Whittier is a city in Los Angeles County, California about 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Los Angeles. The city had a population of 85,331 at the 2010 census, up from 83,680 as of the 2000 census, and encompasses 14.7 square miles (38.0 square kilometers). Like nearby Montebello, the city constitutes part of the Gateway Cities. Whittier was incorporated in February 1898, although it was first settled in 1887, and became a charter city in 1955. The city is named for the poet John Greenleaf Whittier and is home to Whittier College.
Whittier's roots can be traced to Spanish soldier Manuel Nieto. In 1784, Nieto received a Spanish land grant of 300,000 acres (1,200 km²), Rancho Los Nietos, as a reward for his military service and to encourage settlement in California. The area of Nieto's land grant was reduced in 1790 as the result of a dispute with Mission San Gabriel. Nonetheless, Nieto still had claim to 167,000 acres (680 km2) stretching from the hills north of Whittier, Fullerton and Brea, south to the Pacific ocean, and from what is known today as the Los Angeles River east to the Santa Ana River. Nieto built a rancho for his family near Whittier, and purchased cattle and horses for his ranch and also planted cornfields. When Nieto died in 1804, his children inherited their father's property.
At the time of the Mexican-American War, much of Whittier was owned by Pio Pico, a rancher and the last Mexican governor of California. Pio Pico built a hacienda in Whittier on the San Gabriel River, which today is known as Pio Pico State Historic Park Following the Mexican-American war, German immigrant Jacob F. Gerkens paid $234 to the U.S. government to acquire 160 acres (0.6 km2) of land under the Homestead Act and built a cabin known today as the Jonathan Bailey House. Gerkens would later become the first chief of police of the Los Angeles Police Department. Gerkens' land was owned by several others before a group of Quakers purchased it and expanded it to 1,259 acres (5 km2), with the intent of founding a Quaker community. The area soon became known as a thriving citrus ranching region, with "Quaker Brand" fruit being shipped all over the United States. Later, walnut trees were also planted, and Whittier became the largest walnut grower in the United States. In addition to walnuts and citrus, Whittier was also a major producer of pampas grass.