The life of a local pioneer farmer

Luke William Gallup lived in Westminster more than a century ago. Coming here from Springville, Utah, this disillusioned ex-Mormon spent the last few years of his life farming southeast of present-day Beach Boulevard and McFadden. He died in 1891 and is buried in Good Shepherd Cemetery in Huntington Beach.

I (Lou) am remotely connected to Luke Gallup. A distant cousin of mine, Ron Gallup of Sacramento, is a great-great grandson of Luke Gallup by Luke's first marriage. I'm related to Ron through his mother's side of the family.

Luke left behind a remarkable farm journal that detailed his life back in those days of horses, wood stoves and kerosene lanterns. On July 4, 1888, Luke Gallup's fourth wife, Augusta, and their children went to a celebration in Santa Ana while Luke "kept house at home and was busy as a bee" in his garden. Later that week, Augusta went to "Balsas P.O." and got a basket of fruit ? pears, apricots and plums ? that she undoubtedly canned or turned into jam. On July 8, a weasel got into their chickens, so Luke made a coop to keep the chickens confined.

As urbanization replaced farmland, food sources and suitable habitat for short-tailed weasels declined. One hasn't been seen in Huntington Beach since the 1970s. However, a weasel was live-trapped this summer at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine, so they're still in Orange County.

In addition to tending his own land, Luke Gallup made extra money by working for others. He cut ditches to help drain away the fresh water that plagued early local farmers, put up fence posts, worked on a schoolhouse for the Oceanview School District and erected privies. Augusta went to church revival meetings at Gospel Swamp here in Huntington Beach.

In August of that year, Luke spent six days looking for lumber. Since there were no phones, looking meant physically going to find it with horse and wagon on deeply rutted and dusty dirt roads. He found some in Santa Ana and built a pigpen. In September, he dug up "a mess of sweet potatoes" and received two pigs in exchange for some services that he performed for another farmer.

Luke spent 10 days in October digging and sacking 8,700 pounds of potatoes for Israel Brush at 12 ½ cents per hundred- pound sack. This work netted him the princely sum of $10.87. He spent part of it on overalls (65 cents) and two cloth hats (2 for 25 cents).

On Nov. 9, a frost killed the squash and all unprotected tomatoes. Ten days later, his cow had a calf; a cap of snow glistened on Mt. Baldy. The family had a goose for Thanksgiving dinner. That month, he spent three days shucking corn for Israel Brush and nine days grubbing out willows two miles away on Mr. Townsend's land that was rented out by John Smith and Andrew Damron.

On Dec. 1, he set out some strawberries. On Dec. 8, he and Robert Martin went to Shell Beach, now called Huntington Beach, for chickens, sand and gravel. On Dec. 15, Martin's artesian well was finished and capped. Back then, all farmers needed to do to get water was drive a pipe into the ground and fresh clean water bubbled up. Later that month, Luke planted several dozen eucalyptus trees around his farm, lining the roads to the west and north. The family had a turkey for Christmas. Luke concluded his entries for the year by noting that he sold two 25-pound turkeys for $3.50 to Mr. E. P. Justice and did "some trading with Jas. A. McFadden."

Luke started out in January 1889 by carefully planting some seeds of blue gum eucalyptus, covering them to protect them from frost. He planted hundreds of fruit trees that spring, including some apples and plums from Mr. Pankey's orchards. He planted corn and potatoes and continued to grub out willows. The family visited Bolsa Chica beach for recreation.

An intriguing entry from August 1889 read: "This mo. the lawsuit between the Bolsa Com. & the sellers in the Swamp land S. E. of here closed. It was so stated the settlers were beaten & lost their lands."

Life for the early settlers wasn't easy. Now 67, Luke wrote: "Being aged depending on my labor for a living assisted by my wife we get no immediate return from some of our labor ? & the necessary wants exceed our income. Consequently [we] have to go short. Our will is good to do more, but this pinch & go with- out is not pleasant by any means & yet we are better off than millions of the poor in the US."

During 1889, he made $28 working for others; $148 selling eggs and poultry; $6 selling butter; $54 selling steers and swine; and $16 selling potatoes, sweet potatoes and other vegetables. His total income for the year was $240.05, while his total expenses were $240.15.

Entries for 1890 were sparse and included deaths of neighbors and a house that burned down. He noted feeling "very weak and low on account of having some dropsy" in January 1891. He died three months later at age 69.

A century ago, pioneers nurtured eucalyptus trees and grubbed out willows. I thought of Luke Gallup often as I worked at Shipley Nature Center during 2003 to 2005, cutting down non-native eucalyptus trees and planting native willows. Times have certainly changed.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World