Who were the women behind the three Bixby men who came to have such a prominent role in the development of Southern California? Jotham, John and Lewellyn (see note at end). Lewellyn was the first to marry, wedding Sarah Hathaway in 1859, following her death he wed her sister Mary. Romance continued with the Bixby/Hathaway families with Jotham marrying Margaret and his cousin John wedding Margaret’s sister Susan. Eventually another Hathaway sister, Martha, came to California with her father Reverend George Hathaway following the death of Reverend Hathaway’s second wife Anne in 1879.
The father of Sarah, Margaret, Susan, Martha and Mary was Reverend George Whitefield Hathaway. Born in Massachusetts on December 11, 1807, he was a graduate of Williams College and the Andover Theological Seminary. He traced his ancestry back in direct descent to Governor William Bradford, one of the passengers of the historic Mayflower, and first governor of the Plymouth Colony. He was an abolitionist and deemed a radical during his time. His home was a station on the “underground railway” and he often held unpopular anti-slavery meetings in his church. He also supported woman’s rights and the temperance movement. His daughter, Martha, said her father was “ever helpful, ever brave to espouse causes in which he believed, were they popular or not.” (Adobe Days, p.3)
George W. Hathaway was the son of Brown University educated lawyer Washington Hathaway (9/4/1777-2/10/1818) and a religious mother, Deborah Winslow (12/27/1779-12/28/1865). Deborah was so orthodox she would not allow a daguerreotype photo be made of her lest she break the Bible command, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor any likeness of anything…” George first attended Brown University in 1822, transferring to Williams College for his final two years. Upon urging from his mother he become a clergyman, and following his graduation from Williams College in 1827 he entered the Andover Theological Seminary, graduating in 1830. He spent a few years as a traveling minister but in 1833 he was asked by parishioners in Bloomfield, Maine (which later changed its name to Skowhegan) to serve their congregation. He did so for 27 years. It was in Bloomfield that he met the two orphan daughters of William Locke and Susannah Patterson, Mary and Anne, both of them young school teachers. George married the elder sister Mary Susan Weston Locke (8/8/1807-3/14/1849) with whom he had 8 children: Josiah Locke Hathaway (3/20/1836-1898), Philo Hathaway (8/28/1837-1/22/1859), Emily Ballard Hathaway (3/30/1839-7/6/1840), Sarah Crosswell Hathaway Bixby (2/22/1841-11/1/1865), Margaret Winslow Hathaway Bixby (2/1/1843-2/14/1927), Susan Patterson Hathaway Bixby (3/22/1845-2/3/1906), Martha Nichols Hathaway (12/1846-7/9/1928), Mary Hathaway Bixby (2/17/1849 -3/2/1882). Following his wife Mary’s death (2 months after his last child was born) he married her sister Anne Locke (1/10/1811-9/20/1879) in 1850.
Besides being a minister he served in the Maine legislature in 1857, 1863, 1866, and 1871. He also published A Lecture on Maine Law, and several sermons. During the Civil War he was chaplain of the Nineteenth Maine regiment serving from 1863-65. His granddaughter, Sarah Bixby Smith remembered him as a gentle soul who charmed his grandchildren with embellished Bible stories that kept his audience enthralled. She remembered the story of David and how her grandfather told how David reached down into the lion’s throat, caught him by the roots of his tongue and held him, while, with his free hand, pulled a jackknife out of his pocket, opened it with his teeth, and promptly killed the beast. Then he sat down and sang, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.”
Reverend Hathaway died of paralysis on July 1, 1891, at the home of Lewellyn Bixby in Los Angeles and was later buried in Skowhegan, Maine, next to his wives and daughter. At his memorial service in Maine he was remembered as:
A man of remarkably clear thought who had a great power of clear and forcible expression…He was a man of very positive and strong convictions, and always bold in uttering them. He was the stuff of which reformers are made. He struck very powerful blows for temperance and for liberty in the period of his life when there was so much occasion for such. He was a man of strong and deep feeling, capable of glowing indignation at wrong and outrage of every kind, of fervent enthusiasm for everything right and good.” (Necrology: Andover Theological Seminary Alumni Association).
George W. Hathaway left behind a legacy of social conscience that his daughters continued to practice and, in turn, passed this compassion for others on to future generations.
Sarah Crosswell Hathaway Bixby (2/22/1841 – 11/1/1865)
When Lewellyn Bixby first travelled back to Maine from California in 1852, along with cousins Benjamin and Thomas Flint, he may have met eleven-year-old Sarah Hathaway and her sisters and thought them pretty little girls. He would never have thought he would marry not one, but two of them. Romance of any kind had to be put aside as the three partners, who formed the Flint, Bixby and Company*, made their fortune. Several trips back to Maine eventually led the trio to romance and marriage. On May 20, 1857, 33-year-old Tom married 19-year-old Mary A. Mitchell at Woodstock, Vermont, and his brother 30-year-old Ben tied the knot with 21-year-old Caroline Lavinia Getchell, a girl from his old home town of Anson, Maine, few days later. They all headed to California and the property the three partners had purchased in 1855 in San Benito County, California.
It was time for Lewellyn to find a mate. In 1859 he ventured back to Maine and was invited as a guest to the annual church party at the home of Reverend George Hathaway, where he was told he would find lots of pretty girls. He was told that Margaret, the second daughter, was especially beautiful. But it wasn’t witty, dark-eyed Margaret who won his heart, but the oldest girl, tall, blue-eyed 18-year-old Sarah. The 34-year-old Lewellyn fell in love and the couple married in April 1859, making their way, by Panama, to the ranch of San Justo near Hollister, California. It was here the three partner-cousins of Flint, Bixby & Company—Ben, Tom and Lewellyn—lived with their families in a single house. The women made sure the design included modern plumbing, lots of closets and fireplaces. They also had their own apartment, with a sitting-room, bedroom and bath, and for the use of the whole group a parlor, office, dining room, kitchen and numerous guest rooms.
Can you imagine what organization it took for three women to manage a household that catered to six parents, numerous children and half a dozen guests? To make things work each woman would be in charge for a month, outlining individual assignments and times for rest for the others. It must have been hard on Sarah to see Caroline and Mary with their children when she and Lewellyn hadn’t been able to have any. She had always had delicate health, and she passed away in November 1865, six years after she came west as a bride. She was only 24-years of age.
Mary Hathaway Bixby (2/17/1849 – 3/2/1882)
Five years after Sarah’s death Lewellyn Bixby returned to Maine to see his seventy-six year old father Amasa Bixby (1794-1872) and other relatives. The transcontinental railroad had opened the previous year (1869) and the journey that used to take months could now be accomplished in days. It was here he found Mary, the little sister of his beloved Sarah, who had grown into a beautiful woman. Their daughter, Sarah Bixby Smith, remembered her as tall and slender, with heavy brown hair, dark eyes, and red cheeks. On September 24, 1870, 45-year-old Lewellyn Bixby married the beautiful, 21-year-old Mary in Skowhegan, Maine.
Many women of Mary’s age married older men, since an enormous number of men of her own generation had been killed during the Civil War. Also, it was not unusual for widowers to marry their wife’s sister, something Mary’s own father had done. Mary also realized that Lewellyn was a good man. It must have been exciting for the new bride to travel over the newly established railroad, through parts of the country that few had seen and end up starting a new life.
At San Justo Mary stepped into her sister’s shoes, working with the Flint wives in running the three families home. She was glad to have them nearby when in August 1871 a daughter, Sarah Hathaway Bixby (8/19/1871-9/13/1935), who would write Adobe Days, was born, followed by another daughter, Anne Locke Bixby (10/19/1874-10/10/1931) and son Llewellyn Bixby, Jr. in 1879 (8/21/1879-1/25/1942). In 1878 the family moved to Southern California so Lewellyn could help in managing some of Flint, Bixby and Company’s property which included the 27,000 acre Rancho Los Cerritos purchased in 1866, the 16,00 acre Rancho Palos Verdes acquired in 1872, and the Rancho Los Alamitos which the partner-cousins rented in 1878 and would buy in 1881.
The family moved into a home on Temple Street, near Charity, where they remained until 1881 when they built their own seven-room home on the southeast corner of Court and Hill streets. Mary was overjoyed to finally have her very own home and be close to her father and sister Martha, who had just come to Southern California, and her sisters Margaret and Susan, who lived on the neighboring ranches of Los Cerritos and Los Alamitos. Unfortunately, Mary did not live long enough to enjoy her new home and reunited family. Like her sister Sarah, Mary had never been a strong woman and was unable to withstand an attack of typhus fever which she caught while helping a seamstress with the disease. She died suddenly in March 1882.
The Los Angeles Times (3/3/1882) reported:
Everything that affection or human ingenuity could suggest was done to save her life, but nothing availed. The old family physician was telegraphed as a last and vain resort, and only reached the bedside half an hour before death claimed its victim. Mrs. Bixby’s death is a loss to the city. She was identified with a number of charities, was a good neighbor, and was active in ministering the sick. Two little girls and an almost baby boy are left with the husband to mourn the untimely bereavement, as are several sisters and an aged father, Rev. George W. Hathaway.
Lewellyn Bixby was now a widow for the second time, and would remain unmarried for the remaining fourteen years of his life.
Margaret Hathaway Bixby (2/1/1843 – 2/14/1927)
In late 1861 or early 1862, Jotham Bixby returned to Maine. It had been ten years since he had left for California with his brother Marcellus to join their brother Lewellyn and cousins Tom and Ben Flint in the California gold fields. The Civil War was raging, but money could be made, even as far away as California. Though they still kept a small amount of cattle, the family had traded gold mining and cattle ranching for raising sheep. Although the sheep industry had been profitable before 1860, with the disruption of the cotton trade during the Civil War, prices for wool increased substantially. Perhaps Jotham was in the east to investigate the market for wool, or maybe he was just there to visit his family. In any case he decided to call on his sister-in-law Sarah’s family to tell them of her life in California. Family legend has it that when he met Margaret at the Hathaway gate he lost his heart completely. At age 80, he told his niece Sarah Bixby Smith that his wife not only had been the most beautiful woman in California, but that she still was.
Love and Margaret followed Jotham to California. She traveled through the Isthmus of Panama and was met in San Francisco by her sister Sarah and taken to San Justo to await her marriage day—December 4, 1862. In a letter dated December 15, 1862, Sarah Bixby writes from Rancho San Justo to her “Dear Sister Martha.” She describes the cold weather and tells of the recent wedding of Margaret Hathaway, who, Sarah writes, has moved from “the heights of the betrothed young lady to the everyday duties of the plain married woman, and now is her time, to make her mark in the world by making her husband happy and her home attractive.”
The couple would only be in San Justo for a few years (in their own house, not as modern as the one shared by the families of Lewellyn Bixby and Tom and Ben Flint) until Jotham was recruited in 1866 by the Flint, Bixby and Company to manage their newly purchased Rancho Los Cerritos in Southern California. In 1869 Jotham acquired a half interest in the rancho, for which he paid $10,000 ($186,000 in today’s money), and the name of the owning partnership became J. Bixby & Company*.
In 1880 4,000 acres of Rancho Los Cerritos was sold to William Willmore who set aside 350 acres to build a town that would later be known as Long Beach. The town grew, in great part due to the investments of Jotham Bixby and prodding from his wife Margaret.
Jotham and Margaret had 7 children, two of which were buried in the garden of the Rancho Los Cerritos—Mary Hathaway Bixby (2/16/1869–5/25/1870), Margaret Hathaway Bixby (1/6/1873–1/18/1878) who died of diphtheria. Their bodies were later moved to Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles. There was Fanny Bixby (11/6/1879–3/31/1930), the rebel, of whom much has been written, George Hathaway Bixby (7/4/1864–12/30/1922 ) the heir apparent; Rosamond Read Bixby (9/13/1877–5/2/1899) who died in 1899 at age 22; son Harry Llewellyn Bixby (12/20/1870–10/20/1902), who passed away in 1902 in Arizona, leaving behind a widow and young son; and youngest son Jotham Winslow Bixby (9/10/1884–1/27/1945).
Young Jotham decided to be born on September 10, 1884, when his father was away meeting a consignment of cattle being driven to his ranch. When Margaret began to go into labor ranch hand Malcolm Brown hitched a team to a surrey and, with Mrs. Bixby carefully wrapped in the back seat, started for the Los Angeles hospital, 16 miles away. However, when they were half way to the hospital one of the horses decided he didn’t want to go to Los Angeles after all. Fortunately a rider on horseback seeing the pregnant, soon-to-deliver woman in the surrey, offered to trade his mount for Brown’s balky horse. The deal was made and the journey completed. Later that day Jotham Winslow Bixby Jr. was born, the last of the seven children born to Jotham and Margaret Bixby.
It had been a long journey. Margaret and Malcolm had left at noon and arrived in Los Angeles just before sundown. Perhaps this is one of the contributing factors that made Margaret decide to leave the Rancho Los Cerritos adobe and move to up and coming Long Beach.
It’s hard for us living here today to imagine what the area was like back in the 1880s. Martha Hathaway told niece Sarah Bixby Smith about taking a trip with her young brother-in-law John Bixby to his new Alamitos Beach subdivision in 1886. Along the way from the Rancho Los Alamitos they encountered one lone sheepherder who, with the assistance of his dogs, was moving his 1000 sheep from one camp to another. She also recalled that there was not a single tree between the ranch house and the sea.
Another reason Margaret may have wanted to leave the Los Cerritos Rancho was the disastrous flood of February 17, 1884. For three weeks the region had been plagued by heavy rains, with snow as deep as 15 feet reported in the mountains. On the 17th an enormous swell of water passed through the Arroyo Seco and into the Los Angeles basin. Railway bridges crumbled, homes and buildings were destroyed, and fields inundated with water. Men, women and children could be seen wading in the water, carrying their valuables on their backs, wondering what horror would come next. Later in the evening another bridge gave way with the pressure of half a dozen homes behind it. As the flood subsided the spectacle along the river bed revealed houses, parts of houses, beds, bureaus, cradles, doors, cupboards, fences, gates, tubs, pails, brooms, orange trees and dead chickens, pigs, and horses. Nine hundred sheep belonging to George Carson, on the Dominguez rancho, drowned. Many people were homeless, seeking shelter in those structures that still remained.
The little town of Long Beach was growing. A school had been started in the fall of 1884 in a little frame building at the southwest corner of Pine and Broadway. There were 10 students, one of which was Margaret’s nephew Fred Bixby. Sometimes Fred’s father John Bixby brought the family’s 1400 pound brown bear into town when he conveyed his son Fred to school; John would stake it out on Pine Avenue on a stout pole to entertain the townsfolk and tourists while Fred was learning his ABC’s.
During the winter of 1884-1885, tired of life on the Rancho Los Cerritos and desiring more “city life,” Jotham and Margaret Bixby began building their rambling new home on the ocean front. They weren’t alone; at least 25 other prominent Southern California residents were also building homes. Slowly, a residential community was being established.
The home on West Ocean (then called Ocean Park Avenue) was located between Chestnut and Magnolia Avenues. The 2 ½ story, 90% redwood residence was easily identified by its large cupola and many dormer and bay windows. Fifteen foot ceilings graced most of the 14 rooms and 4 bathrooms. There were fireplaces in the library, drawing room and dining room, all topped by beveled glass mirrors brought around the Horn from France. They called it home for 25 years until 1911 when they moved to a big brick mansion on the bluff on East Ocean Boulevard, just south of the park named for the Bixby family. Their original house still remains, having been moved to Fourth and Roycroft. In October 1994 the home at 4700 East Fourth Street was designated a historical landmark, the only surviving structure in Long Beach from the 1880s.
Jotham had married an intelligent, compassionate woman, a forward thinker, who persuaded her husband to finance a 150 seat building on the corner of Third and Cedar. Margaret firmly believed that every community needed a church, but she didn’t want it to be looked upon as a church dedicated to any particular religious faith or form of worship. Instead she wanted it to be used by any religious denomination and for secular purposes as well. Called “Cerritos Hall,” it was dedicated April 17, 1887, with a Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist minister conducting a religious service. This site would later become home to the Congregational Church. Her father, George Hathaway, preached the first sermon.
Margaret had inherited her father’s social conscience and became one of the city’s greatest philanthropists, helping fund the Long Beach Day Nursery, The Young Women’s Christian Association and the Community Hospital. She would pass away on February 14, 1927…10 years after husband Jotham.
Susan Patterson Hathaway Bixby (3/22/1845 – 2/3/1906)
Susan had been staying with her sister Margaret at the Rancho Los Cerritos when she met Jotham’s cousin John Bixby who had come west from Maine in 1871 to work on the Bixby ranch. The two fell in love and tried to keep it a secret, but it wasn’t secret for very long. The 28-year-old Susan married 25-year-old John on October 4, 1873. The couple lived in Wilmington for several years until John took over management of the Rancho Los Alamitos in 1878. That year John, I.W. Hellman and the firm of J. Bixby and Company* leased a portion of Rancho Los Alamitos from the Michael Reese estate. The lease was up in 1881 and the whole property came on the market at a tempting price. John and his wife Susan, who had been calling the Rancho home for several years, saw an opportunity that must not be missed. But they didn’t have enough capital. They first approached Los Angeles banker, I.W. Hellman who said he’d become a partner in the deal if Jotham Bixby would; Jotham said he would if Flint, Bixby & Company decided to become involved. They all agreed and so it came to be that the 26,395 acre Rancho Alamitos was purchased in July 1881 for $125,000 ($3.1 million in today’s dollars) with Hellman owning one-third, J. Bixby & Company another third and young John Bixby as manager, the final third. The new company obtained an initial $80,000 ($2 million) mortgage and began business under the name of J.W. Bixby & Co.*
John Bixby saw the rapid development and financial gain of investors in Long Beach. Bixby convinced his partners that it was time to subdivide their land, like his cousin Jotham Bixby had done on the Rancho Los Cerritos, and make some money. Captain Charles T. Healey, who surveyed the original Willmore City townsite (which became Long Beach) in 1882, also laid out the new Alamitos townsite in 1886. The dividing line between Rancho Los Cerritos and Rancho Alamitos was present day Alamitos Boulevard, and on the other side of the boundary with Long Beach John Bixby and his associates began selling land. Their townsite was 20 blocks in length, from west to east. John did not live to see his Alamitos Beach townsite flourish. He died May 3, 1887, at the age of 38, after a brief illness. He left behind his wife, Susan, a son, Fred, and daughter, Susanna.
John Bixby’s business plans were continued by the Alamitos Land Company* which included J. (Jotham) Bixby & Company, I.W. Hellman and John W. Bixby’s heirs. After the 5000 acres designated for Alamitos Beach real estate development had been set aside under the newly formed Alamitos Land Company, the rest was appraised and surveyed. Each partner ended up with 7200 acres. I.W. Hellman received the land along the coast, and J. Bixby & Co. took the inland section. John’s heirs received the central part, including the house and barns.
It was left to Susan to manage her portion of the estate until son Fred was prepared to take over. Things went fairly well until 1897 when a sugar beet factory was built in the present day town of Los Alamitos. Susan became outraged over the terrible odor coming from all the sugar beet waste dumped into Coyote Creek which ran through the her portion of the Rancho Los Alamitos. She was concerned what was happening to the environment and decided to do something about it.
The widow of John W. Bixby hadn’t had much of a say when her husband’s partners in the Rancho, Lewellyn and Jotham Bixby along with Thomas Flint, had negotiated the selling of land to build a sugar beet factory to the Clark brothers. The agreement called for a right of way over the four miles of land lying between the factory and the ocean for factory drainage, but Susan Hathaway Bixby said no such deal was ever made, and Lewellyn Bixby, the major player in the negotiations had died in December 1896.
Who were the Clarks that built the sugar beet factory? Montana Senator William A. Clark, nicknamed the “Montana Copper King,” was said to be the largest individual owner of copper mines and smelters in the world, he was also considered one of the richest. His younger brother, James (known as Ross), saw the sugar beet possibilities for Southern California and convinced his brother to work out an arrangement with the partners of the Bixby Land Company.*
The Bixby Land Company was formed in June 1896, to “hold, improve and acquire lands and property of every character, including water, water rights, and privileges; the contracting and raising of sugar beets, sale or rental of land, deal in horses, cattle, sheep and other farm animals.” Somehow, when they made the agreement with the Clark brothers, they failed to get Susan’s signature on the agreement to use Coyote Creek.
The Alamitos factory opened July 21, 1897. For 100 days a continuous stream of beets, twelve tons per hour, entered the factory to have sugar extracted. On July 23rd the factory produced its first batch of white granulated sugar. The Los Angeles Times congratulated the Clark brothers in running the finest and best equipped beet-sugar factory in existence.
To judge the enormity of such an undertaking the Times gave readers an analogy (the following appeared in the January 1, 1898, edition of the Times)
The 30,025 tons of beets were delivered in 1000 wagon loads, at an average of three tons to the load. Imagine a wagon train of 1000 wagons; 4000 horses, 1000 drivers covering over one mile. The price per ton of the beets was $3.65, making the total harvest worth $109,591.25. The 2887 acres of land from which this was taken, if placed in one field, would be one mile wide and four miles long. From the 30,025 tons of beets approximately 8,740,000 pounds of sugar was made. If placed in freight cars all at one time, you would have a train of 292 cars covering a line of track two miles in length.
As you can imagine, there was a lot of waste dumped into Coyote Creek. When Susan protested the Clark’s pulled out the agreement they had made with the Bixby Land Company and said they had been granted the right to use the creek as a dumping ground. What could Susan do? She decided to rally others to her cause, including the press. The Los Angeles Herald of August 27, 1897 had this to say:
The refuse from the sugar factory at Los Alamitos empties into Coyote Creek and is carried down to the ocean. It is said the fish in Alamitos Bay are dying from the effects of it, and the fish dealers here on the pier are becoming alarmed, as the substance is plainly discernible in the water. It is feared that the oysters planted in these waters may also be killed.
On September 21, 1897 the Herald reported:
The people in this vicinity will feel relieved when the sugar making season is over and the factory closed. The stench that blew in from there last night with the strong land breeze was something to be remembered. The odor was stifling as far up the coast as East San Pedro, and was strong enough to reach as far up the coast as Santa Barbara. The factory will be an unmitigated nuisance unless some other method of disposing of the refuse is devised.
Claiming the sugar company was using Coyote Creek as a dumping ground without her consent, Susan Bixby sued the Clark’s sugar company for $10,000. In 1900 the Clarks counter sued the Bixby Land Company for $1,000,000 for not completing their part in the original agreement. For two years the battle went on, Susan Bixby claiming the odor from the refuse was so great that the family could no longer reside in their home. All was finally settled when the Bixby Land Company agreed to construct a piped sewage ditch from the factory which was well away from the Rancho Los Alamitos ranch house. Eventually other uses for sugar waste would be found. In 1907 the Pacific Rural Press (12/14/1907) reported the residue could be made into molasses. Horses fed with this developed a glossy coat, gained appetite, and were free from colic. It made cattle less subject to food and mouth disease, and if added to the daily feed of milk cows, the daily milk yield would increase considerably.
Susan Bixby did not live to see the great future of the beet sugar industry, or her concerns about the environment taken over by a new generation. She knew her husband John had been interested in his cousin Benjamin P. Flint’s endeavors to promote sugar beet production. It had been in 1872 that Benjamin formed the California Beet Sugar Company and later built the first American sugar beet factory in Alvarado (now Union City) in Alameda County.
The growth of the sugar beet industry would have a profound effect on American life in the 20th century. The beet sugar provided an inexpensive alternative to cane sugar. New industries developed around this economical sugar product: cake mixes, jellies, preserves and other processed foods owe their existence to the development of beet sugar in America. By 1925, however, the soil of Los Alamitos and Cerritos ranchos was depleted and beet production fell. Failure of many farmers to follow sound crop-rotation programs started the decline. Added to this was the trouble with pests and diseases which raged unchecked in the period immediately following World War I. And in the course of years, not just sugar beets, but all crops gradually had to make way for people. The Los Alamitos factory closed down and was eventually sold to Dr. Ross, a dog food maker, and now a horse racing track occupies the site. However, sugar beet growing remained in the area well into the 1950s, the last factory was the Holly plant on Dyer road in Irvine. But it too, gave way to housing.
Susan died February 3, 1906, after being ill 3 weeks with the flu. She left all her real estate holdings, her bank stock and bonds to her son Fred and daughter Susanna in equal shares. To her daughter she also left all of the personal property, consisting of furniture, silver, jewelry, library, cattle, horses, carriages, pictures and other effects. She wrote that Susanna was to have everything she cared to have, and that Fred could have anything else. The estate which comprised part of the Rancho Los Alamitos and land in Orange and Riverside counties was valued at $200,000 ($5.7 million today), yielding a yearly income of about $5000 ($141,000). The personal property was valued at $50,000 ($1.4 million) (LA Times 2/24/1906)
Martha Nichols Hathaway (12/1846 – 7/9/1928)
Martha was the only Hathaway woman not to marry, though it is said that Lewellyn Bixby proposed but she turned him down. She moved to California in 1879 with her father Reverend George Hathaway, following the death of her step-mother/aunt Anne. They first stayed at the Rancho Los Cerritos, but the loss of Mary Bixby in 1882 left a void in the Lewellyn Bixby household. That same year they moved to Los Angeles and into Lewellyn Bixby’s home to help take care of his motherless young children.
Martha became a mother to 11-year-old Sarah, 8-year-old Anne, and 3-year-old Llewellyn . For several years they enjoyed the company of their beloved grandfather, until he passed away in 1891. Death again found the household in 1896 with Lewellyn Bixby’s passing. But the children had grown, and in 1898, with 19-year-old Llewellyn off to college, Martha moved to a place of her own in Long Beach (412 American Ave). Lewellyn had made sure Martha was well taken care of. In his will he left an estate worth nearly $1,000,000 ($28,100,000 today) to his children, and a “liberal allowance” to Martha.
But Martha was more than just a housekeeper and nanny. She had graduated from Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts in 1869 and was for some years a teacher. Upon arriving in California she helped found the Los Angeles chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, of which she became president. In 1905 she built a home at 739 North College Avenue in Claremont to be near her niece Sarah and Sarah’s four children (a fifth would be born in 1909). Sarah’s husband Arthur Maxson Smith, a Unitarian minister, taught philosophy at Pomona College (1904-1909).
Martha’s Claremont home incorporated much of the Craftsman style, with horizontal lines, a wood-shingled exterior, attached arbors, a field stone fireplace and open-beam ceiling in the living room and natural wood floors. She also built a small 762-foot house in the back for her coachman. Martha’s home was not as elaborate as Sarah and Arthur’s 14-room mansion built on 20 acres directly across the street from the campus, but Martha’s 4 bedroom, six bath, 4,109 square foot house on .36 acres, suited her perfectly. It was large enough to host missionaries, social activists and others—the ideal setting to help nurture the educational environment so dear to her. She is mentioned in the 1914 Story of Pomona College, as being a generous giver, in fact the amount of her donations amounted to the largest sum ever given to the college.
In 1920 she moved back to Long Beach (245 Cherry) to be nearer to other family members, including her sister Margaret and nephew Llewellyn, who had been like a son to her. She passed away on July 9, 1928, in Long Beach at the age of 81. She was the last of the Hathaway sisters. She would be happy to learn that the site of her Long Beach home is now an assisted living facility for seniors.
Lewellyn Bixby (1825-1896) spelled his name without the extra l. His son (1879-1942) spelled his name with the added l—Llewellyn.
*Confused about all the businesses mentioned here? Here’s an explanation:
Flint Bixby & Company – Started 1852 composed of Tom & Ben Flint and Lewellyn Bixby.
J. Bixby & Company – Started 1869 composed of Jotham Bixby and the Flint Bixby & Company.
J.W. Bixby & Company – Started 1881 composed of John W. Bixby, J. Bixby & Company & I.W. Hellman.
Alamitos Land Company – Started 1888 composed of J. Bixby & Company, I. W. Hellman and J.W. Bixby’s heirs.
Bixby Land Company – Started 1896 , composed of Jotham Bixby, Lewellyn Bixby, Thomas Flint, Frank J. Cacopitain, Edward F. Dyer, George H. Bixby, J.W. Bixby’s heirs (represented by Jotham Bixby).
Much of the information presented here came from newspapers including: the Long Beach Press, Los Angeles Herald and Los Angeles Times. Genealogical records were also investigated. At times the information found was inconsistent, I have tried to verify sources and present as accurate a picture as possible. Other sources include:
Burt, Sumner Charles. The Story of Pomona College. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1914.
Harris, Marcia Lee. Fanny Bixby Spencer. Charleston, History Press, 2013.
Hite, Rosemary, “Claremont preserves the past.” San Bernardino Sun, 13 February 1977.
“Necrology: Andover Theological Seminary Alumni Association, 1890-1891.” Boston, Everett Press Company, 1901.
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