Biography of Mrs. Ellen Woods Crafts Meacham

Mrs. Ellen Woods Crafts Meacham. This lady, who, with her husband and family, occupies as a residence one of the old landmarks of the county (the well known Crafton Retreat), is a native of Jackson, Michigan, and daughter of Myron Harwood and Miranda (Capen) Crafts. Her father, who was born in Whately, the family seat, was a man of great force of character. He came to San Bernardino County when the country was new, locating at the place which took his name, and left the impress of his character indelibly upon the community. His unusual business ability, while securing for him ample means and property, could have enabled him to accumulate a much vaster fortune had his inclinations run more to hoarding. He established his home at the place which took the name of “Crafton Retreat,” a spot of great natural beauty, which has been rather enhanced than detracted from by the hand of man. He had a clear foresight of the great future which was in store for the community of his adopted home, and his judgment was verified even before his death, which occurred in this county. He was one of the early members of the Republican Party, and during the war stood manfully by his convictions, though he and a Mr. Robbins at that time cast the only Republican votes in the county.

His daughter, Mrs. Meacham, with whose name this sketch commences, was nine years old when her parents removed from Jackson to Windsor, Michigan, nine miles from Lansing, and there her mother died. After this sad event she went to live with her maternal grandmother, Mrs. Leonard Woods. After she had been there two years, she went to Olivet, Michigan, to attend college, and there received the advantage of a three-years course of study. She then went to Troy, New York, to live with Mrs. Eliza Stewart, a sister of her grandfather and wife of Philo P. Stewart, one of the founders of Oberlin College. For a time she attended the high school in Troy, then went to a young ladies’ boarding school at Danbury, New York, meantime making her home in Brooklyn with Mrs. Douglas Putnam, her mother’s sister. In 1865 she left boarding school, and came to California to join her father. After a time here she went to Los Angeles, where she taught public school one year. During the two years following she kept house for her father, and during that time was married, on the 10th of January, 1869, to David Meacham, a sketch of whom will follow this article.

When they left Crafton they removed to San Bernardino, and from there, in 1870, to Riverside, where they were among the first settlers, and where Mr. Meacham built the first house. Their oldest child, Myron Putnam Meacham, was born at Crafton, October 22, 1869, and their second child, born November 12, 1871, was the first boy born in Riverside. They speculated in land there, and at one time owned 300 acres right in the heart of Riverside. From there they went again to San Bernardino, and built a residence near the present site of the Stewart House. There their third child, Kate Capen Meacham, was born, June 8, 1876. After one year at San Bernardino they returned to Riverside, and while there the fourth and youngest child, Sarah Rachel Crafts Meacham, was born, December 4, 1883. From there they removed to Los Angeles, and during the great boom there Mrs. Meacham sold real estate with success. They resided in Los Angeles about five years, and since that time have been living at the “Crafton Retreat,” which became the property of Mrs. Meacham upon the partition of the Crafts estate.

The “Crafton Retreat,” a view of which appears in this volume, occupies a position of great vantage, from the point of view of the lover of the beautiful in scenery. Lying at the base of the foot-hills, with the snow-capped mountain peaks standing seemingly but a little above and beyond, while the splendid zanja (the origin of which is ascribed by tradition to the Mission fathers) flows and leaps through the shady grove on the place, its cool, clear waters completely nullifying the effects of the hottest midsummer sun for those who have the pleasure of idling by its banks. This favored spot, with no other attractions, would well deserve its title of “Retreat,” that name suggestive of needed rest. But when to these advantages, are added those of being surrounded by orange grove and orchard, bearing the various tempting fruits and nuts of favored California, while broad driveways wind in and out about the place and lead as well to the main highways of travel, it is readily to be understood why so many come to this haven of rest to secure the benefits of nature’s recuperation. The hills above give a splendid view of the noble valley beneath, while among them canons make their tortuous ways, affording at once a desirable place to visit for a change or in pursuit of game, there quite abundant. At this writing, much time and attention is being given to increasing the beauties and comforts of the place by Mr. and Mrs. Meacham.

The latter, who has an active and brilliant mind, is one of the staunchest friends of her sex, and an able advocate of its ennoblement. She is fully alive to the questions of the day, as well as its needs. She was graduated in the first Chautauqua class of 3,000 in 1881, securing the splendid average of ninety-seven per cent on a four-years course.


Biography, Women,

The Lewis Publishing Company. An Illustrated History of Southern California embracing the counties of San Diego San Bernardino Los Angeles and Orange and the peninsula of lower California. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois. 1890.

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