By Mark Gutglueck
Allen Break was born in Elgin County, Province of Ontario, Canada, November 30th 1871, the son of John and Mary Break. John Break was a farmer. The Break family lineage traced back to Switzerland, where the family name had been Brech. John Break, the founder of the American branch of the family, came to this country in the year 1751 and established his home
in Pennsylvania, where he died at the early age of thirty-two years.
John Break’s bereaved but brave and resourceful young widow, with her two fatherless children, emigrated to Ontario, Canada, where she purchased, at $2 per acre, 200 acres of heavy timberland, which she endeavored to reclaim and improve upon. The soil was of excellent constituency, demonstrated by the prolific growth of a black-walnut tree planted on the old homestead by a member of the Break family, which achieved such gigantic proportions as to overshadow and cause the death of the apple trees in thirteen rows adjacent to it. When the tree was felled circa 1920 and sawed into lumber, the wood was divided among the surviving representatives of the family.
The Canadian property remained in the possession of the Break family for over a century. After the turn of the Twentieth Century, portions of the land were selling for a price as high as $125 per acre. John Break’s namesake born in the 19th Century and Mary Break, the parents of Allen Break, continued their residence in Ontario until 1920, when they came to California, where in 1922 they resided near the home of their son Allen, who was the oldest of John and Mary’s five children. Allen’s siblings included Catherine, born February 2, 1873, who became the wife of William Call, and moved to Wyoming; David, born December 27, 1879, who moved to Florence, Kansas; Rose, born January 22, 1882, who resided in Redlands; and Estelle, born October 1, 1891, who became the wife of Donald Donson, foreman of the fruit-packing house of the Redlands Orange Growers Association.
In the public schools of his native province Allen Break continued his studies until he had completed the work of the seventh grade at Kitchener.
Thereafter he continued his association with farm industry in Ontario until the spring of 1892, when at the age of 20 he came West and found employment as a farm hand in Kansas, at a stipend of eighteen dollars a month and his board. He worked literally “from the rising of the sun until the going down of the same,” and he continued his alliance with farm enterprise in Peabody Kansas for four years, within which in 1894 he married Miss Cynthia Clausen, who was born in Denmark, September 23, 1876, and who was eighteen months old when her parents came to America and established their home in the Sunflower State, where they passed the remainder of their lives as sterling pioneers of the prairie.
In January, 1897, Allen Break came to California, in company with his wife and their eldest child, then an infant, and upon the arrival of the family at Pomona the tangible possessions of Mr. Break were summed up in forty dollars and the two trunks in which the personal belongings of the family had been transported.
He obtained employment with the California Fruit Growers Exchange at Pomona, and continued this connection with that entity for seven years, advancing to the position of manager of the packing house. This experience proved of great value to him, giving him specific knowledge about the cultivation of citrus and the capital to embark on his subsequent independent operations in connection with the raising of citrus fruits.
Upon leaving Pomona, Break came to Redlands Junction and engaged in the buying and packing of oranges on his own. He also purchased a tract of twenty acres, of which eight acres had already been planted with citrus trees, which were bearing fruit. On the remainder of the tract he planted orange trees of the navel and Valencia types.
In undertaking this enterprise he assumed an appreciable indebtedness, but his energy and good management enabled him eventually not only to free himself from
debt but also to develop one of the finest fruit ranches of the region. Break stated that to accumulate his first $1,000 was the hardest task in his effort to get ahead, and he credited his wife as having been his best partner and coadjutor, saying he relied largely upon her excellent judgment in financial and other business matters, and looked upon her as his valued co-partner in every sense.
In 1910, Break purchased thirty-four acres as a townsite at Redlands Junction, ten acres of the tract being platted into lots and placed on the market, and twenty-one acres having previously been planted to oranges and eucalyptus. Thus was founded the attractive suburban district of Bryn Mawr. Some of the property he purchased there was sold and became the site on which is now established the fruit packing houses of Redlands Junction.
An advocate of segregation of children of Mexican descent in the public education system, Break also sold the land on which was constructed a school for the Hispanic children of the community. So determined was he that this arrangement be made, Break let the property go for half the price he could have obtained had he otherwise placed it on the market. It was thus largely due to Break’s efforts that the separate schools for Mexican-American and the remainder of the school children in the Loma Linda/Bryn Mawr/Redlands area were provided.
Break sold off thirty-four of the acres he had accumulated in Redlands Junction by 1914, deriving a handsome profit.
As of 1922, he owned and operated a high-grade orange grove of ninety-seven acres.
Break notably prospered in his speculative enterprise in the buying, packing and shipping of California fruit, and became one of the leading independent packers and dealers of San Bernardino County. His interests were such that well into his seventh decade, he remained an extremely busy man, and he took pride in being one of the world’s productive workers who had “made good.” In the 1920s, he did his marketing almost exclusively through the medium of the Mutual Orange Distributors of Redlands, an organization that developed the best of direct trade relations in all sections of the United States, as well as principal Canadian markets at that time.
Break, who had unlimited confidence in the resources of Southern California and attributed his success mainly
to his conservative policies and careful methods, prospered when many other men had failed.
His contemporary historians and biographers, John Brown, Jr. and James Boyd, in their 1922 tome History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties said of Break “Honest and straightforward policies have attended his course in all stages of his progressive career, and he is always ready to give counsel and all possible aid to ambitious young men who set forth to avail themselves of the great advantages offered in Southern California. He early set to himself a definite success-goal, and this he has reached. Allen Break is a man whose energy, ability and personal efforts have enabled him to so take advantage of opportunities offered in Southern California as to advance himself from a position of financial obscurity to a plane of substantial independence. He is now one of the representative citizens of the Bryn Mawr district of San Bernardino County, and it is pleasing to accord him recognition in this work. In civic relations Mr. Break has shown himself most loyal and liberal, and in the community his list of friends is limited only by that of his acquaintances.”
Break was affiliated with the lodges of Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks at Redlands.
Break’s children did well for themselves, with his oldest son, Samuel Wesley, born in Kansas on August 30, 1896,
in some respects outperforming his father. Samuel Wesley, who dispensed relatively early on with the use of his first name, going by S. Wesley and eventually just Wesley, graduated from Redlands High School and served in the U.S. Navy during the First World War, first in testing men on the rifle range and then as a gunnery officer. After the war, Wesley Break, was retained as a member of the Naval Reserve Corps. On his twenty-first birthday he received from his father a gift of $2,000, with which he purchased a five-acre orange grove, from the yield of which in two seasons he made full payment on the property. He accumulated more and more acreage for his orange groves, became the foreman of the Bryn Mawr Fruit Growers Association. From 1944 to 1948 he was a member of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.
Allen and Cynthia Break’s second child, Anne, graduated from Redlands High School, and went on to become an accountant, acceding to the position of head bookkeeper of the Redlands National Bank.
Mary Irene, who was born at Redlands Junction on August 10, 1905, graduated from the Redlands High School and with her older sister was a popular factor in the social life of the Redlands district in the Roaring Twenties, as the family home became known for its generous hospitality and good cheer.
In 1933, Allen Break lost his wife.
By Mark Gutglueck