August Witte Crate Under the House & F.M. Masumoto Reedley, Ca


My neighbor contacted me a week or so ago and asked if I wanted an old crate he found under his house. I said Sure!

So this isnt exactly an old photo post, but an old Crate post with some personal history attached.


So the crate was underneath a late 20s-30 Craftsman home in Phoenix, Az. Who knows how long its been there and who left it there. But it held up nicely!

It says “August Witte Shipper, Reedley, California”

So I wondered if this was a common shipping company and googled it. Only to turn up empty handed, not one peep relating to this.

So my Mom did some of her more in depth detective work with all of her sites shes a part of and found me August’s Obituary.

“August Witte

Reedley-  Funeral arrangements are being made at the Corins Funeral Home in Reedley for August Witte, 73, who died in a local hospital last night.

Witte was a native of Germany and had lived in the United States and Reedley for the past 35 years. He was a fruit grower, packer and shipper.

He is survived by his widow, Louise, of Reedley and two sisters and a brother in Germany.”

Friday Oct 24, 1952 The Fresno Bee (he died on Oct 23rd)

From doing census searches he turns up in the 1930 Census in Reedley, it says he immigrated in 1917 from Germany and his wife at the time was name Anna C. Witte also from Germany. In the 1920 Census they were living in Alila, Tulare, California.

World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Listed as August Witte, worked as a Bus Driver. Lived at 2445 E. Colo, Lamanda Park, Ca. Pasadena

I also found a 1942 World War II Draft Registration Card


Born in Konigsteal, Germany July 30, 1880. At the time of the Draft he was 61 and lived at 86 Fresen Ave. Reedley, Fresno, Ca:

So doing the correct math with dates and numbers. August came to the US around 1917 and was about 38 yrs old at the time.

Found his marriage license to Anna.

Date 26 Aug 1918, he married Anne Placke of Germany. It also lists August’s parents names on this form. His father is August Witte and mother is Helena Mertens of Germany. He was living Pasadena it says and worked as a Chauffeur.

In the 1940 Census he still turns up as a Fruit Shipper and Packager in Reedley.

I tried searching newspaper archive records and found only one that mentions August Witte in a suit, it was an employee driving his truck in Bakersfield(not sure if this is the same August but Bakersfield is near the Fresno area). A driver trying to pass collided with Witte’s truck. That info can be found here..

Interesting note when looking up the town of Reedley, California. It was incorporated in 1913, August came from Germany around 1917. But then reading on wikipedia and history of Reedley it matches up even further! I wonder if he was part of the German Mennonite community.

American Civil War hero Thomas Law Reed settled here to provide wheat for Gold Rush miners in the mid-1800s. His donation of land for a railroad station site established the town as the center of the Valley’s[ booming wheat business. Railroad officials commemorated his vision by naming the fledgling City in his honor. When mining fever began to fade, wheat demand slackened. Kings River water was diverted for crop irrigation, and the region began its over 100-year tradition of bountiful field, tree, and vine fruit harvests. With water and railroad services in place, farming families of European immigrants were recruited, and the settlement was incorporated in 1913.  An important element in the early town was a colony of German Mennonites, whose strong traditions and values still shape Reedley’s culture”

From Wikipedia

Also found this mention of the Mennonites in Reedley, Ca

“The first church to be organized was the Reedley congregation in 1905, the first settlers having arrived one year earlier. The Reedley MB Church grew to be not only the largest Mennonite congregation in California, but also became the largest church in the North American Mennonite Brethren conference. The total baptized membership in 1950 was approximately 1,350. A new church was built with a seating capacity of 2,200.”


Maybe someone will turn up some more info along the way and show us Mr August Witte or where he once worked. For now his crate lives with me.

UPDATE: 6/30/2014

After I wrote this I went to restock my antiques. I have a Crate I have had for several years used as a display piece. But today it popped out at me as it says “Reedley Special” and Im all Hey! Reedley, where August Witte was and his crate. How funny that I have had this crate and it didnt sell for years but its just been sitting there. So I snapped a photo and did some research on the name on this one seeing as they both came out of Reedley, Ca. What are the odds eh?



This crate says “Reedley Special Tomatoes. F.M. Masumoto 19410 East Sumner Ave, Reedley, California” and the Litho is by “Sentinel Printing & Publishing Co., Dinuba, California”

Looks like he was Fred Minoru Masumoto born Jan 15, 1903 in Japan. The address comes up as his on the internet and his death record is June 24 1992. He comes up in the 1940 Census in Reedley and his occupation says “Ranch Work” . I have googled the address and its a house in the middle of farming fields. Its a newer building now, so Im sure there was once an older place standing out there.

When I google the Masumoto name other families come up as several generation farmers in the area, not sure if they are family relations or not.

Looks like 2 different immigrant families in the same community whos crates I have come upon.



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10 responses to “August Witte Crate Under the House & F.M. Masumoto Reedley, Ca

  1. Nice research on Mr Witte.

  2. La Nightingail

    Having lived relatively near & shopped in Fresno for several years, I know where Reedley is and it’s always fun & interesting to hear someone else mention places one is familiar with. I wonder how Mr. Witte’s box got to Arizona, though? Then again, wooden crates like that turn up in thrift & antique shops all the time? Great sleuthing on yours & your mother’s part to find out who he was, though. That was a nice touch.

    • Hey there, we live right by the rail line here in Az and Reedley was also by the train in Ca and was a shipping point with the people and their trees and vineyards. So my guess is it came that way probably. I think it had been stuck under my neighbors house and probably didnt come here as an antique as he has been restoring the old place and found it in the crawl space under the house.

  3. I would say it was a gift of oranges or grapefruit for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Boxes like this had so many other practical uses around the house, most often as kindling for wood stoves, that they are rare to find intact.

  4. That is wonderful. Well Done. I hope that you have printed this and kept with the crate?

  5. What a wonderful find! I wish I could find an old fruit crate from the ranch my dad lived on as a child. I’ve searched for years but have never found a crate or a label. You’ve done a nice job fleshing out this information.

    • Tattered, what is the name of the company from your family do you know? Put the word out and you never know! I antique shop and go to Salvage yards often, so you never know!

  6. Great find and some fine research to back it up.

  7. Very interesting research. Who knew there were so many Mennonites in that area.

  8. I’m amazed at just how much can come out of an old crate!

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