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California Genealogy and History Archives

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San Bernardino County and Riverside County

 

GEORGE WASHINGTON PENN is one of the oldest residents in the Victorville community of San Bernardino County. He came here nearly forty years ago, when there were only one or two houses in the village. His previous experience as a quarryman brought him here, and his productive work has been largely in the granite quarries. The name and activities of this old pioneer have always been associated with sterling traits of character.

He represents the old Quaker stock that originally planted the Pennsylvania colony, and William Penn was his great-great-grandfather. His grandparents were natives of Virginia, and his parents were born at Alexandria, that state.

George Washington Penn was born at Cumberland, Maryland, February 5, 1857, and was the only one of twelve children born there ten being natives of Virginia, while the youngest was born in Washington, D. C. Their parents were William T. and Rebecca Ann (Simmons) Penn. His father was a cabinet maker, and in later years worked at this trade. He had been one of the very prosperous farmers and planters of old Virginia, and when the Civil war came on he was worth twenty-five thousand dollars. He was a staunch Union man, all his holdings were in the South, and they were confiscated by the Confederate government, so that he was financially ruined. He died at Cumberland, Maryland, in 1865, at the close of the war, and his wife died two years later. Four of the oldest sons enlisted and served in the Federal Army.

George Washington Penn was about eight years old when his father died, for several years he lived on a farm in Pennsylvania, and all his schooling did not take any more than six months. At the age of twenty he left Pennsylvania, going to old friends in Iowa, in which state he was led to believe there were better chances for a young man. Mr. Penn was a resident of Iowa for seven years, and at the age of twenty-seven he went on to the Northwest of Portland, Oregon, and in the fall of 1884 arrived in San Francisco, making the journey by way of steamboat in the absence of any railroad between Portland and San Francisco. He was employed and worked at Oakland until 1886, and in that year came to Victorville through the influence of friends, who requested that he come as an expert to supervise the work of the marble quarries where an attempt was being made to burn lime. He had become proficient in such operations in Pennsylvania. Within two months the concern failed, and he had to seek other opportunities. At that time there were only three houses at Victorville, one of them being the stage station, since destroyed by fire, a brick house, and the Southern California section house. After the failure of the lime burning operation Mr. Penn went four miles below town to the old Turner ranch, where he remained four years, doing general work in the improvement of the property. For fifteen years he was quarryman in the granite quarries. He has quarried material for many of California's prominent public works and buildings. One example of the dimension of materials quarried in the Victorville district by Mr. Penn were the great levelers used in the construction of the foundation for the dome of the Union Ferry Building at San Francisco. There were forty-four of these levelers, 6x6x1 feet, twenty-two 4x4x1 feet, and four of the dimensions 8x8x2 feet, the last weighing twelve tons. A large part of the paving blocks used in various Southern California cities were produced in these quarries. Mr. Penn quarried all the granite used in the New Court House building at San Bernardino and the granite platforms and steps in the New Court House at Bakersfield. When he came to this part of San Bernardino County the largest alfalfa tract in the valley was five acres. He has lived here, has seen the country grow and develop, and has served in the work and the consequent prosperity.

On November 4, 1891, he married Miss Elizabeth Agnes Leahy, who was born in Massachusetts in 1866. Five children were born of their marriage, all being natives of Victorville. Ethel May, born November 21, 1892, is the wife of Wilson Herrington, and they live at Sierra Madre, California, their three children being Wilson, Jr., Dorothy and Dorris. The second child, Mary J. Penn, born October 3, 1894, died November 5, 1895. The third child, Myron C. Penn, born February 17, 1896, is unmarried and is agent for the Santa Fe Railroad, now located at Hesperia. Elizabeth A., born August 8, 1899, is the wife of Walter Wechlo. William Henry Penn, the youngest of the family and still a boy, was born November 27, 1903.

 

Source:
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