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Verdugo Views: Conjecture has long driven the legend of Montrose

May 23, 2013|By Katherine Yamada
  • A huge crowd showed up for the opening day of Montrose in February 1913. Some were drawn by the promise of a free lunch, a barbecue catered by a Spanish chef. Others were lured by the chance to buy lots in the newly-opened foothill community.
A huge crowd showed up for the opening day of Montrose in… (Courtesy of Special…)

Robert Newcombe, author of the recently published "Images of America, Montrose," spent countless hours searching through microfilm trying to verify information that has been handed down to local historians for years.

His goal was twofold: first, did developers Holmes and Walton hold a contest to name their new community? Second, why was the name Montrose selected? Was it named after Montrose, Pa., a small town in the winner's home state, or because it appealed to all the rose fanciers in the area, or because of the popularity of Sir Walter Scott's "The Legend of Montrose?"

Newcombe's research brought a lot of new information to light.

Newcombe began his microfilm search with January 1911. That turned out to be a good choice.

"On Jan. 16, the birth announcement of Montrose ran. Only it wasn't called Montrose and it didn't say anything about a contest,'' Newcombe said.

The article noted that Holmes and Walton had bought a large amount of land in La Crescenta and that they were developing a water system.

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But Newcombe wanted more. He wanted to know why it was called Montrose. He looked at thousands of pages on microfilm.

"I found nothing. I had to go back to the library over several days to do this," he said.

Then one day, the librarian pulled out Grace J. Oberbeck's book on the history of the Crescenta Valley. It was written in 1933, 20 years after the birth of Montrose, when many old-timers were still alive.

Reading her book, Newcombe realized that, as early as 1933, there were many misconceptions as to the origin of the name.

Oberbeck wrote, "The subdividers held a contest and gave a lot as a prize for the best name for the town they were starting. Montrose was selected by them as the most appropriate."

She went on, "Residents from Pennsylvania feel that it must have some connection with Montrose of that state, which is also situated in the mountains and played such a prominent part in Civil War times. Then, there are the rose lovers, who think the 'rose' in the name must apply to the Queen of Flowers who has found her throne in nearly every garden in the Valley … And — Ah yes, there is the "Legend of Montrose" which Sir Walter Scott made famous, perhaps the one who suggested the name had that in mind. We think it would be very interesting to know the story of the prized lot."

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