Early Life in Fillmore as Recalled by One of its Earliest Residents
Elbert Bailey Turner
The following is a first person account of early life at the beginning of settlement of Fillmore found in the archives of the Fillmore Historical Museum.
In April, 1933, an early pioneer in Fillmore, Mr. C. C. Elkins, was interviewed about Fillmore’s early years. He had described the simple boarding house, where his family had first stayed upon their arrival on the railroad, as an “up and down boarded house.”
Mr. and Mrs. Elbert Bailey. Turner were also early pioneers here who had settled first in Fillmore and later moved to the Sespe. They had owned and managed that boarding house on what would become Main St. before and after the arrival of the railroad. Life was hard with few conveniences. It took grit to survive and prosper.
Mrs. Turner (Lucinda) who was then living in San Diego took offense to Elkins’ description of her boarding house and expressed her opinion in two letters to the editor, Mr. Wagner, in the April 28th edition of the Fillmore Herald.
Cottage Hotel owned by the Turners
In the first letter she recalled some earlier history as follows: “Dear Friend Wagner: I am writing some news which are facts. We are the oldest settlers of Fillmore. I won’t hear to it for any one to take the feather out of our cap and put into theirs. I was always proud of that place. There was a lot of nice old settlers. I think of the nice picnics in Kenney’s grove. I know there are just as fine people now in Fillmore. If there wasn’t they would not be there. We are well. Best wishes for you and Fillmore people and friends.”
In the second letter she described what she and her husband had to do to survive those early years. “Dear Editor: In our home-town paper, the Fillmore Herald, I read that Mr. and Mrs. C.
C. Elkins, Sr. celebrated their 62 wedding anniversary. We wish them health and many more happy anniversaries.
The writer of their affair was mistaken in one instance. One of the shacks as he called it, was a California built house 30 X 60, 12 rooms 10 feet high, cloth on walls and papered, neatly furnished and clean and Mrs. E. B. Turner was the manager and cook, with hired help. We also ran a livery stable. We had a paying business but it was hard work with many disadvantages. No meat market, no stores or vegetable wagon every day at your door. Our meat was shipped from Ventura by the Hobson brothers. Easly of Santa Paula furnished most of our vegetables. E. B. Turner butchered a hog now and then and Alfred Stone killed deer. He sold the best part to us. I pickled beef and sides of pork to help out. We had a pen of fat chickens, paid 25 cents for a five or six-pound young rooster, so you can see it was not a fool’s job to take care of our little business.
I add to this that C. C. Elkins family boarded at our place, the Fillmore Hotel, till he could build a temporary place to live in. In a few weeks he began building a two story building with living room and his store on the first floor. It was needed.
E. B. Turner was the first post master of Fillmore. He fixed a front bedroom in our hotel where he took care of the post office for a year or so. Then it was moved to the depot. George Tighe was depot agent and E. B. Turner appointed George Tighe assistant postmaster. Turner said “There wasn’t any money and no honor to work for nothing.” He rented the hotel to George Tighe’s mother for a year.”
Turner and Buckman Garage
“Here are some facts and I want to say the editor in Fillmore in 1887 was a 13 year old boy, a son of Mr. Buckston. The family lived at the old ranch house. The paper was two sheets about 10 X 12 inches. George was a rustler for news. A neighbor by the name of Bill Smith came in the hotel. He said our baby is dead. It was one day old. I haven’t any money to pay for a coffin. I told him I could make one. We had some wide redwood boards. I measured the size and shape on the floor of our back porch. In about an hour I had it finished. I lined it with white cambric and oiled the outside. It was a neat piece of work. I read of a man making his own coffin. It would be time thrown away for me to make mine, for I want to be cremated.
Mrs. E. B. Turner”
Turner home in Sespe
In October 1933, C.C. Elkins was being interviewed by Charles Jarrett also for the Fillmore Herald. In that interview he also noted that, “Mrs. Turner had taken offence to hearing her little bungalow hotel described as an “up and down boarded house. He emphasized to the interviewer “Don’t call them shacks. I was bawled out for doing that a while back.”
The Turners prospered, moving to a nice two story home on the Sespe. E. B. died September 12, 1936; Mrs. Turner died in June 1945. They had married in Kingman County, Kansas. According to Mrs. Turner, “Ours was the first marriage ceremony ever In Kingman County, Kansas. The justice of the peace was a bit nervous and had to read his book to find out how to tie the knot. It was cold in his dugout office. All he had for fuel was cornstalks. While he was tying the knot his wife broke up corn stalks to keep the place warm.” The Turners came to California on an immigrant train. Coaches were attached to a freight train. They were 10 days making the journey to San Francisco. They then went to Portland by boat, returning to Ventura County by covered wagon.”
They were very representative of the immigrants to the Fillmore, Sespe region. They came to California by wagon, railroad, and boat. They were hardy. They knew what they wanted and achieved their dreams one mile at a time. But their names were not as well-known as the “city fathers” and large farming companies. They were simply the people who made Fillmore grow and prosper by hard work and ingenuity.
Mr. and Mrs. Turner in retirement