Isaac Lankershim: Creator of the San Fernando Valley Breadbasket & Jewish Enigma

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Isaac Lankershim

Isaac Landkersheim, Agriculturist & Land Developer, San Fernando Valley

Values Code: I-E-L-P


Isaac Lankeershim was born in three different years and three different places.

1818 in Scheinfelt, Bavaria, according to his monument in the Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles.

1819 in Nuremberg, Bavaria according to a standard biography.

1820 in Albertkunstadt, Bavaria, according to close family friend and noted Journalist Isidor Choynski.

At least Baveria gets credit.


Early American Career

Isaac Lankershim arrived in the United States in 1836 – as a teenager.

He settled in St. Louis where he learned the grain and livestock shipping business.

There he met and married English-born Annis Lydia Moore (1818-1901) and converted to the Baptist faith.



In 1854, Isaac Lankeershim moved to the Napa Valley in California, and the following year, sowed and harvested 1,000 acres of wheat in Solano County.

He became known as a major wheat pioneer in the area.

He soon expanded to over 14,000 acres in the Fresno area.

In 1868, he purchased an even larger ranch in San Diego and planted wheat.

In both Fresno and San Diego his ranches had modern flour mills.


In 1860, Isaac Lankeershim re-united with his family whom he had left behind in St. Louis, and had his home and office in San Francisco where he was considered the “Grain King.”


Los Angeles

In the late 60’s Isaac Lankeershim moved to Los Angeles.

Here he had close business and social relationships with Harris Newmark and other Jewish businessmen.

They looked upon his Baptist conversion as just an idiosyncrasy.


In 1869, Isaac Lankershim and investors from San Francisco purchased 60,000 acres in the San Fernando Valley for $115,000, forming the San Fernando Valley Farm Homestead Association. Levi Strauss was one of its stockholders.

The ranch consisted of what we know today as Woodland Hills, Tarzana, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, and North Hollywood.

It stretched from Roscoe Boulevard down to the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, and from the Calabasas Hills to the western city limits of Burbank.

The ranch was used first to raise sheep – up to 40,000 of them, in 1873.

However, wool prices fell – so Lankershim planted most of the ranch with wheat – which failed for 2 years because of a drought.

The third year, 1876, was a success – bringing in the largest wheat harvest in the country, filling two full cargo ships destined for Liverpool, England.

To get the crop out of the San Fernando Valley to the piers in Santa Monica, Isaac Lankershim built a wagon road through the Sepulveda Pass – current path of the #405 San Diego Freeway.

However, the Southern Pacific Railroad, running through the San Fernando Valley, lowered its shipping rates so the new road was not necessary.

In 1876, Lankershim turned his wagon road into a toll road.  (It might happen again. They are talking about making the new diamond lanes an electronic toll road on that same wagon road.)


In 1878, Isaac Lankershim and his son-in-law Isaac Van Nuys opened the Los Angeles Farming and Milling Co, and assumed full ownership of the San Fernando Valley Ranch Company.


They formed the 12,000 acre Lankershim Ranch Land & Water Co. as a real estate development. The area became known first as Toluca, then Lankershim, and today – North Hollywood.

Land for Sale by Lankershim Land & Water Brochure

Land for Sale by Lankershim Land & Water Brochure



Lankershim Ranch up for sale announcement in 1901 Los Angeles Times.

Lankershim Ranch up for sale announcement in 1901 Los Angeles Times.

Isaac Lankershim’s interests then turned to downtown Los Angeles real estate.

Hotel Lankershim in downtown Los Angeles, Vintage Postcard

Hotel Lankershim in downtown Los Angeles, Vintage Postcard

Before he passed away, his friend, Isadore Choynski called him:

“The richest ex-Jew in Los Angeles.”



Isaac Lankeershim married Annis Lydia Moore, in 1842, in St. Louis.

Their son was named James Boon Lankershim.

Their daughter, Susanna, married Isaac Van Nuys.


Issac Lankershim passed away in 1882

Lankershim Monument in Evergreen Cemetery

Lankershim Monument in Evergreen Cemetery


“A religious eccentric in a family of ‘pious Jews.'”  –Isadore Choynski


More information can be found in the following issues of Western States Jewish History:

  • Lankershim, Isaac; Isaac Lankershim: Creator of the San Fernando Valley Bread Basket, 1818-1882. Stern, Norton B. & Kramer, William M.; 38 3&4.
  • Lankershim, Isaac; Isaac Lankershim of the San Fernando Valley; Los Angeles; Stern, Norton B. & Kramer, William M.; 18/1
  • A Tale of Two Isaacs, by Nathan Masters, Ventura Blvd Magazine, May/June, 2014, pg. 59-64 – with a little help from JMAW.


More Early Los Angeles Jewish Pioneers

For more Early Los Angeles Jewish Pioneers click here for the Table of Contents.

Some, but not all of the Los Angeles Pioneers, can be reached by clicking on their name on the list near the upper right of this page.



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