This community was founded in 1887 when Isaac W. Lord, a Los Angeles businessman,
persuaded the Santa Fe Railroad to extend its line through this area where he owned
considerable property. On May 25, 1887, Lord hosted what was reported to be the largest
land sale in Southern California up to that date.
Lord had sent brass bands up and down the streets of Los Angeles and San Bernardino
inviting people for a free ride to the new town of "Lordsburg". Over 2,500
people accepted the invitation and bought $200,000 worth of lots. Construction began
immediately. The most notable building was a large hotel with more than 60 rooms. Water
mains were put in, a post office was opened, a newspaper started publication, and stores
opened, all within a period of four months.
Competition between the Southern Pacific Railroad and the Santa Fe Railroad became
intense and, for a time, passenger rates from the Midwest to Los Angeles dropped to $1.00
per person. This brought an avalanche of people to California. Thousands came just to see,
while many stayed and bought land.
The hotel in Lordsburg was completed and waited for its first customers. None came. It
is believed that it never had a paying guest.
Taking stock of the conditions in the community, it was realized that except for
tradesmen and construction workers there were only a few residents. The speculators were
left with land that had become worthless. This was true all over Southern California as
the fever had subsided.
In 1889, M.M. Eshelman rode a Santa Fe excursion train from the Midwest to La Verne. He
was a member of the Church of the Brethren and had just completed work for the
establishment of a Church college in McPherson, Kansas. George McDonaugh, also a Brethren
man and a promotion agent for the Santa Fe, had sought out Eshelman with a plan to unload
the hotel in Lordsburg. He suggested that the hotel would be ideal for a college building.
Eshelman was captured by the idea, secured the support of some associates and made an
offer for the hotel asking that 100 city lots be thrown in on the deal. They offered
$15,000 for the lots and the hotel.
The offer was accepted. Eshelman joined McDonaugh as an agent for the Santa Fe and
launched a campaign to bring Brethren people to Lordsburg so that their young people could
go to the college. There was an immediate influx of Brethren people to Lordsburg and by
November they had formed a congregation.
By the fall of 1891 the college had opened with eight members and 135 students. From
that time on Lordsburg (later to be known as "La Verne") became a real magnet
for Brethren people. They came here to retire and to enjoy the special advantages of
living in a college town.
Also, living in the area of the foothills to the north, were a few ranchers. The first
was the L.H. Bixby family. Mrs. Bixby and her sister chose the name "La Verne"
for the foothill area. La Verne is a French term meaning "growing green" or
"spring-like". This also became the name of a land company of which the Bixbys
These ranchers were not much involved in the ups and downs of the little village of
Lordsburg. They were busy fighting the elements and raising their crops in very
unfavorable circumstances such as floods, freezes, windstorms, and fires.
The ranchers also had to deal with a shortage of water for their crops over the long,
dry summers. A diary kept by one of those ranchers, W.S. True, makes one wonder how they
They did solve the water problem however. Deep wells were dug and by 1890 a few
experimental orchards of citrus trees were planted. They did well and more orchards were
In 1912 the residents of Lordsburg tried to change the name of the community but Isaac
W. Lord, a nonresident large land owner, blocked the attempt. After the death of Lord in
March of 1917 the citizens of Lordsburg voted to change the City name to "La
Verne", and a large celebration was held to honor the event.
During this period, the citrus industry employed nearly all of the people in the
community. By 1919 more than a thousand carloads of fruit were being shipped annually and
the output continued to grow. The growing, picking, packing, and shipping of oranges,
grapefruit, and lemons influenced all of life in La Verne.
By the 1940's, the growers were in real trouble. The quality and size of their fruit
declined. A mysterious malady had struck. For want of a better and more accurate name,
they called it "The Quick Decline". More and more trees were affected and
nothing seemed to help.
Groves began to be sold for housing developments. Then, more and more groves were
uprooted--sometimes a whole grove in one day--as the demand for housing grew.
Through the post World War II period, La Verne had remained a relatively small college
community. Thousands of people had come to California for military service or to work in
the war-related industries. Many who had come from small towns in \the Midwest and East
felt comfortable in La Verne and decided to stay.
Today La Verne is a city of more than 30,000 residents, and is a well-balanced
community with a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial features.
La Verne is a close knit community that is home to many fine institutions and
facilities, which include the University of La Verne (founded in 1891), Brackett Airport,
and fine public and private schools. As one of the most desirable communities in Southern
California, La Verne is a progressive city that has retained much of its small town charm.
Verne - Historic Sites and Displays
Reprinted with permission from
"City of La Verne Information Handbook"
Kuns Park, Bonita and Park Aves.
This park was first laid out in the early 1900's by Henry L. Kuns, son of one of the
founders of the University of La Verne. He built his home on the southwest corner of Fifth
Street and Magnolia Ave.
The City acquired the park after Mr. Kun's death in a property settlement at a cost of
less than $200. A marker has been placed at the foot of the large carob tree in
recognition of its age.
The Original Lordsburg Hotel
This building was torn down in 1927 after the college moved into Founder's Hall. It
faced south along Second St. west of "D" St. Pictures of it can be seen in the
picture collection at City Hall.
Mud Springs area near Arrow Highway and San Dimas Canyon Road.
This area was occupied thousands of years ago, according to archeological studies made
by two local men, Paul Baum, Jr. and Robert Hoover. From his private collection, Baum has
placed a permanent display for access to the residents of La Verne. The display is located
at City Hall.
Information in the diaries of early explorers and trappers and trappers indicates that
they had camped in this area. Later, a stagecoach stop was located nearby. The Indian
population had disappeared by the late 1860's as a result of various factors, one of which
was a devastating smallpox epidemic that swept throughout California.
Nothing remains of the swampiness of the area. An historical marker has been placed on
Arrow Highway to commemorate the site.
La Verne City Hall Display of Historic Materials
The La Verne City Hall has become a major center for the display of historic artifacts,
pictures, maps, and documents. More than 50 pictures taken between 1914 and 1921 by Burton
Frasher hang on the walls of the City Council Chambers.
The first issues of newspapers that were published in this area in 1887, "The
Lordsburg Eagle" and "The La Verne News", have also been obtained for the
purposes of reprinting.
An 1896 Registrar of Voters and original documents signed by I.W. Lord, were gifts of
Lola Forsythe, whose father worked for Lord. Pictures of our first family, the Jose
Dolores Palomares family, and a picture of our first school were provided by Rose
Palomares, daughter of Jose Delores Palomares.
Samples of La Verne citrus box labels, early paintings of the La Verne area, a 1912 map
and original waiting room bench and time board of the Sante Fe Railway are also in the
lobby area of City Hall.
Liberty Bell, in front of the La Verne City Hall.
This bell is one of the two that were sold in California as exact replicas cast in the
same English foundry. Two were purchased by public subscription in 1976.
De Anza Bicentennial Memorial Redwood Grove, North end of Las Flores Park.
The trees were planted in honor of the early settlers and paid for by their
descendants. It was sponsored by the City Beautiful Committee as part of a state plan to
plant redwood trees during the Bicentennial.
Orange Tree in Front of City Hall
This tree was planted to honor 20 years of civic service to La Verne by Frank Johnson,
who served as a Councilmember and Mayor. It represents the time when navel oranges covered
most of La Verne.
Adobe Homes of Land Grant Families.
The home of Don Ignacio Palomares, La Casa Primera, built in 1837, and his second home
built in 1850-54, are open to the public:
Casa Primera, located at Park and McKinley Aves., Pomona, is open Sunday from 2 p.m. to
Palomares Adobe, located at 491 Arrow Hwy., Pomona is open on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5
A third adobe on Puddingstone Dr. in south La Verne is a private residence and not open
to the public, except on special Adobe Days. It was built by the Carrion family, relatives
of the Palomares family.