Remembering Thomas Riley Manning, an early Downey businessman

DOWNEY – In 1884, Downey had six businessmen who captured the respect of the community: Pleasant Brown, James C. Rives, Thomas Riley Manning, James W. McKellar, Dan McKellar and Rueben Arey.

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This story is on Thomas Riley Manning, who opened his grocery store on the northeast corner of 2nd Street and Crawford Avenue in 1881. In 1889, he built a brick building on the same spot.

Downey’s first sidewalks graced the frontage of his store. Mr. Manning originally was from Seminary, Ark., and he was named after his father, who was also a grocery clerk.

In the Downey Champion newspaper dated July 15, 1926, it was written about how surprised and shocked on Monday afternoon that the community learned of his sudden passing at his beautiful ranch home on north Crawford Street.

Mr. Manning had stepped out into his orange grove with some parties and was bending over picking up oranges when he suddenly fell over. A physician was hastiily called but by the time he arrived, Mr. Manning’s life was extinct.

Riley, as all old-timers addressed him, was one of Downey’s pioneers, having come to the community with his mother, brothers and sisters from Arkansas in 1871.

For many years the family owned the place on Crawford Street which later became the home of J.E. Jenison.

Mr. Manning bought his tract of land lying across the road south of his mother’s place (now owned by Grey M. Skidmore). For several years Mr. Manning farmed this tract, eventually selling it and going into the grocery business in Downey. He remained in the grocery business for over 35 years. If he would have lived until July 15, 1926 he would have been 75 years of age.

T.R. Manning married Miss Katie Dauer on Feb. 17, 1897. Comments about Mr. Manning in his obituary was he was a man of sterling qualities -- a true friend, always courteous, and obliging.

In business, he was a man whose word was as good as his bond, and when he sold out his business, he was trading with numerous customers from when he started his business.

He was thought of as being an indulgent father and a loving, devoted husband.

Per the obituary of 1926, it stated that the funeral was conducted by J.W. McKellar, a lifelong friend, and the statement that Mr. Manning was one of “Nature’s Noblemen” was made.

May he rest in peace.
Bobbi Bruce is a docent with the Downey Historical Society.

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