California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
VERNON E. STOCKWELL. — Volumes have been written concerning the romantic experiences and adventure of the California argonauts. However, the age of romance is not dead since some of the men who have come to California in comparatively recent years have ventured and achieved in a w-ay fully as interesting and perhaps even more beneficial to the country at large than the early gold seekers.
A story in point is that of Mr. Vernon E. Stockwell of Los Angeles, who some years ago dared to come over the mountains against the warning of a physician who said he could not live to make the trip, who reached here a stranger and with only a few dollars at his command, and now has business interests and connections spread all over the country around Los Angeles, including some that make him a man of prominence and interest in San Bernardino and Riverside, counties.
Mr. Stockwell was born at Spearsville in Boone County, Indiana, August 25, 1872, son of Austin and Mary P. Stockwell, who were natives of Ohio. Vernon Stockwell grew up on his father's farm, had a working experience while attending common schools, and as a young man took a course, in a Horological College at La Porte, Indiana, and also graduated from the Myers Institute of LaPorte, thus receiving a technical training in the watchmaker's trade and as an optician. He was in the jewelry and optical business for three years, located in Iowa and Missouri and part of the time traveling over these states selling jewelry and optical goods. Failing health compelled him to seek a different climate and after about a year of invalidism he went to Denver, Colorado, and entered the piano business as salesman for the McCammon Bros, at 16th and Champa streets. He traveled over Colorado, New Mexico and Utah as a general salesman and with more than ordinary success. In December, 1900, he came to Los Angeles, primarily because he was unable to live on the eastern side of the Rockies and he hoped and realized his expectations of finding in Southern California a genial climate where his strength would be restored and also some business opportunities. He reached here with nine dollars in his pocket. It was a period of hard times. In seeking work he applied to the Los Angeles Piano Company. They had too many men already, said the sales manager. "Have you pianos to sell?" asked Mr. Stockwell. The manager indicated that they had plenty of goods to sell and he immediately proposed to sell on commission. At the end of the first week his sales had enabled him to put a hundred ninety dollars in the bank. Later he was employed by the Southern California Music Company, but in 1901 took up the field that has afforded the widest opportunity for his genius, real estate. He located in the Douglas Building at Los Angeles, but Soon rented quarters on the ground floor at 454 South Broadway, and still later removed to 304 Grant Building, where he now has a suite of three rooms. He and Ben White were the first to inaugurate the Exchange business in the Los Angeles real estate market, a plan that has been widely adopted elsewhere.
On February 11, 1901, Mr. Stockwell married Miss Bertha C. Greenleaf, daughter of William and Rosalie P. Greenleaf. Mrs. Stockwell is an accomplished musician, particularly as a pianist. Her father was a native of Iowa and her mother was born in the city of Berlin and was brought to America when a child by her uncle.
The spirit that has prompted him to accept chances all his life has, with the enlarged resources of success, enabled Mr. Stockwell to engage in many diverse fields. He has mining interests, particularly in the State Range Mountains of Inyo County, claims he has developed and where the Stockwell Gold Mining Company of which he is president, general manager and chief stockholder operates a thirty ton Lane mill and complete modern cyanide plant.
Mr. Stockwell in 1915 purchased a controlling interest and took over the management of the Consumers Salt Company with plant at Saltus in San Bernardino County. In that vicinity there is about six thousand acres underlaid with a solid body of salt eight to nine feet deep. The company had four and a half miles of railroad fully equipped with two locomotives, oil and salt cars, and there is a modern three-story mill building with a capacity of five hundred tons of salt daily. Mr. Stockwell operated this plant four years, put it on a profitable financial basis, and then leased it for twenty years to John Smith of Los Angeles. In 1917 Mr. Stockwell's investigations discovered calcium chloride on this property. He then organized the Calcium-Chloride Syndicate, established a refining plant at 2436 Hunter Street in Los Angeles, the first calcium chloride plant west of Michigan. He operated this for two years in a very successful way, and then leased it likewise to John Smith, who now operates both the salt and chloride plants. These two industries are among the most prosperous of San Bernardino County.
Mr. Stockwell was one of the early investors who put their resources behind the developments in Imperial County. He has owned many tracts of land there, and is still a large holder of farm lands. In 1912 he put on sale the townsite of Alamorio where he built an electric light plant, creamery, ice plant, general merchandise store with thirty-five thousand dollars worth of stock, was one of the founders of the Methodist Church and the Church of the Nazarine, contributing substantially to the maintenance of these institutions, and was instrumental in securing the establishment of yards of the E. K. Wood Lumber Company. He kept in intimate touch with this town for four years, after which he sold out his interests. He had organized the Chamber of Commerce and its first meetings were held in his home. At that point he sank one of the first wells in the valley, developing an artesian flow of water with valuable mineral qualities and installed a bath house. This well is visited annually by hundreds of people who seek the benefits of the use of the water. Mr. Stockwell is regarded as an authority on investments in the valley. At the time of the well remembered floods he maintained and continued his investments at a time when others were getting Tropico, running a special train on the Salt Lake Railway, and selling the entire tract at auction. He also put on the market Stockwell's subdivision at Corona in Riverside County. He owns sixty acres of citrus groves at Corona, Pomona and Ontario and at different times has been interested in retail business enterprises, including the old Hollywood confectionery store on Broadway at Los Angeles, a large millinery store, and has been interested in a number of hotels. Recently he purchased thirty-one acres at Lynwood, the half way city between Long Beach and Los Angeles, and is planning its subdivision and development.
Besides this ample evidence of his financial prosperity and his growing prominence as a citizen, Mr. Stockwell is the picture of rugged health and energy, all of which he credits to Southern California climate, though doubtless his personal persistence and determination have been equally important.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011