The Works Progress Administration

Biography of William H. Freer of El Monte California

No more prominent family than that established in California, by William H. Freer, holds rank among the representative citizens of Los Angeles County, the name being especially well known and esteemed in El Monte and vicinity.

The pioneer, William H. Freer, was a native of the Middle West states, his birth having occurred on the Little Miami River, in Ohio, February 5, 1814. he was a son of Jonathon Freer, who was born in North Carolina, and became a pioneer settler of Ohio, here with his wife, formerly Hannah Swords, of Virginia, he engaged in farming. He finally removed to Randolph County, Indiana, and thence to Missouri, locating in Atchison County, where his death eventually occurred. His wife survived him for many years, her death occurring in California. William H. Freer, engaged as a farmer in Atchison County, Missouri, in which state he was married, and in 1849, came across the plains to California with his family, consisting of his wife, three children, his mother, two sisters and two brothers, one of the brothers dying en route.

They traveled by ox-teams, making the journey, traveling continuously from May to October. Their first winter was spent on the Stanislaus River in San Joaquin County, where Mr. Freer engaged in making saddletrees. In the spring of 1850, he located in Santa Clara County, at Berryessa, and on Penetentia Creek, three miles from San Jose, purchased a small farm and began work as a farmer and horticulturist. In 1851, he tried mining for a time, but not caring for the life, he soon returned to his ranch, and as time passed, continued to add to his first purchase, until he owned one hundred and seventy-five acres. In the meantime, in 1869, he made a trip to Southern California, and purchased three hundred and twenty acres of the old Dalton tract, near El Monte. In 1875, he decided to locate here permanently, and accordingly, brought his family to the property, one and a half north of El Monte, the land lying on the banks of the San Gabriel River. He, later, purchased three hundred and seventeen acres of the old Tibbett place, paying $5,000 for it, and selling it during the boom of 1887, for $72,000.

He was a very successful businessman, combining good judgment with decision of character, which enabled him to see and take advantage of many golden opportunities presented in the early days of the state. His death occurred, February 16, 1902, removing from the community a citizen highly esteemed and one whose place could never be filled. For a number of years, Mr. Freer, was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Savannah (now Rosemead) School. Mrs. Freer died in 1911.

In Grundy County, Missouri, November 25, 1840, Mr. Freer was united in marriage with Zerelda Stucker, who was born in Indiana, March 15, 1824, a daughter of John and Susanna Stucker, natives of Woodford County, Kentucky. Mr. and Mrs. Freer became the parents of fourteen children, two of whom still survive. They are: Martin, located on the old home place, north of El Monte, and Mary L., wife of Thomas Stucker of Los Angeles.

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.

1 thought on “Biography of William H. Freer of El Monte California”

  1. This article is very valuable. It reports information on the Wiliam H. Freer family I had not been able to find anywhere else. Kudos to the WPA for creating such a lasting written legacy of family information while at the same time giving employment to citizens who proved to be excellent listeners and reporters.

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