Pioneer Women

California Room

By Nicholas R. Cataldo

(Photographs courtesy of California Room of the Feldheym Library &
San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society, unless otherwise noted)

When names of people contributing to the development of San Bernardino are mentioned, well known pioneers like Don Antonio Lugo, William F. Holcomb and Jefferson Hunt are frequently brought up.

And of those prominent citizens during our more recent history, we tip our hats in appreciation to the likes of Jack Brown for his supermarket efforts and to the McDonald brothers for changing the way we eat. These justly honored San Bernardinians are among the many men who have helped develop our area.

But how about the pioneer women? Many of these names probably don't ring a bell, but they certainly helped San Bernardino evolve into the "The Gate City" of Southern California.

Here are just a few of those unsung heroes:

S.B. Pioneer Mother Braved Hardships for Family

Jerusha Bemis (1799-1872) was a widow and mother of 11 children whose family arrived in San Bernardino by covered wagon in 1854. Tragedy struck two of her sons. Nephi was ambushed and murdered by Indians at Las Flores Ranch in 1866, and Samuel was killed by a grizzly bear at Little Bear Valley (now Lake Arrowhead) in 1868. Jerusha was the matriarch of the present Bemis-Hancock-Roberds family association.

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Jerusha Bemis
Energetic Pioneer Woman Made Indelible Impression

Maria Armenta Bermudez (1806-1858) and her elderly husband were friends and overseers for the Lugos when they built their first adobe in 1839 where the Central Courthouse is today. As the main support for the family, she farmed in San Timoteo Canyon and in what is now the City of Redlands, and made improvements on a crude road so that her two-wheeled "carretas" and oxen could travel to Los Angeles to sell her produce.

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Maria Armenta Bermudez
Lytle Creek Pioneer Mother Lived In Defiance Of Tragedy

Mourning Burnham Glenn (1814-1905). Mourning was born sometime between 1810 and 1815. Mourning and her husband Silas Glenn along with 5 of their children left Paris, Texas as part of a covered wagon train on March 26, 1860. Seven months later they arrived in San Bernardino. In 1866 they purchased land in the Cajon Pass and called their home the Cajon Rancho. She died December 29, 1905 in San Bernardino and is buried at the Pioneer Cemetery.

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Mourning Burnham Glenn
Diary of the Earp Wagon Train to San Bernardino

Sarah Jane Rousseau (1816-1872) kept a diary of the day-to-day events on her seven-month journey by covered wagon which included the Earp, Curtis and Hamilton clans from Salt Lake to San Bernardino in 1864. An invalid at the start, her condition improved when the family settled in San Bernardino and gave piano lessons until shortly before her death.

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Sarah Jane Rousseau
Pioneer Educator and Local History Author Deluxe

Eliza Robbins Crafts (1825-1910) taught school in San Bernardino with her first husband, Ellison Robbins, from 1858 until the early 1860s. With her second husband, Myron Crafts, she established Crafton Retreat east of the City of Redlands, where invalids recovered their health and local Indians found civilized living conditions. She wrote a book, "Pioneer Days in the San Bernardino Valley", in 1906.

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Eliza Robbins Crafts
Former Slave Played Major Role In San Bernardino's Early History

Lizzy Flake Rowan (1834-1908) was a black slave brought to San Bernardino in 1851 by her Mormon masters, James and Agnes Flake. After they died, Lizzy took care of their children for a while in addition to her own. She eventually married another slave, Charles Rowan, and built a home for their three children and acquired some land on D Street near downtown San Bernardino, where Lizzy worked as a laundress. Charles ran a barber shop inside the Southern Hotel, approximately where the Sun newspaper former building stood at D and Fourth Streets [Now American Sports University].

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Lizzy Flake Rowan
Early Day Travel Through Cajon Pass Was No Easy Drive

Mary Wixom Crandall (1834-1927). Thousands of travelers motor along Interstate 15 through the Cajon Pass each day. The vast majority of them also tend to get a bit frustrated when their desired 70 (and up) speed limit is interrupted by heavy traffic, fog, or strong winds. But these problems were a piece of cake compared to what Southern Californians had to wrestle with while attempting to make their way through the pass a century and half ago. One such participant was a pioneer woman named Mary (Wixom) Crandall.

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Mary Wixom Crandall
Mary Bennett Goodcell Cleans Up Meadowbrook Park

Mary Bennett Goodcell (1849-1909) taught school at San Bernardino's Warm Springs School from 1880 to 1882 and then worked as assistant editor for San Bernardino's Daily and Weekly Times. Acting as civic chairwoman of San Bernardino Women's Club in 1906, she directed the cleanup of a notorious, swampy dump and its creation intoSan Bernardino's first recreational playground, Meadowbrook. A plaque commemorating her efforts was dedicated in the park in 1910.

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Mary Bennett Goodcell
The Area's First Black College Graduate

Alice Rowan Johnson (1868-1911), the daughter of Lizzy Flake Rowan, was taught at a local academy by Mary Bennette Goodcell, one of the instructors who recommended she go into teaching. She became the first black student at the Los Angeles Normal School and, at the age of 16, graduated as one of 16 graduates in the mid-to-late 1880s. She also might have become the first black teacher of white children in California when she taught in Riverside.

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Alice Rowan Johnson
Mother Massetti's Inn Was a Happening Place

Caterina Croce Massetti (1877-1946). Not much excitement goes on in San Bernardino at 5th Street west of Mt. Vernon Avenue these days other than cars passing through on the way to or from work. But at one time that area---1396 5th Street to be exact---was a happening place. That's where Mother Massetti's Inn was serving Ohhh, Mama Mia!...some of the best food around.

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Caterina Croce Massetti
Janet Miles Leaves Us 93 Years of Memories

Janet Miles (1901-2008). If ever there was a slice of local history that somehow can at least temporarily allow ourselves to feel good about where we live, it can be found in a heartwarming book entitled The Memoirs of Janet Miles: 1901 to 1994.

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Janet Miles
Dorothy Inghram Has a Century's Worth of Memories

Dorothy Inghram (1905-2012) became the first black teacher in San Bernardino County and the first black administrator in the state of California. Dorothy started teaching at Mill School in 1942, became a teaching principal in 1945, a full-time principal in 1951, and was appointed district superintendent of Mill School District in 1953.

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Dorothy Inghram
Pinky Brier: An Aviation Legend

Pinky Brier (1909-2008) bought Tri-City Airport with husband in 1939 and is credited with being the first female flight instructor in the country. She was well-known and flew celebrities and dignitaries all over Southern California. She was even mentioned as a character in one of the Perry Mason novels by Erie Stanley Gardner, "The Case of the Careless Cupid".

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Pinky Brier
'The Source' for Local History

Arda M. Haenszel (1910-2001). For decades Arda M. Haenszel had been the "the source" for local history. On Wednesday, January 9, 2001, the 91 year old San Bernardino County resident became part of that story she loved to research and write about. Arda, a graduate of San Bernardino High School and the University of Berkeley, was a teacher for 33 years.

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Arda M. Haenszel
Pioneering Educator Left Mark

Clare Cherry (1919-1990) was an innovative early-childhood educator, author and lecturer who stressed the importance of using music and art for teaching creativity, self confidence and, ultimately, the ability to read. Her "whole child" approach led to the creation of Clare Cherry School in San Bernardino, where she served as director.

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Clare Cherry