Ozro W. Childs
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Ozro W. Childs was born in Sutton, Vermont, in 1824, and received his early education there. His father was a farmer, while one of his grandfathers was a town minister. Like many young people in Vermont, he left for the West, first for Ohio, where he earned his living as a schoolteacher. While there, he learned the tinsmith’s trade.
After the discovery of gold in California, he resolved to try his luck in the gold fields. He traveled down the Mississippi to New Orleans, and boarded a ship for Nicaragua; he crossed the Central American peninsula, where he and his fellow passengers endured great hardship, because the promised ship for California did not arrive.
After some delay, he took another ship, and arrived in San Francisco in August, 1850, where he set off for the mines. However, he did not know that coastal Northern California is very foggy in the winter and summer. The weather aggravated the asthma that would eventually kill him. So, he and a man named Hicks took a ship south, arriving at the San Pedro Bay harbor.
They walked from San Pedro into the small Pueblo de Los Angeles, and decided to set up a tinsmithing and hardware store. An existing merchant sold them his entire stock on credit. After a few years, Childs was able to buy out his partner, and eventually left the trade with $40,000 in his pocket. Not long afterward, he obtained the contract to build an extension of the Zanja Madre, a canal system to bring water to the fields south of the pueblo. He was paid in land in that area – all now within present day Downtown Los Angeles - from Sixth to Ninth, and Main to Figueroa Street.
This property was the foundation of his fortune. He built a substantial house at 10th and Main, then a half-mile from town center, and on his property took up planting. In his day, Ozro Childs was Los Angeles’s most prominent plantsman, with a Plant nursery.
Farmers and Merchants Bank
Ozro Childs also invested, largely in land and commercial enterprises, often with Isaias W. Hellman as a partner. Their most significant and long-term success was the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Los Angeles, which included some of the town’s most prominent citizens as additional investors. Their conservative lending practices allowed the bank to ride out every panic and depression. The Farmers and Merchants Bank was bought by Security Pacific in 1956, and after various mergers it is now within Bank of America.
University of Southern California
Childs was also involved in philanthropic work. When Judge Robert Maclay Widney set out to create a university in Los Angeles in the 1870s, he received assistance from donors including Childs. In 1879, Childs contributed a considerable amount of land to the founding of the University of Southern California, which opened in 1880.
He died at his Los Angeles Main Street home in 1890, leaving six living children (out of ten) and a widow who survived him by over 40 years.
Los Angeles Common Council
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2010-03-12.
- Chronological Record of Los Angeles City Officials,1850-1938, compiled under direction of Municipal Reference Library, City Hall, Los Angeles (March 1938, reprinted 1966). "Prepared ... as a report on Project No. SA 3123-5703-6077-8121-9900 conducted under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration."