California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
STONER FOX — The pioneer orange shipper of Colton, send- ing
out the first car of the golden fruit from that city, and also the
packer of the first car of oranges ever shipped from Rialto and
Bloomington, Abram Stoner Fox is well known to every citrus grower,
packer and shipper as an authority on citrus fruits and horticulture
He did not have an easy
time of it, for he had to see the Southern Pacific have first choice of
the precious water he needed for his groves, and only too often not a
drop flowed down to his ranch in the hot weather. He and his wife packed
his first shipment in 1881, and the work was done in their kitchen and
they were very proud of their infant industry. In after years, when he
was a grower and shipper of prominence and success, it must have been a
rare pleasure to recall those early days.
Mr. Fox can be placed in
the ranks of the pioneers, for he came to California in 1876 and located
in Colton when there were only three houses in the place. He is
prominently identified with that district, not only in his horticultural
work but in the civic life of Colton, which city he served faithfully
and most successfully, and much of the important improvement and
advancement of Colton was accomplished while he was in office there. In
fraternal and social circles he was an important factor, and when he
removed to Redlands some ten years ago he left a void in the life of
Colton which it has been impossible to fill. In Red- lands he has become
just as prominent as in Colton, and is growing oranges in the same
successful manner he did in his first California home.
Mr. Fox was born in New
Castle, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1855, of Scotch and Irish descent. He
is the son of Andrew and Catherine (Pence) Fox, both of whom were
natives of the same state as the son. The elder Fox was a miller by
occupation. Mr. and Mrs. Fox were the parents of eleven children, five
boys and six girls, of whom Abram Stoner Fox was the tenth child.
He was educated in the
schools of Pennsylvania, and as he had a brother in Colton, California,
he decided to come out to the coast. He arrived in Colton September 26,
1876, at the time the Trans-Continental Railroad was being completed.
There were three houses in Colton at that time, but the depot was being
Mr. Fox was about twenty
years old when he arrived in Colton, with no thought of becoming one of
the foremost citrus growers, packers and shippers. Instead he intended
to study medicine under the brother resi- dent in Colton, Dr. William
Fox, who came to California in 1874, one of the first physicians in
Colton. Dr. Fox was the first settler on Col- ton Terrace Tract, and he
set out an orange grove of seedlings and also a grove of limes in 1875,
so he also was a pioneer grower.
Instead of commencing the
study of medicine Mr. Fox commenced the study of horticulture by
undertaking the care of his brother's grove. In this manner he was
employed for eighteen years. In the meantime he had been accumulating
land and had twenty-eight acres set out in oranges, which made it
necessary at that time to sever connections with his brother and
commence looking after his own interests, which were becoming important.
Later on he added to his holdings, so that on leaving Colton he had
fifty acres in oranges. It was in 1881 that he shipped and he and Mrs.
Fox packed his first shipment in the kitchen of their home.
As noted above, he had to
obtain water under difficulties, for it came from Raner Ranch
(originally Merks Ranch) and the Southern Pacific having call on the
first ten inches of water, which was brought down in an open ditch. Very
often in warm weather it dwindled away, although there might be one
hundred inches at the head, and Mr. Fox would not get a drop of it.
When Mr. Fox shipped the
first carload of oranges from Colton the packing was done in a shed on
Dr. Fox's ranch and it was shipped in an ordinary box car, refrigerated
cars being unknown then. Later the depot was used for this purpose. Mr.
Fox, having shipped the first car of fruit out of Colton, did the same
thing at Rialto and Blooming- ton, and then formed an Exchange,
including Colton, Redlands Junction, Bloomington and Rialto. The
Pavilion, which was a part of the Fair grounds was purchased and
converted into a packing house, the first in San Bernardino County.
Mr. Fox continued packing,
and followed that industry in addition to growing until 1910, when he
decided to give up that branch of the citrus industry. He moved over to
Redlands and henceforward gave his time and attention to the growing of
oranges. As one of the earliest orange growers of the county he is
always interested in its growth and development.
When Mr. Fox was twenty-one
he joined San Bernardino Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the
first lodge in the county. He is a past grand of the Colton lodge and is
today the only living charter member. Its most influential members were
Hebrews, and in Mr. Fox's opinion they were among his best advisers on
matters of both morals and citizenship. He also joined the Masonic Order
and at the present time is a member of Redlands Lodge No. 300, F. and A.
M. He is also a member of the Foresters, Woodmen and the Fraternal
Brotherhood He was a charter member of the Colton Band, organized in
1880. Of the band Scipio Craig was leader, and this was San Bernardino
County's first brass band. He was city trustee of Colton when the
Municipal Water Company was organized and the plant was installed, and
he was active in the organization and installation, as in all other
enterprises which would advance the interests of Colton.
On October 26, 1877, Mr. Fox wedded Miss Anna Amanda Hager, who was born at Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, March 20, 1857. They are the parents of seven children: Lettie Charlotte, born in August, 1880, is married to Ralph Sweney. She lives in Arizona and has two children, Ralph, Jr., and Charlotte Kitty, born in 1881, is now Mrs. Arthur Cortner, whose husband is an undertaker in Redlands. Stella, born in 1884, was married to Mont P. Chubb, a prosperous druggist of Redlands. Ella, born in 1888, is now the wife of W. T. S. Munhall, an orange grower of Redlands. Florence, born in 1894, is now Mrs. George Simon, of Pasadena, California. She has one child, George Stoner Fox. Lydia, bom in 1898, is an accomplished musician, employed as an accountant at Leipsic's store and residing with her parents. Lucille, born in 1905, is attending high school and lives with her parents. All the children are high school graduates.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011