Moses Hazeltine Sherman and Eli P. Clark

Sherman and Clark

By Grafton Tanguary, Contributor                                                                                                       The Jonathan Club Magazine

Born in 1853, Moses Hazeltine Sherman headed west at the age of 20, first to Los Angeles and then to Prescott, Arizona.  He returned east and, on his subsequent trip west with his sister, their steamship was wrecked. They were adrift for three days, before they were rescued by a passing ship on its way to the Isthmus of Panama.

Upon his return to Arizona, Sherman was appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction by John C. Fremont, Governor of the Territory, and organized the state’s school system.  He was also appointed Adjutant-General of the state National Guard and kept the honorific title of “General”.

(While there, Sitting  Bull returned from Canada, Billy the Kid was killed in New Mexico, The Earps and Clantons fought the shoot-out at the O.K. corral in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford ,and the last great buffalo kill was conducted on the northern plain.)

In 1884, at the age of thirty, he founded the Valley Bank of Phoenix, now the largest in the state. He acquired several small trolley systems, electrified them in 1893, and formed the Valley Street Railway. In 1910, he built the Phoenix Railway to connect to the Santa Fe Railway system. During his time in Arizona, Eli P. Clark married his sister and became Sherman’s partner in his future endeavors.

In 1889, General Sherman moved to Los Angeles, and Clark joined him in 1891. The first trolley line in Los Angeles had been built in 1874, operating from Temple and Spring Streets to Sixth and Figueroa.  By the time of Sherman’s arrival, there were a number of small trolley lines in the area, using horses or cable for power, all with different owners. The population of Los Angeles was approximately 7,000, including 1,000 Europeans.

With the help of San Francisco money, Sherman and Clark bought up and consolidated the existing lines and electrified them. His friend, John A. Muir, helped him secure the franchise.  By 1895, all of the smaller lines had been combined into the Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railway Company. Fred Eaton, future mayor, was the chief engineer, and A. W. Barrett was Superintendent of the company. The line carried 12,000,000 passengers that year. At the time, there were only three successful electric trolley systems in the United States

Sherman and Clark then acquired the horse drawn lines in Pasadena, electrified them and connected Pasadena and Altadena to Los Angeles via the Los Angeles and Pasadena Electric Railway Company.

In 1895, they took over a failed steam driven line partially completed from Los Angeles toward Soldiers’ Field and Santa Monica.  Their line, the Los Angeles Pacific Railway, ultimately built 200 miles of track from Los Angeles to Whitley Heights (Hollywood) built by H. J. Whitley, through Sherman (West Hollywood), Soldiers’ Field, Santa Monica, Ocean Park and Redondo. It was often called the “Balloon Line”, because the track made a circle from Los Angeles to Santa Monica, then south and circled back to Los Angeles. The drive to build the route was called “Sherman’s March to the Sea”. Riding the circle was a popular excursion for Angelenos.

The town of Sherman, now West Hollywood, grew up around the station, rail yard and shops which Sherman located half way between Los Angeles and the beach. His site is now the location of the Sheriff’s Station and MTA car barn.

The trolley lines were only marginally profitable. Henry Huntington acquired the Los Angeles Consolidated Electric Railway, and in 1906 The Los Angeles Pacific was sold to the Southern Pacific which combined it with the Pacific Electric, recently formed by Huntington and his associates. Sherman served on its Board. Paul Shoup was President.

Sherman and Clark were also members of a syndicate in 1902 which purchased approximately 1,000 acres of land at Playa del Rey on Ballona Lagoon along the route of their trolley line and announced that they were going to create a “Venice of America”, with plans to build a “millionaires colony of villas”. The developers included Frederick H. Rindge, Edwin T. Earl, John D. Bicknell, George Cochran and Colonel H. Howland, in addition to Sherman and Clark. Abbott Kinney later appropriated the name Venice for his development and implied for many years that it was his idea.  Sherman and Howland are the names given to two of the remaining canals in Venice.  

Sherman was a member of the five-man Board of Control of the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company which purchased and developed 47,500 acres of the southern portion of San Fernando Valley.  The other members of the Board included General Harrison Otis, Harry Chandler and H. J. Whitley.  Eli Clark and Henry Huntington were also investors. Sherman and Clark extended their trolley lines through Cahuenga Pass into the valley to serve the new valley developments. Sherman Way bears his name.

In addition, Sherman and Clark were part of the syndicate which formed the San Fernando Mission Land Company to purchase 16,500 acres of the Porter Ranch in the northern section of the valley.  Other investors included L. C. Brand, Henry Huntington, Herman W. Hellman, General Harrison Otis, Edwin T. Earl, Wm. G. Kerchoff and Joseph Sartori.

General Sherman was President of the syndicate which purchased the 270,000 acre Tejon Ranch with Otis and Chandler. Clark built the Clark Hotel in downtown Los Angeles  and served as President of the Clark and Sherman Land Company. He was a Trustee of the University of Southern California and Pomona College in Claremont.  In 1906, he organized and was made President of the Mount Hood Railway and Power Company in Oregon.

Sherman, E. P. Clark, Harry Chandler and H. W. Whittier were the principal owners of the Los Angeles-Hawaiian Steamship Company, operating twelve passenger and freight vessels.

In 1907, General Sherman was President of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District and a member of the Board of Water Commissioners which undertook the construction of the Owens Valley Aqueduct system.  He owned considerable property in Culver City and Del Rey and was a Director of the Farmers and Merchants Bank and the Yosemite Park and Curry Company.  Sherman was a major shareholder of the Colorado River Land Company, which owned 840,000 acres of land in Mexico, south of the Imperial Valley, primarily planted in cotton. General Harrison Otis and Harry Chandler were among the other owners. In 1937, the land was expropriated by the Mexican government to form ejidos.

At 6 feet, nine inches and a lantern jaw, he was a formidable presence.  It was said that “He could charm a bird right out of a tree.”