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Lewis Fenno Moulton

Moulton Parkway is a super highway in Orange County, California, that runs from Crown Valley Pkwy near Laguna Niguel north to Irvine where it becomes Irvine Center Drive. It was named after Lewis Fenno Moulton, a wealthy cattle rancher who owned 22,000 acres of land that was much of the area where Moulton Pkwy. runs today. 

I was surprised to learn that the Moulton Ranch was still operating as a cattle ranch in the Aliso Viejo area as late as 1968, (See picture below.)

As early as the mid-1700s the Moulton family were prominent in Colonial affairs in New England, and Lewis F. Moulton’s great-grandfather was General Jeremiah Moulton who served with distinction during the Revolutionary War.

The General’s grandson J. Tilden Moulton who practiced law, moved to Chicago in the mid 1800s and later became Editor of the Chicago Tribune. His position at the newspaper brought him in touch with many prominent politicians of the day. Abraham Lincoln was said to be a personal friend.

J. Tilden Moulton had two sons, the youngest being Lewis Fenno, the subject of this story, who was born in Chicago in 1854. Lewis F. Mouton’s mother was the former Charlotte Harding Fenno. (Hence her son’s middle name.) She was a descendant of Samuel Fenno was directly involved in the Boston Tea Party that sparked the Revolutionary War.

According to this account which is quite old and published while Lewis F. Moulton (Picture right.) was still living, so therefore I think more accurate.

Lewis Moulton’s father died when he was quite young and his mother moved the family back east to Boston.

At 20 years old, in 1874, Lewis F. Moulton took the long trip to California. He didn’t go across land like most, he took a boat to Panama, crossed the narrow strip of land by train. He then took another boat to San Francisco.

He later moved south to Santa Ana where he worked on a ranch. He prospered and in time began sheep ranching in partnership with another man. In 1895 at the age of 41 he bought the 22,000 acres that would become the Moulton ranch in the Laguna Hills. Lewis Fenno Moulton died in 1938, he was 84.

A hard working man, who built his own empire, but no doubt coming from such a prominent family he had help along the way, if only by his credentials alone. His elder brother, Irving F. Moulton was Vice President of the Bank of California.

(Above.) Alicio Pkwy in 1968. This road intersects Moulton Pkwy. 

(Below.) The next 3 pictures are Moulton Pkwy. in 1977.

Footnote: I am no direct relation to this Moulton branch of the family, as far as I know. Moulton, (Pronounced Molton.)  is a fairly common English name. There are at least three towns in England named Moulton, translated from the old English it means simply, “A place where mules are kept.” This is probably where the name originated. So people get named after places, and later places get named after people, like Moulton Parkway.


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Reader Comments (4)


Thanks for the story. You're a "Moulton" who resided for a time in Southern California, so the story is appropriate in a couple of ways.

I'm still here in So Cal, enjoying the weather and riding Fuso #216 whenever I can.

Cheers & Happy Holidays!

December 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBill Silverman

I am just amazed at how much open space there still was in SoCal at the end of the 1970s, then I saw the explosive growth in the 1980s first hand.

December 18, 2013 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I was just in SoCal last week - up at Huntington Beach. I liked it, but my first thought was that it was just too crowded for me. I live in NH now, so most places in the US would be too crowded for me. :)

I've been reading up on some of the history of the California coast, so this was a nice article to happen upon, Dave. Thanks a lot.

Have you read Richard Henry Dana's 'Two years before the mast'? It describes CA before it became part of the US.

December 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohann

Those series of pictures reminds me of:

Whether we get a tree museum or not, we know will get more pavement. I too am amazed by how much more roads-highways have been built and expanded in the last 30-40 years. Looks like a painted bike on the shoulder of Moulton Pkwy 1977.

"Most forecasting models that governments employ assume that driving will continue to increase indefinitely."

December 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJack
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