The Works Progress Administration

Biography of Lewis Farmer of El Monte California

One of El Monte’s early settlers, a successful rancher and walnut grower, was Lewis Farmer, born in Harlan County, Kentucky, May 15, 1848. His parents were William C. and Catherine (Bronson) Farmer, natives of Kentucky; Lewis was the first-born of a family of ten children.

Remaining at home until he was twenty-two years of age, Lewis Farmer obtained his education in the common school of his community and later by attending a subscription school in winder and working on his father’s farm during the summer. In 1872, he was elected county clerk of his home county and held the office for two years. After this he worked for a few years at the carpenter trade, and in 1878 moved to Kansas and filed on a homestead near the town of Buffalo. Suffering two crop failures he was forced to relinquish his homestead and for a time re-engaged at the carpenter trade.

In 1884, he came to California and soon afterward accepted employment on the Baldwin Ranch, north of El Monte. Using his savings, he soon made a small payment on a twenty-four acre tract of land south of El Monte, which at the time was so swampy as to be considered almost worthless. However he drained, cleared and developed the place, finally setting it to walnuts which in time proved to be one of the finest and best producing groves in the district.

On May 20, 1873, Mr. Farmer was married to Miss Ellen Rice, also a native of Harlan County, Kentucky. To them were born five children, two of whom are living, namely: Lula E., of El Monte, and Ava Kate, (Mrs. J.M. Ficking) of Hollywood. The deceased children are, Henry C., Fred W. and Roy R., the last named of whom married Miss Carrie Surbeck, a native born Californian whose parents are pioneers of the Norwalk district. Mrs. Roy R. Farmer now resides near the old Farmer Ranch south of El Monte.

When but a young man, Lewis Farmer was made a Mason, and remained an active member of that order throughout his lifetime demitting to Lexington Lodge in El Monte upon settling here. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church. In politics he paid no allegiance to any party, preferring to remain free to cast his ballot for the man he deemed best suited for the office. Hardworking, thrifty and public-spirited, Mr. Farmer measured up to a high standard and his prosperity and reputable character were well merited.

He remained active in the promotion of his ranch interests until a short time before death called him on May 9, 1929. Mrs. Farmer preceded her husband in death on September 8, 1927.

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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