Early Residents of Monrovia

Joseph Francis Sartori

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Birthdate: 25 Dec 1858

Birthplace: Cedar Falls, Iowa

Occupation: Banker

Properties Owned: 123 E. Lime Avenue

Though he didn’t live long in Monrovia, Joseph F. Sartori was an early resident and served as the Monrovia’s first city treasurer.  A lawyer by trade, his real talent lay in banking, and he was extremely influential in setting up the town’s finances so that later it was able to weather the rough times of 1888-1895.  In 1889, he founded the First National Bank of Monrovia, serving as cashier, and later as vice-president when the bank merged with Security Trust & Savings Bank (Wiley 206).  

Sartori first arrived in Los Angeles 1886 with his bride, on a wedding trip to check out the opportunities in the area.  According to Charles F. Davis (Monrovia-Duarte Community Book167), Sartori was not impressed.  But in 1887, two of his Los Angeles friends, John F. Brossart and John Wilde convinced him there was money to be made in land speculation, especially in Monrovia, so he returned for a second look.

Davis tells a story that Sartori went by horse and buggy, crossed the swollen San Gabriel River, and took out an option to buy the Dougherty ranch in Azusa for $150.  The next he went into Los Angeles and was approached by a man who asked him if he was the one interested in the ranch. When Sartori replied that he was, the man offered him $8,500 for his option.  Sartori sold the option and decided that perhaps there was money to be made and he wired for his wife to come (168).

Whether or not the story is true, it is a great illustrative of how fast the land prices were rising at that time.  He bought property for himself and his wife and had a house built on it.  Additionally he purchased other properties in partnership with Brossart and Wilde.  He also picked up properties where the owners, unable to pay the taxes on the land, had simply disappeared.    

Sartori’s efforts at seeing Monrovia through the financial crisis of 1888 brought him to the attention of the banking institutions in Los Angeles, and he was offered financial opportunities and fiscal responsibilities that were not available to him in Monrovia.  So in April of 1889, Joseph Sartori sold his house in Monrovia, resigned as City Treasurer and his position at the First National Bank of Monrovia, and he and his wife moved to Los Angeles.

From that point, Sartori had a long, successful career in banking.  In 1889, he organized the Security Savings Bank which became the Security Trust & Savings Bank.  He became chairman of the board of the Security First National Bank in 1934 and held that position until he died.

Joseph Francis Sartori was born of German immigrant parents on December 25, 1858, in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  His father, also named Joseph Sartori, arrived to the United States and married Theressa Wangler in 1856.  Though Joseph Sartori was a plasterer and brick layer, he was determined that his son get a good education.  His son went to Cornell College, spent one year studying in Germany, then came back and graduated from Cornell in 1877.

In 1881, Joseph F. Sartori received a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Michigan.  From 1882-1887, he practiced law in La Mars, Iowa, with a partner, I.S. Struble who was also a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  In June of 1886, he married Margaret Lambert Rishel who was born in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania on February 1, 1864.  A year later, they started their lives in Southern California.  They were joined here by Margaret’s father and mother, Peter S. and Jannette.  Peter S. Rishel was an attorney, and I can find no evidence that they ever lived in Monrovia, but there are records of them living in Los Angeles from 1896.

Sartori was involved in over 24 organizations as an officer or board member, and his wife was a regent of UCLA and active in the Federation of Women’s Clubs.  Margaret Rishel Sartori died in Los Angeles in 1937.  Joseph F. Sartori remained active in banking until his death on October 6, 1946.  They had no children.


Sources:  Davis, Charles F. ed.  Monrovia Duarte Community Book. Monrovia, California: Arthur H. Cawston, 1957.  166-169.  Print.

               Wiley, John.  History of Monrovia.  Pasadena, California: Press of Pasadena Star-News, 1927.   Print.  205-208.