The Reeder Ranch is a unique remnant of a bygone era providing a rare opportunity to help the general public learn about and better understand Southern California's past and the profound ways in which the citrus industry shaped today's California.

—George C. and Hazel H. Reeder Heritage Foundation

Citrus History

Reeder Citrus Ranch ca. 2010

Citrus:  The growth of citrus proliferated in the Southern Californian region in the 1880's with the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad line connecting Los Angeles to New Orleans in 1881 and the Santa Fe Railroad in 1886. The first train loaded exclusively with oranges travelled east from Los Angeles in February 1886; as cooling and refrigeration methods improved, the market for California oranges became nation wide in scope. There was no better advertisement for the virtues of Southern California living than the export of fresh, fragrant oranges.

Although citrus was a viable crop statewide, it grew best in the arid climate of Southern California and thus three quarters of the state’s orange production was centered there. The combination of climate, soil composition and vast, undeveloped land in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Valleys at the end of the 19th century provided opportunity for land speculation on a monumental scale. Speculators would purchase large swaths of land and subdivide them into five, and ten acre plots for sale as family owned citrus farms, as did Emil Firth with his Monte Vista tract.  The lure of rural life drew hundreds to the area; according to Harry Ellington Brook in his booklet Los Angeles: the City and Country, “here may be found beautiful rural homes, whose owners are within touch of social life, and enjoy the best features of city and country combined.” In addition, citrus production was extremely profitable. All in all, the citrus industry attracted more people to California than did the gold rush; between 1894 and 1946 the industry produced over $2 billion in income for the people of Southern California.

Reeder Delivery Truck ca. 1940

The Reeder Ranch was typical of the five to ten acre family owned and operated citrus ranches that largely populated the citrus belt from the turn of the century through the height of the citrus boom during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Its main crop was the Washington Navel orange, which predominated in the low lying inland regions due to its compatibility with the dry desert breezes and low atmospheric moisture.

Early accounts of family citrus ranches in the area described the groves coming right to the doorsteps of the grower’s homes. J.C. Reeder was a member of the California Fruit Growers Exchange (Sunkist), as was required of all local growers. The Exchange provided laborers for picking and pruning, but the men of the family of which there were eight on the Reeder Ranch, typically tilled the soil and planted the trees. Census records from 1930 list J.C. Reeder as a farmer and his sons as laborers, but the bulk of the work was undoubtedly contracted to temporary laborers who were typically Japanese, Mexican, Filipino or Sikh. The 1930 census shows a nearby Filipino labor camp on Kingsley Street, while the 1910 census indicated that a Japanese labor camp was located just three doors away from the Reeder Ranch on Holt Avenue.

Reeder Citrus Grove ca. 2010

Though sustained through the First World War and the Great Depression, the citrus industry could not weather the population boom that followed World War II. Land in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Valleys became immensely valuable for residential development, and citrus production was pushed to more rural areas such as the Central Valley. Citrus-bearing acreage in the southern counties of California decreased by 25% between 1949 and 1955 alone; by the end of the 1950s, citrus had all but disappeared from the Montclair landscape. The Reeder Ranch mirrored this trend; the Reeders sold all but one acre of their landholdings. Today, the remaining acre is the last remnant of what was once a flourishing citrus empire.