FRANK M. PECK
Coming to California from the Badger state, F. M. Peck aided in bringing to light the rich agricultural resources of Ventura County and is now residing in Santa Paula, enjoying the fruits of a well spent life. He was born in Lafayette, Walworth County, Wisconsin, October 7, 1853, and was reared on his father’s farm, attending the country schools of that district, and the State Normal School at Whitewater, Wisconsin. He followed agricultural pursuits in Wisconsin until 1884, when he came to California, but about a year later returned to his native state and resumed the occupation of farming. In 1900 he again made the trip to California and came to Ventura County, purchasing a portion of the George G. Sewell ranch, near Santa Paula. Mr. Sewell, an uncle of Mrs. Peck, was one of the early settlers of this region. Mr. Peck is now the owner of thirty acres of fertile land on which he raises walnuts, beans and alfalfa. He planted the walnut trees after buying the ranch and has materially increased its value. The soil here is sixty feet deep in some places, and for twelve years Mr. Peck cultivated the land without irrigation, although he afterward irrigated to some extent. A practical, systematic farmer, he carefully planned every detail of the work and abundant harvests rewarded his intelligently directed labors. The beans yield about a ton to the acre, and the walnuts the same, while the alfalfa produces twelve tons to the acre after seven cuttings. An import feature of the ranch is a fine orchard, producing fifteen varieties of fruit.
Mr. Peck was married to Miss Rose Ella Sewell, also a native of Lafayette, Wisconsin, and three children were born to them. Irvine J., the eldest, who is connected with the Union Oil Company, married Miss Edith Hardison, by whom he has a son, Sewell Hardison. George G., who operates his father’s ranch, married Miss Nina Murphy. Sereno is also married and lives near Stockton, California.
After retiring from the occupation of farming, Mr. Peck purchased a comfortable home at 903 Santa Paula Street, Santa Paula, where he and his wife still reside. They are zealous members of the Universalist Church and Mr. Peck is also identified with the Modern Woodmen of America. He is a public-spirited citizen, ever ready to lend the weight of his support to measures for the material or moral welfare of his community. By nature he is genial, sincere and sympathetic and these qualities have won for him the esteem and friendship of his fellowmen.
George G. Sewell, the uncle of Mrs. F. M. Peck, was one of the first settlers in Santa Paula. He was born at Glens Falls, New York, February 24, 1819, and acquired a public school education. At the age of eighteen he started out for himself, becoming a clerk in a country store, and was thus employed for six years. In 1844 he responded to the call of the west and followed the occupation of farming in Wisconsin for four years. He then returned to the Empire state but was not content to remain in the east and in 1850 made the trip to San Francisco by boat. In 1852 he removed to Sacramento, later becoming a resident of Placer County, and was its county clerk for two terms, from 1867 to 1871. In 1872 he started for southern California, with Santa Barbara as his destination. He utilized his time to advantage on the boat trip in 1850, studying Spanish textbooks in order that he might become able to converse in that language. Leaving Santa Barbara in 1866, he located in Ventura County and became the owner of about fifteen hundred acres of desirable land near Santa Paula. In addition to raising the crops best adapted to this region, he kept a fine herd of cattle for dairy purposes and with the passing year’s accumulated wealth, becoming recognized as one of the foremost agriculturists in this part of the state.
Mr. Sewell’s first wife was Miss Harriet Benedict, of New York, who lived only a year after her marriage. His second wife was Miss Eliza Rich of Shoreham, Vermont, to whom he was married in 1858. Generous and public-spirited, Mr. Sewell donated to the city the land for the beautiful Santa Paula Cemetery. He assisted in the building of the first Methodist Church here and for years was choir leader. The possessor of a fine voice, he also sang in the Universalist Church and his love of music prompted him to purchase an organ, which was the first in Santa Paula. In religious belief he was a Universalist but had been a worker in the Methodist Church until there were sufficient persons of his own faith in this locality to make necessary the building of a Universalist Church. Affectionately termed “Uncle George,” Mr. Sewell was loved and admired by the residents of his community and his death in 1902 brought deep sorrow to all who were privileged to know him. In the Ventura Museum hangs a fine oil painting of Mr. and Mrs. Sewell, presented to the institution by Mr. Sewell’s niece, Mrs. F. M. Peck.
Transcribed by V. Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: California of the South Vol. III, by John Steven McGroarty, Pages 263-265, Clarke Publ., Chicago, Los Angeles, Indianapolis. 1933.
© 2012 V. Gerald Iaquinta.
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