Elmer and Mary Andrews came to Arizona in 1935 from Marion, Ohio and worked the farms and orchards in the Clearwater Farms area, which at the time was known as Citrus Park. They first lived in a dugout in the White Tank Mountains and then in a cabin at the farm camp on Citrus Road south of Northern Avenue. Elmer earned 20 cents an hour working at the grapefruit cannery.
When World War II started, the Andrews family went back to Ohio. It was 1940 and Elmer had a job building cranes for the war effort. The family spent the next seven years in Ohio and during that time Elmer studied nights and became an Ordained Minister. With war jobs ending, the Andrews, with their four children, returned to Arizona and Citrus Park in 1947. Elmer and Mary were supported by their church in Ohio for $35 per month to be missionaries at the farm labor camps. Living in the 29’ trailer Elmer had built, they returned to the same farm camp where they had once lived and worked. Back at Citrus Park, the Andrews were given a cabin to use for a Sunday School. There were about 50 camps within ten miles of Citrus Park at this time. Elmer and Mary would set up a large tent and preach at the various camps, starting little church groups.
In 1949, the Andrews family was able to purchase six acres of grapefruit trees for $1200 on Glendale Avenue and 175thAvenue. (They would eventually own 14 acres.) Gathering rocks from the White Tank Mountains, the family built the larger of the two houses.
Later, a second rock house was built for the oldest son and his wife. The church they built was of wood and has not survived. It was large enough to hold a congregation of over 100 and was at the east end of the property. The church was 50 feet long and had a second story apartment where their daughter Doris and her husband lived. Church services were held in English in the morning and in Spanish on Sunday afternoons.
The true legacy of the Andrews family was the hundreds of families they helped during those years. Farm laborers in need knew to come to the rock house for food and the Andrews seemed to always find a way to help. Local farmers gave what they had or allowed them to glean fields. What could not be canned and given away was sold to buy more food. The farm camps were emptying out in the late 50’s and in 1959 the Andrews left the area and moved to Buckeye. The rock walls of the two houses still stand on eight empty acres in Clearwater Farms Unit II. You can see the ruined foundation of the church under debris at the east end of the property.
My thanks to Doris Andrews Shankle for the use of her photos and sharing her memories of growing up in the orchard.