California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
EZRA J. POST, a resident of Mentone, at the green and vigorous old age of ninety, is one of the few survivors of that intrepid band of pioneers who poured over the plains and across the mountains to the Pacific Coast in the years immediately following the first discoveries of precious metal in California. His life for a number of years was given to the diversified activities of ranching, mechanical labor and mining in the northwestern states, following which he did a successful business on the eastern slope of the Rockies, and finally resorted to Southern California as a means of restoring health and has continued here a role of business activity that would shame many a younger man.
Mr. Post was born in Madison County in Southern Illinois in 1831, and grew up and acquired his education in Illinois. He was born on a farm and learned the blacksmith's trade. It was in May, 1851, when he was about twenty years of age, that he left St. Joseph, Missouri, then one of the chief outfitting points on the Missouri River for California and western immigrants. He drove one of the twenty-one ox teams in a party made up of about a hundred people who went over the old Lewis and Clark trail, and after about five months arrived at Oregon City, Oregon,, on September 10, 1851. It was a journey fraught with many hardships and dangers. The party was attacked by Snake Indians on Snake River and two of the members killed. They drove over the Cascade Mountains through a foot of snow and in bitter cold. They had to cut alder for cattle forage and many of their oxen died. Reaching the Chutes River they found it swollen to a depth of fifteen feet, and for two or three days had to remain on one side with only crackers and sugar for their food until the flood subsided and they could cross to obtain supplies of meat and other provisions. In Oregon Mr. Post found it warm and comfortable, and at once resumed his trade as a blacksmith. As a plow maker he was called upon to make those implements of agriculture for farmers living from one end to the other of the Willamette Valley. For four years he continued making plows and doing mechanical repair work for steamboats. He then started a ranch, setting out an orchard and growing grain. When he planted his apple trees that fruit was selling at six dollars a box, but by the time the trees came into bearing there was no market and he fed the fruit to his stock. Mr. Post was a pioneer horticulturist in the Northwest, when fruit trees were not burdened with pe§ts and there was no occasion to spray and the fruit itself was perfect. He and his brother, John, during one season equipped an ox train and did the first freighting of goods into Orofino, Idaho. From there he went over into the Salmon River basin of Idaho and did some mining and prospecting. He remained in the valley during the winter, when snow covered the ground to a depth of nine feet, and while there he suffered an illness that almost took him away. Two of his friends decided to get out of the valley, one of them, a Portland merchant worth thirty thousand dollars and another, Mr. Mulkey, worth about ten thousand dollars, and froze to death in the attempt.
In the meantime Mr. Post had retained his Oregon ranch. During that winter of unprecedented severity he lost forty out of forty-two head of livestock, and stock of all descriptions perished all the way from Idaho down to The Dalles in Oregon. On giving up his Oregon ranch Mr. Post returned to the Salmon River Valley and engaged in mining, packing, trading and blacksmithing. It was an unprofitable venture, largely through the dishonesty of his partners, one of whom subsequently committed suicide at Boise.
Leaving that country altogether, Mr. Post in 1870 went to Denver, reaching that city penniless, and for two years made a living as a journeyman blacksmith. He saved and made money, and this time never experimented with partners. From Denver he removed to Trinidad, Colorado, where he engaged in the hardware business. As a prospering business man he was liberal of his means in promoting railroad enterprises, and gave five hundred dollars toward the fund to secure the right of way for the Santa Fe Railroad, three hundred dollars for the Denver and Rio Grande, a sum subsequently refunded, and contributed two thousand dollars to the proposed Denver, Texas & Gulf Railway. He was made treasurer of the company that raised a hundred and eight thousand dollars to purchase the right of way for this last named road. It turned out to be a very profitable business for him, since the road turned many accounts toward him and he sold goods over a three hundred mile stretch up and down the line and frequently got out of bed in the middle of the night to supply an order for goods. He also started a branch store at Albuquerque, New Mexico, and this, too, was profitable, since he had friendly connections with the Santa Fe people. Mr. Post continued merchandising at Trinidad for sixteen years, though for the last six years of that time he spent his winters in Southern California.
Gradually, suffering from impaired health, he sold out and in 1887, moved to Los Angeles, determined to rebuild his constitution. That he has done so his subsequent active life of over thirty years abundantly proves. On going to Los Angeles he bought ten acres in the city, and sold one lot for enough to pay for the entire purchase price. For a number of years he was one of the very successful real estate dealers in Los Angeles.
In 1890 Mr. Post bought, twenty-two acres on the bench land known as Green Spot, near Mentone. He acquired this tract from W. P. McIntosh and Marlett. The purchase was made entirely against the advice of his friends, who thought the land lay too high in the valley. However, he planted it to Navel oranges, and it is now one of the show places of California horticulture. Later he added another ten acres, and this tract has been developed to the Valencia oranges. Thirty years ago it was totally wild land, and his capital and efforts have set the pace for much development all over that region. Mr. Post has lived at Mentone with his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Hart, since June 23, 1920.
In 1873 he married Miss Anna A. Barraclough, a native of New York City. She died February 9, 1920, after they had traveled life's highway and shared life's fortunes and reverses for forty-seven years. Mr. and Mrs. Post had two daughters. Mrs. Ada E. Easley, now a widow, lives at Glendale. California, and has three children, Frederick, Leland and Bernice Easley. The second daughter, Mabel Josephine, is the wife of Sherman E. Hart, and they have three children, Gaylord, born May 31, 1913; Donald Post, born in 1915, and Sherman Lee Hart, born in 1921.
Mr. Sherman Hart is a native of Illinois and is one of the men of distinctive enterprise in the citizenship of Mentone. He has had a diversified business experience and career, has lost at times but has begun over again and has made himself financially one of the strong men of this section of the state. Mr. and Mrs. Hart recently erected a beautiful modern home against the background of mountain scenery and with a beautiful view of the valley below.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011