Elmer Rigdon

Elmer Scott Rigdon was the third of four sons born to Rufus Rigdon and Indiana (sometimes called India) Scott Rigdon. Scott Rock was named for Greenup Scott, Indiana’s older brother. In the 1860s, Rufus and Indiana homesteaded a 145 acre parcel on the north side of Santa Rosa Creek just east of Cambria’s east village. Today, Fog’s End Bed and Breakfast stands in the southwest corner of the property. Elmer was born there on July 16, 1868.

In 1898, Elmer Rigdon, his wife, Alice, and his parents moved to the house on Lee Street (today called Burton Drive). This house was built by the Bright family in the early 1880s and, later in the decade, it was purchased and renovated by Merritt Trace and his son, Verne. In 1905, the Rigdons installed the first indoor bathtub in Cambria. In 2009, the house is contained within the Burton Street Inn.

Elmer Rigdon engaged in ranching and he was in the lumber business. He also owned a brickyard in Cambria located approximately where the Santa Rosa Church (not the chapel) presently stands. In addition, he owned Rigdon’s Hall on Main Street located approximately where Cambria Drug and Gift is in 2009.

In 1903, Elmer Rigdon began mining quicksilver at the Bank Mine on San Simeon Creek. Three years later he sold his interest in the mine and it became the Cambria Mine. He also had an interest in the Oceanic Mine, the largest quicksilver mine in the area.

Rigdon was elected to the state assembly in 1914 and two years later he was elected to the state senate where he was re-elected in 1920.

Dr. John L. D. Roberts, founding father of the city of Seaside, California, held a strong conviction for many years that a road should be built from Monterey to San Simeon. In 1897, he walked from Monterey to San Luis Obispo in five days and mapped out the course of the future road, estimating the total cost of building it at $50,000. Dr. Roberts managed to obtain the support of State Senator Elmer S. Rigdon who spearheaded pressure for a state appropriation

Thanks to Rigdon, Dr. Roberts addressed a joint session of the state legislature in 1915, attempting to convince them to fund the road. His presentation included colored stereopticon pictures projected onto a bed sheet hung on the wall behind the Speaker’s desk. In 1917, at the height of World War I, the state legislature’s defense committee ruled that priority must be given to roads of urgent military importance. The group lobbying for the road in Sacramento dropped the word ‘scenic,’ and when the Military Highway bill was passed, the Carmel-to-San Simeon highway was included as one of six roads necessary for defense.

On December 13, 1922, just as construction of the Carmel-San Simeon Highway began, Elmer Rigdon passed away in San Francisco where he had gone to seek medical treatment for a long illness. He is buried in the Cambria Community Cemetery.

11 Responses to “Elmer Rigdon”

  1. B&J says:

    David:

    We don’t know if Indiana and Greenup Scott were related to Winfield Scott. Interesting question!

    B&J

  2. David Houtz says:

    That stated above is probably the true story. However I always heard that Scott Rock was named after General Winfield Scott (died 1866), who had made a sort through the Cambria area with his army unit. I wonder if Indiana Scott Rigdon was
    a relative of General Scott.

  3. B&J says:

    Thanks for your comment, “anonymous”. If you think it might be a picture of Elmer Rigdon or someone in his family we’d love for you to email it to us.

    The house was built in the 1880s by one of the Bright brothers, probably George or Charles. They sold it to Merritt Trace and his son, Verne, did considerable remodeling on the structure. Elmer Rigdon and his family moved into the house in 1898. After Elmer Rigdon died in 1922, the house was rented out to several different families until it was purchased by John and Elsie Freebody in 1945. When Elsie died, John sold the house to Gertrude and Walter Dresser who also did some remodeling of the structure.

    In 1969, Bryan and Sylvia Hume bought the house and they, too, did extensive remodeling including adding a commercial kitchen. They opened a restaurant there called The Dover House. When they took over the Brambles restaurant across the street in the same year, the Dover House was converted back to a private residence. However, in 1982, the Humes sold The Brambles, converted the house back to a restaurant and opened Rigdon Hall. They later converted the restaurant to a Bed and Breakfast called Sylvia’s Rigdon Hall and then sold it to the current owners who changed the name to The Burton Inn.

    We will be posting an entire article on this building so stand by.

    B&J

  4. anonymous says:

    My family and I stayed as a guest in Burton Inn in 2009. It was a beautiful room on the 1st floor. Well i was zooming in my picture of our room where i can see an image of a man’s face in the mirror. I wanted to know if anyone is interest in the picture and what is the history of this place? thanks

  5. B&J says:

    Vincent:

    Thanks a lot for that piece of information. The only way to find out the official cause of death is to order a copy of his death certificate from the San Francisco County Clerk’s office. Here’s a link to the site: http://www.sfdph.org/dph/comupg/records/vitalRec/default.asp. The cost is $12. However, by law, we cannot obtain the copy. You or your sister, as grandchildren, are allowed to obtain a copy.

    B&J

  6. Vincent J. Rigdon says:

    I am the grandson of Senator Elmer Scott Rigdon. My father (also named Elmer Scott Rigdon) told me that his father had died of meningitis.

  7. Thanks for this info – I had seen another news story which simply stated that he had ‘collapsed in a hotel.’ I actually used to work at the SLO Telegram-Tribune and made several forays to Cambria then. I’ve also taken my children to see the fountain! Thanks for the link!

  8. B&J says:

    Joan:

    Thanks for the information about your grandfather. We are curious about his cause of death, too. His obituary appeared in the San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram on December 14, 1922.

    It says, in part, “Senator Rigdon became ill at his home at Cambria some weeks ago and was confined to bed several weeks by a severe head cold. During this illness he became suddenly deaf and was taken to San Francisco to consult a specialist. He was found unconscious in a hotel room there yesterday morning by his brother and was removed to the Lane Hospital where death came last night. His death was a distinct shock as none of his friends realized that he was seriously ill.”

    By the way, there is a memorial drinking fountain dedicated to Elmer Rigdon and you can read about it here.

  9. Thanks for this bio. Sen. Elmer Scott Rigdon was my grandfather – his son, also Elmer Scott Rigdon, was my father. I’m curious to know what the long illness was – the family story is that Sen. Rigdon happened to be in San Francisco when he died of pneumonia.

    If you need any biographical information on my father, I’d be happy to provide it.

    My middle name, Indiana, is from Indiana Scott Rigdon.
    Thx again,
    Joan
    joan2@joanrigdon.com

  10. B&J says:

    Karen:

    Thanks very much for this information. We have made a correction in the original post to indicate that Greenup was Indiana’s older brother and not her father. We got the information that Greenup was Indiana’s father from page 4 of “Where the Highway Ends” by Geneva Hamilton. This book is reviewed elsewhere on this site and the review contains the statement, “Unfortunately, a great many of the details in other chapters are incorrect…”

    By the way, Greenup Scott patented 145.3 acres in the east part of Cambria on May 10, 1870.

  11. Karen Serna says:

    Indiana Scott Rigdon was not the daughter of Greenup Scott. Greenup Scott was Indiana’s older brother. They were two of the twelve children born to Rev. John D. Scott and Mary “Polly” Christal from KY.

    Indiana was their 7th child, b. 3 Jan 1826 in either Fountain Co, IN or Tippecanoe Co, IN and died 29 Apr 1913 in Cambria, San Luis Obispo Co, CA. She married Rufus Rigdon in Fulton Co, IL on 8 Dec 1841.

    Greenup was their 2nd child, b. 20 Jan 1815 in Greenup Co, KY and died 21 Sep 1870 in Cambria, San Luis Obispo Co, CA. Greenup married Elizabeth Gruwell on 8 Jul 1836 in Carroll Co, IN.

    I am a descendant of Indiana and Greenup’s brother, Rev. Flemmon Scott and his wife, Phebe James. Flemmon was their 4th child. He and his family moved to Missouri when five of his siblings moved to CA.

    Thank you,

    Karen Cull Serna
    kcserna@hotmail.com

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