By Mark Gutglueck
The founder of the Milliken Ranch in what is present day Rancho Cucamonga was Daniel Brewer Millken.
He was born in Brewer, Maine on November 26, 1829, the son of a sea-faring father, Daniel W., and Rebecca (Smith) Milliken, also Maine natives. Daniel was, even before he reached the age of majority, a hard worker who thought nothing of braving hardship. He would follow his father into the maritime trade, as a crewman on ships that sailed up and down the East Coast, one time putting into a port in Cuba.
When he was 20, the California Gold Rush began. Two years later, Daniel Milliken left Boston. He sailed to Panama, disembarked, crossed the isthmus and caught a ship to San Francisco, reaching the bay in June, 1852. His first steady location thereafter was in Mendocino County, where for a time he prospected with little success. He subsequently engaged himself in more lucrative work, as a contractor building structures in Mendocino.
In 1856, he married Charlotte Smith, the daughter of Thomas Smith, a lumberman. She was born at Surrey in Hancock County, Maine.
The following year, their son, Newell Milliken, was born on August 11, 1857 in Surrey, Maine. When Newell was nine months old, he came with his mother to California. Daniel and Charlotte would in time have three other children, Reuben Morton, Richard R. and Ashie Mae.
In the meantime, Daniel Brewer Milliken, realizing that better money was to be had in supplying the necessities of construction rather than building houses, warehouses and stores, took a leaf from his father-in-law’s book and went into logging. Over time he achieved a small fortune in the lumber industry. In 1876, he moved his family to San Jose in the vicinity of San Francisco for the purpose of making his permanent home there. There he participated in the mining industry, but without significant financial success. Less than a decade later in 1883, he decided to head south. He surveyed the area and settled upon buying property near Cucamonga.
Charlotte Milliken did not like the area and returned to San Francisco.
Milliken and his partner, G. D. Haven, in the words of a contemporaneous chronicler, “blew their wads” buying what was called Section Number 12 near the township of Cucamonga, between the two modern day avenues that bear their names.
In 1887, Daniel Milliken ventured $11,000 in that effort, which was initiated with buying 520 acres without any existing irrigation lying between Arrow Route and Eighth Street and west of Haven Avenue.
He and Haven planted their adjoining land with cuttings and started the first dry ranch in the area. According to Ruth Milliken, his granddaughter, “Some of the people around called them fools for ‘putting sticks in the ground.’”
John Brown and James Boyd, in their “History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties,” published in 1922, wrote that “They were men of capital, vision and determination, but they set the land to grapes, chiefly wine grapes, without providing irrigation. Their effort was scoffed at and they were almost openly called fools for putting the cuttings into the dry sand, inviting disaster. But the prophecies failed of grim realization, and, as a matter of fact, the plantation outlived its planter and returned a tremendous measure of profit, the example thus set encouraging a widespread development of this section to vineyards.”
To the amazement of the skeptics, the vines survived and produced.Once established, grapevines take in a sufficient amount of water during the winter and spring rains to withstand a dry summer season. And the sandy soil of Cucamonga provided a suitable growing culture for wine and table grapes and raisins.
Daniel B. Milliken is credited with either helping create or sustaining Cucamonga’s Chinatown. After the transcontinental railroad was completed, many of the Chineese coolies settled in San Francisco. Because of a lack of work, many took up residence in other parts of California.
Cucamonga’a Chinatown consisted of a dozen or so fragile wood houses, all attached, with red paper-covered doors located along the south side of San Bernardino Road between Klusman and Hellman avenues. These houses were run by a man named Denim and the village controlled by a Cantonese man named Toy. At the east end of the village was a livery stable. When horse traders came through Cucamonga, they would board their horses at the stable and would be invited in by the hospitable Chinese. The Chinese raised gourds and would let them dry, then scrape out the pulp and seeds to use them as bottles. They would use them to carry tea to the vineyards to drink on workdays, preferring tea to plain water.
Daniel Milliken, familiar with the Chinese from his time in San Francisco, was inclined to use them as workers. On one occasion, he had returned to San Francisco to see his wife, leaving in Cucamonga a black lang shang chicken he was fond of and which he kept as a pet. When he returned, the chicken had disappeared. He inquired of Puy, one of the Chinese he employed, about the fowl’s whereabouts. “Mister coyote came and looked at him and decided to eat him and so he ate him,” Puy explained. While Puy found humor in the situation, Daniel Milliken did not. Despite his resentment at having lost his pet chicken, Milliken continued to employ a large number of the residents of Chinatown, building for them a structure in which they would often sleep at night so they could begin work early in the morning.
The Chinese men were tremendous workers and would pick 1,000 pounds of grapes for ninety cents. The contemporaneous price for grape picking by other workers was four to five cents per 25 pounds. Because the Chinese were distrustful of paper money, Milliken was obliged to pay them in coin. Because of this, Milliken would have to drive his wagon and team to Ontario every payday to get coin from a bank.
In 1886, Newell Milliken, who had spent time as a miner in Idaho and other western states and was a cowboy working on ranges, joined his father in Cucamonga and thereafter was closely associated with the wine grape industry.
In 1891 Newell Milliken built a ranch house and shortly thereafter married Adelle Kate Sempel, who usually went by the name of Kate. She was born in Traverse-de-Sioux, Minnesota, October 11, 1864, the daughter of Frederic August and Anna Barbara (Herkelrath) Sempel. She was one of eight children. After coming to California she worked as a teacher in the public schools of Cucamonga before her marriage.
The following year, their daughter Ruth Milliken, was born.
Daniel Milliken’s grape growing operation was carried out in conjunction with G.D. Haven for more than fifteen years. Like Milliken, Haven had come to California originally as a prospector. Born in Ellisburg, New York in 1939 the son of Daniel Haven of Massachussetts who was a steamboat captain on the St Lawrence River, George Haven in 1859 went westward from Wisconsin, to which his parents had moved, first to Council Bluffs, Iowa and then Pike’s Peak, Colorado. He prospected along the American River, coming into contact with John Comstock of the Comstock lode fame. He subequently mined in Salt Lake City and in the Black Hills of Dakota. He built or acquired four mining mills there, selling them at a profit of $45,000. It was that fortune that he used in establishing the joint venture with Milliken.
On January 2, 1899, at the age of sixty-three, Charlotte Milliken died. Later that year, Daniel B. Milliken and G.D. Haven ended their business relationship on friendly terms and split their holdings. After that, Daniel Milliken built an expansive ranch house just west of Haven Avenue and Arrow Route.
Daniel Milliken was old-fashioned and seemingly fond of leading a spartan existence. He never incorporated many of the modern conveniences of the day into the abode. This primitive ethos in Milliken’s living arrangements may have played a part in Mrs. Milliken’s decision to remain in San Francisco much of the time her husband was establishing a grape-growing dynasty in Cucamonga.
“We didn’t have electricity until 1920,” Milliken’s grandson Daniel, who was born on May 12, 1904, said in 1978. Young Daniel Milliken grew up at the ranch. “We did have a telephone earlier than that, though,” he recalled, “which seems an odd thing.”
Reuben Morton, Daniel and Charlotte’s second oldest child, died in 1905, and his only son passed away in 1910. The two youngest of Daniel and Charlotte’s children, their third son, Richard, and their only daughter, Ashie Mae, moved to England.
It was at the Cucamonga ranch house that Daniel Brewer Milliken died at age 82 in September 1912.
Brown and Boyd wrote that “The faith and optimism of a pioneer was the distinctive quality in the character of the late Daniel Brewer Milliken, whose enterprise opened up a great and new source of wealth for the famous Cucamonga District of Southern California. He had all the ruggedness and dauntless spirit of the real argonauts, though he had very little success in gold mining and his prosperity was due to more permanent lines of industry.”
His passing left administration of the farm to Newell.
Newell was well educated in Mendocino County and at the San Jose High School, and he became an expert assayer, which stood him in good stead when he had engaged in mining in Idaho and other western states in the late 1870s and early 1880s. In addition to working on and later overseeing his father’s vineyards, Newell was the postmaster for eighteen years at the North Cucamonga Post Office, located in the old stagecoach station on Central Avenue., which housed the company store. Newell Milliken was also a deputy county assessor for fourteen years, specializing in sizing up the value of agricultural properties.
A staunch Republican, Newell was a member of the Central Committee for over a decade.
Only seven years after his father exited into eternity, however, Newell died on August 16, 1919.
Brown and Boyd wrote of him, “His was a strong and upright character, and the work he did and the influence he exercised made his death a source of inestimable loss to the community where he had lived so many years.”
His daughter Ruth, who had at that time been for two years the principal of the high school in Fort Bragg, came to Cucamonga to oversee the vineyard. Though she had little knowledge about grape cultivation, she jumped right in. In short order, she modernized operations, introducing electricity and gas-engined trucks. She continued to oversee the ranch, arising at 6 a.m. on a daily basis, and mounting a horse to ride between the rows of vineyards at 7 a.m. to supervise the work crews for 40 years.
Ruth’s sister, Mildred A. Milliken, was born January 23, 1900. She obtained a bachelor’s degree. from Pomona College in June, 1921, and continued her study of music at Pomona College Conservatory, being proficient as a pipe organist and pianist.
Daniel B. Milliken’s namesake and grandson, Daniel, attended high school in Claremont and graduated from Pomona College before getting his MBA at Harvard and PhD. at Claremont Graduate School. He subsequently become the president/superintendent of Chaffey College, where, in the 1970s, he was himself a student in Professor Donald Wright’s creative writing class, where he sat next to the writer of this history column.
By Mark Gutglueck