Pleasantly remembered by many of El Monte citizens is the name of M.F. Quinn, who in the early days would frequently crowd a load of the town’s children into his spring wagon and proudly drive with them to a circus in Los Angeles, or on May Day would decorate the old lumber wagon with roses and other flowers and head a picnic party to the mountains.
M.F. Quinn was born February 14, 1836, the son of Mary F. and John Quinn, natives of County Limerick, Ireland. He was left an orphan at the age of four, and became self-supporting at the age of fourteen. About 1850 he came to America and in 1854 entered the United States Army as quartermaster in an expedition against the Sioux Indians. He served in this capacity in the middle west for one year, when, wishing to complete his education, he entered the Illinois State University. While in school there, he became a classmate of Robert T. Lincoln, son of President Lincoln. Following his school years he again served under his former commander in an expedition against the rebellious Mormons of Utah.
In 1859, he came with a wagon train to California, arriving in Los Angeles in March of that year. His first venture following his arrival here was that of prospecting for gold in San Gabriel Canyon, which ended without success. He taught school in El Monte for a time, and later engaged in the trade of wheelwright. In 1860 he opened a shop in which he followed his trade, expanding his activities later to include a livery stable and dray business. He acquired twenty acres of land north and west of town, a portion of which he devoted to farming and the remainder was his home site and pasture for his stock, all of which he retained until his death.
In 1868 he married Jane Glenn-Callan, who with her parents were natives of Texas, coming to California in 1858. Mrs. Callan, before her marriage to Mr. Quinn, was the mother of two children, Jacob M., now residing in Fullerton and Mary (Mrs. J.W. Goodell, now deceased).
To Mr. and Mrs. Quinn were born three children, Inez F. (Mrs. Thatcher, deceased), Ada M. (Mrs. H.C. Brasher of Los Angeles), and Susie (Mrs. J.O. Nichols) of Orange. Mrs. Quinn died in 1876 while the three children were quite young. In 1886, while Mr. Quinn was engaged in benefit work in the Good Templars and Forresters Lodges, he met and married Miss Fannie Sawyer, who was a native of Indiana. Mrs. Quinn was quite prominent socially, at one time being president of the Shakespeare club. Her death occurred in 1920.
Politically Mr. Quinn was originally a Democrat, but in later years he became active in temperance work and became a staunch Prohibitionist. He was a member of the Forresters and Good Templar Lodges, and was one of the organizers of the Society of Pioneers of Los Angeles county, serving for a time as its president and remaining an active worker in this society throughout the remainder of his life. He was a man of high ideals, charitable and generous to a fault. He read a great deal and was a lover of poetry, often quoting the familiar lines, “The meal unshared is food unblessed, –Thou hoardest in vain what love should spend.” “Hear no evil; see no evil; speak no evil,” was his reply on various occasions when he preferred not to commit himself. An in reproach of those who would speak disparagingly of the Bible, he would often quote: “Ha, better had he ne’er been born, than he who reads and reads to scorn.”
His college training in engineering and surveying enabled him to qualify efficiently as County Highway Commissioner, which office he held for a time. In this capacity, Mr. Quinn rendered the community valuable services in the early movements toward good roads, for which the county and state are world-renowned. His appointment to the office of Justice of the Peace gave him the title of Judge Quinn by which he was fondly known in later years.
Mr. Quinn retired from active work in 1902, at which time he sold his livery and dray business to the firm of Wiggins and Cleminson. Death called him in 1911, ending a life of loyal service to the community, which he loved and so long served.
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.