Welcome to the Murrieta Valley Historical Society's
History maker Project
The Old Lakeman House
Abram Burnett, a Civil War veteran, and his wife, Rachel (Davis) Burnett, came
to Murrieta 1885 and built their home. Abram opened the Murrieta Lumberyard
providing materials to build the new town of Murrieta. He was a founding member of the
Murrieta Cemetery, and the only member buried on the grounds. He was a founding
member of the original Murrieta Historical Society. In 1898, there was a drought in the
valley that threatened the livestock. He purchased feed from the Midwest and had it
shipped to the valley. He sold it at cost to the farmers without profit, saving the livestock
from starvation. He died on his 25th wedding anniversary in 1899.
Henry Clay Thompson
Henry Clay Thompson was the second resident of the Lakeman House. He lived
there from October 1899 to October 1903. He was a Civil War veteran. His wife died
about 1884 in Kansas. In 1887, Henry bought 400 acres in the Alamos District, now
known as French Valley. He then moved his six kids from Kansas by rail to their new
home in California. Henry and his four sons farmed extensively on their land and then expanded into Murrieta. Henry was elected Riverside County Supervisor and served from January 1895 to January 1899. In October 1899, Henry and his daughter, Mable, rented the home from the widow, Mrs. Rachel Burnett. Henry lived in the home for three years. Mrs. Burnett sold the home to Earnest Lakeman in 1903. Henry then went across the street and built the red two story home at 24771 Washington Ave.
The Lakeman Family
Earnest F. Lakeman was born in 1857 in Hanover, Germany. He immigrated to
America on May 20, 1872 at the age of 15. It is unknown when he traveled from New
York City and settled in Los Angeles, California. In June 1901, he married Mary
Jackson Witcher Loudon. Two years later, in October 1903, they bought the Murrieta
house and property from Rachel Burnett for $1,000. When Earnest moved to Murrieta, he first worked at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort. Meanwhile he planted a small orchard of pears, apples, figs, nectarines, and cherries on his property. He then opened a small fruit stand and began selling his homegrown products. In December 1924, Earnest Lakeman sold his home and business to the Eilers family.
The Eilers Family
Henry J. Eilers was born May 11, 1877 in Oldenburg, Germany. When he was
thirteen years old, he sailed to New York City and landed in December 1890. He later
moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he met another German immigrant, Alwine L.
Semmelhack. Alwine was born April 25, 1880 in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Her parents
and their five children immigrated to America and arrived in New York City on May 11,
1894. They then traveled west and settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Henry and Alwine were married in Milwaukee on October 31, 1903. Two years later, they became naturalized citizens. Later, the couple moved to Los Angeles, California. In the early 1920s, the Eilers found work at Guenther’s Murrieta Hot Springs Resort and began making friends within the community.
In December 1924, Earnest Lakeman sold his business and residence to the Eilers. In February 1945, Henry Eilers fell and broke his hip. He was sent to the Riverside Community Hospital to recover from his injury. He became ill from an infection and died at the Lakeman House one month later. In February 1956, Alwine was gravely ill and sent to the Hemet Valley Hospital. She recovered, but her health continued to decline. She died in at the Lakeman House on December 20, 1959.
One of the most mysterious residents of the Lakeman House was Herman Waechter.
Mr. Waechter was a friend of the Eilers and came to live with them for awhile. John Fred Herman Waechter was born in Bielefeld, Germany on October 17, 1882. In 1907, he immigrated to the United States. He made his way west, and eventually found work as a cook at the Murrieta Hot Springs Resort. He worked there for a number of years. In the 1930 census, he was listed as a butcher at the resort. Mr. Waechter never married, and his only known relative lived in Germany. It is unknown if he lived with Mrs. Eilers after Henry died. It is possible that he inherited the Lakeman House after Mrs. Eilers died in 1956. Herman died on April 10, 1973 and was laid to rest in the Elsinore Valley Cemetery. His personal trunk containing a few photographs was all that was left behind in the Lakeman House.
The Bezanson Family
It is unknown when the Bezanson family purchased the home, but the last resident of the home was Gilbert Bezanson. Gilbert “Skip” Raymond Bezanson was born June 28, 1941 in Corona, California. He attended the Murrieta Grammar School and graduated from Elsinore Union High School in 1959. He enlisted in the US Air Force on October 27, 1960. He trained as an organization and supply specialist at the Amarillo, Texas Air Force Base from December
1960 to February 1961. He worked primarily in the states, but served three months overseas. He was honorable discharged at March Air Force Base on July 26, 1965. His last assignment duty was the 22 nd Supply Squadron. He was also a member of the Murrieta Volunteer Fire Department.
The Final Years
In December 2016, city officials visited Skip Bezanson’s property and deemed it uninhabitable. Then he moved to Hemet to live with his sister, Muriel. Connie Cain McConnell, a lifelong resident of Murrieta, and a friend of the Bezanson family, reached out to help the family during this transition. As a member of the Murrieta Valley Historical Society, she was the liaison between the Bezanson family, the City, and the Society. The Bezanson family had been on the property for sixty-seven years. It took the Society members and volunteers six months to clean up the Bezanson property and assist the family in moving their personal belongings. Skip and Muriel donated over 10,000 photographs, documents, and artifacts related to Murrieta’s history to the Historical Society. Their donation prompted the need to open the Murrieta Museum in 2019. By July 2017, Skip Bezanson sold Ray’s Café and the Lakeman House. He died in Hemet, California on October 13, 2019. He was interred at the Elsinore Valley Cemetery. On July 26, 2022, the Lakeman House was demolished. It was removed because it would have been a multi-million dollar project to restore the house. There were no investors interested in preserving the house.