James Ralph Erskine


James Ralph Erskine

Illinois, USA
Death 4 Mar 1946 (aged 74)
Fresno County, California, USA
Burial Fresno, Fresno County, California, USA
Plot block 1
Memorial ID 71374728 View Source
Suggest Edits

From a 1933 biography


A resident of Fresno since 1910, manager of the Valley Ice plants throughout the San Joaquin Valley, a consistent participant in civic affairs, James Ralph Erskine has contributed much to this part of the state.

Mr. Erskine was born in Bloomington, Illinois, March 9, 1871, the son of Andrew and Jeannette (McEwen) Erskine, both natives of Scotland. He had very little opportunity for schooling and his first work was in the coal mines of Missouri, where he worked from the age of. 12 to 18, when he entered Battle Creek college for three years. His father dying, he returned to work in the mines at Rich Hill, Missouri, for a time, in order to support his father's family of seven by a second marriage.

Early becoming interested in mining machinary, he rose to be superintendent of construction, and later worked as engineer for Dr. J. IL Kellogg, and in other health food plants, at Battle Creek and Detroit. Coming to Los Angeles in 1904, he worked for the Southern Pacific for a time, and then for the Globe Grain and Milling company. lie subsequently went to El Paso for this company where he constructed their ice plant mid flouring mills.

In 1910 Mr. Erskine came to Fresno to superintend the construction of the Valley Ice plant, between Fresno and Calwa, for the icing of transcontinental fruit shipments. He also built plants at Modesto, Stockton, Madera, Reedley and Bakersfield for the same company. The Valley lee company is the parent corporation of the People's Ice plant at Fresno, all the building's of which have been erected in this city between 1920 and 1925. Mr. Erskine is now manager of the ice concerns in all these cities.

Notwithstanding his extensive private business, Mr. Erskine has found much time to give to public affairs. He takes pride in his service of five years as treasurer of the Fresno County Chamber of Commerce, during which time critical financial programs were carried to successful conclusion.

Mrs. Erskine was Anzanettie K. Showalter; a native of Indiana. They were married in Butler, Missouri. They have one daughter, Frances N. Erskine.

Mr. Erskine has been a member of the Fresno Lions club for more than 10 years, and was president in 1931-32. He is also a member of the -University- Sequoia club. In Masonry, he was master of Las Palmas Lodge No. 366 in 1924; he is a past high priest in the Royal Arch, a past commander of Knights Templar, and now inspector for the grand commander, K. T., in this valley.

a 1919 biography

JAMES R. ERSKINE As manager of the Valley Ice Company,

J. R. Erskine has attained his position through character and ability. The Valley Ice Company has greatly assisted in the development of the fruit-shipping industry at this point.

Before 1910 it was hard to get ice in Fresno and the
Valley cities. Ice from Truckee was used, and its cost was over twice as much as artificial ice. In this year the Valley Ice Company was started in Fresno, when they contracted to furnish thirty-seven and a half tons daily
to each of the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe Railway companies for icing refrigerator cars.

The first plant built in 1910 had a capacity of 130 tons daily, and the first ice was drawn by W. E. Keller, in July. Mr. Keller was the first president of the company, and is still its president. He is also connected with the Globe Grain and ^Milling Company, and lives at 543 Shatto Place. Los Angeles. Cal. He is also the president of the San Joaquin Valley Farm Lands Company.

It became evident in 1911 that the demand for ice would be extensive, and the company planned to increase the output, and the plant was enlarged
in 1913 to 240 tons daily. In 1915 another addition was made, this time for seventy tons, or a total of 310 tons daih-, and in 1917 still another addition
of 200 tons capacity, making in all 510 tons daily at the present time. The principal business is to supply ice for fruit-car refrigeration, but they also wholesale to the various deliveries in Fresno. The business is still growing
in volume, and is indirectly under government control. The plant has a storage capacity of 8,200 tons and is filled during the fruit-shipping season.

It is located south of Fresno, on the State highway, between the main tracks of the Santa Fe and the Southern Pacific. A fourth addition to the plant is now being contemplated. They are daily icing cars on both sides of a trackage of 1,000 feet, thus accommodating the shipping of both companies.

The Santa Fe occupies the east side and can ice twenty to twenty-two cars at a time, while the Southern Pacific does the same on the west side. From 70 to 100 men are employed, and from 150 to 300 cars per day are iced. It requires from 700 to 1,100 tons daily during the fruit season, and it is necessary to draw upon the reserve that is made during the earlier part of the season. James R. Erskine was born at Bloomington, Ill., March 9, 1871, a son of Andrew and Jeannette McEwen) Erskine. both natives of Scotland. They
came from historic families, the father being a direct descendant from the Earl of Mar. prominent in Scottish annals.

The family came from Scotland in 1871, settling at Bloomington, Ill. The mother's health was poor and the
family returned to Scotland, but her health not improving, they again came to Bloomington. where she died. The family then left Bloomington and went to Rich Hill, Mo., when James was twelve years old. His early education was slighted, as he worked in the coal mines with his father until he was eighteen. He then determined to get an education and entered Battle Creek College, where he was a student for three years, when his father died, and he returned to work in the coal mines at Rich Hill. He is the only living child by his father's first marriage, and the only one in Fresno. There are two half brothers and three half sisters. James Erskine early became interested in machinery. When working in the coal mines he arose from the position of trapper to that of superintendent when but eighteen years of age.

While at the college at Battle Creek, he met Dr. J- H. Kellogg, of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, and was engaged by him to do mechanical work in the large plant devoted to the manufacture of health foods. He soon became superintendent of this plant. Later he went with the Manna Cereal Company, of Detroit, and again became superintendent. From there he went to Los Angeles, Cal., in 1904, and was with the. Southern Pacific for six months, when he entered the employ of the Globe Mills, at Los Angeles. It was here that he met W. E. Keller, who sent Mr. Erskine to build the mills of the Globe Flouring and Ice Cold Storage Company, at El Paso, Texas, in 1908. This work was so satisfactorily
done that he was sent to Fresno in 1910, where he has since resided, although he has constructed several plants in other places in the Valley. He became superintendent of the Fresno plant in 1911 and that year he built the Valley
Ice Company's plant in Bakersfield, which has a capacity of 300 tons daily, and a storage plant of 5.000 tons. He also built the company's plant at Modesto, which has a capacity of 400 tons daily, and storage of 9.200 tons.

Mr. Erskine was superintendent of the ice plants of the Valley Ice Company up to August 1, 1918, when he was promoted to manager of all the companies in San Joaquin Valley. He is married, his wife being Miss Anzanettie K. Showalter. formerly of Rich Hill. Mo., where they were married. They have one child, Frances N.. a senior in the Fresno High School.

Mr. Erskine is a Mason, raised at Rich Hill, demitted to Detroit, and from there to Las Palmas Lodge, F. & A. M., of which he is now an honored member. The Erskines are well known in social circles of Fresno, and their
acquaintance includes many prominent people throughout the state. The family resides at 1362 P Street, Fresno. The Valley Ice Company is a comparatively new industry, and is a million dollar concern, the most important in the San Joaquin Valley, as it has made the shipping of green fruits to the East a practical possibility and a tremendous success. Ice is now furnished crushed and delivered at $2.60 per ton, whereas nature's product from Truckee used to cost more than twice that sum. The large part which Mr. Erskine, a man who does things, has had in this work is a great satisfaction to him and his friends and is a
real benefit to mankind.

Family Members


In their memory
Plant Memorial Trees

Sponsored by Ancestry


  • Created by: Lester Letson
  • Added: 14 Jun 2011
  • Find a Grave Memorial 71374728
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for James Ralph Erskine (9 Mar 1871–4 Mar 1946), Find a Grave Memorial ID 71374728, citing Belmont Memorial Park, Fresno, Fresno County, California, USA ; Maintained by Lester Letson (contributor 46627920) .