William Fowler: Citrus Grower, Tax Collector, Mayor & Supervisor

By Mark Gutglueck
William Lane Fowler was born on March 16, 1875 in Newport Minnesota, the son of William and Caroline A. (Lane) Fowler. He received his primary education in a one room schoolhouse in Newport and the first installment of his secondary education at St. Paul’s College, a German-Methodist  boys’ academy near St. Paul, ten miles from his hometown.
His father sold the family’s Minnesota farm in 1890 and moved to Redlands, purchasing ten acres on West Cypress Avenue. Will graduated from Redlands High School, which was then at the corner of Orange Street and Colton Avenue, where Stater Bros. Market is now located. He graduated as part of the school’s second graduating class in 1895, one of 13 seniors. He worked for one year as a janitor at the YMCA and then enrolled at the University of California. With the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, he enlisted with Redlands’ Company G, which entrained in June 1898, but never actually saw action. He came home on leave in November 1898 and was deactivated shortly thereafter.
At that point, Fowler went to work for Isaac Ford, assisting in the surveying of apple orchards in Oak Glen. He also helped chart a course for the South Mountain Water Company pipeline, which brought water to the Redlands Heights district. On November 25, 1902 Fowler married  Elizabeth Shorey, who was referred to as his childhood sweetheart. They remained married for more than 61 years. They had no children.
He was then recruited by the Redlands Fruit Association for its foreman’s position. He also worked as a carpenter until 1906, at which time he was elected city marshal and ex-officio tax collector. He held these dal posts for two years, and then returned to the private sector, again as a carpenter.
In 1913, he accepted the manager’s position at the Redlands Heights Orchards. He remained in this post for ten years.
Fowler was an active member of the Chamber of Commerce. He was the secretary of the Redlands Water Company and was a member of the Masonic Lodge, the Redlands Rotary Club and the United Spanish-American War Veterans. He was a prominent churchman, serving as the treasurer for the First Baptist Church for over 30 years, and in 1935 served as the president of the Southern California Baptist Convention.
In the early 1900s, his father had been elected to the Redlands City Council and was chosen to serve two terms as mayor. In 1918, William Fowler emulated his father, being elected as city councilman himself. He departed the council in 1922, but was reelected to it once more in 1926, then again in 1930 and 1934. During this period, he was mayor for four years, from 1932 to 1936. In 1936 he was elected to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, representing the Third District.  He was reelected in 1940.
While on the board of supervisors, Fowler was a member of the committee to which the Flood Control District reported for guidance. He was in a position of considerable importance relating to flood control when the 1938 flood occurred. That catastrophe wreaked destruction on much of Southern California, causing the loss of many lives and many millions of dollars in damages to property and utilities.
After retirement from the board of supervisors, Fowler returned to his citrus orchard and his home in Redlands with his wife, When his home and grove were sold for the construction of the Smiley Grammar School, Mr. and Mrs. Fowler purchased a home on East Fern Street. It was there that he died on January 28, 1964, at the age of 89, following a long period of declining health.

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