Early Residents of Monrovia
James John Renaker
Birthdate: August 27, 1810
Birthplace: Harrison County, Kentucky
James John (J.J.) Renaker was born in 1856 in Harrison County Kentucky. The extended Renaker (the name had various spellings) family were wealthy farmers. He was the son of John Harrison Renaker and Amanda Edwards.
J.J. Renaker married Sarah Elizabeth Stewart (born in 1858) in 1880 and began a family in Cynthia (Harrison County), Kentucky. By 1887, his brother-in-law Dr. C.H. Stewart, also from Cynthiana, was living in Monrovia and serving as postmaster. The Monrovia Planet on May 28, 1887, states that James Renaker would be coming out to Monrovia in July to open a book and stationery business in a building being erected by Dr. Stewart.
Additionally, he was going to be the assistant postmaster to Dr. Stewart. Renaker, his wife and two sons, C.T. (Charles Taylor) and Leslie, arrived in Monrovia in September, and there are a number of newspaper articles about J.J. Renaker in the September 24, 1887 edition of the Monrovia Planet. One states that "J.J. Renaker will open out, about October 1, in the Post office block a fine selected stock of books and stationery." Elsewhere in that same edition, there is an announcement that Renaker has just been appointed Deputy Postmaster and plans a number of improvements, including 120 new post office boxes, in the office. They came to Monrovia with their two sons, C.T. (Charles Taylor), Leslie, from Cynthiana (Harrison County), Kentucky, in September of 1887 (Monrovia Planet, September 24, 1887.) Mrs. Renaker was pregnant at the time of their arrival.
The next year, 1888, Renaker experienced several personal tragedies. The Monrovia Messenger for January 21, 1888 states that "An infant son of Postmaster Renaker died Thursday night." This son was John Harry Renaker who was born some time after their arrival in the fall of 1887. John Renaker's brother-in-law, Dr. C.H. Stewart, died in the spring, and Renaker's father died back in Kentucky in May.
Sometime in late 1887 or early 1888, Renaker expanded his book and stationery store to include furniture and an undertaking business. J.J. Renaker was also been acting as deputy postmaster, but he became postmaster when Dr. C.H. Stewart died in March of 1888.
Renaker's store had items other than furniture, books and stationery. Articles in The Monrovia Messenger for the year of 1888 have short entries advertising Bixby’s Royal shoe polish (15 cents per bottle), Tansil Punch cigars, fishing tackle, baseballs and notions.
In 1894, Renaker purchased a structure at what is now known as 517 S. Myrtle from E.P. Large. Large had started a furniture and undertaking business here in 1887, and it is very likely that this store is the two story wooden building shown in the Sanborn map of 1888. Renaker and his son, Charles Taylor, ran the store until J.J. Renaker’s death.
Renaker and his wife were involved in a number of civic projects. Renaker was a member of the Monrovia Guards during the Spanish-American War in 1898. His wife was assistant treasurer of the Visiting Nurses' Association
J.J. Renaker died on July 17, 1904. Elizabeth, his wife, lived on until 1936.
The Renaker family had several business locations in Monrovia. The following is a list complied from Monrovia city directories:
- 1909-1911 furniture and undertaking business is located at 627 S. Myrtle. They moved here after their first store located at the southeast corners of Myrtle and Colorado Avenues (the Badeau Block) burned down in 1904.
- 1913-1914 has Renaker Funeral Parlor at Lime and Myrtle.
- J.J. Renaker Furniture is at 627 S. Myrtle and then moves to 612-614 S. Myrtle in 1916.
- Baker, Stephen. Monrovia City Historian. Oral interviews.
- Monrovia Planet
- Wiley, John. History of Monrovia. Press of Pasadena Star News, Pasadena, California: 1927.