Early life in Fillmore as remembered by one of its earliest residents

Albert Bailey Turner

Turner's Cottage hotel.  1st in town.

Turner’s Cottage hotel. 1st in town.

E. B. Turner Saloon

E. B. Turner Saloon

Turner's stable turned into Garage.

Turner’s stable turned into Garage.

Courtesy of the Fillmore Historical Museum

The following is a first-person account of early life at the start of the Fillmore settlement, found in the Fillmore Historical Museum records.

In April 1933, an early pioneer in Fillmore, Mr. C. C. Elkins, was interviewed about Fillmore’s early years. He had described the humble boarding house, where his family had first stayed when they arrived on the railroad, as an “up and down boarding house.”

Mr. and Mrs. Elbert Bailey Turner were also early pioneers here, first settling in Fillmore and later moving to the Sespe. They had owned and operated that boarding house on what would become Main St. before and after the arrival of the railroad. Life was hard with few comforts. It took guts to survive and thrive.

Mrs. Turner (Lucinda), then living in San Diego, took offense at Elkins’ description of her boarding house and expressed her opinion in two letters to the editor, Mr. Wagner, in the April 28 Fillmore Herald.

In the first letter she recalled some previous history as follows: “Dear friend Wagner, I am writing some news which are facts. We are the oldest settlers of Fillmore. I don’t want anyone taking the feather out of our cap and putting it in theirs. I was always proud of that place. There were many nice old settlers. I think of the nice picnics in Kenney’s Grove. I know there are just as nice people in Fillmore now. If they weren’t there, they wouldn’t be there. We’re fine. Best wishes to you and the people and friends of Fillmore.”

In the second letter she described what she and her husband had to do to survive those early years. “Dear Editor: In our local paper, the Fillmore Herald, I read that Mr. and Mrs. C.

C. Elkins, Sr. celebrated their 62 wedding anniversary. We wish them good health and many happy anniversaries.

The author of their affair was mistaken in one instance. One of the cabins, as he called it, was a 100 x 200 California built house, 12 rooms 10 feet high, fabric on the walls and papered, neatly decorated and clean and Mrs. E. B. Turner was the manager and cook, with hired help. We also had a livery stable. We had a paying company, but it was hard work with many drawbacks. No meat market, no shops or vegetable cart at your door every day. Our meat was shipped from Ventura by the Hobson brothers. Easy from Santa Paula supplied most of our veggies. EB Turner occasionally butchered a pig and Alfred Stone killed deer. He sold us the best part. I put in beef and sides of pork to help. We had a coop of fat chickens, paid 25 cents for a five or six pound cockerel, so you can see it wasn’t a crazy job looking after our little business.

I would add that the CC Elkins family lived with us, the Fillmore Hotel, until he could build temporary housing. Within a few weeks, he began construction of a two-story building with a living room and his shop on the first floor. It was necessary.

E. B. Turner was Fillmore’s first postmaster. He repaired a bedroom at the front of our hotel where he looked after 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 was no money and no honor to work for nothing.” He rented the hotel to George Tighe’s mother for a year.’

“Here are some facts and I want to say that the editor at Fillmore in 1887 was a 13-year-old boy, a son of Mr. Buckston. The family lived in the old farm house. The paper consisted of two sheets about 10 x 12 inches. George was a rustler for news. A neighbor named Bill Smith entered the hotel. He said our baby is dead. It was one day old. I have no money to pay for a coffin. I told him I could make one. We had some redwood wide planks. I measured the size and shape on the floor of our back porch. I finished it in about an hour. I lined it with white batiste and oiled the outside. It was a neat piece of work. I read about a man who makes his own coffin. It would be a waste of time to make mine, because I want to be cremated. Mrs. E. B. Turner”

In October 1933 CC Elkins was interviewed by Charles Jarrett, also for the Fillmore Herald. In that interview, he also noted that, “Mrs. Turner had taken offense at hearing her small bungalow hotel described as an “up and down boarding house.” He emphasized to the interviewer: “Don’t call them shacks. I got laughed at for doing that a while ago.

The Turners prospered and moved into a fine two-story house on the Sespe. died September 12, 1936; Mrs. Turner died in June 1945. They were married in Kingman County, Kansas. According to Ms. Turner, “Our ceremony was the first ever wedding ceremony in Kingman County, Kansas. The justice of the peace was a little nervous and had to read his book to figure out how to tie the knot. It was cold in his hollowed-out office. The only fuel he had was corn stalks. While he was tying the knot, his wife broke corn stalks to keep the house warm.” The Turners came to California on an immigrant train. Carriages were coupled to a freight train. They were on the road to San Francisco for 10 days. They then went by boat to Portland and returned to Ventura County by covered wagon.
They were very representative of the immigrants to the Fillmore, Sespe area. They came to California by wagon, train, and boat. They were hardy. They knew what they wanted and achieved their dreams mile by mile. But their names were not as well known as the “city fathers” and big farms. They were simply the people who made Fillmore grow and prosper through hard work and ingenuity.

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