Soon after California became a state in 1850, the pioneer era began. The San Fernando Valley land was surveyed by the U.S. government and new boundaries were set for properties. In 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, making it possible for people to petition for land, settle on it, improve it and eventually own it.
Many people took advantage of the Homestead Act to start a home or a farm for their family. It was one of the ways the west was settled and many Chatsworth pioneers took advantage of the law to make their homes here.
The First English-speaking family known to live in the area was the Niels and Ann Johnson family who came to the area in 1870. When they arrived, there was already a Spanish-speaking couple living there, Mr. and Mrs. Ramon Jeremiah. Not much is known about them, except that Mrs. Jeremiah was known for her nursing skills. The two families became very good friends.
The Johnson family lived in Brown’s Canyon when they first settled in the area, and then moved several times. Finally, in 1874, they settled on 160 acres in the Santa Susana Pass where the Indian Springs development is today. They had 10 children and a few of their family members still live in Chatsworth.
Mrs. Johnson helped start the first church in the area, and the first school. She drove her horse and buggy around to the ranches, picking up young truants and taking them to school to keep up the attendance.
The J.R. Williams family came from Kansas to Los Angeles. They lived close to what is now the Westlake Park area, before moving to the Santa Susana Pass, where they settled and raised their family. Later they sold their land and moved into Chatsworth.
The Karl Iverson family also resided in the Santa Susana Pass area. Their land went on to become what is now the famous Iverson movie ranch, the set for many old western movies.
The James David and Rhoda Jane Hill family came to the area in 1886. Lovell Hill, together with Jess Graves, owned the Graves and Hill Store near Lassen Street and Topanga Canyon Blvd. is now on the National Register of Historic Places and is also Los Angeles City Monument number 133. It is owned by the L.A. City Department of Recreation and Parks and is open for tours the first Sunday of every month.
There were many other pioneers who lived in the area in the late 1880s and the early 1900s. Lawrence Virgil Glasscock came to Chatsworth from Downey in 1884. He lived with his family near where Chatsworth Reservoir is today.
James and Alice Thrasher came to the area in 1889, and lived where Chatsworth Lake is today. Mr. Thrasher was a hay and grain farmer. They had eight children, one of which was Dessie A. Petty who became a well-known citizen of the Valley.
The Francisco Miranda family homesteaded where Oakwood Memorial Park is now located. Their adobe house can still be seen near the cemetery office. Other families were the Newbills, Lovelock, Tetzlaf and Daniels family.
Many of these families lived in the Chatsworth area a long time and were well-known. Some of them have relatives who still come back to the Homestead Acre to visit the museum and tell the docents about their family and their fond memories of Chatsworth.
If you would like to learn more about other people and events 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.