top of page


John D.


25 June 1838


Chittendon, Vermont

Date of Death:

7 July 1911

Place of Death:

Los Angeles, California



Properties Owned:


Bicknell’s life is a classic one of the early California settler. He was born in the East, left farming, tried teaching, joined a wagon train, had adventures and ended up in Los Angeles an extremely successful and wealthy man.

Nathaniel and Fanny Thompson Bicknell, farmers, were the parents of John Dustin Bicknell. When Bicknell was 15, the family moved to Jefferson County, Wisconsin, and the family continued to farm. With these experiences in farming, John Bicknell decided it was the last job he would want, and he went to teacher's college to obtain a teaching credential.  He then went to Missouri and taught for two years, long enough for him to realize that he didn’t care for that job either. He joined a wagon train that took six months to get from Missouri to Knight’s Landing in Northern California. He taught school again until gold was discovered in Montana, and off he went.

Golf mining didn’t work out for him either, so he returned to Wisconsin to further his education. He received a law degree and was admitted to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin.

He married a widow with one child, and, in 1872, the family came to Los Angeles. Bicknell started a law firm, and, over the years, he was a member of several law firms, each one more successful than the last. He specialized in land titles and corporate matters. With the land boom on, Bicknell was an extremely busy and wealthy man.

He was an attorney for the Southern Pacific Railroad and helped Howard E. Huntington establish inter-urban railroads. He also acted as vice-president for the First National Bank and was President of the Western Union Oil Company. Then, when William N. Monroe was serving on the Los Angeles City Council, the two met.

Bicknell had already invested in property in the City of Los Angeles, so when Monroe approached him about forming a consortium (the Monrovia Land and Water Company) to buy property in the San Gabriel Valley on land owned by Elias J. Baldwin. Without the money and Judge Bicknell’s high profile in Los Angeles, Monrovia might not have been founded. Though well off financially, none of the other four men, including Monroe, had the standing that would convince people to invest in the new community. Bicknell joined Monroe, Jeremiah Falvey, James Crank, and Edward F. Spence to establish the City of Monrovia in 1886.

Besides buying land together, members of the consortium also purchased land separately with the intent to add their parcels to the original Monrovia Tract.  John D. Bicknell's purchase of a section of Rancho Azusa de Duarte extended the Monrovia Tract to the land between California (then known as Daffodil) and Shamrock Avenue and the north side of Colorado (then Orange Avenue). The description of the property Bicknell purchased is this: Subdivisions of Lots 5, 12C, 13 in Section 25 T I N R 11 W SB M as shown on map of subdivision of the Rancho Azusa de Duarte.

Judge Bicknell continued to involve himself in the development of early Monrovia though he continued to live Los Angeles and attend to his very busy law practice.  Bicknell retired in 1907.

Bicknell, Thomas Williams,. History and genealogy of the Bicknell family : and some collateral lines, of Normandy, Great Britain and America, comprising some ancestors and many descendants of Zachary Bicknell from Barrington, Somersetshire, England, 1635. Providence: Bicknell, 1913.292

bottom of page