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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


JOHN PERRY ENSLEY has done the work of a pioneer in the development of Ontario's horticulture, and first and last has performed a great deal of conscientious, hard working service for the community from a civic standpoint.

Mr. Ensley, whose home is at 126 West D Street, has been a resident of Ontario for thirty-five years. He was born near Auburn, Indiana, October 9, 1853, son of George and Lydia (Noel) Ensley. His parents were born in Pennsylvania, and the Ensleys are of original German stock, though the family has been in America for a number of generations. George Ensley was born in 1815 and died in California in 1888. The mother died in Indiana in 1884. They were the parents of nine children, John Perry being the seventh in age. George Ensley moved out to California in the fall of 1886, acquiring property in Ontario, where he spent the rest of his life. He had been in earlier years a farmer, but had the all around mechanical genius that enabled him to succeed in almost every occupation. At one time he operated a saw mill of his own construction, and after coming to California he was an orange grower.

John Perry Ensley is a thoroughly well educated gentleman. He graduated from the Auburn High School in Indiana and attended the Indiana State University. He taught eight winter terms of school, and refused the office of principal of the Auburn schools. While he did well as a teacher, it was not an occupation altogether to his liking, and his preference was for the practical side of farming.

In 1884 he married Miss Clara B. Clark, a native of Indiana, and in 1886, for the benefit of her health he came to Ontario and bought twenty acres of wild land at the northeast corner of Eighteenth Street and Euclid Avenue. This he cleared and planted to citrus fruits during 1887. His father in .the meantime had purchased five acres of oranges on West Fourth Street and also ten acres of unimproved land on West G Street. After his father's death Mr. Ensley bought out the interests of the heir-s and developed the unimproved tract to citrus fruits. All of this land he actually improved by his own labors and efforts, and he now has thirty-five acres of producing groves, besides other valuable investments, including his modern residence, which was constructed some years ago. His prosperity is the direct result of his earnest efforts and hard labors since coming to California.

By his first marriage Mr. Ensley had two children, one dying in infancy. His son, Oliver P. Ensley, born in Indiana May 6, 1886, graduated from the Chaffey High School at Ontario, from the University of Southern California, where he pursued both classical and law courses, was admitted to the bar in 1912, and during that year pursued a commercial course in the Eastman Business College at Poughkeepsie, New York. He is now successfully established as an attorney at Hemet, California. He is prominent in the Masonic Order and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Oliver Ensley married Miss Catherine Todd, of Indiana, in June, 1919, and they have one son, Edward Clark Ensley, born March 23, 1921.

John P. Ensley lost his first wife at Ontario August 1, 1888, and his father died on the 26th of the same month. July 25, 1894, John Perry Ensley married Elizabeth Borthwick, a native of Liverpool, England. Her father was a native of Scotland and her mother of Ireland. Her father was a jeweler, coming to America and being an early settler in Ontario, where he was one of the pioneer men of his trade. By his second marriage Mr. Ensley had five children, three still living; Isabel, born April 2, 1899, is a graduate of the Chaffey Union High School and the University of Southern California. Gladys Theresa, born December 24, 1901, is a graduate of the Chaffey Union High School and the Chaffey, Jr., College. Elizabeth Borthwick, born August 7, 1906, is in her second year at the Chaffey High School. These children are all natives of Ontario.

John P. Ensley is a prominent democrat, and for a number of years was a member of the Democratic Central Committee. He is a stickler for good, clean government and decent citizenship. He served as trustee of Ontario fifteen years, having been elected a member of the first board at the incorporation of Ontario and serving nine years. Later he acceded to the insistent demand of his fellow citizens and became a candidate for trustee, serving this second time a total of six years and was very progressive in building good roads. For three years he was a director of the San Antonio Water Company, and has always been active in movements to benefit citrus growers as well as the general welfare of the community. At present he is director of the A Street Citrus Association.

Mrs. Ensley, born October 23, 1865, came to the United States with her parents, John P. and Margaret (Dunn) Borthwick, in 1869, locating in Scranton, Pennsylvania. They came to Ontario, California, in April, 1884. The father died April 9, 1908, and the mother died in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Ensley was educated in the public schools of Pennsylvania. She was the first young lady to live in Ontario.

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