One of El Monte’s successful and civic minded citizens, is F.P. Sappington, who came to El Monte when the populations was only about two hundred, with no public improvements, such as sidewalks, paved streets, or street lights.
Mr. Sappington’s family history is a very colorful one, and one of which he is justly proud. Belonging to one of the oldest and most prominent families of St. Louis, Missouri, he was born in Sappington, near St. Louis, in 1871. Mr. Sappington was the son of T.J. Sappington, who was born in St. Louis in 1832. The grandfather, John Jr., was born in 1790, and belonged to an old Kentucky family, who, in 1803 settled in St. Louis, which was then a part of the Louisiana territory. He, (the grandfather) inherited the colonial patriotic spirit, which induced him to serve in the War of 1812. An ancestor, John Sappington, Sr., was born in 1750, having served in a Pennsylvania regiment through the Revolutionary War, later settling in Kentucky, served in the State Legislature, and was influential in establishing the town of Boones borough, Kentucky, in 1787. This John Sappington, Sr., was the father of seventeen children, one of whom was John, Jr., the grandfather of the subject of this sketch. The elder Sappington, having lived under the English Monarchistic government prior to the Revolutionary War, was determined that he would never live under a Monarch again, and since Missouri was, at that time, a part of the French territory, he refused to move there until after it was purchased by the United States. Therefore, he sent his seventeen children to Missouri to buy land, agreeing to come himself as soon as President Jefferson had purchased the territory, which transaction was then pending. The land thus acquired by the family was situated some nine miles from St. Louis, John, Jr., becoming the owner of three thousand acres. He later received a silver medal from the Sate of Missouri for having the model farm of the state. Of interest is the fact that he, john Sappington, Jr., at the beginning of the war of 1812, was the first man to plunge into the Mississippi River and swim across to join Governor Edwards, of Illinois, for service.
T.J. Sappington, father of the subject of this sketch, became a farmer in Missouri, where he remained until his death in 1897. he was a personal friend of General Grant, and helped the General build his log house at what was known as Hardscrabble. He married Julia Leffingwell, a native of Beloit, Wisconsin, daughter of William Leffingwell, of Salem, Massachusetts, who was a descendent of Mayflower ancestry, and who served on the “Chesapeake” in Perry’s Victory, on Lake Erie, in the War of 1812. The mother (Julia Sappington) lived in the family home in Sappington, Missouri, until her death, which occurred in 1924.
The eldest in a family of four children, all of whom are living, Francis P. Sappington, was brought up on his father’s farm, and educated primarily in the public schools and Kirkwood Military Academy. He later entered the medical department of Washington University, from which institution he was graduated in 1893, with the degree of M.D. He practiced medicine in Sappington for nine years, and in 1902, came to California. Entering into partnership with A.G. Glabaugh in Whittier, he engaged in the lumber business for six months, and then sold out and returned to Missouri. In 1904, having settled his affairs in Missouri, he returned to Southern California. Coming at once to El Monte, he purchased a fifteen acre ranch on Tyler Street, north of town, and erected a handsome residence. On settling in El Monte, Mr. Sappington engaged in the lumber business, establishing and conducting the first and only lumber business, at that time between Los Angeles and Pomona. He continues at this time with the assistance of his son to operate this business, which is situated on North Tyler, on the Southern Pacific Railway.
In St. Louis, Missouri, in September, 1893, Dr. Sappington married Miss Fanny Walls, a native of that city and daughter of William C. Walls, a broker. To them were born three children, Thomas J., who at this time is the manager of his father’s lumber yard, and twin daughters, Mildred Halspain, and Joyce Harbison, both now being deceased.
Mr. Sappington is much interested in the civic affairs of El Monte, and has contributed no small amount of his time during his residence here to matters having to do with the betterment and development of the community. He served for four terms as a member of the City Council, during which time, his splendid business judgment has proven of much value to that body. Mr. Sappington was influential in the movement of forming the Masonic Temple Association, prior to, and during the erection of the Masonic Temple, serving as Vice-President of that association.
Fraternally, he was a Mason in Whittier Lodge, No. 323 and now is a member of the Lexington Lodge, No. 104, in El Monte. He is also a member of the El Monte Odd Fellows Lodge, and is identified with the Independent Order of Foresters and M.W.A. In religion he is a member of the Episcopalian Church, and politically has, since 1924, been a staunch Republican.
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.