Thomas "Tom" Sanborn

NOTE: Much of the factual content that follows is taken directly from two obituaries for Thomas, both from Redlands publications. 1, 2

Thomas "Tom" Sanborn was born in Redlands, California to Dr. Christopher Allen Sanborn and Mary Braman Mudge Smiley on 23 June 1889. With older brother Augustus (1888) and younger sister Margaret (1891), Tom was one of four children the couple had (a daughter named Christine died at nine months before the family left for California). In his youth he excelled both in education and athletics, and both he and his older brother August were held in high esteem for the fame they brought to Redlands High athletics; "he was possessed of a physique that made him the idol of his fellows and yielded him the admiration of the community in his school days." After high school Tom and his brother August studied at Stanford University (circa 1910), where both were on the rugby team. There he received a degree "specializing in the growing of citrus fruits".

Returning to Redlands after graduation, Tom married Ruth Smiley (21 February 1914). He soon became involved with the day-to-day operations of his in-laws' estate, and eventually took over supervision of Smiley Heights, including the orange groves on the property, which "under his care were brought into the best of condition". He became increasingly involved with the business community, joining the Rotary Club and becoming chairman of the newly formed Grower's Committee. While serving on this committee "the marketing problem, always a considerable one, was given much study and thought, with the result that in co-operation with others, Mr. Sanborn produced and initiated the working of a plan for better control and distribution of fruit from packing houses, thereby bringing to Redlands an increased prosperity for almost everyone". These statements by his associates and peers show that Tom was held in high esteem for his business acumen. The personality that lay behind his success was also noted: "To whatever he had to do he gave the activity of a well-trained mind and energy large and persistent." "A keen mind, backed by a charming personality, made him the ideal man to carry on a work of that kind and he did it with rare efficiency."

Tom was firmly committed to his family and greatly loved his wife Ruth. They had five children together, all of whom were born in Redlands; Christine (1914), Daniel Smiley (1916), Thomas (1918), Ruth (1920), and Allen Augustus (1926). This last son, Allen, is of particular note in that he exemplified the close bond that Tom and his elder brother August shared. August and his wife Ruth Leslie Rowell were unable to have children, and because of his affection for his brother, Tom agreed that his next child after daughter Ruth would be raised as August's own. Thus it was that at the age of nine months, Allen was taken to Porterville to live with his new family. He often visited his birth mother, calling her "Mother Ruth", and maintained close relationships with his birth family. Allen was the ultimate "Gift of Love" that Tom could share with his older brother.4

In spite of his growing family and increasing involvement in the community, Tom continued to enjoy being physically active in Redlands and Southern California. "With business affairs always uppermost in his mind in his later years, yet he found time to exercise those pleasures, largely connected with outdoor things, which had given him so much enjoyment in his youth." By all accounts, Tom continued to stay in the best of heath his throughout his life. It was surprising to the community then, that Tom's passing should come so quickly. Ironic also, that it should stem ultimately from the very physical activity that he so loved.

As a youth, Tom had received an injury to his nose while playing rugby. In 1927 he travelled to Santa Barbara to correct this injury. That year also marked the "Great Flood" of Southern California. Being worried about his wife Ruth and the care of the ranch in Redlands, he left early from Santa Barbara and the suggested recovery time. Soon after his return to Redlands, infection set in; "Complications followed and rugged youth was compelled to bow to the law of nature." The Redlands community had great concern for Tom, "the people looking on with much affection, which found expression to some extent in daily inquiries as to the condition of the patient. Seldom is it that a daily bulletin is necessary to satisfy the desire for information, as to the desire for information, as to a private individual, one not holding official place or conspicuous station."

Thomas "Tom" Sanborn died at the family home in Canyon Crest Park on 6 April 1927. His mother Mary, brother August, and wife Ruth were all present at his bedside. His wife Ruth felt that had Thomas stayed the extra few weeks in Santa Barbara, he likely would have lived to a ripe old age. But Tom's devotion to his wife made that impossible. As Ruth put it, "My Tom always came home to me."[5] Funeral services were held at the Congregational Church of Redlands (of which Tom was a member), and he was buried at Hillside Memorial Cemetery.

In his obituary in the Redlands Daily Facts, the sentiments of the community were expressed as follows; "that Thomas Sanborn was a man among men and that all the community mourns that he could not have been spared for a longer life of usefulness and honor and upbuilding influence."

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