The Works Progress Administration

Biography of Thomas Mayes Wiggins of El Monte California

Many colorful incidents mark the life history of Thomas M. Wiggins, a native son of El Monte. Mr. Wiggins’ parents were, Thomas J. and Ellen (Vise) Wiggins, both of whom were natives of Missouri, coming to California in 1849, and settling in El Monte in 1852. Mrs. Wiggins was the daughter of Nathaniel Vise, whose family was the first to settle in Visalia, the town being named in their honor. Mr. and Mrs. Wiggins were married in El Monte in 1861, by Reverend Fryer, the well-known parson of pioneer days, whose sketch also is to be found in this volume. The father was born in 1834 and died in 1914. He then came to San Gabriel and farmed for a time, later moving to Bassett where he farmed the Old Cameron ranch for a number of years. He then acquired the Little Dalton Canyon, selling it and moving to El Monte, where he engaged in farming.

Thomas M. Wiggins was born in 1873, the fourth in order of birth in the family of eight, and was educated in the El Monte public schools. He assisted his father on the farm until his majority, during which time he became well known as a jockey. He rode many winning horses in the days of the New Year’s cross Country Steeplechase in Pasadena, which races always followed the Tournament of Roses Parade. One of the horses was the famed “M.F.”, owned by Mr. Wiggins and named for M.F. Quinn, well-known rancher of that time. Mr. Wiggins won a beautiful trophy representing the first prize won by him on one of his New Year’s Day Races. He also became an expert driver in Chariot Races, which grew to be quite popular in the field of sports in Southern California.

Mr. Wiggins was successful as a farmer and for a time was in partnership with his brother, Mack. He finally purchased 18 acres for himself on Peck Road, a portion of the old James Freer Ranch, east of town, where he spent the remainder of his life. When acquired by Mr. Wiggins, the place was in walnuts, however the trees were later removed and the ground seeded to alfalfa. In 1935, Mr. Wiggins sold a portion of the place, and it has since been subdivided into small home sites.

In 1901, Mr. Wiggins married Miss Clara Rogers, a native of Wisconsin, a daughter of Herman and Ada Rogers, who came to California in 1894, settling in El Monte. To this union were born four children, Edith, deceased; Lynn, of Los Angeles; Evelyn (Mrs. Pollard) of New York City; and Edna, the youngest, who, following the death of her father has made her home with her sister, Evelyn, in New York City.

Mr. Wiggins was a member of the I.O.O.F. Lodge in El Monte, and politically was a Democrat. He was active in his farm work until about 1930, when stricken with ill health, he retired, making his home with his two daughters, Edith and Edna in the home on Peck Road, until called by death April 12, 1937.

Thus lived another El Monte pioneer, and one whose colorful career and influence for good in the community will long be remembered by all who knew him.

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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