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Sunday, November 08, 1998

Chandler clan lumberyards spark growth

Kristin Delaplane

Frederick Brewster Chandler, born in 1832 in New York state, came out to California via Panama in 1852.
From the port of San Francisco, Chandler journeyed to Shasta County where he engaged in mining and then became employed in a soda manufacturing plant.

He then was engaged in a variety of enterprises; a mercantile business, stage line and a livery stable. In 1859, he returned to New York to marry Rosalia Ellithorp.

On returning to California in 1861, the couple settled in Shasta and purchased a livery stable. In 1870, they moved to Elmira in Solano County where Frederick became a partner with W.C. Farmer in a small lumberyard. A year later, Chandler bought out Farmer.

Chandler expanded the business to include lumberyards in Winters, Madison and Esparto. He eventually added a lumberyard in Vacaville and then merged that with a second lumber yard also located in Vacaville. In time, he disposed of all the yards except the ones in Vacaville and Winters.

The main office in Vacaville occupied 2 acres opposite the train depot. The buildings included an office and lumber shed 50 by 100, a lime building 20 by 40, a granary 24 by 50, a hay and stock barn 60 by 80 and a small dwelling used by the yardmen. The company carried building materials, grain, seed, barley, wire, American fencing, sewer pipe, etc. Depending on the season, four to 10 men were employed by the company.

With his profits, Chandler purchased several ranches totaling 1,297 to 1,400 acres on which he raised grain and hay. He specialized in breeding draft horses and he raised some cattle.

Rosalia Chandler died in 1869 at the age of 30. The couple had two children; Anna and Harry Danforth. Chandler remarried in 1874 to Susan Brock. The couple had four children. Two survived, Frederick Jr. and Walter.

From 1887 to 1904, Chandler’s son, Harry, was the manager of the F.B. Chandler Lumber Co.

The younger Chandler married Jessie McCrory and the couple had six children; Rosalia, Russell, Helen, Harry, Jr., Lloyd, Paul and Horatio (Horatio Chandler born in 1906 died in Vacaville last week). Under Harry Chandler’s management the lumber and supply yards were located in Vacaville, Winters and Esparto. In 1920 he sold the lumber business to Diamond Match Co.

Harry Chandler’s son, Russell, spent his entire life at the family’s residence at 118 Buck Ave., which Frederick Chandler built. When it was completed in 1891, it was one of the first homes built in F.H. Buck, Sr.‘s orchard. (The barn behind the house is where the Saturday Club on Kendal is located today.)

In 1924, a fire burned the top section and the house was remodeled and made shorter than the original. For many years Russell worked on the family ranch and also at the family lumberyards.

In 1941, he hired on at the Basic Vegetable Products Co. plant, retiring in 1964. Russell married Marian White of Suisun Valley. Marian’s family was also of California pioneer stock.

Harry Danforth Chandler’s son, Harry, Jr., born in 1898, was a farmer until 1942.

In 1921, Harry and his son, Lloyd, went into the furniture business. They opened a store in Vacaville, bought a second-hand store in Sacramento and another store in Fairfield. Lloyd Chandler moved to Suisun City to work in the Fairfield store. It was then that he met his wife, Mildred Polland, daughter of a Suisun Valley fruit rancher. In 1924, they moved to San Francisco, but returned to Vacaville in 1928.

In 1938, Lloyd Chandler opened a furniture store in Vacaville. He had little money for the venture when he traveled to San Francisco to get some stock. When the question came up about money, he replied, “Hell, I borrowed my brother’s car to come down here.”

The business, Chandler Furniture Co., succeeded for 48 years under Lloyd’s guidance. Lloyd and Mildred Chandler’s son, Mac, worked in the business for 40 years and daughter Nancy worked there for 10 years.

Another son, Kim, branched out to operate Chandler’s Home Appliance Center. In 1994, Kim sold that business to retire.

Lloyd Chandler reminisces about Vacaville life in early years
The following are excerpts of an oral history with Lloyd McCrory Chandler, of Chandler Furniture Co.
‘I was born in 1901 in the family home. The house was located at the corner of Buck and Chandler streets. All of us were born there except one. The house was still being built when the oldest one was born. I had five brothers and two sisters.

“We had loads of fruit growing up. My dad had 4 acres he leased out to the Buck Company, so we got all the fruit we wanted for nothing. We worked in the orchard only in the prune season. A whole gang of us picked prunes. Now they shake them and go around on the ground and pick them up. Then you had to pick them one at time. Too much work. Mostly prunes were shipped out. We didn’t use them here too much. None of us liked prunes.”

* * *
“I was about 15 when my dad got a car. He had two Maxwells. One of them just a little two-door Maxwell. The other a big double-door Maxwell. He had those for the lumber company for when we had to go to Winters and Dixon. I learned how to drive in the lumberyard. I’d drive into a pile of lumber and have to get out and stack it up again.

“There were a lot of Chinese in town. The Chinese were very well liked and the Chinese children were treated pretty good in school. We had one boy who did all of our artwork. We had a regular book, and he did all the work with no thanks at all.

“A lot of the Chinese used to make that trip to San Francisco’s Chinatown once a week or so. They’d take the train to buy groceries and dried stuff, stuff we wouldn’t eat. Their life was a lot different than ours, but they were good people. We’d go to Vacaville’s Chinatown all the time. We used to go and beg them for Chinese stuff and they used to give it to us. They were very good that way. They had different kinds of stores, but not colorful like San Francisco. They liked to play fantan.

“After the Chinese came the Japanese. Mostly they worked in the fruit orchards. They were good workers. Too bad they had to go, (during the World War II) because there were some real nice Japanese people. Here they had to lock them up and throw away key. I don’t think they were treated fair. I didn’t like it.”

* * *
“I went to school a block away from our house. I remember our yard seemed to be the playground for all the kids. All the mothers had these cowbells. Whenever they wanted their kids to come home, they rang the bells. Each bell had a different ring.

“In 1921, I went one year to college, University of California, Berkeley. We took the train to and from Fairfield. Berkeley was terrific and I belonged to a fraternity house.” (After one year at Berkeley, Lloyd went to Florence, Ariz., and worked as a cowboy.)

“When I got out of school, I went to work in the family’s furniture business. We carried steel beds, iceboxes and those phonographs, the wind-up kind. We started a store in Suisun, and I was sent down to work. That’s where I met wife. She was born and raised in Suisun. (Mildred P. Chandler was born in 1900.) We were married at her father’s place.

“My wife and I lived in San Francisco for four years after we were married, and then came back to Vacaville. Everybody I knew was here and this is good climate here. We always liked it here. I like small towns. To hell with big towns.

“We had three children. The oldest Lloyd “Mac” was born 1924. Then came Nancy in 1925 and then Kim in 1936.

“When I arrived back in Vacaville, I worked for Ed Uhl, who was in fruit business. It was 1928 and I worked at Uhl’s dehydrator. I made $1.85 a day working nine hours a day. My job was washing dehydrator trays. When I was a teenager, I worked for Ed Crystal in his general store. Years later it was sold to F.W. Schaeffer. After I worked for Uhl, I went to work at Ralph Schaeffer’s store until it burned down in 1937.

“In 1938 my wife and I opened our own furniture store. It sounded easy (laughter). At that time, one little store was available at 520 Main St. A grocer owned the building before me. I carried linoleum samples and then went out and laid them. It was hard work.

“We moved our store two doors down shortly after we opened. Then came the big move to other end of Main Street to the Crystal Building. Eventually we moved across the street.

“When we first opened it was the Depression and money didn’t go far. However, I didn’t worry about the business and I was in business 20 odd years.”

(The Chandlers sold the furniture business in 1986. Lloyd Chandler, Sr. died March 1989. He was 87 years old.)