The Works Progress Administration

Biography of Frank A. Forst of El Monte California

Born in Alsace Lorraine, February 3, 1842, Frank A. Forst, El Monte’s first undertaker, emigrated to America in 1863, and a short time later came to California by way of the Isthmus of Panama.

Mr. Forst was the son of Joseph and Saloma Forst, who were also natives of France, and who died in that country. Educated in his native country, Mr. Forst later learned the trade of cabinet-maker and shortly following his arrival in San Francisco, he came to Southern California and settled near Savannah and engaged in his trade. In this work he was active for a number of years. Later he engaged extensively in coffin- making, which probably led to his ultimate decision to enter the undertaking business.

Believed to be some time in the seventies, though not definitely determined, Mr. Forst acquired the old stage tavern in Savannah, then known as the Bennett Hotel. This he operated for about four years, at the end of which time he sold it back to Mr. Bennett.

In 1887 Mr. Forst opened an undertaking establishment in Savannah; which was the first concern of its kind to be conducted in the vicinity. Successful in this work, Mr. Forst continued in that line of endeavor for the remainder of his active career, selling out in 1911 to J.M. Schanel, the present funeral director, who later moved the establishment to its present location in El Monte.

Mr. Forst was united in marriage April 2, 1869 with Miss Theresa Frohling, a native of Westphalia, Prussia and a daughter of Francis and Lidvine (Trudevind) Frohling, also natives of Prussia. Mrs. Forst was born in 1850 and came to America with her parents in 1867, coming on to California a short time later with one of her brothers and settling in the vicinity of Savannah.

To Mr. and Mrs. Forst were born eight children, one of whom died in infancy. Those still living are: Katherine, of San Luis Obispo; Frank A., of Saugus, California; Clara, (Mrs. W.F. Porteous), of Fairfax, California; Matilda, of Tucson, Arizona; Herbert C., of Rosemead; and Antoinette and Vivian.

When he sold his business to Mr. Schanel, Mr. Forst retired from active life and spent the remainder of his days in Rosemead. In religion he was a devout Catholic. He had no fraternal affiliations, but was greatly interested in politics, contributing as he could to the interest of the Democratic Party. He also was a supporter of all community welfare, and aided in the promotion of better local educational facilities. For a number of years he served as trustee of the Savannah school. Following the early organization of the El Monte Cemetery Association Mr. Forst served as its secretary and treasurer for several years.

Death claimed Mr. Forst in January 1935. Mrs. Forst died October 29, 1939.

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.

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