ALBERT SUMNER BRADFORD
Albert Sumner Bradford, founder of Placentia and distinguished pioneer resident of Orange County, was called to his final rest on the 30th of March, 1933, when in his seventy-third year. He was born at Shapleigh, York County, Maine, August 18, 1860, his parents being William and Lucy (Thompson) Bradford, the latter also a native of Shapleigh. William Bradford, a native of England, was a namesake and descendant of Governor Bradford of the Massachusetts Colony, and his wife was descended from a loyal and patriotic Revolutionary family. Their children were six in number, namely: William; Albert Sumner, the subject of this review; Edward Otis; Loring; Lottie, the wife of Fred Thompson of Alfred, Maine, who at one time owned the Blackmer ranch in Placentia, California; and Irving, who is deceased.
Albert S. Bradford was reared on a farm, and due to an asthmatic condition was unable to attend school regularly. When twelve years of age he ran away from home and, with the determination to make his own way in the world, went to Boston, Massachusetts. There he secured employment with a market gardener, from whom he received six dollars a month and board. He held that job for a number of years, during which period he absorbed all the facts that he could learn regarding vegetable gardening, including hotbed culture and horticulture—information which proved valuable to him in later years. Due to the death of his employer he found himself without work, and seeing no similar position in sight, shipped on a whaler for three months. After returning from his whaling trip he applied for a position with the Boston & Lowell Railroad, and was given a job as fireman on one of their passenger trains. At the age of eighteen he was running the crack train of the road, the “Montreal Express,” as engineer. During his term of service, his engine was equipped with Westinghouse air brakes, the first on that system. An earlier biographer wrote: “In his ascendency to this enviable position at so early an age the engineers’ strike of 1878 was a contributing factor. The striking engineers went west to the Northern Pacific Railroad, which was at that time being completed, thus leaving openings on the Boston & Lowell for trustworthy apprentices. Although Mr. Bradford never had a wreck as engineer, he experienced many narrow escapes and in time lost his nerve for this harrowing occupation. He again engaged in the vegetable business in the outskirts of Boston, but later sold his interests, moving to Colchester, on Lake Champlain, Vermont, where he took over the management of a summer resort. After this venture he returned to Massachusetts and took a position with Warren Wilson at Stoneham, caring for the latter’s hothouses and hotbeds.”
In 1887 Mr. Bradford, leaving his family in the east, crossed the continent to California, stopping first at San Diego and later coming to Santa Ana, which at that time was in Los Angeles County. In 1889 he took an active part in the formation of Orange County. His first regular employment after coming to California was as a foreman on the Daniel Halliday ranch. In 1888, after he had saved enough money, he sent east for his family. In 1890 he located in the Placentia district, where he acquired twenty acres of land, the Tesoro ranch on Palm Avenue. To that he later added other acreage until he had fifty-five acres of good land, all of which was set out to Valencia’s and navel oranges. As time passed and he prospered, he bought other citrus land, which is occupied by well cultivated orchards, and some of his lands proved to be oil producing. On moving to Placentia in 1890 he took over a place from J. P. Greeley, who was the first county superintendent of schools, and started with a crop of potatoes which when grown were worth thirty cents per hundred pounds. Hearing that Denver, Colorado, needed potatoes in quantity, he secured help from neighbors, bought sacks and twine on credit and shipped two carloads to that city which sold for ninety cents net; but before he received payment for the shipment, the treasurer of the company absconded to Canada with the money. Mr. Bradford sold the balance of his crop in Riverside for enough to pay his indebtedness to neighbors and for the sacks and twine he bought on credit. To add to this misfortune, his haystack was accidentally burned. So went the first year in Placentia. Hearing of his ill luck, friends in Santa Ana raised eighty dollars among themselves to buy a supply of hay for his team. The next year he planted corn, which brought him thirteen hundred dollars. However, his great success came when he had his place covered with orange nursery stock at the time of the invention and subsequent use of the refrigerator cars, which created an unparalleled demand for young citrus plantings. As most people had destroyed their nursery stock, Mr. Bradford’s acres of young trees sold at a never dreamed of premium; threes that had been selling for thirteen to fifteen cents each jumped to a dollar. From that time forward Mr. Bradford enjoyed uninterrupted prosperity.
Mr. Bradford was always a leader in promoting the interests of the fruit growers of Orange County and was one of the organizers of the Southern California Fruit Exchange, of which he became director. For a number of years he was an independent packer, operating his own packing house, but subsequently sold the plant to R. T. Davies, who packed for him. For fifteen years Mr. Bradford was director of the Anaheim Union Water Company and chairman of the ditch committee. He was one of the organizers of the First National Bank and the American Savings Bank of Anaheim, being treasurer of the latter and a director of both institutions. He served as clerk of the school board for nine years and was a trustee of the Fullerton Union high school for one term.
In 1910 Mr. Bradford became the founder of the town of Placentia; which is now a beautiful and thriving city of several thousand population. He bought sixty acres of land for the town site from Richard Melrose, of Anaheim, laid out the town and secured the right of way of the Santa Fe Railroad. This is today one of the most modern municipalities in the county, inhabited by a splendid class of people and with a bright future before it. It is surrounded by some of the finest citrus land in the county. In 1911 Mr. Bradford organized the Placentia National Bank, of which he remained president until it was sold to the Bank of America. He was also organizer and president of the Placentia Savings Bank; director of the Standard Bond & Mortgage Company of Los Angeles; president of the Republic Petroleum Company; director of the Orange County Automobile Association; director and vice president of the Southern Counties Gas Company; and president of the county forestry commission. He was president of the Placentia Chamber of Commerce from its organization until his death.
Mr. Bradford was married three times. His first union was with Miss Fannie Richardson Mead, a native of Winchester, Massachusetts, and a daughter of Captain Samuel Hartwell Mead. The latter commanded the United States gunboat, Monadnock during the siege of Fort Fisher, in the Civil War, and subsequently met a tragic death in the burning of his steamer off Cape Hatteras. To Mr. and Mrs. Bradford were born four children, named hereafter. Elsie G., who graduated from Fullerton Union high school, died March 17, 1908. A. Hartwell Bradford, a graduate of the Colorado School of Mines is a well-known mining expert of the United States and Mexico and president of the West Coast Refining Company. In December, 1930, he married Miss Irene Finnegan, of Los Angeles. Percival Loring Bradford, who graduated as an electrical engineer from Armour Institute of Chicago, is a resident of La Canada. He married Florence Lacy, of Anaheim, and has one child, Fannie. Warren M. Bradford, born in Placentia, March 10, 1893, completed a course at the Fullerton Union high school with the class of 1911 and four years later was graduated from Stanford University with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in electrical engineering. He is now manager of the packing house and refinery at Placentia. A veteran of the World War, he served in France as first lieutenant in the Twenty-third United States Engineers and is a member of the American Legion. Warren M. Bradford is a director of the Placentia Chamber of Commerce. A skilled musician, he is an accomplished player of both the piano and the cornet. He married Margaret Russell, of Texas, and has three children, Margaret Jean, Warren Russell, and Albert Sumner II. The sons are all members of the various Masonic bodies. Mrs. Fannie R. (Mead) Bradford, the mother of the above named, died January 9, 1910, and subsequently Mr. Bradford married her sister, Miss Ellen R. Mead, who passed away November 23, 1918. In 1919 Mr. Bradford married Mrs. Winifred (Wade) Bryan, who is a native of Missouri and a daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Wade. By a former marriage she is the mother of two children: Katherine, the wife of Dr. Frank E. Long, of Los Angeles; and John C. Bryan.
Mr. Bradford gave his political support to the Republican Party and was active in Masonry. He held membership in Anaheim Lodge, No. 207, F. & A. M., of which he was master for three years. He was made a Royal Arch Mason in Santa Ana Chapter, No. 73, and was one of the organizers of Fullerton Chapter, No. 90, of which he was high priest for four years. He was a member of the Grand Chapter of California and a deputy grand lecturer of the nineteenth district. He belonged to Santa Ana Council, No. 14, R. & S. M., was made Knight Templar in Santa Ana Commandery, No. 36, and afterwards became a charter member of Fullerton Commandery. He was also affiliated with Los Angeles Consistory, A. A. S. R., and was a life member of Al Malaikah Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., of Los Angeles.
We quote from the Pasadena Courier of March 31, 1933: “’Colonel’ Bradford, as he was affectionately known, was a man who, by his many acts of kindness, aid to others in times of stress and unfailing cheerfulness of spirit, held the esteem of all. He was a pioneer developer of orchards, oil industries and in later years prominent in the financial life of Orange County and Los Angeles… The very existence of the city of Placentia is due to his initiative and constructive ability, and in many of the enterprises which have had a direct bearing on the development and progress of this section of the state, he was an important factor.” The Placentia Courier said editorially: “Placentia’s first citizen has answered the final call. No one can know how many hearts this news will touch, or will bring a pang of regret at the sudden passing of this sterling citizen. A. S. Bradford has passed on. He was a real friend, a true builder. All his life evidenced that A. S. Bradford always encouraged steps toward newer and larger things. He counseled with many, urged them to try, and in numerous cases backed his judgment with funds. He was glad with friends at their success.
In his various commercial activities, particularly in the founding and establishment of Placentia, he touched the life of almost every resident. His record in connection with Placentia Chamber of Commerce is unequalled in southern California. In the larger sphere, which embraced national and state politics, large financial institutions in Los Angeles, A. S. Bradford remained the same true friend, ever ready to pioneer and assist. Yet throughout the years he did not lose touch with the soil, being actively connected with agriculture and horticultural products all his life.
Truly he was our first citizen. The word first is used in many ways in a review of his life. He was first in the adoption of various growing methods for vegetables and citrus fruits, in the building of Placentia and the founding of its Round Table Club and first churches and schools, the starting of the Courier, the bank, in oil development in this vicinity, in lodge work, our high school, and most of all, in the hearts of his many friends.”
The following editorial appeared in the Daily News Tribune, published at Fullerton, March 31, 1933: “Few men in any community command more genuine affection from so large a circle of friends than did A. S. Bradford of Placentia, who suddenly passed away on Thursday morning at his La Canada home. There was a sturdiness and wholesomeness to this man which not only inspired friendship, but those higher tributes of confidence and true respect. He possessed a gift of candor without offense and had the rare faculty of honoring the convictions of others while clinging staunchly to his own. Nobody ever doubted where A. S. Bradford stood on any controversial question; but nobody ever suffered his condemnation for contrary views. He was, in brief, thoroughly a man and a true respecter of manhood in other men.
Death ended here a career of remarkable activity and one crowned with unusual success. From boyhood A. S. Bradford was busy; he was strenuous in his activities up to the very end. It is difficult in brief space to chronicle and appraise the measure of his labors and influence in this part of southern California, which he adopted as his home after youth and young manhood in New England. The beautiful little city of Placentia was a child of his creation. He helped to organize the County of Orange. He was a pioneer in the formation of water companies and banks. He was a large factor in the development of the citrus industry which afterward became the chief basis of our wealth. It is an exceptional fact that he was almost uniformly successful in these varied undertakings and that practically all his achievements are of a character which promises survival long after his departure.
The esteem in which a man’s own intimate community holds him is perhaps the best measure of his true success. By that gauge, Placentia unanimously testifies to A. S. Bradford’s place in its respect and veneration. Founder of the aggressive Chamber of Commerce in that city, he remained by acclamation its president up to the day of his passing. The mark of his public activities is on the records of the community. But the history of his secret kindnesses is graven on scores of grateful hearts.
There was a man. We shall not see his like again.”
Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: California of the South Vol. IV, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 547-554, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 V. Gerald Iaquinta.