Around Town: Neighborhood news from 1885

Each week, the first article I look for in the Valley Sun is the 10-20-30 Years Ago feature. Each week, the editor picks news stories and a photo that summarize swell Valley Sun stories from the past six decades. The names, events and fashions are amazing.

But a better option would be a “137 Years Ago in La Cañada” feature.

Occasionally, in the late 19th century, the L.A. Times ran a Neighborhood News column featuring stories from “La Canyada.”

The column was presented as a first-person letter from an unknown correspondent from one of the mountain colonies of La Canyada, Crescenta-Cañada or Monte Vista.

I'm not sure what Monte Vista was, but it must have been near us.

One Neighborhood News column noted that La Cañada real estate prices were sky high.

“This settlement has improved much in the past few months....” begins the April 19, 1885 Neighborhood News article.

Our area really was on a growth spurt. Population had nearly doubled in a few months.

By 1885, the extended foothill colonies had 500 residents and the settlement of La Canyada had 200 residents.

With the increased population came all the accouterments of civilization. The era of isolation was about to come to an end.

The report continued: “A public school has been opened and is in good running order, with Miss Nellie Haskell installed as teacher and some twenty-five pupils enrolled.”

Communication services were improving. There was no NSA, no Internet, but “the post office, with A. Cockroft as postmaster, has assumed so much importance that the government has advertised for bids for carrying of a daily mail to and from Los Angeles.”

The settlement was about “to have telephonic connections with Los Angeles, which will be a great help, because now Pasadena is our nearest office, being some four miles distant.”

The “store” was open and was flourishing.

As noted, land prices were skyrocketing. Two years earlier, the price was $60 per acre, but by 1885, the price had risen to $125. The column noted, “New houses are continually going up....” Local ranchers were sending away for their wives and children. Mr. T.J. Martin built a large home for his wife and children and headed back to New Orleans to pick them up.

It would be another 26 years before the La Cañada Thursday Club would be founded, but in 1885, the “social club, having some twenty-five members holds very lively and interesting meetings … which are generally well attended.”

The crops were excellent, both wine grapes and stone fruits. The farmers prospered.

But there was one big difference between now and then. Unlike the La Cañada of 2013, which has an ordinance banning roosters, the settlement of 1885 had no such restrictions. “The Whitney & Williams chicken rancho is fast becoming the leading one in Southern California” because it had a “large number of very fancy fowls,” Neighborhood News informed its readers.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.

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