Unknown to many, the famous actor John Wayne lived in Lancaster as a child. Wayne was originally born Marion Morrison in Winterset, Iowa on May 26, 1907. At some point during his childhood, the Morrison family would move to Lancaster and Wayne would attend Lancaster Grammar School in 1914 at seven years old. His family owned a small homestead located on Avenue M until they decided to move to Glendale in 1916, when Wayne was seven (Gurba, 2005).
From there, Wayne would go on to attend high school in Glendale and attend college at the University of Southern California where he would make connections with the film industry and go on to be one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
In 1975, local legendary historian, business owner, and former city committee member Glen Settle sent John Wayne a picture of the 1914 class from the Lancaster Grammar school to confirm if he was in the photo (See Figure 1).
Figure 1: The Lancaster Grammar school class of 1914 (featured in Lancaster Celebrates a Century 1994-1984 book publication, City of Lancaster, 1984).
John Wayne wrote Settle back in a letter that has been provided here in a photo as well as dictated below (See Figure 2). This letter was originally published in the Lancaster Celebrates a Century 1994-1984 book publication made by the City of Lancaster in 1984. The letter states that Wayne is not present in this 1914 class photo, though he did attend the school at that time. Interestingly, Wayne also takes the time to address several local rumors about the treatment of his horse while he was in Lancaster. Apparently, Wayne frequently had to ride horseback to school and the horse was in poor condition due to a health problem, not to any alleged mistreatment. We at MOAH hope you enjoy this text as much as we do.
Transcription of Letter from John Wayne to Glen Settle:
9570 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, California, 90212
February 5, 1975
Glen A. Settle
Rt. #1-Box 98
Rosamond, California 93560
Dear Mr. Settle:
I was born in 1907 so I would have been seven years old in 1914. I am not one of these children and I really do not remember being in a class or school picture while I was there.
My name was Marion Morrison and I had to ride to school on horseback. The horse developed a disease that kept it skinny. We finally had to destroy it but the nosey biddies of the town called the humane society and accused me, a 7 year-old, of not feeding my horse and watering him. This was proven in time to be a lie. I think it was occasioned by the fact that I had allowed a boy even younger than myself to get on the horse and ride him the full length of the town-from one telephone pole to the next- and he fell off the horse which did not upset him but it upset the dear ladies of Lancaster. Anyway, that incident may be found in the annals of your town news and/or remembered gossip. As a matter of fact because the horse was so skinny, I was called skinny which I wish I were today. If there are any other pictures that might be of 1914, I would certainly enjoy receiving one, but I have a pretty good memory and I do not remember having my picture taken while at Lancaster Grammar School.
Please accept the statements in this letter as humor and as not being disparaging. Often times a person writes something intended for fun and it is mis-interpreted. This was written for my enjoyment and I hope yours.
P.S. The statements are correct.
Figure 2: Letter from John Wayne to Glen Settle confirming he is not in the class photo (featured in Lancaster Celebrates a Century 1994-1984 book publication, City of Lancaster, 1984).
City of Lancaster and Centennial Committee, Image of Lancaster Grammar School class of 1914 and Letter to John W, CA, 1983.
Gurba, Norma H. Images of America Lancaster. Arcadia Publishing, 2005.