The Works Progress Administration

Biography of Archie N. Wiggins of El Monte California

Born in El Monte, August 19, 1863, Archie N. Wiggins was one of the town’s most loyal and progressive citizens, who spent his entire life in the community and contributed generously in time and means to its advancement.

He was the son of Thomas J. and Ellen (Vise) Wiggins who were natives of Kentucky and Missouri respectively, both being of Scotch ancestry. In 1849, Thomas J., then a resident of Texas, joined a covered wagon train born for California. The captain of this train was Nathan Vise, mentioned elsewhere in these pages as one of El Monte’s early settlers, who was destined to become the father-in-law of Thomas J. Wiggins, father of the subject of this sketch. The carts and wagons were drawn by ox teams, the journey being made by the way of the Old Southern Trail through Yuma, San Diego, and the Warner Ranch. The train was on several occasions molested by the Indians along the route, but through the diplomacy of Captain Vise, serious trouble was averted. By trading commodities and gaining the confidence of one of the Indian Chiefs, Captain Vise obtained the release of an American Woman who was being held captive. The woman accompanied the train on to California and was here reunited with her people. The party composed of this train first settled at San Diego. One year later, they came on to El Monte. Thomas J. Wiggins was eighteen years of age upon his arrival in El Monte. The remainder of his life spent here, during which time he engaged in farming. He had much to do with the early development of the district. Earlier, he was a Government contractor in the hauling of freight to Fort Yuma and Fort Tejon. His death occurred in 1914, his wife preceding him in death five years.

Archie N. Wiggins was educated in the Old Mission School, now known as Temple School, he being one of only seven American pupils in the school at that time. Between school terms he tilled the soil on his father’s farm which occupation he continued to follow after attaining his majority. He was quite successful in this work specializing in the raising of hay, grain and live stock. Perhaps his maximum fame as an agriculturalist was attained in the production of watermelons. In this line he made a record both in quality and quantity of his products, and as a result, he earned the worthy title of the “Watermelon King of Southern California”. He also raised potatoes extensively, and for a time, engaged in selling wood at the old market on Spring Street in Los Angeles.

Mr. Wiggins often spoke of the times when he had driven down Main Street in Los Angeles when the mud was a foot deep. He also spoke of seeing the first automobile in Los Angeles.

In matters of education, Mr. Wiggins was an enthusiastic booster favoring a $25,000 high school when the issue was for only $16,000 expenditure. He also advocated other movements for the moral uplift of the community, being influential in the original closing of saloons in El Monte. He was appointed a deputy constable by County Constable Benjamin Davidson, and courageously fought to enforce the Sunday closing of the saloons, which, while a city ordinance, was ignored and unobserved until Mr. Wiggins became constable.

In 1891, Mr. Wiggins was married to Miss Mary Ellen Kleinsorge, a native of Sacrament, and daughter of Louis and Annie (Schewgrew) Kleinsorge, who were natives of Germany and Ireland Respectively, coming to California in the late forties or early fifties. They became the parents of four children; Louis J., of El Monte, engaged in the house-moving business, and for the past ten years, Volunteer Fire Chief; Lavelle B., of El Monte, a Los Angeles County employee; Edwin McKinley, of El Monte and a member of the City Police Department, (acting Chief of Police) and Charles, now deceased.

Mr. Wiggins was affiliated with the orders of Modern Woodmen, Odd Fellows, and Ancient Order of United Workmen. Politically he was a Republican.

He remained active in the management of his affairs, until death closed his useful and valuable career in 1927. In his death the community lost a conscientious citizen who believed that “right mad might” and dared “to do his duty as he understood it”.

Mrs. Wiggins, still active and well, resides in the old family home on Mountain View Street.

Source: C. D. Mayon, F. Brow, L. Stoddard, and C. Mudd; El Monte from the Pioneer Days. WPA Project No. N-5740, 1936. In record 19-187072. (California Historical Landmark No. 765: El Monte). On file at the SCCIC, CSU Fullerton.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top