The Works Progress Administration

Biography of James Bascom Freer of El Monte California

James Bascom Freer, the second son of William H. Freer, whose name is known and honored throughout Southern California as that of a pioneer, was born in Trenton, Grundy County, Missouri, April 15, 1843, remaining a resident of his native state unit 1849, when he was brought across the plains to California.

Although a child of but six years, the events of that ever-memorable journey remained fresh in his mind until his death. His duty was to assist in driving the cattle on the six months trip and although parties ahead and behind them were attacked by the Indians, they were mercifully spared this added trial. Leaving Missouri in April they arrived in California in September, and in 1850 they located in San Jose, being interested principally in the raising of grain. In 1869, he came as far south as Ventura County and purchased a stock ranch in Hopper canyon, improved the place and at the same time raised cattle in the mountains. He remained a resident of that section until 1884, when he located north of El Monte, conducted his father’s place for two years, then farmed in the Rowland tract near Puente, for several years. In 1888 he went to Oregon and near Pennington, Umatilla County, he followed stock raising for two years, after which, for one year, he was located in Puente. In 1891 he located on a tract east of El Monte, consisting of forty-five acres, at that time all set in walnuts.

In Santa Clara County, March 25, 1868, Mr. Freer was united in marriage with Miss Sarah Hopper, who was born near Lone Jack, Missouri. Her father, Ari, was born in Indiana and removed to Missouri, where he engaged in farming. In 1850 he crossed the plains to California by means of ox teams, and for a time following his arrival, worked in the mines. He returned to Missouri by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and in 1852 once more made the trip across the plains, bringing his wife and two children to California. They located first in Petaluma and then in the Santa Clara Valley. In 1859, Mr. Hopper settled in Ventura County, where he purchased land in what was afterward known as Hopper Canyon. He farmed there for many years, eventually removing to Covina, where he spent his last days, dying January 22, 1898, at the age of seventy-six years. He was survived by his wife, formerly Susan Easely, a native of North Carolina, whose parents removed to Missouri, when she was a child. She passed away at Covina, November 18, 1905, at the age of seventy-eight years.

In 1911, Mr. Freer retired from active work on his ranch, and, with Mrs. Freer, moved to Monrovia where they purchased a home. Here thy spent the remainder of their lives. Mrs. Freer died in 1918, five years before the death of her husband, in 1923.

Mr. and Mrs. Freer became the parents of eight children, Albert, Eldridge, and Wallace, engineers residing in Santa Paula, George of Monrovia, Ida, (Mrs. Avis) of Monterey Park, Henry of Ojai, and Mary and Nettie, the last two being now deceased.

Mr. and Mrs. Freer were members of the Baptist Church, and politically Mr. Freer was an active Democrat, having on a number of occasions, acted as a delegate to County Conventions. He was a member of the Los Angeles County Pioneers.

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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