The Works Progress Administration

Biography of William Elliott of El Monte California

About a mile and a half southeast of El Monte may be seen one of the finest walnut groves of Southern California, the pride of its owner, William Elliott, until his death in 1913. When he purchased this property, consisting of seventy acres of wild, barren land, it gave little indication of its present beauty and productiveness. However, by a close application of the knowledge of California ranching, which several previous years had given him, Mr. Elliott made this farm one of the finest in the section. He owned three hundred and twenty-two acres all set to walnuts, which he won foot by foot from the desolation that claimed it prior to that time. Much credit is due him for the perseverance and energy with which he accumulated his fortune, the development and beautifying of his place and the high-grade work for which his ranch was noted.

Mr. Elliott inherited his dominant characteristics from Scotch ancestry, his birth having occurred in Scotland, May 8, 1855, in which country he spent the first sixteen years of his life. His father Alexander Elliott, Sr., who was born in the north of Ireland, was foreman in a brick manufacturing plant in Paisley until his removal to America, where in Ontario he followed farming until his retirement from the active cares of life. He died in that place in 1910. His wife, formerly Jane Thompson, a native of Scotland and a representative of the Thompson Stirling clans, died in Ontario about 1892. The Elliots had for their chief the Earl of Minot. Mr. and Mrs. Elliott were the parents of six children, four sons and two daughters, of who William Elliott was next to the eldest. He (William), was educated in the common schools of his native land, and after accompanying his parents to Ontario he engaged in farming with his father. He remained at home until April 1883, in which year he decided to come to the Pacific coast and accordingly located in Westminster, British Columbia, where he remained until September of the same year. Coming to Southern California he spent one year in Los Angeles, and in 1884 came to the vicinity of El Monte, which was then an open plain with nothing to obstruct the view for many miles. He entered the employ of E.J. (Lucky) Baldwin and superintended is four ranches in El Monte and Puente, which were utilized in the raising of stock and grain. He continued I this employment for a period of nine years, when he resigned to look after the interests of his own property, which he had purchased in 1887. He had in the meantime set it to walnuts, seventy acres in all, and to the cultivation of this place he gave his entire time and attention following his resignation form the superintendency of the Baldwin Ranches. His trees thrived although every prediction had been made for his failure by those who had lived in the section for years and supposed the land he was attempting to cultivate was thoroughly untellable. In addition to this grove, which was one of the finest in Southern California, he acquired a grove at Bassett, and anther just across the San Gabriel River from his first ranch. Many of the trees measured five feet and ten inches in circumference.

Mr. Elliott made his home on the place at El Monte, where he erected a comfortable residence, substantial barns and outbuildings, in stalled a pumping plant with a thirty-five-horse power gasoline engine and all other equipment for carrying on a modern ranch.

In Ontario, Mr. Elliott was first married to Miss Margaret E. Mitchell, a native of that place, who died in California in 1895, leaving two children, namely: William and Robert. After the death of his wife he married Miss Mary, a sister of his first wife, in 1897, and they had one daughter, Elizabeth. Mrs. Elliott died in about 1899. He was later united in marriage with Miss Carrie Thienes, who was born in Illinois, a daughter of William and Anna (Helfridge) Thienes. They were both natives of Westphalia, Germany, who emigrated to America and located in Evansville, Indiana.

In 1896, they came to California, and some years later died in El Monte. They had six children of whom Mrs. Elliott is the fourth in order of birth. Mr. and Mrs. Elliott are the parents of four children, Royal Edward, Thompson Alexander, Carrie Esther (now Mrs. Jessup) and Katherine, all of whom are living in El Monte and vicinity. Mr. Elliott in conjunction with the late B.F. Maxson, and other pioneers, organized the Mountain View Walnut Growers Association, and for several years served as its vice president. Fraternally, he was associated with the Independent Order of Foresters. Politically, he cast his ballot in the interests of the Republican Party. He was a member of the Christian Church.

Mrs. Elliott with her daughter, Katherine, now lives on the Elliott estate, southeast of El Monte.

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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