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Reginald Brinsmead of Riverside, California

Avenue Orange Box Label


"...Although born 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


English Roots

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 Bernardino.

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 California.

In addition 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 property.

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.

Reginald's WWI draft registration cardWorld 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 Improvement Society.

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."

Citrus Industry

Reginald 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 citrus 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.

Article on Citrus IndustryReginald 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. Riverside in 1910

Curious  Entries

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 salary.

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. 

Between September 7th and 14th, 1906, Reginald and Mabel travelled from Liverpool to Quebec City, first class, on the Empress of Britain.

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 in England. 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.»

Later Generations

Reginald and Mabel Brinsmead both died in Los Angeles; Reginald on 22 June 1949 and Mabel on September 22, 1953.

Ruth BrinsmeadRuth Brinsmead's High School Year Book from 1927 - Citrus Union High School, Glendora.

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. Ruth is believed to have married a man named Laurence later in life.


Gene Norman Brinsmead goes missingThomas 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 Feb. 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 (1996).

TGene Brinsmead searchhomas and Emelda raised at least four children; Diane C. Brinsmead,  Gene Norman, Susan Kay 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, on April 5th, 1944 at Fort McArthur, San Pedro. 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 £1,328. The grant of administration was to an agent of Geraldine Florence Hart.