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California Genealogy and History Archives

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San Bernardino County and Riverside County

 

MARTIN VAN WIG, whose home in retirement is at 676 Huntington Boulevard, Pomona, is an interesting type of the true pioneer, the man who is first or among the first to settle and develop land, endures the trials and vicissitudes of such enterprise, for he must discover his own precedence, and lives and remains to reach the rewards of his early labors.

Mr. Van Wig was born April 26, 1851, in Norway, where his parents spent their lives. He was left an orphan at the age of ten years, and as a youth he had few educational opportunities, his training being of a practical rather than a theoretical character. For several years he followed the seas, and as a seaman he first landed at the port of New York in 1869.

The most interesting factor of his life, however, began with his arrival in San Bernardino, in 1883, now nearly forty years ago. He had some small savings, and was willing to invest them in cheap lands that were considered useless even for grazing purposes. His first investment was a small acreage in Section 22 on South Archibald Avenue, in the upper end of the valley. The land was covered with drifting sand, and only his unalterable faith kept him unceasingly at work until he could realize the objects of his vision. From time to time he acquired other land, until he owned more than a hundred acres. Against the advice of friends, relying almost entirely on his judgment, he went on with the work of improvement. Perhaps the most interesting feature of his pioneering was the sinking of a well with a view to securing water for irrigation. He entered upon this quest about 1900. His friends advised against, ridiculed and even pitied his foolish attempt, saying it was a waste of money and even should water be discovered it could not be utilized commercially. He went down 306 feet, and from that source of supply he was able to pump 112 inches. He attached one of the early gasoline pumping engines to his well, and it proved all that his most ardent expectations anticipated. It is an interesting landmark as the pioneer well in the district. Lands that previously had enjoyed a slow sale of ten dollars an acre rapidly advanced to a hundred dollars an acre. Most of these early holdings Mr. Van Wig has since sold at advanced prices, and the entire section has bounded forward in prosperity and improvement largely due to his nerve and foresight. This district is now largely developed as an alfalfa and fruit producing section. His pioneer well is located in Section 23.

About 1888, Mr. Van Wig and James Roach succeeded by their combined efforts in prevailing on the county surveyor to lay out and open Archibald Avenue south from the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks to the river. They gave their personal aid to the surveyor, even to carrying the chain. This is now a county highway, paved with cement.

Mr. Van Wig came to California accompanied by his wife. He has five living children: E. J. Van Wig, of Puente; T. W. Van Wig, of Bakersfield; Maud B., Mrs. Frank W. Roe, of Etiwanda; Estella, Mrs. W. McCutchins, of Los Angeles; and K. W. Van Wig, who was born on Archibald Avenue in San Bernardino County in June, 1898, and was called to the colors at the time of the World war, but did not get overseas. He is now living at Los Angeles and is married.

Martin Van Wig is properly rated as one of San Bernardino County's most prosperous men. He was a democrat in early life but has been a republican since 1916. .

 

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