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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


ALVA B. COWGILL. While not one of the pioneers of the Redlands colony, Alva B. Cowgill has done pioneer work in the past twenty years, particularly in the development of the citrus growing interests and, more important still, in the marketing problems affecting himself and associated growers in this vicinity.

Mr. Cowgill was born at Spencer's Station in Guernsey County, Ohio, February 9, 1856, and his parents, P. C. and Ellen (Spencer) Cowgill, were also natives of the same state. His father was a merchant. Their four children were Alva, Charles, Ella and Grant, all living but Grant, who died at Oskaloosa, Iowa.

Alva B. Cowgill has lived a busy life practically from the time that he can recollect his environment. When he went to school he attended to the opening of his father's store in the morning, then put in the regular hours at his studies, and afterward clerked until closing time. Later for three years he was clerk and assistant in his father's business, and then for five years was ticket and freight agent with the Baltimore and Ohio Railway. In 1879 Mr. Cowgill, after finishing a course in a business college, entered the old firm of Graham, Bailey & Company, wholesale and retail druggists at Zanesville, Ohio. He became an accountant at $40.00 a month. He learned the business as well as the routine of its accounting system, and at the end of three years had become a part owner. About that time the business was incorporated as the Bailey Drug Company. Mr. Cowgill for eight years was the head traveling representative, and was then called back to the general offices and made manager and treasurer. Mr. Bailey in the meantime had accumulated extensive banking interests and turned over practically the entire executive management of the business to Mr. Cowgill. His judgment was well placed, since the house expanded and increased in prosperity under this management. Mr. Cowgill for eleven years devoted himself wholely to the interests and welfare of the business, and at the end of that time found his health so impaired that it was imperative he seek outdoor employment. In the meantime he had achieved a financial competence, represented in his holdings of stock in this prosperous drug house.

Selling out his business at Zanesville, Ohio, Mr. Cowgill came to Los Angeles in 1901 and spent some time in investigating the various districts of Southern California. His first purchase was a 20-acre orange grove in the Redlands district, and later he bought 16 acres of unimproved land, 10 acres of which he set to Washington Navels and 6 acres to grape fruit. For five years he lived on this land and worked outside in cultivating, planting, pruning and caring for his trees. He had his groves in a most satisfactory condition and, even better, his health and strength were completely restored. He then sought an opportunity again to connect himself with some of the broader commercial work for which his previous training had so well qualified him. He therefore became one of the organizers of the Redlands Mutual Orange Company in 1906, and since its organization he has been secretary and general manager. This is one of the leading growers' marketing organization in the Redlands district. In 1906 was also organized the Mutual Orange Distributors, a co-operative selling organization, and Mr. Cowgill has since served as its secretary and director. In no small degree the strength and efficiency of these organizations has depended upon Mr. Cowgill, who has recognized here an important opportunity for a public spirited service to his associated growers, and he has done much to improve the marketing and distributing facilities now available to the producers in the Redlands section. At the same time he has acquired interests in several irrigation companies that bring water to an increased area of citrus land, and in twenty years he has had impressed on his memory a vivid picture of the splendid development of this section of Southern California.

In 1880 Mr. Cowgill married Miss Nellie Broomhall. , She was born in Quaker City, Ohio, August 12, 1858, daughter of W. P. and Rachel (Redd) Broomhall, natives of Ohio. Mr. and Mrs. Cowgill's four children were all born at Zanesville, Ohio. Ethel M., born June 23, 1882, was married May 24, 1911, to Fred C. Knapp, a contractor and builder of Los Angeles. They have a daughter, Kathryn Claire Knapp, born in Los Angeles July 11, 1912.

The second child, Claire Cowgill, was born June 25, 1886, and graduated from the Redlands High School and from Smith College at Northampton, Massachusetts, with the degree A. B.

Chester B. Cowgill, born April 14, 1890, was educated in the Redlands High School, spent four years in the University of California at Berkeley, and is now in business in Los Angeles. March 19, 1918, he enlisted from Redlands, and was sworn into military service at Rockwell Aviation Field at San Diego March 23d, being assigned to Squadron C. He was transferred to March Aviation Field at Riverside in August, 1918, was promoted to private first class and acted as sergeant in charge of power plants, and November 13, 1918, was transferred to the Field Artillery Officers Training School at Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville, Kentucky, being assigned to the Seventeenth Observational Battery. He received his honorable discharge December 7, 1918.

August 27, 1917, C. B. Cowgill married Gladys Ingersol, of Los Angeles, who is also a graduate of the Redlands High School, the California State Normal School, is a very talented musician, both vocal and instrumental, and before her marriage was a teacher in the public schools of Los Angeles.

The fourth child, Ralph Cowgill, was born February 6, 1894, Graduated from the Redlands High School, attended the State University and a business college, and is now connected with the refinery of the Standard Oil Company at Bakersfield. He married Miss Ruth E. Swan at Redlands December 23, 1916. She is a graduate of the Redlands High School. He joined the Naval Reserves for a period of four years, and was on active duty until released after the signing of the armistice. Both these brothers were married and held good positions, yet they waived all claims for exemption when they were called to the colors.

This sketch tells in brief the story of a busy life and is a record of usefulness and honor. Mr. Cowgill is truly one of the men who have been instrumental in making the country around Redlands bloom and blossom as the rose.


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