The Pacific Squab and Poultry Farm

Claudine Burnett, History Writer

In 1889, during the Great Depression of British Agriculture, the Harnett farm in Kent, England, was suffering financially. With Britain’s refusal to tax grain imports their farm could no longer support a family of eleven children. Ernest and Julia Harnett had a hard decision to make – either leave their beloved England or give up six of their youngest children. It was something they would not do.

A letter from a friend who had moved to Southern California wrote of an alcohol free, religious community, with good farm land. They made up their minds. They would move to the American Colony – created a few years earlier by a fellow Englishman, William Willmore. There they would create a new life on the Pacific Squab and Poultry Farm at Atlantic Avenue and 25th Street.

Ivy Harnett (1891-1983) left behind boxes of memories of a Long Beach that once was. Her niece, Polly Harnett Johnson, vowed to finish what her aunt had started. Sadly, Polly passed away in 2020, before her work on the family was completed.

In 2016 we had discussed my helping her compile a book from the material she had gathered, but Polly’s ill health prevented us from doing anything except talk about the project. I felt Polly would want me to finish what she and her Aunt Ivy had started so long ago. I had read some of the stories Ivy (1891-1983) wrote and knew it had a much larger audience than just the family. It was a chronicle of the city, as well as the Harnett family.

Thanks to Polly’s daughter, who cleaned out a house full of memories, I had access to what Polly and Ivy accomplished, and I have worked on finishing the narrative. I updated the language, corrected dates, added more historic detail, and incorporated the collection of letters and writings of other Harnett descendants into this story. 

The book follows their journey across the Atlantic and explores their new home – an area called Burnett, close to Signal Hill, which would eventually become part of Long Beach, California. Get to know each of the members of the Harnett family through the eyes of Ivy, the first of three children to be born in America.

Meet Jane (Bessie), a teacher, who left an indelible mark on California history; Norah and Josie who found love and marriage in faraway Alaska; Anne, the artist; Kathleen, the top student graduate at UC Berkley; Ethel; Helen; Jack, the engineer; Tom and his milling company; Edward and Frank, Long Beach civil servants who contributed much to the growth of the city.

Learn of the tragic deaths of Geoffrey, Caroline and the patriarch of the family, Ernest Harnett, struck by a hit and run driver a few weeks after his daughter Jane’s death.

This true story takes readers to a past that once was and a family who refused to leave any child behind.

Price is $16.99 in paperback and $7.99 for e-book, available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the publisher, Author House.

 

Claudine Burnett (no connection to the Burnett area of Long Beach) is a retired Long Beach Public Library librarian who compiled the library’s Long Beach History Index. In her research, she found many forgotten, interesting stories about Long Beach and Southern California, which she has published in 12 books as well as in monthly blogs. You can access information about her books and read her blogs at www.claudineburnettbooks.com.

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