News of the San Gabriel Valley since 1966.

‘Time Jockey ’ : L.A. SUBURB

by Joe Castillo

City of Alhambra  ….   Known as the ‘Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley,’ Alhambra has long maintained its status as the one of the first suburbs of Los Angeles. Originally incorporated in 1903 and then chartered as a Los Angeles, California city in 1915, Alhambra has a long and distinguished history beginning before the Spanish arrived in the 1770’s. The indigenous people known as the Kizh occupied the San Gabriel Valley in abundant numbers, and were later recruited by the Spanish to build the San Gabriel Mission as well as cultivate the fertile lands of the valley. With the Portola Expedition, came more Spanish and Mexican settlers. As a result of this growth, men like Manual Nieto would receive a land grant of 300,000 acres for being a member of the 1769 Portola trek north through California. The Spanish established a series of Missions throughout California and when Mexico won independence from Spain in 1820, possession of California changed hands again. This was followed by the United States defeating Mexico, who then claimed California as its own. The year was 1846 and California was already home to a growing number of American settlers. In 1841, Benjamin Wilson, a young trapper and trader from Tennessee, came west to Southern California. A member of the Workman-Rowland Party, Wilson would become influential in the development of Alhambra.  Already a wealthy man, Wilson was on the way to China but could not find a boat going his way. Intrigued with the San Gabriel Valley, he decided to join the Workman-Rowland caravan, both of whom were going west to reunite with their families.  Wilson met and married Ramona Yorba, the daughter of Bernardo Yorba, owner of the large land grant Rancho Santa Ana. Wilson and Ramona had two children but after eight years, Ramona died unexpectedly. Four years later, Wilson married Margaret Hereford and they had four children together. One was a daughter named Ruth Wilson, who would marry George Patton, Sr., and eventually become the parents of World War II General George Patton, Jr.  Wilson had acquired large amounts of land throughout Southern California including sites which today include UCLA, Pasadena, San Gabriel, Alhambra and San Pedro. Seeking to develop the land into housing projects, Wilson started to carve out various housing tracts. He named one of his early projects, the Alhambra Tract, named by his daughter Ruth, the future mother of General Patton. At the time, Ruth Wilson was reading ‘The Alhambra’ by Washington Irving. Wilson’s son-in-law, James de Barth Shorb, an educated engineer, developed a plumbing system to provide water to all of the houses built on the Alhambra tract. The feature became a popular attraction to new home buyers and soon the development was sold out. A second tract named Alhambra Addition was established and the same results followed. Through housing development projects, the name Alhambra was introduced into the San Gabriel Valley and has remained a part of Southern California since 1874 ….

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