History of Ontario, San Bernardino County, California

Water is taken from the San Antonio Creek, draining one of the largest mountain districts in Southern California. Ontario has half the surplus flow, owning exclusively a tunnel 2,000 feet long that taps the subterranean flow. The water is conveyed in iron pressure pipes to the town, and in cement pipes to the acreage property. Stock in the San Antonio Water Company is sold with the land, a share to an acre, ten shares being issued on an inch of water. Unimproved land here ranges from $200 to $300 an acre; improved, from $300 to $1,000, according to location and variety of planting. Bearing orange groves command the highest price. The Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe trunk lines cross the colony from east to west, about two miles apart. The Chino narrow gauge is completed from the Southern Pacific to Chino, five miles away, and this line is to be extended to the coast. Along the entire length of Euclid avenue and over San Antonio the Ontario Land Company has built a standard-gauge steel railway, the motive power to be electricity, pending the application of which power mule traction is used, the return trip from the head of the slope being by gravity, the animals being conveyed on the cars by a very ingenious arrangement. The soil is a sandy, gravelly loam, very similar to portions of Pasadena, San Gabriel, Duarte, Pomona and Cucamonga, all of which places are situated at the foot of the same range of mountains, and in the same zone of first-class fruit land that extends along that mountain chain for sixty miles, from Pasadena on the west, to the lands northeast of San Bernardino on the east.

The water-right in San Antonio Canon, owned by the Chaffey brothers, the founders of Ontario, is sufficient to irrigate 5,000 or 6,000 acres of land. The requirements of the section and the best systems have been studied by the management. Ontario’s exhibit at the State Citrus Fair in March 1890, took the third premium for best exhibit of citrus fruit from any locality. At the County Citrus Fair at Riverside this year, Ontario’s lemons took first prize. During 1886 Ontario had sixty-nine new buildings, whose cost aggregated $79,875; in 1887, 110 buildings, costing $204,875; in 1888, 100 buildings, at a cost of $267,100. Thus the whole increase for these three years was 279 buildings, costing $551,850. The increase in population may be estimated from the following list of the number of census children during five succeeding years: There were forty-four children in 1884; forty-nine in 1885; 126 in 1886; 195 in 1887, and 345 in 1888. The growth in assessed valuation of property has been as follows: $250,000 for 1885; $359,-180 for 1886; $1,043,660 for 1887, and $1,-388,685 for 1888. In 1886-’87 Ontario set 210 acres to oranges, and eighty to deciduous fruits and grapes, -in all 290 acres. In 1887-’88 this colony set 220 acres to oranges, and twenty-five acres to mixed fruits; total, 245. In 1889 there were set 450 acres, practically all oranges; in 1890, 500 acres; the acreage set in “these piping times of peace” being nearly double that of either of the 30 “boom” years. The total of acreage now under cultivation at Ontario is 2,183 acres, of which 1,350 are in citrus fruits, the rest in grapes, assorted fruits, pampas grass, etc.

Ontario does not claim special preeminence as a raisin district, the soil being deemed better adapted to citrus fruits, so that no new vineyards have been set for two years, while many of those now existing are being replaced by oranges. The raisin crop last year was much damaged by early rains, but it nevertheless reached the figure of 10,970 boxes, or ten carloads, and sold for about $8,000. There were made some 4,000 gallons of wine, which, with the green grapes sold, brings the total product of Ontario’s vineyards to upwards of $10,000. The output of oranges for the season of 1889-’90 was forty carloads, and that of lemons was twelve carloads. The total money proceeds there from was $38,500. A fruit evaporator is in process of erection at North Ontario, at a cost of $3,000.

There are five grocery stores, three dry-goods stores, two drug stores, one shoe store, a furniture store, three hardware stores, six real-estate offices, two barber shops, three restaurants, six hotels, two meat markets, a harness shop, two livery stables, a jewelry store, the best planning mill in the county, a surveyor, an architect, and a good quota of physicians.

With a population of less than 2,000, Ontario has five church organizations, with an aggregate membership of nearly 300, and four church buildings, with a seating capacity of over 1,500.

The Methodists, whose pastor is Rev. J. B. Green, have just completed an addition to their church.

The pastor of the Congregationalist Church is Rev. A. E. Tracy. The pulpit of the Episcopalian Church is supplied by Rev. W. B. Burrows, of Pomona. Rev. D. V. Bowen, of Los Angeles, officiates at the services of the New Church. Rev. John McGill is the pastor of the Presbyterian Church. There are here two weekly newspapers, the Record and the Observer. The Record is the leading journal. It is a bright, newsy and reliable paper, well known for its editorial ability and typographical excellence. Its first issue was given to the public December 16, 1885, by the Clarke Brothers, E. P and A. F., and since that date it has ranked among the leading country journals of the county. It is independent and fearless in its policy touching the leading questions of the day, and has made a specialty of inducing Eastern immigration from the Eastern States, by the publication of judicious matter upon the resources and development of the country. It is not only well patronized and supported locally, but has a large circulation on the Pacific Coast and in the Eastern States. Ontario is well supplied with fraternal societies, to whose list three have been added within the past year. The pioneer lodge, the A. O. U. W., owns a handsome brick block, with a fine public hall. The Odd Fellows and the Masons are fitting up a handsome leased hall for a lodge room. The Masons have taken the preliminary steps for organization, and will start with a very strong lodge. The following is a list of the societies: Ontario Lodge, A. O. U. W., organized March 12, 1885; Ontario Post, G. A. R., organized May 29, 1886; Ontario Lodge, I. O. O. F., organized July 14, 1888; W. IL C., organized November 23, 1889; Ontario Court of Foresters, organized January 16, 1890. Ontario has a public library association with over 100 members. There is a well-selected library of about 500 volumes, and additions are made continually. The collection is very creditable to a town of this size. Mr. A. Piddington is the very efficient librarian. At the founding of Ontario, its founders set apart half of the town and villa lots as an endowment for a college of agriculture, which was made a department of the University of Southern California. In March 1883, the corner stone of the college building was formally laid, its site then being amidst sage-bush and cactus wastes. In 1885 was completed a brick building costing about $20,000, and for a year a school was conducted in a small way. The endowment being insufficient, no school was maintained in 1886, but in 1887 it was reopened. The present endowment of the school consists of $40,000 cash on interest, and $60,000 in deferred payments on land, bearing interest at eight per cent. The total value of the original gift of the Chaffey brothers will reach about $175,000. There are some sixty-five pupils in attendance at present, under the supervision of a corps of seven instructors. No attempt has been made as yet to carry out the original plan of agricultural work, which necessitates costly equipments, the present work being limited to the college preparatory and seminary departments. On March 3, 1883, Ontario’s first school was opened in a loft over a carpenter shop, with an enrollment of fourteen pupils. There are now nearly 300 pupils in the public schools, and there are four school buildings, built and furnished at a cost of some $15,000, requiring the supervision of eight teachers. The buildings are among the finest in the county, and their surrounding grounds add to their attractions and value. The corps of teachers is able and of good record, and the school facilities are considered to compare favorably with those provided in Eastern cities of 5,000 to 10,000 population.

Source: An Illustrated History of Southern California: embracing the counties of San Diego, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange, and the peninsula of lower California.

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