Origin of the Trussells
Davis and Sarah Trussell: Westward Migration Completed
Amos Davis Trussell, Early Life.
"Davis" was 8 years old when the family left New Hampshire and 14 years old when the family moved into it's new Ohio farm. So a lot of his formative years were spent playing near the river with which he and his brothers and sisters became very comfortable. Harriet reports that the kids would often use a skiff, for example, to cross the river from the Virginia to the Ohio side and back. Of course much of their time was spent working, first clearing the land and later, farming it. It appears that Davis also spent quite a bit of time at the sawmill which he managed from 1853 until he immigrated to Kansas in 1869 at age 39.
Amos Marries Sarah Reasoner of Jackson, OH.
Like several of the Trussell children, A. D. went to school in Jackson Co., about 45 miles east of Longbottom. There he met and married Sarah Reasoner whose family was living in that area. They were married in Jackson in 1856. Their first child, a girl, died in childbirth  and their third child, also a daughter, died in the first three months . The remaining five boys [Calvin, 1858; Dayton,1860; Ray,1862; Jacob,1868; and Harry,1874] and two girls [Winona,1864 & Constance,1868] all grew to adulthood. When Davis and Sarah were first married, they lived in Miegs Co., OH, and there Davis managed the family sawmill established by his father.
In 1869 The Trussells Move to Kansas.
Amos apparently did not participate in the Civil War as Sarah's children come at regular intervals during the period of 1860 through 1868. All the children were born in Ohio except for Harry who was born in 1874, five years after the family moved to Kansas in 1869. It appears that Sarah continued to be very close to her family as five of the nine births took place in Jackson, OH. When they moved to Kansas, the ages of the family members were; Amos, 39, Sarah, 40, Calvin, 11, Dayton, 9, Ray, 7, Winona, 5, Jacob, 3, and Constance, 1 yrs.
Davis and Sarah, like Amos and Laura before them, moved west following the footsteps their in-laws had taken earlier. In this case the Reasoners had
immigrated to Kansas along with other "free soilers" in the mid 1850's in an effort to keep Kansas a free state.
We have less information about the motives of Davis and Sarah's decision to move than we do in the case of Amos and Laura before them. Davis was involved in a lot of activities while in Kansas. His autobiography indicates he was involved in farming and milling in Brown Co., and mercantile operations in Cloude and Osborne Counties. It seems unlikely that he could have successfully launched all those enterprises himself in such a short time. There is plenty of precedent in Davis' background for farming and milling operations, but it seems less likely that he would have launched a mercantile business on his own initiative. This is especially so in Cloud and Osborne Cos., since they are 115 and 170 miles west of Brown Co, respectively. These were long distances in those days of the horse and buggy. Perhaps the merchant business was the result of an inheritance through the Reasoner family.
Davis may not have started the mercantile business himself, but he certainly involved himself in the operations directly. His son Ray loved to tell about how his Dad, when running the store, could fill ten, half-gallon jugs with molasses from a 5 gallon can without spilling a drop.
Ray's favorite stories was how his brother Cal was once incapacitated from his chores by a serious injury to his foot ... but upon hearing that a small heard of buffalo had been spotted nearby, he suddenly re covered, procured his gun, and was hopping along on one foot, leading the other boys in the hunt.
Later in 1876, the Trussells moved 15 miles north to Verdon in Richardson Co., NB. where Davis conducted farming and other operations. We have little detail concerning what Davis did there. He also appears to have had some involvement in property in the area west of Jefferson City, MO.
The Move to California Begins
During these years Sarah apparently developed some serious respiratory problems, probably tuberculosis. The Trussells decided they would move to a more moderate climate to aid Sarah in her health. Southern California, the Pasadena area in particular, had a climate that was widely regarded in those days as therapeutic for respiratory problems, This reputation was actively promoted by the Southern Pacific Railroad, which hired Charles Nordhoff in 1872 to write, California: For Health, Pleasure, and Residence. Its been said that Nordhoff's book had a more far-reaching effect on Southern California than anything that has ever been put in print. Nordhoff's book was soon followed by others and something of a cult developed. In 1877, William Wolfskill, whose nephews were among the earliest settlers in Escondido, shipped an entire Rail Boxcar full of oranges from his groves in Riverside to St. Louis. All these things conspired to establish the areas reputation as a haven for both healthy fruit and healthy people.
"The superb climate, so the literature said, could cure chronic pneumonia, tuberculosis, liver disease, functional female disturbances, the ills of old age, insomnia, and something called phtisis." (source)
According to one Early resident of Sierra Madre:
"A large portion of the early residents came to Sierra Madre because they were victims of tuberculosis. Many who came early enough lived to a good age, but there were many ghostly victims in the last stages of the disease to be seen, not only on the streets of Sierra Madre, but in Los Angeles and on trains". (source)
After spending 12 years in Kansas/Nebraska, the Trussells determined that they would sell their interests in the area and move to Southern California. When the family immigrated to California their respective ages were: Davis, 50, Sarah, 51, Calvin, 23, Date, 20, Ray, 18, Winona, 16, Jacob, 15, Constance, 12, and Harry, 6 yrs.
In spring 1881, the Trussells were migrating west. Most likely they traveled by Railroad. Southern Pacific had just completed a line from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 1879,
connecting Los Angeles to Chicago through the Union Pacific line that had been completed in 1869. When they arrived in Southern California, Davis and Sarah T. bought some undeveloped land from N. C. Carter
, in a brand new development he had named Sierra Madre. Carter had set up the development, now the City of Sierra Madre, by purchasing 1,103 acres of hillside property from Lucky Baldwin, John Richardson, and the Southern Pacific RR. Carter purchased the land for about $30/acre and set out to develop it, including the provision of running water from springs in the Little Santa Anita Canyon. In July 1881, Carter sold the Trussells about twenty-two acres for about $50/acre or $1,100. The Trussell property included approximately the area presently bounded by Carter Avenue on the North, Auburn Avenue on the East, Grand View Avenue. on the south, and Adams St. on the west. The property is high in the foothills, near the upper reaches of the area populated even today.
Sierra Madre in 1881
There wasn't much of a population in Southern California in those days. The population of Sierra Madre
numbered less than twenty, Pasadena numbered between 200 and 300 persons and the population of Los Angeles, about 15 miles to the east was about 11,000. One had to go to San Gabriel to get the mail. Roads between Sierra Madre and surrounding communities were of
adobe and created quite a mire in the winter and quite a bit of dust in the summer. A day's shopping trip in Los Angeles meant six or seven hours on the road and up a substantial hill to get home. A trip to get lumber for construction started very early in the morning and ended at 9 in the evening (source).
We don't know exactly how Davis and Sarah happened to select Sierra Madre for their residence, but it seems likely that, once they arrived in Southern California, they must have taken some sort of excursion, likely one of the Carter Excursions, to view the territory. Frances Hawks, another early Sierra Madre settler describes a similar experience (source) :
"The first state-editorial excursion on this coast, in March, 1880, had been through this part of the country, and I had been one of the jolly crowd consisting of 75 wide-awake editors and their wives. We took in Riverside, where they were having their first Citrus Fair. A band of musicians escorted us to Redlands where a fine dinner awaited us and our lively appetites, then to San
Bernardino, where we remained overnight, and after a good nights rest pushed on to Los Angeles where another banquet was in waiting.
We drove through Lucky Baldwins ranch, sampled some of his fine wines, then on to Sierra Madre Villa for dinner. Here I lost my heart entirely. The grand old mountains formed a beautiful background, making a picture never to forget. At the Villa, teeming with
life as boarders filled it and with the addition of our lively crowd of 75, time passed quickly. After a brief rest we pushed on to Los Angeles and a fine banquet.
The following day our party separated and after joining the
Citrus Fair, we returned to San Francisco filled with enthusiasm over the beautiful country we had seen. Soon after Mr. Carter was busy with his army of workman making ready our dear Sierra Madre to purchase, and I became an easy victim, nor have I had the cause to regret my choice. There is but one Sierra Madre - that has no rival."
Miss Hawks goes on to describe how she came and boarded in Carters house for a while, confirming her impressions, and how, when she finally moved in, she and her mother had trouble
finding workman to build their new home. The couple ended up building a one-room shanty for their first few weeks and had to move into a somewhat sturdier chicken house when the east winds came. Lucky for Davis Trussell that he was an experienced carpenter with healthy sons to help out. Carter just bought the property himself in January of 1881, so when the Davis and Sarah bought their ranch six months later, there wasn't much to be found. For the first few months, while Davis and the boys built the house, the whole family lived in a two-room building that had been used to keep bees for making honey. Other families in the neighborhood lived under similar conditions while their houses were built, the Hawks in a temporary one-room house built in a single day, and the Gregories in a tent. All of the building materials had to be hauled from Los Angeles by four-horse teams. Davis and the boys built a pretty sizeable house and located it at the base of the foothills and the broad vistas that Sierra Madre afforded.
The Trussells immediately began planting grapes, citrus and deciduous fruits. From the moment the Trussell's arrived in Sierra Madre, a building boom occurred and Davis used the skills he learned from his father to become a building contractor and built several homes in the vicinity of Sierra Madre.
The kids seem to have adapted to the environment well, but there were moments of excitement. On Thursday, 4 Oct 83, the Pasadena Chronicle reports that there was a major fire in the Little Santa Anita Canyon and that, as a result deer came down to the Sierra Madre area;
"Saturday morning, three deer came down from the mountain by the fire, were seen, and shot at by Mr. Reed and Mr. Cal Trussell. One of them, eluding its pursuers ran down through the Wilson place, turning toward the southeast. Whatever any of them secured, deponent saith not."
It appears Cal was still ready to hunt at the drop of a hat.
Davis Trussell was active in Republican politics and he represented his local district in several county meetings. In addition he was one of the seven original Trustees of the Sierra Madre Water Company [a mutual], incorporated on 20 Oct 82. The water supply came from the Little Santa Anita Canyon, particularly a tunnel the pioneers
built to maximize water production. It was a limited supply and in dry times only the tunnel flowed and it often failed to produce the amount of water for everyones needs. There was water flowing in the pipe all the time, but often at such a limited amount that Sierra Madre residents became accustomed to storing water in containers to make sure it was
available when needed. In fact tanks were eventually erected at the high point of each property so that a reliable, though limited water supply was provided. In the late 1880s another tunnel into the mountain was constructed,
providing additional supply.
Soon after Mr. Carter began to develop Sierra Madre, he erected a small school house on the corner of Hermosa and Live Oak Avenues. The school was a one-room structure of crude construction with benches around it and a large table in the middle. The table served as a desk for both the students and the teachers. A small bookshelf served as the school library. There were only a few children attending at first. Harry, Winona, and Jacob Trussell attended the school along with three of the Carter children, a Gregory, a Hastings, and some others. The children would occasionally take a break from school when the fields around the schoolhouse were being plowed.
Sierra Madre's First Marriage
Also significant is that Trussell's oldest daughter, Winnie, participated in the first wedding held in Sierra Madre. She was wed to Edward B. Jones on 7 March 1883. Reverend A. Trew, Rector of the Church of Our Savior in San Gabriel and Dean of Southern California, presided over the ceremony.
Davis and his sons built a modest home on the north side of Carter Avenue for the couple. It was on the porch of the home Davis built for his daughter Winona, that the now World-Famous Sierra Madre Wisteria Vine was planted. The vine was planted by Emily Brugman whose husband, William F. Brugman, purchased the home from the Jones on March 26, 1894. Emily planted the vine, a Chinese Lavendar Wisteria shortly thereafter in April 1894. Today the vine covers 1 1/2 acres, weighs an estimated 250 tons, and attracts more then 5,000 visitors each year.
Though the vine survives house does not. By the late 1920s the vine had so submerged the house that only the chimney was visible and in 1931 the home collapsed under the weight of the ever-growing vine.
Ed and Winona continued to live in their Sierra Madre home for ten years and it seems that Ed may have worked for his father-in-law doing home construction during that time.
The Jones first son was Clarence Jones. Clarence continued to live in the general area and became close friends with Harry Trussell late in life. After both Winnie and Davis died many years later, Harry and Clarence lived together in Los Angeles where they both worked for Barker Bros. Furniture. The second two sons, twin boys, were born prematurely and died in their first year. The twins share a gravestone in the Sierra Madre Pioneer's Cemetery, marked simply, Ralph and Raymond.
The Southern California Land Boom
In 1886-87 there was a tremendous land boom in the Los Angeles area, including the Pasadena, Sierra Madre area. As one writer reports:
"New arrivals had considerably increased the population and one subdivision after another was mapped and advertised. Free picnics, with a brass band from Los Angeles, were not uncommon, and the loud voice of the auctioneer was heard in the land. It was regarded as an obligation, a sort of local patriotism, to attend these sales and to buy one or more lots. In other words, the inhabitants engaged in the pleasant compliment of buying each others lots. Little or no money changed hands. Contracts of sale were signed with perhaps a very small, if any, down payment. Many tales were told of how Sam bought lots from Bill for $300 each and resold them the same day for $500 each, etc. etc. Men who had shown every sign of poverty before the boom now walked the streets with heads up and chins out, wearing good clothes and talking proudly about plans for starting a bank or a trip to Europe. If any one ventured to point out that booms in other parts of the country had exploded and brought disaster the answer was always ready that conditions here, as to climate and this and that, made the situation entirely different. Nevertheless it blew up in 1887, and left many persons impoverished."
The railroads had much to do with it. Their promoters were still at work and in 1885,the Santa Fe Railroad also brought its tracks into Los Angeles. A knock-down drag-out price war then began between the two railroads. At one point, a citizen could buy a ticket from Los Angeles to Kansas City for $1! Prices as low as $5 persisted for more than a year. In that same year  land prices boomed as much as 500%!
During this period, Davis' oldest son, Calvin, traveled around Southern California working as a writer, for a company that wrote local histories. He often told his parents about the wonderful climate and attractive opportunities he saw in his travels, particularly while working on a book about San Diego County. Calvin and his wife Nellie settled in Nestor, a small town south of San Diego. Likewise Ray homesteaded an 80 acre property in nearby Otay, just NE of Nestor.
The Trussells Move to a Smaller House, Invest in Land
About that same time, Cal uncovered a particularly beautiful ranch owned by a certain James Kennedy in San Pasqual, CA., about 2 or 3 miles east of where the San
Diego Wild Animal Park is now located. The Trussell family was smaller now [Cal and Ray were living in San Diego Co., Winnie had married and was living nearby, Jacob was 21 and living in Antelope Valley, leaving just Davis, Sarah, Pinky [Constance] and Harry.
Having visited San Pasqual and persuaded his son's estimation of its value was real, Davis decided to take advantage of the high prices resulting from the land boom in Sierra Madre and he sold the first house he built along with 11 1/2 acres of adjacent land to J. Blumer and built himself another smaller home on the north end of the original property. This second house was specially designed to favor the excellent view to the ocean and the Trussells named the house, "the Piedmont". The street on which it was located was
named Piedmont Avenue for a time and is
now called Carter Av.
Davis used the net proceeds to buy the Kennedy ranch in San Pasqual. Blumer, in the meantime, went on to substantially expand and remodel the original Trussell house, jacking it up and building new floor beneath. This Trussell/Blumer home is still standing today, at the end of Olive Tree Lane in Sierra Madre.
Land Boom Goes Bust, Hard Years Begin.
In late 1888 the Southern California land boom had gone bust. A slowdown in housing construction soon followed. As a result, during the following five
years, both the Jones and the senior Trussells sold their Sierra Madre property and left town. The senior Trussells sold their beloved Piedmont in late 1891 and moved to the former Kennedy place in San Pasqual, joining their son, Ray, his wife May, and their daughter Mary and bringing Harry and Pinky with them. The Jones
moved to El Monte, Eds home town, sometime before late 1889. They sold their Sierra Madre home in the Spring of 1894.