By 1887, Catherine Banbury somehow had come into possession of 45 acres of prime La Cañada land. The parcel included most of the land south of Foothill down to Descanso Drive, described as: “All that portion of lot fourteen (14) of the Rancho La Canyada now owned by the said party of the first part, and bounded on the north by the public highway known as Michigan Avenue, on the east by the lands of William Banning, on the south by line of said rancho and on the west by the land of Mary C. Ball, formerly Mary C. Williams, and containing forty-five and two-fifths acres of land...”
On May 6, 1887, Mrs. Banbury tried to sell the land to Delos Arnold, a well-connected civic figure in Pasadena. Unfortunately, Arnold backed out.
At the time, Catherine Banbury was 38 years old. She was pregnant with her seventh (and last) child. He would be named Elgin Jabez Banbury, after his uncle Jabez Banbury, an abolitionist.
When Delos Arnold decided against the purchase, Catherine Banbury sued him for specific performance.
She didn't know it, but her days were numbered. By 1891, when the California Supreme Court ruled in her favor, Mrs. Arnold had only two more years to live.
After Catherine Banbury died in 1893, leaving seven children, her husband, Thomas Banbury, remarried.
Banbury's great-nephew, several times removed, Allin Kingsbury, is an amateur genealogist. Kingsbury says that he hasn't found any direct descendants of Catherine Banbury, but he is still looking.
Kingsbury wrote in the Silicon Valley Past Finder, “I have been updating a database of the Banbury family consisting of all descendants of my ancestor, Thomas Banbury. One of the descendants, Elgin Jabez Banbury, was most interesting because of the particular challenges in finding information about him. The Banbury family has descendants numbering in the thousands in the United States.”
These thousands of Banburys do not trace their lineage to Catherine and Thomas.
The obituary of Thomas Banbury lays it out. He died on March 18, 1902. Our mothership, the Los Angeles Times, reported, “Thomas Banbury, one of Pasadena's pioneers, died yesterday morning at 9:30 O'Clock at his ranch near Etiwanda, where he has been most of the time since two years ago. Mr. Banbury's health had been failing for a long time and on Sunday he was seized with pneumonia. The funeral will be held Thursday morning at 10:30 O'Clock, at his home place, No. 676 Lincoln Avenue, the Masons being in charge.
“Mr. Banbury was born in England in 1849. He removed to Canada and came to Pasadena in 1876, when the city was but two years old. He had been a railroad contractor, and he immediately became identified with the upbuilding of Pasadena. It was he who built the water ditch from Devil's Gate to the city, and several reservoirs. He graded Raymond Hill for the first hotel, nearly twenty years ago. He owned a great deal of property in Pasadena, La Cañada, Lamanda Park, and in San Bernardino county.”
“Mr. Banbury's first wife is dead, but his second wife lives at the Etiwanda ranch. The children are Samuel, who owns a ranch at Etiwanda; Miss Flora, who lives here; Tom, who is now in Seattle; Marthin, George, Raymond and Elgin, living at the ranch. Four brothers, Jabez, Gus, Wesley and Loren, and a sister, Mrs. H. G. Hollingsworth, reside in this neighborhood.”
So far, Allin Kingsbury, the family genealogist, has been unable to locate direct descendants of Catherine and Thomas Banbury.
But their legacy lives on. If your house is near Descanso Drive (or Cornishon), take a look at your grant deed. You may be a successor in interest to a small portion of the property once held by Catherine Banbury, an interesting La Cañada property owner who took her case all the way to the California Supreme Court.
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.