Capt. Alfred Marcy Aplin.—There could be no historical subject of greater interest than that involved in the
reclamation, development and improvement of the former desert regions of Southern California into what is
now a well connected landscape of citrus groves. Hardly anyone had a more important and practical part in
that development, particularly in the districts around Highland, than the late Capt. Alfred Marcy Aplin.
Captain Aplin, who received his title as a Union officer of the Civil war, was born in Ashtabula County, Ohio,
October 14, 1837. While completing a college course he answered Lincoln's first call for volunteers,
served a three months' enlistment and then re-enlisted and was with the fighting forces of the North until
the final surrender. He was once captured, and for seven days endured confinement in the Belle Isle
Prison near Richmond, Virginia. He was in some of the most noted battles of the war, and at Missionary
Ridge his captain, Cahil, was killed as he stood looking over Mr. Aplin's shoulder reading a newspaper.
This newspaper had been slipped to them by a negro as they lay secreted in the brush, and Confederate
sharpshooters had located them by means of the paper. Captain Aplin was an aide to General Thomas in
the battles of Chickamauga and Stone River, and at the close of the war he participated in the Grand
Review at Washington. He went in as a private, was twice promoted for bravery, and retired with the rank
of captain. For many years he was a member of the G. A. R. Post at San Bernardino.
In Ohio in 1865 Captain Aplin married Miss Mary Elizabeth Winn, of Athens, that state. She was born in
Albany, Ohio, November 14, 1842. When he left Ohio, Captain Aplin lived for two years at Mount Pleasant,
Iowa, and from there moved to Chetopah, Kansas. With that town as his headquarters he carried on an
extensive business as a cattleman, running his herds over a large territory in Kansas and Indian Territory.
Captain Aplin came to California in 1875. He had a temporary residence on Base Line, and for the first
three months worked in the mountains at the Little Bear Sawmill owned by Talmadge. In the meantime he
was looking about for a permanent location, and in 1875 homesteaded a quarter section in East Highland,
what is now known as the Smith Ranch. Almost immediately he became instrumental in developing an
irrigation water system, and also planted much of his land to deciduous fruit. One association of those
early times was with F. E. Brown, the well known pioneer and founder of Redlands. They established a
plant at the north end of Orange Street, and for two seasons bought and evaporated fruit. Captain Aplin
designed and constructed the first commercial evaporator at Redlands, a plant which people came miles to
see. He operated this plant on Lugonia Avenue near the Beal place in 1878-79. He also invented, though
he never patented, a knife for the cutting of clingstone peaches. The design was subsequently adopted
and largely manufactured in the East. While associated with Mr. Brown he was also instrumental in bringing
water to the higher mesas in Redlands. He was a pioneer in the building of the Congregational Church at
Highland, and was active in its choir.
About 1880 he bought eighty acres of railroad land, a portion of which is still owned by Mrs. Mary E. Aplin
of East Highland. This he improved, setting out one of the first Naval orange groves in the district. He had
observed the influence of frost on the sunflowers on lower and higher land, and was one of the first to
advocate the higher mesa as the best location for citrus fruit, a policy and plan since generally followed
and approved. He recommended and promoted the first two higher line water ditches from Santa Ana,
partly as a means of saving wasteage due to the loss through the sand and also to serve the higher
foothill lands. He was partially responsible for the present high line known as the North Fork Ditch or
Canal. His first attempt to construct this was met by ridicule, and a number of his neighbors declared the
ditch ran uphill and refused to work, taking their teams and going home. It was only after a convincing talk
with the aid of a surveyor that they returned and helped him complete the work. Captain Aplin with John
Weeks and John Cram made the first filing on the waters of Plunge Creek, and Captain Aplin built the
Plunge Creek Ditch without the air of a surveyor, using a home made level. This was about 1883-84. He
also contracted and laid the first paving in the North Fork Ditch, employing two hundred Chinese at a dollar
and a quarter a day of ten hours.
Captain Aplin's signature was attached to the contract with the North Fork and Bear Valley Water
companies, wherein the Bear Valley Water Company was permitted to divert to the compounding dam
certain tributaries of North Fork, agreeing to maintain the North Fork ditches and deliver 600 inches of
water to it in the months of June, July and August, thus settling a difficult problem of water rights in the
district. Captain Aplin was also consulted by the founders of the Bear Valley Dam as to the feasibility of
such a construction, and he guided the parties to the site on which the present dam is located.
He was one of the first men from the Highland district to make practical use of investments in the great
Imperial Valley. The eighty acres he owned there he improved by planting grapes, deciduous fruits, and
experimenting in other lines. In 1908 Captain Aplin moved from East Highland to a modern home he built in
East Hollywood. He remained there four years, and then removed to San Francisco, where the death of
this honored pioneer occurred February 28, 1918. Captain Aplin had many solid works to his credit in
business affairs, and he was always known as a man of the highest character. He had come to California a
thousand dollars in debt, and he paid that off in eight years. Eventually he achieved a fortune, and was
thoroughly admired for the qualities of his citizenship.
Captain and Mrs. Aplin had six children, the first three having been born in Iowa. The oldest, Benjamin,
died at the age of twenty-eight. The second, Myrtle Alfreda Aplin, M.D., graduated from the Cooper
Medical College of San Francisco, and was one of the first two women out of thirty of her sex who
competed in examination, to be selected and appointed by the Governor for executive responsibilities in
the State Hospitals. For seven years she was physician in charge of the women's department at the Napa
Hospital for the Insane, resigning to devote herself to her invalid mother.
The third child Dr. Guy E. Aplin, who graduated in medicine in Chicago, practiced for a number of years in
St. Louis, and after returning to California practiced at Santa Paula, and later at Calpella had a successful
experience as a pear orchardist. Later he was manager for the Phoebe Hearst home ranch, and is now a
prominent orange grower on the place his father planted at Highland. He married Pearl Burr, who was
reared and educated in the East.
The fourth child of the family was Donald Graham Aplin, who was born at Chetopah, Kansas, graduated
from Pomona College and California University, receiving the degree Bachelor of Science in mine
engineering and chemistry in 1899. He taught in the chemistry department at Berkeley for a year, then
spent a year with the Borax Company, and was with the Dean and Jones Mining Company and the Virginia
Dale Mines and for a number of years performed the arduous duties incident to work on the desert and in
the mountains. He was a pioneer in the Imperial Valley, improving farm land there, and was horticultural
commissioner and president of the Imperial Water Company. He finally resigned to return to Highland and
take charge of his father's place. After eight years he bought ten acres at the corner of Boulder and
Pacific avenues, where he owns one of the best groves in Highland, and he also acquired twenty-five
acres nearby, which he set out to citrus fruits. In 1908 he married Miss Laura Corwin, member of a pioneer
family of Southern California. She was educated in the Redlands High School and in Longmire's Business
College at San Bernardino. Their three children are: John Alfred, born in 1909; Florence, born in 1913,
and Esther, born in 1918.
The fifth child of Captain Aplin was Alfred Porter, who was born at East Highland and was drowned in the
North Fork Canal at the age of two years. The youngest of the family, Ethel Grace, also a native of
Highland, is a graduate of the preparatory school of Pomona College and received her M. D. degree from
Ward's Medical College at San Francisco. She was married to Frank Lynn, an electrician, who was
accidentally electrocuted in San Francisco. Mrs. Lynn is a leader in the socialist party in California and was
a candidate on that ticket for secretary of state, receiving 40,000 votes. She possesses great talent in
literary lines as well as in sociological problems, and was author of a book entitled "Adventures of a