The Reeder Family

Reeder Family ca. 1911

The Reeders: Originally a Quaker family from Pennsylvania, the Reeders immigrated to Ontario, Canada in 1816 where they lived for several decades in a small farming community. It was in Canada that J. C. Reeder’s father, Daniel was born, spent his childhood and married at the age of 22. Daniel and Elizabeth Reeder had five children; J. C. was fourth, born in 1862. After the untimely death of Elizabeth, Daniel moved his family to the United States and settled in Missaukee County, in Michigan in 1868.

In 1872, Daniel remarried and began a second family at the Reeder homestead. J. C. left home at the age of 17 for Washington State, where he worked in the logging camps of the Pacific Northwest. It was in Washington that he made his first purchase of land in California, contracting the acquisition of ten acres of citrus land in Redlands. The deal fell through, but J. C. stayed in Southern California and worked until he had saved enough money to make another land purchase, this time in San Diego County. The San Diego ranch was not profitable so J. C. took up work as a land surveyor to make ends meat. In 1894 J. C. married Lulu Belle Sharp, a Pomona resident; in 1895 their first son was born.

The Reeder Boys ca. 1910

In October 1900 J. C. Reeder purchased five acres of land in San Bernardino County, between the growing town of Pomona and Ontario. The property was bordered by Holt Avenue to the north and the railroad tracks to the south. The mailing address of the Reeder Ranch in the early years was Rural Route 1, West Ontario. At the time of purchase, the property appears to have been mainly undeveloped except for a barn. In 1901, a house was moved to the property and by 1903 J. C. had filled the land with Washington Navel Orange trees. In 1905 J. C. purchased the adjacent five acres to the west, planting hundreds of additional orange trees. Finding their foray into the local citrus industry to be a success, J. C. and Lulu continued to purchase five, and ten acre parcels until their total San Bernardino County land holdings totaled 55 acres.

The Reeder family continued to grow during the first ten years on the ranch, and by 1909 J. C. and Lulu Belle had a family of seven boys: Paul (1895), Arthur (1896), Don (1899), Lawson (1901), George (1905), Lewis (1907), and Stanley (1909). Although the picking and pruning of the orange trees was contracted to laborers through the Southern California Fruit Growers Exchange, the Reeder boys were undoubtedly kept busy on the ranch, tending to the family’s many animals (dogs, rabbits, pigs, cattle, and horses) and food crops (including squash, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables), as well as in school and sports and farming competitions. George appears to have been the most active in high school farming activities, annually entering his swine and cattle in local fairs including the Los Angeles County Fair, the Chaffey Junior Farm Center fair (for which he served as Vice Chair of the fair committee), and the Inglewood Fair. All seven boys attended local schools, including Pomona High School and Chaffey High School in Ontario.

Reeder Family ca. 1928

With landholdings scattered throughout the area, the ten acre property at Holt became known as the “Home Place” and was the center for the Reeder family life. The 1920s were a productive time for the Reeders in matters both business and personal: the local citrus industry was at its peak, the Reeder acreage flourished, and the Reeder boys began to marry and start their own families. A second home was constructed on the property (to the west of the original ranch house) for the eldest son, Paul, and his family, and J. C. constructed and leased fruit stand along Holt Avenue to private contractors.

Lulu Belle died in 1931 and J. C. soon after in 1933, leaving one acre of the Home Place (including the house and barn) to son George Clifford and dividing the rest of the acreage in equal fifths among the other surviving sons (one son, Donald, died tragically in 1924). George and Paul continued to live at the Home Place and tended to the acreage throughout the 1930s. The trees survived a series of setback, including a devastating freeze in 1936-37 and a great flood in 1938. Also in 1938, George married Hazel Margaret Harrison, who had been working in the home of Arthur Reeder. The wedding was held at the Home Place, and by 1942 Hazel was employed as a teacher in the Ontario Montclair School District. George continued to keep busy on ranch and frequently worked for other local citrus growers, assisting with planting and smudging.

Reeder Boys With Wives ca. 1942

Major changes began to occur in the post World War II years. A wind storm in 1946 toppled a eucalyptus tree on Holt, crushing part of the Reeder house (repairs are still visible today). Paul Reeder died in 1952, and his house was demolished soon after. Postwar development pressures took their toll on the citrus industry; between 1946 and 1956, all but one acre of the Reeder landholdings were sold.

As land on all sides transformed from endless rows of citrus trees to widespread commercial, industrial and residential development, George and Hazel continued to live at the Home Place and tend to their acre of trees. Active in the local community, the two regularly attended City Council and Planning Commission meetings. Hazel retired from teaching in 1968 and continued to maintain the Home Place, saving all documents relating to the Reeder family, their business, and the local citrus industry. George C. died in 1996; Hazel continued to live at the Home Place until her death in 2004. Hazel left the ranch and all of its contents to the City of Montclair, which formed a foundation dedicated to the care and maintenance of the property.