Isaac Newton Van Nuys was the founder of what is now Van Nuys, California, only one year prior to his death, in 1911, at age 75. Although his main occupation is frequently listed as a banker, he was engaged in numerous other business activities. He was the true frontier entrepreneur in the State of California during the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century.
In 1865, when he was 30 years old Van Nuys moved to California from his native New York. He first lived in Napa, California and later in Monticello, California, where he owned and operated a country store, his first activity as an entrepreneur. In 1871, he moved to southern California, and settled in Los Angeles. While there he was able to invest in a San Fernando Valley ranch of 60,000 acres, and raised livestock, but primarily sheep. He quickly realized that the land was also capable of producing cash crops, and began raising grain in 1874. Within two years, by 1876, he was able to produce enough grain to ship it out, by way of San Pedro, on two cargo vessels. It was the first grain ever shipped from San Pedro.
Van Nuys quickly realized that value could be added to his farm products by processing them before shipping them out. With that in mind, in 1880, he established the Los Angeles Farming and Milling company with Van Nuys as president and manager, and probably also as principal owner. The company was involved in milling flour, cracked wheat, hominy, and other side products of the grain which could be used for all kinds of live stock feed.
Having become one of the major entrepreneurs in the area, and the major promoter of economic growth, Van Nuys also became involved in the banking field. He served as vice-president of the Farmers and Merchants Bank and also became a director of the Union Bank of Savings. His other business involvements were as a director of the Los Angeles Pressed Bricks Company, and owner of the new Van Nuys Hotel, which was erected in 1896.
With the rapid growth of the Los Angeles area, it became clear that the ranch owned by Van Nuys was prime land for home building expansion. Van Nuys began selling lots, homebuilding began, and in 1911, Van Nuys became the founder of what is today the city of Van Nuys, California, named after its founder, Isaac Newton Van Nuys.
As a private individual, Van Nuys was the founder of Hollywood Cemetery. He was also a member of the Masonic Order, a Republican Party supporter, and a member of the Baptist church.
Isaac Newton Van Nuys was born in West Sparta, New York on November 20, 1836. He was the son of Peter Van Nuys and Harriet Kerr. His father was a farmer and owned 500 acres of land. Isaac Newton was not the only child. He had six siblings consisting of three sisters and three younger brothers.
Isaac Newton Van Nuys passed away on February 12. 1912. He was interred in Evergreen Cemetery, Los Angeles. He apparently did not want to be buried in the cemetery he founded, the Hollywood Cemetery.
In addition to the City of Van Nuys, California many other streets, buildings, schools, parks and other venues were named after Van Nuys. On February 23, 1944, a Liberty Ship was named for Van Nuys, and launched at San Pedro, California, the port from where Isaac Newton Van Nuys shipped the first locally produced grain.
The other Van Nuys, probably a distant cousin of Isaac Newton Van Nuys was Frederick Van Nuys, the United States Senator of Indiana. Frederick Van Nuys was elected to represent Indiana in the United States Senate in 1932, and reelected in 1938. At the end of his second Senate term, in 1944, Frederick Van Nuys passed away. Both Frederick and Isaac Newton Van Nuys were descendants of the first Van Nuys, a Dutch immigrant, who settled on Long Island in the seventeenth century.
Isaac Newton Van Nuys, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton_Van_Nuys
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AUTHOR: C. Carl Pegels, Professor Emeritus, University at Buffalo