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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


MAJOR WILLIAM JACOB BODENHAMER is to be credited with a position of distinctive priority as an early settler and in rank of importance as a builder and upbuilder of the Ontario community of San Bernardino County. His home is at Upland, and many years ago he began the task requiring patience, foresight and substantial means to develop what was then a very unpromising waste of land into homes, communities and fruit orchards.

Major Bodenhamer is a veteran soldier of the Civil war, and was born at Springfield, Missouri, July 5, 1841. He had a graded school education, and had just entered college when the Civil war broke out. He soon organized a company of Home Guards, subsequently taken into the Federal Army, and was with his command throughout the entire struggle. At the close of the war he had the rank of major. Most of his service was in that dangerous district of the Missouri and western border. Once while scouting he was wounded, and rode a horse ninety miles to get hospital care and medical attention.

At the close of the war Major Bodenhamer returned to Springfield and became a farmer, and also was interested in the manufacture of tobacco products and real estate. He married' in 1871, and for about a dozen years remained in Southwestern Missouri looking after his various interests.

Major Bodenhamer came to California in 1883, his destination being Pomona. He came to Ontario to handle a contract for the building of a home for Mr. Buffington. It was in the role of building contractor that he performed his first important work in that locality. At that time Upland had very few improved places, and the town itself was unknown by that name, the locality being generally known as North Ontario. Major Bodenhamer soon bought ten acres in Ontario, but sold that and acquired 200 acres of wild land along Mountain Avenue from Sixteenth Street North. This land he cleared and improved, setting it chiefly to citrus fruit. Portions of that tract he and his son Paul still own and operate. Development work has been the forte of Major Bodenhamer. He has always looked ahead and has anticipated many of the needs of the community. He was the first to sink a well for irrigation purposes in that section. At that time the canyon was available for an insufficient supply of water, and he put down the well against the advice of associates and proved the practicability of getting water from underground in sufficient quantity for irrigation. This well today produces about 100 inches. It was first operated by a steam plant but now by electrical power. A great amount of land has been cleared, graded, set out to fruit and brought into profitable condition through the efforts and under the direction of Major Bodenhamer. His choice of lands was on the higher mesa ground, then considered unfit for citrus production, but now regarded as the very best for that purpose. Major Bodenhamer came to California a man with limited financial resources, and almost incapacitated by ill health, using crutches for a time to get about. The country was new, the Santa Fe Railroad not having been built, and he had all the burdens and responsibilities of a real pioneer. Major Bodenhamer has always been a strong republican, though he has never been a candidate for public office.

Now, at the age of four score, he has turned over many of his active responsibilities to his son Paul. On November 22, 1871, he married Miss Maria L. Parker, who was born in Madison, Wisconsin. November 20, 1849. Of their two sons, the older, Guy, was born at Springfield, Missouri, December 26, 1872, and completed his education in Chaffey College at Ontario, California. He is now an active business man of Los Angeles. By his marriage to Laura Cole he has five children, named Rudolph, Francis, Gertrude, Alma and Naomi.

Paul Bodenhamer is to a large extent his father's successor in the management of the lands and property at Upland. He has been very successful as an orange and lemon grower. He was born at Marshfield, Missouri. November 11, 1874, and was also educated in Chaffey's College at Ontario. He married Miss Marguerite Roy, a native of St. Joseph, Missouri, and educated in the public schools of Denver, Colorado. Their two children are Paul, Jr., born March 5, 1910, and Betty Lee, born November 8, 1913.

History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties 
By: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County 
And James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County 
With selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period 
of growth and achievement.
Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, 
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011