Rare early promotional subdivision map, promoting a temprance Colony established by Governor John St. John of Kansas, George B. Katzenstein of Sacramento and Jesse Yarnell of Los Angeles in 1887.
The present example, one of two known copies, is signed by H.Clay Needham, as successor agent to Jessee Yarnell, and notes that it was the Subdivision was surveyed and mapped by Stow & Power of San Buenaventura, Calif.
The St. John's Subdivision was the initial 600 acre purchase on the north side of the small town of Newhall, California, for subdivision, as part of an overall plan which involved the acquisition of a total of 10,000 acres purchased by the three investors. The investors persuaded Arcadia, Kansas Mayor and Prohibition advocate H. Clay Needham to relocate to Newhall to act as the primary agent and promoter of the the new community.
Henry Clay Needham arrived with his family in Newhall in early 1888. Newhall at the time was a two block long wild west town with 4 saloons and few churches. Into this picture came Needham, a rabid prohibitionist, with the intention of setting up an alcohol-free colony in the middle of Newhall.
Needham was born near Percival Mills, Hardin County, Kentucky in June, 1851. He received his education at Hamilton College in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. He migrated to Illinois and Girard, Kansas, where he got work as a schoolteacher. After pursuing a variety of jobs in Kansas including running a general store, real estate agent, notary public, and farmer, Needham developed an intense interest in the alcohol prohibition movement and became the Mayor of Arcadia, Kansas. He joined a temperance organization, the International Lodge of Good Templars, and was responsible at one of their state conventions for writing "dry laws" that were eventually adopted by the Kansas State Legislature.
Needham was friends with Kansas Governor John St. John and became a prolific speech maker on the virtues of prohibition. In 1887, former Governor St. John, along with George B. Katzenstein of Sacramento and James Yarnell of Los Angeles purchased 10,000 acres of land in Newhall from the Newhall Land and Farming Company, with the intention of establishing a "dry" alcohol-free colony. They sent Needham out to California in 1888 to supervise the new St. John Subdivision.
The land acquired by the investors extended from the present day intersection of Lyons Avenue and Main Street up to Soledad Canyon. As further "enticement" to potential settlers, they wrote a provision into the grant deeds of any property sales which subjected the property to foreclosure in the event that any alcohol was found on the premises.
The scheme was ultimately a failure and the project abandoned entirely by 1893. Needham, on the other hand, continued on his bully pulpit throughout the 1890's. A skilled orator, he built in 1890 a meeting place for the International Lodge of Good Templars on Pine Street in Newhall. In 1893, after all hope was lost in the venture, this building was moved to the corner of Market and Walnut Streets (the current site of the Veteran's Memorial) where it became the home of oilman, constable, and livery stable owner Ed Pardee.
As a member of the Newhall community, Needham financed the rebuilding of the first Newhall Schoolhouse when it burned down in 1890. After the collapse of the St. John Subdivision he supported his family by opening a lumber yard and hardware store. He also made a living as a rancher and oil industrialist. In 1891, he helped found the First Presbyterian Church on Newhall Avenue. He and M. W. Atwood of Pasadena were the original developers of the Happy Valley neighborhood in Newhall in the early 1900's. He also ran the Newhall Water Company and one of the first gas stations in the valley.
Although he maintained a residence in Los Angeles, Needham also established a ranch on 770 acres extending to the south from the current Eternal Valley Cemetery on the land between Sierra Highway and Interstate 5. His ranch house and cabin, unfortunately burned down in the devastating fires of 1962 along with Gene Autry's Melody Ranch.
Late, Needham became active in local politics, serving on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and becoming chairman of the California Prohibition Party. To keep the Prohibition cause alive, he ran for every state office that he could, including U.S. Senator. In 1931 he went to the Prohibitionist National Convention in Cincinnati as a possible nominee for President of the United States under the Prohibition Party ticket, a nomination he was unable to accept because of his declining health.