Chatsworth has had its share of interesting families over the years. Among them was one of the most influential pioneer families, the Nelson A. Gray family. Gray brought his wife and children to the San Fernando Valley from Pasadena in about 1895. He had been a dairy farmer in Rantoul, Ill., and like many others of his time came to California for his health. He settled in Pasadena in a house at the bottom of Christmas Tree Lane at Los Robles and Woodbury Road.
Later he took a real estate tour to the San Fernando Valley and bought 400 acres in Chatsworth Park. He built a big beautiful two-story house on Lassen Street just west of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and brought his wife Minerva and children. The Gray family eventually had nine children, which included two sets of twins. One of the Gray daughters later said that Gray bought the land for $7 an acre. Gray named the farm Los Robles because of the many oak trees on the property and had the name inscribed on the gate posts near the front of the house. The farm house was considered a showplace by the locals and many meetings and socials were held in the big ballroom.
Gray was a very civic-minded person and helped organize and became the first president of the local chamber of commerce when it began in August 1914. He devoted a lot of time to building the community and gave the land for the first school, the first fire station and the first community church, The church was built by volunteers in 1903 and its address was 10051 Topanga Canyon Boulevard. The church was declared a city monument in 1963 and moved to Oakwood Memorial Park, 22601 Lassen Street, in 1965 by the Chatsworth Historical Society.
Mr. and Mrs. Gray were upstanding leaders in the little community going to church every Sunday, teaching Sunday School and were active in community life.
Mrs. Gray's uncle was Darius Mead who owned the Chatsworth Inn, a busy hotel with a popular bar that was occasionally in the news from the far away Los Angeles Times. It was said by locals that the Grays were often embarrassed by the fact that the Chatsworth Inn sold cigars and whiskey. Local residents were divided by whether or not they indulged in alcohol and smoking.
Gray's farm produced apricots among many other products. Gray processed the apricots by sun-drying them and many locals were hired to cut the fruit in half and spread it out on the roof of a shed to dry. Among the people who worked at drying the apricots were Minnie Hill Palmer who lived nearby and was friends with Sadie one of the daughters and Emma Johnson Graves from the Pioneer Johnson Family.
There was an artesian well on the Gray property. It provided water for the Grays and for irrigating their own crops plus some for selling and giving to the neighbors.
If you would like to learn more about the Gray family and other people from the past you may visit the local museum at The Homestead Acre, 10385 Shadow Oak Drive, within Chatsworth Park South at the west end of Devonshire Street. The museum is open the first Sunday of every month from 1-4 p.m. There is no charge and plenty of free parking.