The Works Progress Administration

Biography of John C. Stephenson of El Monte California

John C. Stephenson, Indian fighter and early resident of El Monte, was born in Knox County, Illinois, December 28, 1851. His father was T. W. Stephenson, also a native of Illinois and his mother, Rebecca (Ireland) Stephenson, who was born in Indiana.

Until reaching his majority, Mr. Stephenson remained with his parents, who were farmers, and attended the local schools. Living in the great corn belt of Illinois. Mr. Stephenson became one of the state champion corn huskers.

In 1873, he went to Iowa, and, in Des Moines, a short time later, enlisted in Company “H” of the 9th Infantry, U.S. Regulars. He remained in active service for five years during a major part of which he fought Indians on the western plains. He was with General George Crooks in his many campaigns, taking an active part in the Battle of the Rosebud and many other lighter skirmishes. At the time of “Custer’s Last Stand,” Mr. Stephenson was with his organization less than sixty miles away. His regiment made long marches in those days. Two thousand miles were covered on one march (on foot) thirteen hundred miles of which, according to Mr. Stephenson, not a house or a white man was seen.

Mustered out in 1878, Mr. Stephenson returned to Illinois and engaged in farming for two years, when in 1880, he came to California, stopping first at Downey. Here he remained a year and then came on to El Monte, where he engaged in general farm work, being employed by William Snoddy, well known El Monte pioneer rancher. Here he remained until 1888 when he went to Los Angeles and entered the employ of William Workman, nephew of William Workman of Puente. Soon after this, Mr. Workman became the Mayor of Los Angeles, and Mr. Stephenson, received an appointment to that city’s police force. He remained in that service for thirteen years, at the end of which time because of an injury while on duty, he was retired. He later improved in health and was employed as night watchman in the H.W. Hellman Building. In 1916, Mr. Stephenson, having purchased a home and other property in Alhambra, moved to that city where, at 338 No. Monterey Street, he still resides.

In 1883, Mr. Stephenson was married to Miss Ella Lee, a native of El Monte and daughter of William Lee who was a pioneer of El Monte from its founding, coming first to Puente in 1848 and entering the employment of the Rowland-Workman Ranch. Mr. Lee was a native of Mississippi, later moving to Arkansas, Mr. Lee married Miss Martha Johnson, however, concerning her people, no records are available.

To Mr. and Mrs. Stephenson were born three daughters, namely: Clara, (Mrs. Frank Patterson) of Hollister, California; Martha (Mrs. W. Dietrick) who resides with her father in Alhambra; and Lula, (Mrs. George Erbe) of San Juan Bautista. Mrs. Stephenson died in 1928.

Though not in the best of health, and still somewhat crippled from his old injury while in the Los Angeles police service, Mr. Stephenson lives quietly in his Alhambra home, his mind clear and his memory of happenings in the early days still is keen. Politically, he is a Republican, and taken an active interest in all political matters, both local and national.

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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