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Imperial County










The late T. J. West, as he was familiarly called by his friends, was known as the father of the cotton industry in Calexico, California, and from 1914 until his death on August 14, 1933, was identified with that line of endeavor in the southwest. It was to his farsightedness that the cotton industry was developed in California and Arizona. He was born in Rowan county, North Carolina, August 9, 1875. His father was John Joseph West, born and reared in Salisbury, Rowan county, North Carolina, and a resident of that commonwealth all his life of eighty-one years. He was engaged in the mercantile business for many years and at the time of his death in 1931 was one of the last of the old pioneers of that city. His wife, Alice Josephine Brown, whom he married on September 22, 1874, was also born in Salisbury, and they had five children: T. J., of this review; Ernest J., general freight agent for the Southern Railway at Greensboro, North Carolina; May, who married H. H. Spedden of Hamlet, North Carolina; Grace, who became the wife of E. C. Ennis, of Salisbury; and Carl L., who was associated with T. J. in the cotton industry at Calexico and is now in Bakersfield, California. Mrs. Alice West died in 1909. The grandfather of T. J. West was Remus J. West and he was born in 1817, married Alice Smith Slater in 1840 and died in 1897. He had been a merchant, and owned a plantation and slaves in the south. His father was Sterling West who married Christina Mengleberg on March 15, 1813. She was the daughter of Dr. Mengleberg and his wife, who was a duchess in her own right in Germany. On the paternal grandmother’s side of the family T. J. West was a descendant of Major James Smith who was born in 1735, served in the Revolutionary war with honor and died in 1782.

T. J. West attended the common schools and had two years at the University of North Carolina, when he was compelled to leave his studies and secure employment to support himself, as the family suffered reverses following the panic of 1893. In 1896 he went to New Orleans where he began in the cotton industry, handling the stock of H. & C. Newman, Ltd., compress and warehousemen. In 1907 he removed to Waco, Texas, continuing in the same line of work with the Exporters & Traders Compress Company, owned by G. H. McFadden and associates. In 1914 he came to Imperial county, California, and his first venture was the building of the plant and installing the machinery of the Calexico Compress Company, of which he was secretary, treasurer and general manager from its inception. This was the first compress erected west of San Antonio, Texas. In 1917 Mr. West and his associates brought in the first New York market wire and established the T. J. West Company, doing a general cotton business, he being president of the concern. This was the first institution of its kind in the southwest outside of Los Angeles and Phoenix, Arizona. This same company took over and operated the Imperial Compress Company when it was a bankrupt concern. In the course of three of four years the company organized the Baja Compress & Storage Company in Mexicala, Mexico, closing down the Imperial plant and moving its activities into Mexico where most of the cotton was produced. Mr. West and his company next went into the Salt River Valley in Arizona, organized and erected the building of the Arizona Compress and Warehouse Company in Phoenix. This was an entirely new business in that part of the country. He also organized and conducted the Tucson Compress and Warehouse Company. He also assisted in organizing the California Cotton Oil Mill at Fifty-first and San Pedro streets in Los Angeles. This was later sold to the San Diego Cotton Oil Company. He was also connected with the organization of the Mexican-Chinese Gins Company, erected the plant and put the business in operation; this was also sold to the San Diego concern. The Calexico Cotton Products Company was another concern Mr. West put into operation. Here were manufactured mattresses, quilts, etc. In 1925 he built and put in operation the San Joaquin Compress and Warehouse Company at Bakersfield. Both the Phoenix and Bakersfield institutions are bonded United States Warehouses. It was the business acumen of T. J. West that helped to build up these various localities and make the cotton business profitable. His activities ever since being thrown upon his own resources were always of a constructive nature.

On December 26, 1896, in Chicago, T. J. West married Miss Mary Frances McCormick, a native of Walton, Kentucky. Her father was a railroad engineer and met an accidental death, as did her mother. She was their only child to grow to maturity and was educated at the Benedictine Convent in Covington, Kentucky. There is one son, William A. West, born August 10, 1909, and he is a graduate of Santa Clara University and is now carrying on the business his father established, with offices in the Cotton Exchange building in Los Angeles.

In 1922 T. J. West was elected a member of the board of trustees of Calexico, afterwards becoming mayor of that city. During his incumbency in office his chief aim was to hold down the tax rate in his city and at the same time give it an efficient government. He introduced the equipment for street cleaning, developed the parks and playgrounds, built the water system, and installed an efficient health department, free garbage removal, built a base ball park and grandstand, and established an auto camp for tourists. The border custom house was also provided by the board of trustees of Calexico. This city has the lowest tax rate of any city in the Imperial Valley. During the World war Mr. West assisted the government in financing crops and promoting the growing of cotton. His name is entitled to enrollment in the archives of Southern California where his accomplishments are outstanding examples of what a man can do when he has the will to do good for any community. His policy was always “do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” At his death the state lost a valuable citizen.


Transcribed 7-19-12 Marilyn R. Pankey.

Source: California of the South Vol. V, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 200-202, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis.  1933.

© 2012  Marilyn R. Pankey.





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