‘Mother’ Glenn was one of the best known, loved pioneers in San Bernardino area – San Bernardino Sun


Few tales of courage are more compelling than the quiet, desperate battles often fought by pioneer mothers to help their families survive. Mourning Glenn was one of those brave women, rearing a family of seven children and suffering the tragic deaths of three sons.

Born in Kentucky on Dec. 26, 1814, Mourning Burnham was 22 when she met and married her future husband, Silas Glenn, in Missouri. After settling down in Texas for a time, they joined with other families and headed for California.

Silas Glenn was named captain of the wagon train and started their trek to the Golden State from Paris, Texas, on March 26, 1860. They traveled west over the Butterfield Trail, reaching Los Angeles on Nov. 12.

The Glenns stayed for a while in El Monte and the San Gabriel Valley, before settling on 20 acres of land in the Cajon Pass in 1866. Shortly after their arrival, one of their four sons, Jeremiah (Jerry) became acquainted with W.W. Maxey, who owned property over the mountain ridge near the headwaters of Lytle Creek.

Within a year or so, Silas and his boys bought out Maxey and eventually about the entire lush green bench where the north fork makes its first bend. Leaving their Cajon Pass property to son-in-law and daughter, James and Ellen Applewhite, the Glenns made their new home in Lytle Creek Canyon.

Silas and Mourning Glenn. (Courtesy Nick Cataldo)

“Mother” Glenn, as she was affectionately known, was proud of her new home. Surrounded by abundant fruit orchards and enchanting meadow pastures, the Glenn Ranch soon became the garden spot of the canyon. Then tragedy struck.

In August 1878, Mrs. Glenn was summoned by telegram that her husband, who had been spending time in Tehachapi with Jeremiah, was gravely ill. She brought her paralyzed husband back to San Bernardino, where he died in a hospital Sept. 13.

Grief stricken, shortly after returning home more bad news came.

On Nov. 15, Jeremiah was killed in a gunfight with Guadalupe Estrada over business and personal affairs.

No doubt, the boiling point in the matter surfaced when Jerry’s wife ran off with Estrada’s brother. A heated argument led to gunplay. Both men fired and both died.

According to Virginia R. Harshman in her book “The Story of Lytle Creek Canyon,” the (aging) widow wasn’t getting a lot of support in running the ranch and may have even taken in boarders.

Her sons had no desire to help out and left Glenn Ranch for the small town of Bloomington where they herded cattle.

The desperate family matriarch was by now 75 years old and at wit’s end.

In August 1889, she wrote a letter to her son-in-law and daughter, James and Ellen Applewhite for help. The Applewhites, who were now living in the desert mining town of Calico, answered her plea and took over management of the ranch in spring 1890. Much to the delight of the family’s matriarch, Glenn Ranch soon evolved into a popular mountain retreat with picnickers and campers traveling in from as far away as Los Angeles. But peace on the home front would not last long.

The Glenn boys, although no longer living at the ranch, still considered it their property and were now concerned that their sister and husband would inherit the ranch.

Bitter personality problems and believing the Applewhites were nothing more than moochers led to a wild family feud on June 23, 1893.

On that day, the Glenn boys stormed the ranch, bent on killing their brother-in-law and cousin. The blazing climax, however, found the two brothers riddled with buckshot.

The Los Angeles Times reported on June 27: “Death of the Second Victim of the Glenn Ranch Tragedy”

“The second victim of the Glenn ranch tragedy died at an early hour Monday morning, the first having been killed instantly at the time of the tragedy Saturday.”

The story of the tragedy seems to be as follows: The Glenn brothers, John and Silas, have for a long time been quarreling with James Applewhite, who married their sister and Oliver Applewhite, son of James, the trouble being over the possession of the ranch. [And to add fuel to the fire, John Glenn’s wife had recently left him and Oliver Applewhite was accused as being the culprit].



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