A few years ago I debunked the myth (promulgated in several biographies) that Jim Morrison of the Doors lived in Claremont while growing up; he actually lived briefly in Clairemont, the San Diego neighborhood. Claremont is a bit landlocked for a Navy family.
There’s another, lesser-known myth that L. Frank Baum, author of “The Wizard of Oz,” owned an orange grove in Claremont. Reader Dave Null asked me the question after finding a passing reference to Baum’s alleged grove in the book “Orange Empire” by Douglas Cazaux Sackman.
A more definitive word comes from Katharine Rogers’ bio “L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz,” in which she states: “The Baum sons soon followed their parents to Southern California … Robert had graduated in engineering from Cornell, and he married Edna Ducker, whom the Baums had known at Macatawa since she was 14. Shortly afterward, Robert and Edna established an orange ranch in Claremont, about 50 miles from Hollywood.”
I checked with Ginger Elliott of Claremont Heritage, the historical society. She replied: “You are correct. Robert Baum lived here and was a very successful citrus rancher and head of the Claremont School Board — I have seen a few diplomas from CHS (Claremont High School) with his signature. I do not think that his father ever lived here — but my real estate agent 30 years ago told me the story!”
These myths die hard. Especially when claiming the author of “The Wizard of Oz” as a past resident is so much more impressive-sounding than claiming his son!
For the record, L. Frank Baum died in 1919 and is buried in Glendale.