"...Although born ...in London, England, Reginald Brinsmead is an
intensely patriotic American, and the love he bears for the country
of his adoption undoubtedly surpasses that of many of its native born
citizens. He owns a magnificent seventeen and one half acre
orange grove on Victoria Avenue, and finds his greatest pleasure
among his trees and with his family."
History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, page 1414
Reginald Brinsmead was the second of four children born to Thomas
James Brinsmead and Elizabeth Goddard, having been born on August 3,
1880. Thomas James was one of the two sons involved in the highly successful
firm of John Brinsmead and Sons piano manufacturers. He was, for
some time, managing partner.
Reginald Brinsmead attended the Merchant Tailors' School in London.
He then studied at Aspatria - an Agricultural College formed at the
end of the 19th century in Cumberland in the North of England.
After that he studied at the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester;
the first agricultural college in the English speaking world, where
he was awarded a fellowship in the Royal Agricultural Society.
Perhaps his interest in agriculture, rather than in the family piano
business, stemmed from the activities of his youngest Uncle, Horace
George Brinsmead, who spent much of his life in Australia,
particularly in the Cairns area of Queensland, developing sugar and
fruit plantations. Other members of the family, including
cousin Horace Clowes pursued similar activities, some in Australia
and others in Papua New Guinea.
Visit to California
In 1897, in the company of a Mr.. Matthew Gage, Reginald visited
California. In particular he visited Riverside, then just a small
community just west of Los Angeles and somewhat south of San
Matthew Gage had arrived in Riverside in 1881. He
purchased 29 acres of orange and other fruit trees and secured money
and land necessary to construct the Gage Canal. The canal was
important to Riverside's history because it simplified irrigation of
large amounts of groves, supporting our citrus industry. Gage had
visited England to secure capital and settlers for his development
activities in the area, which became known for its concentration of
English "second sons" and "remittance men" seeking their fortunes in
to the Gage Canal, Matthew Gage planned and built the Victoria
Bridge and presented it to the city. Some of the streets in the city
-- Marguerita, Maude, Anna, Horace, Frances, Jane, Mary -- are named
after members of his family. Matthew Gage died in 1916 and is buried
in Olivewood Cemetery in Riverside.
Reginald returned to England to complete his studies after his first
visit but returned to settle soon after. He is first listed in the
Riverside Directory, as a Ranchman living on Victoria Avenue in
Surrey Hills, in 1898. In 1902 he is listed as a
horticulturist and in 1904 as an orchardist. All amount to the same
thing as he raised horses as well as citrus fruits on his orchard
Reginald became a naturalized US citizen on April 17, 1907.
Mabel Tracey Simonds
On June 5th, 1907 Reginald Brinsmead married Mabel Tracey Simonds.
She was born in Ohio on July 2nd, 1878, the daughter of Edwin D. Simons. For two
years Mabel worked as a social settlement worker in Chicago Commons.
Mabel moved to California with her mother to get away from the
Eastern climate. Her mother purchased an orange grove at Van
Buren and Dufferin in Riverside.
Once married to Reginald, Mabel worked as a librarian in the
Riverside Public Library.
World War I
Reginald had tried to sign up to serve during the war, but was
rejected for active service due to deficiencies in his eyesight.
Instead, he took on the position as superintendent of the government
library service at Camp Pike, Arkansas. At the time of
demobilization, Mabel was the assistant government librarian at the
same camp. Reginald's WWI draft Registration Card (to the left) provides
some information on his physical appearance.
Life in Riverside
Mabel and Reginald Brinsmead had three children: Ruth, born 1907,
Thomas born Jan 15, 1911, and Burleigh born November 9th, 1921.
Ruth and Thomas, at least, went to Riverside Public Schools.
They were involved in Riverside's All Saints Episcopal Church.
Reginald belonged to the Elks, the Victoria Club and the Casa Blanca
Club. He appears also to have been actively involved in efforts to
improve the town and his neighbourhood through the Victoria Avenue
The Brinsmeads appear to have been avid gardeners. They worked
and studied at the government experimental station, particularly in
relation to exotic fruits. There orchard included about 50
English walnut trees. The garden of their house included
wisteria, roses "....and other flowers in profusion."
Brinsmead was attracted to Riverside by the potential of the citrus
industry in the San Bernardino Valley, partly because of its climate
and partly because of the irrigation systems developed by Matthew
Gage. The arrival of the railroads, and the access to markets this
gave lead to a rapid growth in the citrus industry. Reginald purchased an established grove at the corner of Vistoria
Avenue and Horace Street, originally planted by a Captain Pimm.
Pimm had brought a large cedar tree from the Himalayas which he
planted on the property. The house on the land was the first to be
built in the Arlington Heights area. Reginald devoted his professional life to the promotion of the
industry and became a recognized expert.
He wrote many articles on citrus culture and agricultural topics,
published in local newspapers as well as the Los Angeles Times and
the trade paper, the Citrograph.
Reginald Brinsmead, in addition to his home grove of 17 1/2 acres at
times held an interest in the Walton and Dean Grove and another
grove in Arlington. He was involved in the formation of the
Victoria Fruit Exchange, the Fairview Fruit Exchange and the Fruit
Exchange in Santa Anna. He was fro a time Secretary of the Victoria
Avenue Citrus Association and President of the Fairview Citrus
Association. These Associations were formed to break the control of
the wholesalers and eventually developed the "Sunkist" brand.
The 1930 US census lists Reginald Brinsmead living with his wife and three children in the City of Los Angeles. However, the same US census includes an entry in Riverside, California, for another
Reginald Brinsmead, living at the Tetley Hotel right next to the
YMCA. This person is listed as 59 years old (born 1871),
English, and having been in the US since 1881. While there is
no wife present with him, it records him as married, having first
married at age 25. His occupation is as an auto shop
machinist. A similar entry in 1933 lists a Reginald Brinsmead living
at the Tetley hotel and working as a clerk at the SSP Co.. It has a
further entry for a Reginald Brinsmead at 3401 8th. Ave. We know of no person
of that name born in England in 1871, however Reginald was sometimes
rather loose with his date of birth on official forms. Whether this
is the same Reginald Brinsmead, someone
assuming his name, or another person of the same name, remains a mystery.
It may be that, as a result of the crash and depression that
followed, Reginald indeed returned to Riverside and worked for a
The US 1940 census lists just one Reginald Brinsmead, age 63, living on a farm at East Foothill, Monrovia, Los Angeles, California. Living there as well are his wife, Mabel T. Brinsmead age 60 and children Ruth, age 33, Thomas R., age 28, and Burleigh, age 18.
Visits to and from England
Shipping records show that Reginald returned to England to visit
on a couple of occasions and that his mother Elizabeth visited him
in California at least once after her husband's death in 1906.
Despite one account, Elizabeth in fact survived her husband for many
years, and travelled extensively. A court case shows that, in
about 1919, Reginald transferred title to one of his orange groves in
Riverside to his mother.
- Between September 7th and 14th, 1906, Reginald and Mabel
travelled from Liverpool to Quebec City, first class, on the Empress
- On November 16, 1907, Reginald's mother, Elizabeth Brinsmead
of 19 Eton Villas, Tavistock Hill, sailed to New York from
Liverpool, England aboard the S.S. Arabic.
- On November 12th, 1908, Reginald's brother Herbert
John Brinsmead left Southampton on the S.S. Adriatic,
bound for New York, with a declared destination of Riverside.
His address is listed as 19 Eton Villas.
- On July 17th, 1911 Reginald left New York for Plymouth on
the Kaiser Wilhelm II, travelling alone and 2nd class. He
returned on the S.S. St. Paul between August 16th and 23rd, 1911,
sailing from Southampton to New York.
- On September 30th 1922 Reginald arrived in Southampton aboard the
S.S. Berengaria, sailing from New York. He lists his destination in
England as 2 Belsize Mansions, Hampstead.
- Between March 29th and April 4th, 1923, Reginald travelled alone
from Southampton to New York on the S.S. Olympic.
These last two trips appear have involved Reginald's efforts to
promote the California citrus industry by developing export markets
Reginald and Mabel Brinsmead both died in Los Angeles; Reginald
on 22 June 1949 and Mabel on September 22, 1953.
Ruth Brinsmead was the oldest child born in
1907. She worked as a librarian in the County Library for many years. By 1950, she is working as an Assistant Bookkeeper at Blue Book in Los Angeles. She appears to have lived with her parents throughout her life. In 1949 Ruth and her Mother and Father lived at 224 West State, L.A. After her father died in 1949, she and her mother moved to 306 1/2 Via Vista, L.A.
Thomas R. Brinsmead, the middle child, was born
15 Jan 1911 and lived to be 75. On the 1940 US Census he is shown as a cook in a restaurant, still living at home with his parents. He died in Chino Valley,
Yavapai, Arizona in March of 1986. Thomas married Emelda
V. Chase (or Chasse) born Fed 23rd, 1916. Emelda died in Lower Lake,
California on October 25th, 2002. Prior to her death Emelda lived in
Prescott and Chino Valley, Arizona (1993) and Agoura Hills, California
Thomas and Emelda had at least
three children, Diane C. Brinsmead, Gene Norman and Doris.
Gene made the local newspapers in 1947 when, at nine years old, he
went off for a night to be found the next day, tired but well.
Burleigh Brinsmead was born on November 9th,
1921. In 1930 he lived in Los Angeles with his parents,
working as a traffic reporter for the Air Service. He married a
woman named Jean, but her maiden name has not been
discovered. Until 1944 at least, he lived in Los Angeles because he
enlisted in the Army there. He was married at that point and listed
his civilian occupation was as an Aeroplane Mechanic and repairman. Burleigh died in Coors, Oregon, on September 14th, 1950.
Burleigh's will was probated in the U.K. where he had effects of
£1328. The grant of administration was to an agent of Geraldine