World Famous Goats of the Crescenta Valley
In the 1920s, the Crescenta Valley was home to several goat farms for the production of goat milk. Goat milk was then, like now, considered to be a health food. Milk goats were a hot item, particularly in the health-conscious Crescenta Valley where many invalids had moved for the natural restorative powers of our valley. The Silver Spur Goat Farm and Fair Hope Ranch were the names of a couple local goat ranches. But the best known goat farm was the Rosemont Ranch, under the ownership of a master goat breeder, James Basil McLaughlin.
The story of Rosemont Ranch starts in the late 1800s, when the valley was a favored health retreat and retirement spot for many clergymen and scholars. A retired minister, a Reverend Gordon, decided to make his home in the healthful air of the Crescenta Valley. He chose a 10-acre site above Foothill Boulevard around today’s Orange Avenue, between Briggs and Rosemont avenues, and named his new place Rosemont. Whether the street is named after his home, or visa-versa is unknown. Gordon had been a missionary in the Middle East, and wanted to create a bit of the Holy-land at Rosemont. He had some money from Texas oil wells and used it to plant trees named in the Bible – orange, pomegranate, olive, cedar and palm, along with a vineyard.
In 1910, lawyer J.B. McLaughlin gained the property in settlement for attorney fees. His wife Dorothy was well educated and accomplished, a graduate of Vasser and the first librarian of UCLA. The two built a palatial home in the center of the property. It was three stories, the lower part of stone and the rest of wood in a Normandy chateau style, with a peaked tiled roof. It featured wide porches on two floors and spacious rooms. Like many Normandy-style homes, the dominant architectural feature was a tall wide tower on one side of the house with a circular stairway winding up the center of the tower. The structure stands out prominently in old photos of the valley.
J.B. McLaughlin threw himself into the life of a gentleman farmer, collecting the bountiful harvest of the many fruit trees already on the property, plus raising pure bred Collie dogs. But his passion was breeding goats, and by the late teens/early ’20s, his Rosemont Ranch dominated the goat world, his particular specialty being Toggenburg Milch goats. The ranch offered pure bred goats for sale, and stud services. The stud services seemed to be Rosemont’s main deal, with service prices ranging from $10 up to $25. The stud goats’ names were impressive – Michael Angelo, King of the Alps, and Emperor Sigmund. Rosemont’s female goats regularly set records for milk production. As a matter of fact, Rosemont Ranch was home to Polly-Mac, the world-record milk producer of that era (15.4 pounds of milk in one day) and named “The World’s Best Milk Goat” by the American Goat Society. According to an article in “Goat World” from 1921, Rosemont Ranch received hundreds of visitors each year to view his prize winning goats. But McLaughlin’s crowning achievement was the sale of one of his goats in 1922 to a millionaire in Chicago. The goat fetched $1,600, which was the highest price ever paid for a single goat. The sale made national news. It’s safe to say that back then goats were a bigger deal than they are today.
Tragedy was visited on the happy life of the McLaughlins when their son, a criminal attorney, was shot dead by a suspect in an L.A. courtroom in 1937. In 1940, the property was bought by Charles and Lillian Brown who lived there for 30 years until a fire destroyed part of the house. Soon after, the 1971 earthquake made the remainder of the home uninhabitable. The house was demolished and the remaining property subdivided.
The legacy left behind are scores of posed photos of McLaughlin’s prize winning goats that are part of the historical photos collection of the Glendale Central Library, and Laughlin Street named after J.B. McLaughlin, the master goat man of the Crescenta Valley.