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
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
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.
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
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.
7-19-12 Marilyn R. Pankey.
of the South Vol. V, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages
200-202, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 Marilyn R. Pankey.
Golden Nugget Library