Verdugo Views: Conjecture has long driven the legend of Montrose

Robert Newcombe, author of the recently published "Images of America, Montrose," spent countless hours searching through microfilm trying to verify information that has been handed down to local historians for years.

His goal was twofold: first, did developers Holmes and Walton hold a contest to name their new community? Second, why was the name Montrose selected? Was it named after Montrose, Pa., a small town in the winner's home state, or because it appealed to all the rose fanciers in the area, or because of the popularity of Sir Walter Scott's "The Legend of Montrose?"

Newcombe's research brought a lot of new information to light.

Newcombe began his microfilm search with January 1911. That turned out to be a good choice.

"On Jan. 16, the birth announcement of Montrose ran. Only it wasn't called Montrose and it didn't say anything about a contest," Newcombe said.

The article noted that Holmes and Walton had bought a large amount of land in La Crescenta and that they were developing a water system.

But Newcombe wanted more. He wanted to know why it was called Montrose. He looked at thousands of pages on microfilm.

"I found nothing. I had to go back to the library over several days to do this," he said.

Then one day, the librarian pulled out Grace J. Oberbeck's book on the history of the Crescenta Valley. It was written in 1933, 20 years after the birth of Montrose, when many old-timers were still alive.

Reading her book, Newcombe realized that, as early as 1933, there were many misconceptions as to the origin of the name.

Oberbeck wrote, "The subdividers held a contest and gave a lot as a prize for the best name for the town they were starting. Montrose was selected by them as the most appropriate."

She went on, "Residents from Pennsylvania feel that it must have some connection with Montrose of that state, which is also situated in the mountains and played such a prominent part in Civil War times. Then, there are the rose lovers, who think the 'rose' in the name must apply to the Queen of Flowers who has found her throne in nearly every garden in the Valley … And — Ah yes, there is the "Legend of Montrose" which Sir Walter Scott made famous, perhaps the one who suggested the name had that in mind. We think it would be very interesting to know the story of the prized lot."

So, Oberbeck validated the contest, but, Newcombe realized, "it's clear that in 1933, just 20 years after it happened, people didn't know why the name Montrose was picked. Oberbeck was just telling tales of what people were saying about why the name was picked. She certainly was not saying that all three versions were true. But somehow, in a strange game of "Telephone" over the years, these three stories have intertwined and morphed into 'fact.'"

There's a lot more to this story. To find out more, pick up a copy of Newcombe's book, "Images of America, Montrose" at a local bookstore or online.

For the Readers:

The Dryden name is a significant one in Glendale. Nathaniel Dryden was the architect who designed El Miradero (now Brand Library) for his brother-in-law, L.C. Brand. He also designed several other houses, including the Beverly Hills home of his daughter Virginia Robinson.

Dryden was descended from illustrious Virginia settler David Dryden, who built a house that is now on the Virginia Historic Register.

Now, several descendants of David Dryden (who died in 1772) are planning a two-day reunion — open to all Drydens. On June 28, the Virginia Robinson Gardens will be opened exclusively for the Dryden reunion.

On June 29, Dryden descendants will gather at Brand Park to hear Glendale library staff and historical society members share Nathaniel Dryden's story. Brand Cemetery, where Nathaniel and his family are buried, will be open to reunion members that day.

For more information on this event — open to those who have a Dryden connection — contact reunion organizer Keith Biever. He has seven volumes of Dryden family histories and says he loves the challenge of finding connections. Contact him at (425) 501-9769 or

If you have questions, comments or memories to share, please write to Verdugo Views, c/o Glendale News-Press, 202 W. 1st St., 2nd Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Please include your name, address and phone number.

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