David Caleb Cook, a publisher of Methodist Sunday School tracts in Elgin, Ill.,
came to California in 1866 to escape the harsh winters and muggy Midwestern
summers that offered no relief for his insufferable coughing spells. He settled in
Piru, where he purchased 14,000 acres of the old Rancho Camulos and proceeded to
establish his idyllic town.
Cook had a plat map drawn up and built this church at the
corner of Center and Park streets, complete with what may have been the oldest pipe organ in
California, built in 1860 or 1862 in Westfield, Mass., and shipped
around Cape Horn.
Near the church he planted a garden with fruits from the Garden of
Eden as specified in the Bible, such as grapes, dates, figs, apricots
and pomegranates, and he planted many thousands of acres of
oranges, walnuts, peppers and olives.
At the top of Park Street he built his residence, a huge, three-story
Queen Anne mansion modeled after the design of Joseph and
In 1887 the Southern Pacific Railroad punched through from Saugus to the sea at
Ventura, no doubt bringing with it many heathens from Los Angeles. Within two years
Cook pulled up stakes, returning to Elgin
where, despite earlier health problems, he held on until his death in 1926.
Piru became just another tiny flag stop along a now-deserted rail line,
its subsequent history punctuated with little more than a 1925
robbery of a long-gone bank.
Online photo only.