California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
O. W. HARRIS — The biggest element of success in California, as anywhere else, is the man and not the conditions of environment, climate or other circumstances. A case in point is that of O. W. Harris, one of the prosperous and widely known citizens of San Bernardino County, whose home has been in the Redlands district since the year that colony was planted, during the '80s.
Mr. Harris was born in Indiana in 1860, son of John T. and Louisa J. Harris, natives of the same state and farmers there. O. W. Harris was the oldest of their four children, the others being Grant D., Bruce T. and Edgar D.
Reared on his father's Indiana farm and securing such advantages as were offered by the local schools, O. W. Harris remained there during the vigorous years of his early youth, and accumulated some degree of prosperity as a farmer. In 1883 he married Miss Alice E, Cook, who was born in Indiana, March 27, 1860, her father being a native of the same state, while her mother was a Virginian. Mrs. Harris passed away June 21, 1921. Mr. and Mrs. Harris lived in Indiana until their first three children were born, and then sold their property for $4,000, and on October 30, 1887, started with this capital for California, leaving the train at San Bernardino and completing their journey to Redlands by team. They reached their destination November 7. Redlands had been formally instituted as a colonizing center the preceding year, but when the Harris family reached there the settlement was still in its infancy, including a few scattered improved tracts, but chiefly wild desert or grain land. Mr. Harris remembers when there were only four buildings near State and Orange streets. The railroad did not reach the town until the next winter. His brother, Grant, had preceded him to Redlands. The $4,000 that represented the proceeds of the sale of his 160 acre farm in Indiana Mr. Harris invested in ten acres of wild land in East Highlands, with water rights. At odd times he leveled the land, hauled orange trees from Redlands, and developed a grove that became noted as one of the best in the community. He sold that property in 1920. At one time he was also in the nursery business, raising orange stock, but entered this feature of the industry rather late, when the market was well supplied and there was much competition. Mr. Harris put in a number of years of very hard labor leveling, grading for groves, and caring for orchards of other owners. In 1887 he planted the property at the corner of Alvarado and Palm avenues, and that is his present home, comprising a magnificent site, which he has improved with a modem and beautiful residence, commanding a picturesque view of the city and valley below and the mountains in the distance. When he first came to California Mr. Harris and family lived in his barn. In 1910 he planted sixty acres on Judson Street, Colton Avenue and Lugonia. The great freeze of 1913 nipped the trees in the bud, but as his years of study and experience dictated he cared for the plantation and they now constitute a fine orchard. At the present time Mr. Harris owns eighty-five acres of bearing orange trees, a splendid grove, and much city property besides, including the southeast comer of Central and Fourth streets. His pioneer instinct directed him in 1898 to buy a tract of land in the mountains. This he named Oak Glen, and he set out an apple orchard, the results of which have proved a splendid apple district. He sold this tract to his son in 1920. Altogether his record is that of a practical and successful fruit grower, and one that cams him a high place among the citizens who have constituted the progress and prosperity of the Redlands country.
He was one of the organizers and has been a director of the Gold Banner Association since it was founded. This association is one of the largest packing houses in Redlands. He is a director and the president of the Redlands Water Company ; is president and a director of the Oak Glen Domestic Water Company, and he is a director of the East Lugonia Mutual Water Company.
Four children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Harris after they came to California. Ruth E., the oldest of their family of seven, was born December 9, 1883, was educated at Redlands, and has entered heartily into the affairs of that community, being a member of the Contemporary Club, the Presbyterian Church and did much war work. The second of the family, Chester C. Harris, was born October 5, 1885, is a rancher living near San Bernardino. He married Mabel Webster, of San Bernardino, daughter of a pioneer family of California forty-niners. They have one child, Oscar Webster Harris, born September 17, 1911. The third child, Hazel L. Harris, born July 20, 1887, died May 14, 1901. The fourth member of the family, Virginia R., was born February 25, 1891, and died June 3, 1909. The fifth of the family is Benjamin H., born January 21, 1896. He was in the World war with the Fortieth Division, being trained at Camp Kearney, went overseas in 1918, and as a member of the Military Police was chiefly employed in traffic service, keeping men and supplies moving. He returned to the United States in 1919 and was discharged at Camp Keamey. The next in age, John M., was born October 20, 1896, enlisted in the Naval Reserves in July, 1918, was on active duty until January, 1919, and is still subject to call. He has been an employe of the postal service at Redlands since leaving the military service. He married Bemice Blankenship, of East Highlands, and they have a daughter, Jean, born October 10, 1919. The youngest of the family is Olive E., born April 5, 1898, educated at Redlands, an enthusiastic patriot during the war, and a member of the Presbyterian Church.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011