in 1894. Until they got here the nearest medical care was via a bumpy buggy trip to Pomona or Ontario. However, for those seeking relief from a variety of ills, the Champion advertised Hall’s Catarrah Cure, Ayer’s Sarsaparilla blood purifier and R-I-P-A-N-S, which “cures common everyday ills.” Marijuana had not yet made an appearance.
Among the first to settle in town was the family of George David who built a house in the middle of the present Adult School on Second Street. George Wilbur got a judgement against Mr. David and the constable set a sale of the property.
Ned J. Sholander, grandfather of later prominent citizen Jesner Sholander, bought 37 acres on the west side of Euclid Avenue near Eucalyptus. He was killed in a horse accident in 1893. A son ranched, then went to USC, where he became a professor of science. Jesner’s father Peter was another son.
Even before all these people was Jesus Villa, who fled Mexico and settled in Chino Valley, and still has descendants around. A park in Chino is named for him. Tiburcio Silvas, an Indian born in the 1840s at the San Gabriel Mission, was employed by Mr. Gird. Manuel Baca was Mr. Gird’s ranch foreman who later bought the Chino Ranch Market.
These were only a few of the significant pioneer families.
For several years after we arrived, when the annual picnic was dominated by the real pioneers and their offspring, I kind of felt out of place, and relied on my newspaper credentials to justify my attendance. Then we learned about Emil Claus who had come to Chino from Brooklyn as one of the sugar plant engineers in the 1890s and was active in the first fire company. Turned out he was my wife’s grandmother’s brother-in-law whose first child was born in Chino.
We could now claim to be “one of them.”