California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
MRS. SOPHIA CASTEEL. — At the age of eighty-three Mrs. Sophia Casteel, whose home is half a mile east of Rivera, on the San Gabriel River, is one of the few still living whose recollections run back to the exciting days of the late forties, when her people were journeying over the plains to Salt Lake and later to California.
Mrs. Casteel was born November 9, 1839, in Missouri, while her parents were en route from Michigan to Iowa, making the journey with team and wagon. Her parents were Charles and Miranda (Fuller) Chapman, who were among the first pioneers to cross the plains to Salt Lake. Mrs. Casteel has a vivid memory of the journey from Iowa to Utah, the long train of teams pressing out over the prairie, the slow progress, the inevitable hardships of the journey, and the always imminent danger of Indian attack. Her father was a native of Michigan, of English ancestry. In the family were six daughters and three sons, and Mrs. Casteel has two sisters and one brother living. The family lived on the Iowa frontier at Montrose for seven years, and in 1846 they joined a wagon train and after many perils arrived at Salt Lake in 1847. A year later Charles Chapman came on to California, and about Sacramento joined in the great rush for gold. He remained eighteen months and was unusually prospered in his search for the precious metal. In 1852 he brought his family on to California. He was a man of property and had numerous horse and mule teams. The family started in a small party, but they picked up several other families of refugees en route, some of whom had no stock and were in a sorry plight. The Chapmans brought a large number of cattle to California. Charles Chapman settled at San Bernardino, buying a ranch on Lytle Creek, and continued here his business as a farmer and stock raiser. Later he moved to the Jurupa ranch, where he was in the stock business for twenty years. At that time the site of Riverside was a sheep pasture, the land covered with wild brush, and only one store was kept there, by a Jew named Rosenthal. After some twenty years Charles Chapman suffered reverses in the cattle industry, chiefly due to the affliction of the black leg, and he sold his remaining holdings and for a year lived in the San Joaquin Valley. He then returned to Los Angeles County and bought a ranch on what is now San Pedro Street, living there until his death. His widow passed away at Wilmington.
In 1856, some years after coming to San Bernardino, Sophia Chapman was married to Mr. Joshua Casteel. Mr. Casteel was born in Illinois, and he died at Los Nietos, California, April 8, 1913. Mr. and Mrs. Casteel reared their family of ten children: Martha Jane, now the wife of Leonard Labory ; Alzada, who married John Wiseman ; Orsen, deceased ; Phoebe, deceased wife of R. W. Hagen ; Jacob and Cyrus, deceased; Charles; May, who married N. B. Parazette, of Rivera; Daniel and Robert, deceased. The son Charles has followed mining chiefly, and spent twelve years in Sonora, Mexico, and was also identified with mines in Arizona. He now lives with his mother on the old ranch at Rivera. His first wife, Miss Hattie Sides, was a native of Oregon. For his second wife he married Miss Bessie Blunt, of Arkansas.
After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Casteel farmed around San Bernardino, raising cattle on the old Jurupa ranch for a number of years, their home being seven miles from Riverside. Later they bought land at Rivera, where Mrs. Casteel has had her home for a number of years. Joshua Casteel was a western pioneer, and was with the -regular army in the Indian campaigns during the early fifties, serving under Captain Fitzgerald, a noted Indian fighter. He saw active service through California, Arizona, and New Mexico and for many years he drew a Government pension. He came to California about 1849. Mrs. Casteel is a member of the Latter Day Saints Church. In spite of her age she retains the vigor of her mind, and has a most remarkable memory for the early events of Southern California.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011