One of the early buyers of Rancho Santa Ana del Chino land in modern Chino Hills from the Chino Land and Water Company, owned by Edwin J. Marshall and his associates, was Valentine Peyton, from whom Peyton Ranch and Peyton Drive get their name.
He was born in 1845 near Danville, Illinois, near the Indiana border and remained there until his late twenties, working as a clerk in a sewing machine store and as a merchant. He relocated to Chetopa, Kansas in the southeast corner of the state, following his older brother Isaac, who was involved in real estate there.
When Isaac moved to Saguache, Colorado, near Pueblo, and became a prominent citizen as a newspaper publisher, hotel owner and member of the state legislature, Valentine, whose wife had died leaving him with a young daughter, joined him and went into the cattle dealing business.
Isaac, however, got into debt, skipped town when an arrest warrant was issued, abandoned his wife in St. Louis, and resurfaced under an assumed name in Spokane, Washington, where he became a banker and leading citizen. Even a bigamy arrest and a very public divorce from his first wife did not deter him from his successful career in Spokane, including being a main investor in the LeRoi gold mine in British Columbia, Canada.
Valentine Peyton, who did well as a grocer, was enticed by Isaac to Spokane and purchased $25,000 in stock in the mine company, of which he became president. When it was sold in 1898 to a British mining firm for $4 million, Valentine cashed in his stake for about $430,000, a princely sum for the era. He moved to Los Angeles to buy the Mount Lowe Railway, a funicular cable system that climbed the steep slopes above Pasadena and included hotels, an observatory and other amenities. When Thaddeus Lowe lost control of the enterprise. Mr. Peyton paid $190,000 for the system with Jared S. Torrance, soon a partner in the Chino Land and Water Company as an agent.
Mr. Peyton’s ownership of the Mount Lowe system was short-lived. A major fire destroyed the larger hotel and as costs skyrocketed, he sold it for a modest profit to famed capitalist and book and art collector Henry E. Huntington. Mr. Peyton, who lived near Westlake, now MacArthur, Park in Los Angeles, turned to other projects.
One was purchase of 200 acres in 1906 in La Verne, where he expanded the Evergreen Ranch into a prominent orange-growing enterprise. He built a packing house, now used by the University of La Verne Art Department. He raised oranges in Highland near San Bernardino, owned fig and almond land in the Central Valley, acquired 160 acres in what is now Walnut, and owned a large office building in downtown Los Angeles, among other ventures
Mr. Peyton’s acquisition of some 400 acres of the Chino Ranch in the first years of the 20th century likely was because of his association with Chino Land and Water Company director Torrance. It appears that the Peyton Ranch was used for cattle and sheep raising over the decades that it was owned by him and then his descendants through the Valentine Peyton Corporation. The ranch was in what is now the area of Grand Avenue west of today’s 71 Freeway.
In early 1907, Mr. Peyton was named chairman of the board of directors for George Junior Republic, the home for delinquent boys started in San Fernando. As part of his tenure, the facility, now Boys Republic, moved to a new property purchased from the Chino Land and Water Company. Abbona Road, named for an early family that lived in the Chino hills, was renamed Peyton Drive in later years.
Mr. Peyton, whose second wife died in 1925, moved to his La Verne ranch. Listed as “mentally incapacitated” in the federal census five years later, the 87-year-old died in 1932 and was buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, known as the last resting place for many film stars and celebrities.