| || |
The Hurst family, including Josiah Newell, his wife Annabelle and their three children, Allie, Harriet Maude, and Charles Josiah, moved from Dover, Ohio to Whittier, California in 1898.
In 1906, the family purchased 40 acres on the corner of Orange and Merced in West Covina. Soon, a barn, engine house, pump house and home were built. This became the Hurst Ranch headquarters where Charles Josiah and his wife Maude lived and raised their family -Annabelle, born in 1913, and Charles Josiah, Jr., born in 1914.
With hard work, strong family ties and community roots, the children grew and flourished on the ranch. Both Annabelle and Joe attended Sunset Grammar School and Covina High School. Annabelle then graduated from Pomona College and Joe from the University of Southern California.
After college and marriage, farming was still a way of life for the Hurst family. Joe and his wife Ruth, and Annabelle and her husband Sanford Babson, carried on and expanded this operation from the mid-1930's to the late 1950's.
During the 1950's, West Covina began to grow people and houses instead of oranges. For the Hurst family this meant moving the farming operating to the San Joaquin Valley and, with a bit of sadness, developing the West Covina property.
1919 - Walnuts flourished and were shipped nationwide under the Diamond Label brand.
1929 - The walnuts were removed due to disease and the decline in walnut prices, and orange groves were planted.
Over the years, truck crops were added including potatoes, beans, cucumbers, onions, cabbages, cauliflower and carrots. The Hurst Ranch grew to about 110 acres of oranges and seasonally rotated crops.
During the war years (WWII), the family worked long and hard hours growing food for the country. Twelve-hour days were common as there were few, if any, workers to hire. But, West Covina was a close-knit, rural community where neighbors helped neighbors.
Joe had attended school with the Keon brothers, and when it became clear that the Japanese were going to be shipped to camps, the Keons asked Joe if he would rent and work their land. The answer was, of course, "yes," so the land was well tended and ready for the Keons to resume farming when they returned.
During the agricultural years, the Hurst family was involved in the organization and management of many groups that promoted sound agricultural practices. Included were:
- The La Puente Walnut Growers Association, a group formed to market walnuts under the Diamond Label brand. In 1923, the Association was the largest, most modern walnut processing plant in the world;
- The establishment of a co-op market group for any and all vegetable farmers in West Covina; and
- In 1944, Joe established a highly successful cauliflower market group which sold their crops directly from the field to the vegetable freezing companies.
In 1924, Charles Josiah (Charlie) had a swimming pool built at the ranch headquarters on Orange and Merced. As West Covina was a rural community, the Hursts built the pool with the purpose of providing summer fun for all of the children in the area. As Joe says, "I think every kid in the school system swam there at one time or another." In the 1950's, the Hurst pool was also the gathering place for many civic groups and City worker's picnics.
In the early days, Maude Hurst, along with other local women, was very active in the West Covina Parent & Teachers' Association (PTA). She helped cook up many dinners in the community clubhouse which helped to raise money for athletic equipment for the school and other worthy projects. During the war years, Maude and other family members were active in the Red Cross effort.
In 1944, Joe Hurst was elected to the West Covina City Council. He served on the Council for 12 years, and was Mayor of West Covina from 1952 until 1956. Other community involvement included civic groups; fund raising and contributions for the local hospitals; the Boy Scouts, the YMCA and other worthy causes such as the annual Y's Men's Labor Day Picnic -a fund raiser that raised the money to purchase the site of the present YMCA.
Those early 1906 roots in West Covina were planted deep within the family and are still growing today. With the formation of the Hurst Ranch Historical Center, the Hurst family preserves a small, yet special part of rural history for others to enjoy.