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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


MARGARET PAINE While during wife and widowhood she has borne the name Mrs. Ansel Ames, it was as Margaret Paine that she came to the San Bernardino Valley at the close of the Civil War, and her long life in that locality has produced associations that make it appropriate for her to be remembered in history as Margaret Paine. Mrs. Ames now lives at Cucamonga with her daughter, Mrs. F. B. Van Fleet.

She was born in Illinois March 4, 1848. When she was a child her father, Murrell Paine, who was of Southern birth, moved to Texas and settled in Johnson County, well out on the north frontier of Texas. At the beginning of the Civil war he was the only man in that county who espoused the cause of Abraham Lincoln with sufficient courage to vote for him. He was twice married, having ten children when his first wife died, and his second marriage brought him nine more. Five of his sons were soldiers in the Civil war. One served with the Federal Army while four were drafted and against their convictions did duty with the Confederates. All of these survived the dangers and exigencies of warfare. The position of the Paine family in Texas was not altogether a congenial one during the war, and in February, 1865, Murrell Paine started for California, traveling by ox train. He left hurriedly, when his stock was in poor condition, and, his party having been increased by the addition of a number of other fellow travelers in the meantime, they all camped on the Concho River in West Texas to feed up the cattle. Here a party of Confederate soldiers found them and were on the point of taking the men into service, when the travelers made their hurried departure into the desert and escaped. Margaret Paine was at that time seventeen years of age, and she has many vivid memories of the hardships of the journey. The party frequently had to depend on Federal troops to supply them with food as they went along. At the crossing of the Colorado River the soldiers refused them rations, and in desperation the father traded one yoke of his oxen for food. Going on, the party arrived at old San Bernardino about Christmas time of 1865. Murrell Paine had owned a flour mill in Texas. He sold it to a party l)ut was never able to collect the debt, and consequently he arrived in California without financial means. He rented a house in Cottonwood and went to work as a laborer on a ranch for twenty dollars a month.

Margaret Paine shared in the responsibilities of supporting the family in those days, and went out and did washing for fifty cents a day, the same wage paid to Indian squaws. Eventually her father secured a ranch at Cottonwood, at the site of old San Bernardino. Margaret Paine grew up in time and place of peculiar stress and hardships, and the necessity of work precluded any advantages in schools. Only after her marriage did she procure the services of an old man to teach her penmanship, and by subsequent study and reading she attained an outlook on life as that of a well educated woman.

Soon after coming to California and at the age of eighteen Margaret Paine was married to Ansel Ames. He was born in Missouri and at the age of fifteen accompanied his parents with other Mormons to Salt Lake City and later he was with the Mormon Colony that came by ox trains from Salt Lake to the San Bernardino Valley. He had experiences similar to those of his wife on the journey, the party being without food and once, impelled by thirst, he killed an ox and drank its blood. Ansel Ames learned the trade of brick mason, and became a prominent builder and contractor in the early days of San Bernardino. He died at his home in Redlands in April, 1889.

Mrs. Ames was left with a family of four children, all of whom were born in San Bernardino. The oldest, Vada, was first married to David Johnson, a locomotive engineer who was killed in a railroad wreck. Three children survive that marriage: Murrell, Mrs. Olive Lyttle of Los Angeles and Darius Johnson, a law student. Mrs. Johnson is now the wife of Henry Pankey, of Santa Ana, California. The second child of Margaret Paine is Olive, now Mrs. Frank Thurston of Ontario, and they have two children, Dorothy and Margaret. The third child is Effie, who is Mrs. T. B. Van Fleet, and the fourth was Mrs. Essie Pope, of Santa Ana.

Effie Ames is married to one of Cucamonga's most prosperous ranchers. Mr. Van Fleet was born in Illinois, but his parents were pioneers at Downey, California, and he has been a resident of the Cucamonga district for thirty years. On coming here Mr. Van Fleet bought a ten acre tract, including one of the oldest vineyards in the locality. He has since added to this until he now owns ^ hundred sixty acres, well diversified in citrus, deciduous fruits and vine crops. He has become a man of prominence and means. Mrs. Van Fleet is well educated, has a literary turn, and is the author of a number of charming poems. Mr. and Mrs. Van Fleet have the following children: Vada, Mrs. Muriel Bray of Santa Ana; Nelson M., who was with the United States Marines until the armistice; Mrs. Katherine Krauter, of San Jose, Theresa, a student in the Normal School at Los Angeles; Francis and Helen, both attending the Chaffey High School at Ontario; Ruth, Helen and Stanley, pupils in the Cucamonga grammar school.

Margaret Paine is, therefore, one of the few survivors of that pioneer era when the San Bernardino Valley was being developed as the home of white men, but many years in advance of the modern era of orchards and vineyards and irrigated ranches with beautiful homes. She and her family have done a worthy part as pioneers in the making of this section. Mrs. Ames and her children are active workers in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ, composed of Latter Day Saints, but not a branch of the Mormon Church.


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