Jonathan Bailey House and Park, 13421 Camilla St. – Listed in the National Register of Historic Properties
Built in 1868 Whittier’s Oldest House is City of Whittier Historic Landmark #6
On May 11,1887 Jonathan Bailey and his wife Rebecca, recently arrived from Ohio, moved into a little white house on the John Thomas Ranch property just purchased by the Pickering Land and Water Co. which had been formed by Bailey, Aquila Pickering, Herve Lindley and John Painter for the purpose of establishing a Quaker Colony in California. The old ranch house was the only building on the ranch propery. The following Sunday Jonathan and Rebecca Bailey held a religious service on their front porch. Whittier’s first home, the Jonathan Bailey House, soon became the center of business, social and religious activities during the formative years of the Whittier Colony.
Early History of the Jonathan Bailey House
On December 2, 1868 Jacob F. Gerkens filed a claim to 160 acres just south of the Pio Pico rancho under the provisions of the United States Homestead Act of 1862. He paid $234 ($1.25 an acre) plus a $34 filing fee. This quarter section today lies north of Hadley St. and east of Greenleaf Ave. Before the filing date Gerkens, who was a sheep rancher, had built a small redwood cabin on the property. On March 25, 1870 Gerkens deeded the land to R.M. Town for $3,000 and moved to Los Angeles where he became a twice-elected member of the City Council and the first Los Angeles Chief of Police.
In 1880, though foreclosure, the Town property was acquired at a public auction for $4,002 by John M. Thomas, a farmer and rancher from Indiana, who was assembling his 1259 acre ranch through a series of land acquisitions. Thomas added two additional rooms, one wing on the east and one wing on the west, as well as a covered porch all around the original cabin. Later the west wing was extended and its roof raised to make the room larger. The kitchen and back bedroom were also enlarged by enclosing the porch and sloping ceilings were raised to the height of those of the rest of the house. The house then had six rooms, a fireplace and a porch across its front.
The Pickering Land & Water Co. acquires the John Thomas Ranch
In 1886 John Thomas sold his ranch to three investors for $33,000. The following year the lead investor, Dr. J. Mills Boal, President of the Los Angeles County Homeopathic Medical Society – and a minister’s son, met Aquila Pickering of Chicago, member of the Chicago Board of Trade and elder member of the Society of Friends who, at age 67, had come to California to establish a Pacific Coast Quaker Colony. A deal was forged and Pickering , Jonathan Bailey, Hervey Lindley and John Painter formed the Pickering Land & Water Company to purchase the Thomas Ranch property for $69,890.
The Jonathan Bailey House and Park Today
Members of the Bailey family continued to live in and/or own the house until 1973 when the Whittier Heritage Association was formed to “Save the Bailey House”. The property at 13421 Camilla St. was purchased, restored and deeded to the citizens of Whittier on January 7, 1975 and renamed the Jonathan Bailey House and Park. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 29, 1977. Read the details here and see the National Register images here. Public tours of the Jonathan Bailey House are provided by the Whittier Historical Society – details here.