HISTORY AND LEGACY
The history of the town of Spadra is almost forgotten now. The only remaining evidence is the Phillips Mansion and the Spadra Cemetery, which belies its importance to local history. The town was annexed into Pomona in the 1950s, but in the 19th century Spadra rivaled the newer city of Pomona and was the dominant town in the Pomona Valley.
Spadra was located in what had been Ricardo Vejar’s property in Rancho San Jose de Abajo, the southern portion of the Mexican land grant that Vejar and Ygnacio Palomares had received in 1837. In 1864, Vejar was forced to sell most of his holdings in the Valley, including Rancho San Jose de Abajo. Louis Phillips, a Jewish immigrant from Prussia, was hired to manage the ranch. He succeeded and was able to purchase the ranch outright. He began selling parcels of land to settlers, and a town developed. It would be called Spadra, since many of the settlers came from Spadra Bluff, Arkansas. Spadra was one of the first sites to get a post office in California. Spadra became a stop on the Butterfield Stagecoach route, and for a time was the last stop on Southern Pacific.
In 1868, Melinda Arnett, a Spadra resident, died. All other nearby cemeteries were Catholic; as Americans flooded the area after 1848, the number of non-Catholics in the area rose. Because Catholic cemeteries would not allow non-Catholic burials, Melinda was buried on Phillip’s land in an area he set aside for a cemetery. Many prominent citizens from the area were buried there, including Phillips and his wife, Esther. The Phillipses wanted to ensure that the cemetery was cared for, so in 1897 he and Esther deeded the property to the Spadra Cemetery Association for just $1.
Eventually, Spadra’s fortune ran out. The Southern Pacific went on to Colton, and Spadra’s businesses languished. Most residents left, but many of its earliest residents are still here, in the Spadra Cemetery.