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John B. Crawford is one of the pioneers of California, dating his first arrival on the Pacific coast early in 1849. His first visit to Southern California was also in that year. Mr. Crawford was born in York Township, County of Peal, Canada, in 1826. His parents, James and Eliza (Beatty) Crawford, were natives of Ireland, who immigrated to Canada in 1810. His mother was a daughter of Rev. John Beatty, a well-known pioneer of the Methodist Church. She is now eighty-five years of age and a resident of Riverside. His father was a prominent businessman of York, owning and conducting lumber mills and woolen factories. Mr. Crawford was reared and schooled in his native place, ending his studies by a course at the Victoria College at Coburg, Ontario. He then went to Montreal and was engaged in the hardware business until 1847.
In that year he immigrated to the United States and located in New Orleans. In 1848 the gold fever swept over the country and he decided to seek his fortunes in the new El Dorado of the West. In December, of that year, he left New Orleans and proceeded to the Isthmus of Panama. Crossing that he embarked on board the steamer ” California” for San Francisco. This was the pioneer steamer of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, and the first ever placed on the route from Panama to San Francisco. Her first voyage upon a route and in a service that afterward became historical, ended in San Francisco, February 28, 1849. San Francisco was then a hamlet, built mostly of board shanties and canvas tents. Mr. Crawford was limited in means but had a small stock of personal clothing which he proceeded to sell, establishing this ” store ” by setting up an old crockery crate upon one of the main thoroughfares, and displayed his stock to the public view. His stock was soon disposed of and he then decided to try his fortunes in the mines. His first efforts were at Murphy’s diggings on the Tuolumne River, and later in other sections.
In the fall of that year he decided to embark in a stock speculation. Accordingly he came to Southern California, and making his headquarters at San Diego purchased a band of mules. These he wintered at Ensenada, and the next spring drove them overland to the northern counties. This was a fortunate venture. His animals, that cost him $20 a head in Southern California, sold in the mines at $200 to $500 per head. He then returned to his mining occupations and conducted them until 1853. In that year he established a store on the north fork of the Yuba River, and was engaged in mercantile pursuits until 1855. His six years upon the Pacific coast had not been without profit, and he decided to return to his home. Upon his arrival in Canada he entered into mercantile pursuits, establishing dry-goods stores at Brantford, and later at Ingersoll and Dundas. He conducted these enterprises until 1875. In that year he made his second trip to California, deciding to establish his home and pass the remainder of his life in its genial climate. After visiting many sections of the State he settled upon Riverside as affording all the requisites of soil, climate and water. His energy and personal efforts would do the rest in building up a model home. How well he has succeeded the present record will show. Mr. Crawford has a forty-acre tract, located on Magnolia Avenue, at the corner of Adams Street, nearly all of which is in oranges, comprising budded trees of the most approved varieties, such as Washington Navels and Mediterranean Sweets.
He also has a family orchard of deciduous fruits, in which he has nearly every variety of fruit grown in this section. His residence is a model in beauty and comfort. It is a fine two-story edifice of modern architectural design and finish, and in it has combined the comforts and luxuries of a well ordered home; nor has he neglected his surroundings. His spacious grounds, bordered by trim cypress hedges; abound in ornamental trees, palms, and flowering plants. This home is fast approaching a realization of his dreams of a dozen years ago. Nature does much for mankind in Southern California, but results, such as Mr. Crawford has attained, have required years of energetic and well-directed labor. In 1875 his tract was a wild and desolate waste. He ejected his little cottage; the first built in the Arlington district, planted a few ornamental trees, and, with his family, established his residence and went to work. In 1876 he sowed his lands to grain. It was a failure, arid the next year he started in horticultural pursuits. His experience was that of many early horticulturists of the colony-their mistakes were many and cost years of labor and valuable time in correcting. Acres of comparatively valueless or non-producing deciduous trees had to be rooted out and their place supplied by the orange tree. As late as 1887 he destroyed 700 lemon trees, ten years old, that were non-paying, and supplied their places with budded orange trees. Experience is the best of teachers, and he is making no mistakes at this date. Mr. Crawford has not confined his efforts entirely to his home place. In 1875 he purchased a ten-acre tract four and a half miles east of his home, and during the ten years before selling it built up one of the representative groves of that section. He has also been interested in real estate in San Diego County, acreage and business property in Elsinore and Perris, erecting blocks, stores, etc; nor has he withheld his support and encouragement to the many public enterprises that have been such important factors in building up Riverside and giving her that standing and position she so justly occupies in Southern California. He is a stockholder in the Riverside Water Company and was for two years vice president, and for four years a director of the same.
Mr. Crawford has during his years of residence ranked high in the estimation of the community as a good citizen and a kind neighbor. He has for many years been a member of the Presbyterian Church and a former trustee of the Arlington Presbyterian Church. In politics he is a Republican, but has for years been a strong supporter of the Prohibition principles and party.
In 1856 Mr. Crawford married Miss Annie P. Schooley, a native of Canada. Her mother, Julia A. Higson, was born at Glens Falls, New York. This union was blessed with four children, viz.: Jennie E., J. Harry, Stanley A. and Victoria Ina. Jennie married J. J. Evans, of Riverside; Harry married Miss Lucy A. Hume, and is now residing at Perris, San Diego County; Stanley is engaged with his father in conducting the affairs of the home place; Victoria is also a member of her father’s house-hold.