On This Day: The Birthday of Margarita A. Temple (1866-1953)

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Antonia Margarita Workman, the daughter of William Workman and Nicolasa Urioste, had a large family with her husband, F.P.F. Temple, comprising eleven children, of whom three died in early childhood.  Of the surviving eight, there were six boys (Thomas, Francis, William, John, Walter and Charles) and two daughters (Lucinda and Margarita).  On this day in 1866, Margarita Antonia Temple was born at the family’s home on Rancho La Merced, near today’s intersection of Rosemead Boulevard and San Gabriel Boulevard, near where the latter turns into Durfee Avenue.

temples 1869
Margarita A. Temple, sitting on her mother’s lap. with family members and others, circa 1869.

At the time of her birth, Margarita’s father was a prosperous rancher and farmer who was just starting to enter into the business world of Los Angeles, which was on the cusp of its first significant population and development boom.  Over several years, F.P.F., often in partnership with his father-in-law, William Workman, became one of the region’s wealthiest men, operating two banks in succession as well as developing railroad, real estate, oil and other business projects during the boom period.

As chronicled on this blog over the last year, however, the boom went bust in 1875-76 and the Temple family’s wealth was essentially wiped out by the failure of the Temple and Workman bank.  This occurred before Margarita turned ten years old.

Margarita Temple 3 ca. 1872
A painting of Margarita, taken about 1872, and now in the museum’s collection.

As she grew older, Margarita was educated by the Sisters of Charity, a Catholic convent that operated a girls’ school in Los Angeles, and she then went to Holy Names College in Oakland, which still operates.  In 1889, she married Samuel P. Rowland, a grandson of John Rowland, the co-owner of Rancho La Puente with Margarita’s grandfather Workman.  It is the only instance of intermarriage between the Rowland family with either the Workman or Temple families.

Samuel was a pharmacist, but also farmed on a portion of La Puente left to his father, Thomas.  However, when Thomas advanced his son $7000 and the experienced financial problems in the 1890s, when drought and depression marked much of the decade in greater Los Angeles, Samuel had to vacate the ranch.  He moved his family to Los Angeles and remained there for several years.

Margarita Temple 1880s 2
Margarita, about the time of her marriage of Samuel P. Rowland in 1889.

Then, in 1911, after Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, who took possession of most of William Workman’s share of Rancho La Puente after he foreclosed on a loan to the Temple and Workman bank, died and his estate was settled, subdivisions of much of that land took place.  One such property was known as La Fortuna Farms and took up several hundred acres immediately west of the Homestead.

Samuel was hired as a special agent for Purcell, Gray and Gale, Inc. (later Aronson, Gale and Company, which subdivided the property (this is why a major street near the museum is called Gale Avenue).  It’s a bit of an irony that the property he was selling had been owned by his wife’s grandfather nearly four decades before.  Samuel worked on this project for several years and one of his biggest sales was to dairy owner A.V. Handorf, who bought a large portion of the tract for farming and dairy operations.  The Handorf house still stands on the corner of Turnbull Canyon Road and Don Julian Road, just a short distance from the museum.

Los Angeles Times ad for what became La Fortuna Farms, directly west of the Homestead, on a portion of Rancho La Puente formerly owned by William Workman, Margarita’s grandfather.  Her husband was a special agent for the tract for several years.  From the Los Angeles Times, 8 October 1911.

Samuel, however, died in 1916 at the age of 50, leaving Margarita and several children. When her brother reacquired the Workman Homestead a year later and then began work on renovations after a farmer’s lease expired at the beginning of 1919, he also built homes on the west end of the ranch, right across from the Handorf residence, for his two sisters.

Even though Walter lost the Homestead in 1932, Margarita was permitted to remain in her house (her older sister, Lucinda, died in early 1928) by the Bank of California, which took possession.  In late 1940, the ranch was acquired by Harry and Lois Brown, who established El Encanto Sanitarium on the property.  Margarita then left the ranch, where she’d lived for nearly two decades.  She resided with some of her children over the years and died in 1953, the last survivor of her large family.

Walter Margarita Maude WH 1920s
Margarita, far left, next to her brother Walter and others in front of the Workman House, ca. late 1920s.

Over the years, the Homestead was fortunate enough to have some of her possessions donated to us, including a late 19th century bed, a painting of her taken while she was probably about six years old, photographs and other items.  Notably, there are more descendants of the Workman and Temple family today from Margarita than any of her siblings.

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