On This Day: The Death of Constable Charles W. Winston, 3 April 1926

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Captain Timothy Murakami of the Industry Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent out an email this morning, which was forwarded to me by City of Industry City Manager Paul Philips, regarding the addition to the Los Angeles County Peace Officers Memorial, as well as state and national memorials, of Charles W. Winston, an acting constable in the Puente Township who was killed in an automobile accident in the line of duty on 3 April 1926.

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The coverage in the 4 April 1926 edition of the Los Angeles Times of the tragic accident that took the life of acting Constable Charles W. Winston on Valley Boulevard near the town of Puente and not far from the Homestead.

Captain Murakami’s email included brief information on Constable Winston’s passing taken from the 4 April 1926 edition of the Los Angeles Times.  The report in the paper stated that Winston “was appointed two days before his death to take the place of Constable George Bidart, who was granted a two months’ leave of absence.”   This selection would have been done at the behest of the County Board of Supervisors.

On the 2nd, Winston was on Valley Boulevard “about two miles west of Puente” and then “stepped out from behind a row of parked automobiles” when he was struck by a car driven by D.C. Hammel of Los Angeles.  The location was probably close to where 7th Avenue crosses Valley today and not far from the Homestead, then owned by Walter P. Temple.  Constable Winston was taken to a hospital in Downey, where he died of his injuries the following day, the 3rd.  A sheriff’s department investigation determined that Hammell was not at fault as “the accident was unavoidable.”

Winston 1870 census
The Winston family, including 8-year old Charles, enumerated at their 180-acre ranch in the 1870 census in the San Gabriel Township   Their neighbors two households down was the family of Benjamin D. Wilson and his second wife Margaret Hereford, who lived near where the Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens is located today.

Interestingly, the short Times article added that Winston “was a member of a pioneer family.”  A little poking around revealed that he was from a family of orange growers that settled in what is now San Marino in the late 1860s.

Specifically, his father, William H. Winston was a native of Madison County, Alabama, near Huntsville, who lived for some years in Texas with his first wife and son, before returning to Alabama after wife’s death.  He then married Mary Watts on New Year’s Day 1861.  Just afterward, the Civil War broke out and Winston joined the Confederate Army around the time that Charles (whose middle name was his mother’s maiden name: Watts) was born.

Winston 1920 census
The 1920 census included Charles and Kate Winston (household 19, near the bottom) at the town of Piru in eastern Ventura County, where he managed a citrus grove.

After the war’s end, William Winston applied for a pardon, claiming that he’d supported Democrat Stephen A. Douglas in his 1860 presidential campaign and that he was against the rebellion, only serving the Confederacy because he was forced to, though he managed to attain the rank of colonel in the army.  In any case, in 1868, Winston took his family, including 7-year old Charles to Los Angeles, which had been a strong pro-Confederate area during the war.

William Winston bought 180 acres of land from Benjamin D. Wilson, who came to the area with William Workman and John Rowland in 1841 and owned a large estate near the San Gabriel Mission.  Winston built a house and planted vineyards and orange groves on his property.

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This circa 1880s cabinet card photograph by Elias Bonine of the Winston family ranch near San Gabriel is in the Homestead’s collection.

The Homestead’s collection has a cabinet card of the Winston property, taken by Elias Bonine in the 1880s and which is shown here.  The family home was near Sierra Madre Boulevard and there is a Winston Avenue today, east of Sierra Madre, and just a short distance from the Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Botanical Gardens.

William Winston died in 1886, when Charles was 25 years old and it appears he continued to live on the family property, assisting his mother in its management.  By 1900, however, Charles, who was married to Catherine Manning, who grew up in the Los Nietos township near Downey, worked as a fruit buyer in the San Gabriel area.  Then, he spent many years living with Catherine in Ventura County, first at Simi Valley and then Piru, where he managed fruit orchards.

Charles W. Winston’s grave in the Winston family plot at San Gabriel Cemetery.  From Winston’s listing at findagrave.com and posted by “lm.”

How and why Charles and Catherine wound up in Puente is not known, but they were probably only in the area for a short time before the tragic accident that took his life. Though the Times article gave his age as 60, Charles was actually just shy of his 65th birthday when he died.  He was buried at the Winston family plot at San Gabriel Cemetery and his widow moved back to the Downey area where she grew up.

Charles W. Winston will be added to the county, state, and national peace officers memorials at a ceremony in May, which will give him the recognition he has been due since his untimely passing over ninety years ago.

For more on the Los Angeles County Peace Officers Memorial, check out the Facebook page for the memorial.

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