The Works Progress Administration

Biography of R. Monroe Thurman of El Monte California

Monroe Thurman for many years a resident of El Monte and vicinity, was a representative of one of the early American families who settled in this community. He was born in Bledsoe County, Tennessee, July 22, 1840, the son of John and Lettie Jane Thurman, who emigrated from there to Johnson County, Arkansas in 1848, where he farmed until 1852. In that year, with his family, he (John) joined a party of about sixty-five families who crossed the plains and mountains to sunny California. A great bereavement was suffered by the family while on their long journey. The mother, who had dreamed so much of the great adventure and toiled so hard in planning and caring for her children through the many trails of the journey, died and was buried at one of the many copper mines in Arizona. Sorrowfully the family continued their journey, which ended at “Camp El Monte” in September of 1852. The father went on to Tuolumne County where for a year, he engaged in mining.

Retiring, he settled on a tract of land a mile and a half south of El Monte, near the Temple Ranch. He farmed there until 1855 when he bought a farm between Savannah and El Monte, which he operated for two years. In 1877, he moved to the Willow Grove Inn” then situated on the present site of the Valley Dairy on East Valley Boulevard. Near there he had purchased sixty acres of valuable land, which he farmed during the remainder of his active life. He was a strong man physically and mentally, well known, and favorably remembered by his associates. His death occurred in 1876.

The following children, all of which are now deceased, came to California with their father: Nellie, later the wife of John Hicks, and El Monte pioneer; Frank; Ephriam; Margaret, later the wife of Thomas C. Swagard; R. Monroe, the subject of this sketch; Stephen D., whose history is found elsewhere in this work; Alexander, and John S.

R. Monroe Thurman, remained at home until 1868, when he married miss Dora Bell Fuqua, daughter of Isham and Joanna (Hathway) Fuqua, who were natives of Virginia and Missouri, respectively. Her parents came to California in 1853, when she was only about a year old, settling near El Monte in 1853.

Mr. Thurman, after his marriage, engaged in farming on a 120-acre tract, just west of Savannah, where the family remained until 1887. Later he sold seventy-eight acres of his original farm to L.J. Rose. In 1887 Mr. Thurman moved to Pomona, where he lived until his death in 1913. Mr. Thurman was very much interested in horticulture, having several acres of apricots, apples and prunes. A thorough practical man, he won his way to independence by steps sure not to be retraced. For a time after his removal to Pomona, he engaged in the business of contracting for street grading and improvement work.

He was a member of the Baptist Church, and politically he was a strong Democrat. He was affiliated with the A.O.U.W. Lodge, in Pomona. To Mr. and Mrs. Thurman were born ten children, Nellie, (Mrs. Milton Foster) of Beaumont, R. Monroe, Jr., Allen LaVerne, Bert, and Robert De Long, all of Pomona, Joanna (Mrs. Smith) of Rosemead, Henry Clay, of Fresno, and Alice, Mabel and William B., now deceased.

Mrs. Thurman still active and well at the age of 84, lives with her daughter, Nellie Smith, in Rosemead.

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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