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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


THOMAS JEFFERSON CROMER has been one of the real builders in San Bernardino County. His home has been in the Upland district for about thirty years. His work at the beginning was for others, since he lost his first investment, and he planted, tended and capably managed what for many years has been recognized as one of the very fine groves and orchards around Upland. This was his material contribution to the developing community, and at the same time he has been progressive and public spirited wherever the larger needs of the community enlisted his support.  

Mr. Cromer was born in Madison County, Indiana, April 29, 1853, son of Frederick and Martha (Noggle) Cromer. His father was a carpenter by trade, but the greater part of his active life was devoted to farming. In the fall of 1856 the family migrated to Iowa, then a new state. They made this move in a prairie schooner drawn by a four horse team, crossing the Mississippi River on a ferry boat. They moved into a frontier and sparsely settled district, having a small tK>use for the shelter of the family, while the horses had to remain outdoors the first winter. Frederick Cromer secured 500 acres of the new land in that section, and in subsequent years his earnest labors brought him a competence. He was both a farmer and stock raiser. In 1874, after the death of his wife, he returned with his family to Indiana, but in 1879 came back to Iowa and settled at Colfax, six miles from his old home. In 1883 Frederick Cromer left his Iowa home and came to Pomona, California, where he purchased land and became a horticulturist. He continued to live at Pomona, a highly respected citizen, until his death. He was buried on his eighty-ninth birthday. The mother of Thomas Jefferson Cromer died at the age of thirty-eight in Iowa, leaving a family of ten children, Thomas J. being next to the oldest.  

Mr. Cromer has his first recollections of the frontier conditions of the old homestead in Iowa. He appreciated the difficult task his father and mother had set themselves in building a home there. One of his early memory pictures is of a lighted candle in the window of the rude Iowa home, his mother mending clothes by the light inside, while the projecting rays through the window enabled his father to chop wood for fuel. It was his father's habit to utilize all the daylight and part of the night hours in winter to get out wood and do other work that would permit him to work full time during the busy summer seasons. Thomas Jefferson Cromer took a share in these activities as soon as his strength permitted, and he was plowing in the fields or working in the harvest all the summer seasons and in the timber during the winters. He had little opportunity for schooling, though private study and reading have given him a fair equipment. As a youth in the winter he would get into his frozen boots, wearing no socks, and go into the timber, work all day, frequently when the thermometer stood 30 below zero, and, as he recalls that strenuous life, he feels that it had its pleasant side, since he had the constitution to adapt himself to the environment and enjoyed the vigor and stimulus of sustained labor. From the time Mr. Cromer was eighteen years of age he spent one year in Maryland, near Hagerstown, with his grandfather and grandmother Cromer. He then went to Delaware County, Indiana, with an uncle, working on farms, spent one year in Marion County, Indiana, near Indianapolis, on a farm, in the spring of 1874 returned to the old home in Iowa, but went back to Indiana with his father and worked the farm for several years. In the spring of 1880 he returned to Colfax, Iowa.  

On March 30, 1882, Mr. Cromer married Miss Jennie Kelsey, daughter of William Kelsey, a native of Indiana, whose parents were born in Belfast, Ireland. Her mother, Jane (Thompson) Kelsey, was born in Illinois. Jennie Kelsey was born in Lisbon, Iowa, August 18, 1863.  

After his marriage Mr. Cromer bought 160 acre farm ten miles from Newton, Jasper County, Iowa, and developed and operated that Iowa farm five years. He then sold out and in December, 1887, arrived in California, spending the first seven years at Pomona. He invested the proceeds of his Iowa property, but when the boom of the eighties collapsed he lost his invested funds completely and then did ranch work as a means of support. In May, 1894, Mr. Cromer moved to North Ontario, now Upland, and contracted to buy ten acres on Eleventh Street in the Mountain View tract. He had no money to pay down, but had the energy and courage that supplied part of the indispensable capital. The land had been leveled, and he at once dug the holes and set out the orange trees. While tending and watching his grove develop he worked for others, doing orchard work, and finally he was able to build a home on his tract. Then, in 1919, after having taken approximately as much money from the successive sales of fruit, he sold his ten acre orchard and home for $30,000. After this sale he bought his present home, a modern and attractive residence at the corner of Laurel and Tenth streets in Upland, commanding a beautiful view of the mountains. About the same time he bought twenty acres on Sixteenth Street, just west of Mountain Avenue. This tract contained seven and a half acres of Washington navel oranges and the remainder in lemon trees eight years old. This is a handsome grove and he still owns it. Mr. Cromer is one of the popular old timers of Upland, and his honesty, industry, and friendliness have earned him the esteem he enjoys.  

Mr. Cromer is justly proud of the attainments and character of his only son, Ray Frederick Cromer, who was born at Pomona December 29, 1891. He showed studious inclinations during his youth and made good use of the opportunities his father could give him. He went through the grammar school, graduated from the Chaffey Union High School, received his B. A. degree at Pomona College in 1917, and during the following year remained out of school trying and hoping to get into the active army service. He was twice rejected, being greatly under weight. When the draft came he passed the inspection and was put on the reserve list in the chemical warfare division, but was never called out, to his lasting disappointment. After the war he resumed his studies in the University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in chemistry. For two years he was head of the Science Department and teacher of chemistry at Brawley in the Imperial Valley, and then became instructor in chemistry and physics in the Fremont High School of Oakland. While there he was selected as head of the Radio Club, an organization doing work after school hours for advancement and study of the radio. He began these duties August 21, 1921. At Upland Ray F. Cromer married, on June 16, 1918, Miss Marie Cooley, a native of South Dakota, but reared in Upland, and is a graduate of the Chaffey Union High School. She was employed as stenographer and teller in the First National Bank of Upland prior to her marriage. They now reside at Oakland.

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