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San Bernardino County









            The late John Perry Ensley accomplished the work of a pioneer in the development of Ontario’s horticultural interests, and first and last performed a great deal of conscientious, valuable service for the community from a civic standpoint.  He had been a resident of Ontario for more than four decades when he passed away November 15, 1930, at the age of seventy-seven years.  He was born near Auburn, Indiana, October 9, 1853, his parents being George and Lydia (Noel) Ensley, natives of Pennsylvania.  The Ensley’s are of original German stock, though the family has been represented in America for a number of generations.  George Ensley was born in 1815 and died in California in 1888.  The death of his wife occurred in Indiana in 1884.  They were the parents of nine children, John Perry being the seventh in order of birth.  George Ensley removed westward to California in the fall of 1886, acquiring property in Ontario, where he spent the remainder of his life.  He had been in earlier years a farmer but possessed the all-around mechanical genius that enabled him to succeed in almost every occupation.  At one time he operated a sawmill of his own construction, and after coming to California he turned his attention to orange growing.

            John Perry Ensley was a thoroughly well-educated gentleman.  He graduated from the Auburn high school in Indiana and attended the Indiana State University.  He taught eight winter terms of school, and refused the office of principal of the Auburn schools.  While he did well as a teacher, it was not an occupation altogether to his liking, and his preference was for the practical side of farming.

            In 1884 he married Miss Clara B. Clark, a native of Indiana, and in 1886 for the benefit of her health, he came to Ontario and bought twenty acres of wild land at the northeast corner of Eighteenth Street and Euclid Avenue.  This he cleared and planted to citrus fruits during 1887.  His father in the meantime had purchased five acres of oranges on West Fourth Street and also ten acres of unimproved land on West G Street.  After his father’s death Mr. Ensley bought out the interests of the heirs and developed the unimproved tract to citrus fruits.  All of this land he actually improved by his own labors and efforts, and in addition to his thirty-five acres of producing groves he had other valuable investments, including his modern residence, which was constructed a number of years ago.  His prosperity was the result of his indefatigable industry and well directed energy.

            By his first marriage Mr. Ensley had two children, one dying in infancy.  His son, Oliver P. Ensley, born in Indiana, May 6, 1886, graduated from the Chaffey high school at Ontario and from the University of Southern California, where he pursued both classical and law courses.  He was admitted to the bar in 1912 and during that year pursued a commercial course in the Eastman Business College at Poughkeepsie, New York.  He is a successful practicing attorney of Hemet, California, and fraternally is affiliated with the Masons and the Odd Fellows.  Oliver Ensley married Miss Catherine Todd, of Indiana, in June, 1919, and they have three sons:  Edward Clark, born March 23, 1921; Harold, born May 9, 1922; and George, born December 9, 1927.

            John P. Ensley lost his first wife at Ontario, August 1, 1888, and his father died on the 26th of the same month.  On the 25th of July, 1894, Mr. Ensley married Elizabeth Borthwick, who was born in Liverpool, England, October 23, 1865, her parents being John P. and Margaret (Dunn) Borthwick, natives of Scotland and Ireland, respectively.  John P. Borthwick crossed the Atlantic to the United States with his family in 1869, locating first at Scranton, Pennsylvania, whence in April, 1884, he came west to Ontario, California, where he was a pioneer jeweler.  He died April 9, 1908, and his wife passed away in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  Their daughter Elizabeth was educated in the public schools of the Keystone state.  She was one of the first young ladies to live in Ontario, and by her marriage to John P. Ensley she became the mother of five children, three of whom survive.  Laura Isabelle, born April 2, 1899, is a graduate of the Chaffey Union High School and the University of Southern California.  She is the wife of Fred Smith, of Riverside, and the mother of a son, Richard.  Gladys Theresa, born December 24, 1901, is a graduate of the Chaffey Union High School, the Chaffey Junior College and the University of Southern California.  She married John Poyet of Anaheim.  Elizabeth Borthwick born August 7, 1906, is the wife of Lyle P. Rathbun, a successful dentist of Ontario.  She was graduated from Chaffey Union High School and the University of Southern California.

            Long a prominent Democrat, John P. Ensley was a member of the Democratic Central Committee for a number of years.  He always worked for good, clean government and decent citizenship.  He served as trustee of Ontario for fifteen years, having been elected a member of the first board at the incorporation of Ontario and serving for nine years.  Later he acceded to the insistent demand of his fellow citizens and became a candidate for trustee, serving this second time a total of six years and being largely instrumental in the building of good roads.  For three years he was a director of the San Antonio Water Company, and at all times he manifested an active interest in movements for the benefit of citrus growers as well as in measures instituted to promote the general welfare of the community  He was a director of the A Street Citrus Association.  It is our duty to mark our appreciation of such a man – a man true in every relation of life, faithful to every trust.  Mrs. Ensley still resides in the old family home at 126 West D Street in Ontario, where she has a host of friends.  She is affiliated with the Rebekah lodge and also has membership in the Pioneers Society of San Bernardino County.



Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: California of the South Vol. III, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 53-56, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles,  Indianapolis.  1933.

© 2012  V. Gerald Iaquinta.