by Paul R. Spitzzeri
On this day, 142 years ago, as F.P.F. Temple, president of the suspended bank of Temple and Workman, scrambled to raise funds to reopen the stricken institution, he, his father-in-law William Workman and friend Luis (Lewis) Wolfskill, agreed to sell the western two-thirds of Rancho San Francisquito to Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin.
The purchase of 6,000 acres was for $60,000 and, while the money provided some measure of temporary relief for Temple and Workman, the deal allowed Baldwin to expand his growing empire in the San Gabriel Valley.
The previous spring, the San Francisco mining and real estate baron acquired the Rancho Santa Anita from Los Angeles merchant Harris Newmark for $200,000, a record for a piece of property in Los Angeles County. Baldwin’s deal for the San Francisquito parcel, which was adjacent to Santa Anita, not only added to his portfolio, but it was preparatory to his next agreement with Temple and Workman, but more on that below.
San Francisquito was one of the many ranchos under the control of Mission San Gabriel from the 1770s to the 1830s, when secularization by the Mexican government shuttered the mission and allowed for its extensive lands to be made available for grants to citizens. In the case of this rancho, the grant was made by Governor Pío Pico in 1845 to naturalized Mexican citizen Henry Dalton.
Dalton, born in London in the first years of the 19th century, took to the sea as a young man and wound up in Peru as a merchant. After years there with his trade taking him up the western coast of the Americas, Dalton came to Los Angeles in 1843. The following year he purchased Rancho Azusa from its grantee, Luis Arenas. Later, he received grants to two additions to Azusa. In 1847, he bought Rancho Santa Anita from its grantee, Scotland native Hugo Reid.
Dalton married María Guadalupe Zamorano, whose father was the first printer in California, and they had a large family. One of their children, Luisa, married Luis (Lewis) Wolfskill in 1871, and Wolfskill’s story is another interesting one.
He was the son of William Wolfskill, a native of Kentucky who lived in central Missouri at about the same time that William Workman was there with his brother David. Not long after William Workman migrated to New Mexico via the new Santa Fe Trail, Wolfskill did the same. Again, the two men resided in the same area there, the town of Taos, north of Santa Fe.
It was Wolfskill, however, who was the first of the two to travel to Los Angeles, being one of the first to take the new Old Spanish Trail (which was neither old, nor Spanish, when it opened in 1829). Arriving in Los Angeles in 1831, Wolfskill worked as a carpenter, but acquired some land south of town where, a decade after he settled in the pueblo, he developed California’s first commercial orange grove. Years later, the orange became a major staple of the state’s economy.
After a first marriage, which ended when his wife left him for another man, Wolfskill married Magadalena Lugo and had several children with her, one of which was Luis, born in 1847. While Wolfskill continued with his successful orange raising, he acquired a significant amount of ranch land during the dire drought-ravaged first half of the 1860s, including a large ranch in what is now Orange County and the Rancho Santa Anita, which he acquired in 1865. During the drought, he allowed Workman and John Rowland to take their starving cattle from their Rancho La Puente to an area on the northers fringes of the San Bernardino Mountains where Wolfskill miraculously found water and grass sufficient to provide for his stock and those of his friends.
In 1866, Wolfskill died and Luis received the Rancho Santa Anita from his father’s estate. Notably, Luis sold most of Santa Anita, comprising some 8,500 acres, to Harris Newmark in 1872 for $85,000. The deal must’ve seemed a windfall to the young Wolfskill, but the first boom in greater Los Angeles which began in the late 1860s only got hotter, and Newmark realized his bigger payday three years later.
After Luis married Luisa Dalton, he was given the western two-thirds of San Francisquito by his father-in-law, and then sold interests to F.P.F. Temple and William Workman. In 1875, when the transaction with Baldwin was made, Luis was finishing the first of two one-year terms as a member of the Los Angeles Common [City] Council and was also a depositor of the Temple and Workman bank.
In the aftermath of the sale of San Francisquito, Baldwin made deals to loan the Temple and Workman bank nearly $350,000 to continue their bank and money arrived starting in late December. The funds, however, were eagerly awaited by depositors who were quick to close their accounts with the bank. Within several weeks, the borrowed money was mostly gone and the bank closed permanently in mid-January 1876. That story has been told in great detail here.
Baldwin added immensely to his landholdings when he foreclosed on the Temple and Workman loan in 1879, adding property from the San Gabriel Valley, southwest Los Angeles, and elsewhere totaling tens of thousands of acres.
Henry Dalton was cheated out of a huge portion of Rancho Azusa by the conniving of surveyor Henry Hancock, who drew the court-ordered survey of the property in the late 1850s. Dalton challenged the survey and also had to battle with squatters, who were numerous in the San Gabriel Valley and posed problems for Workman and Temple, as well.
Dalton’s problems were such that, when he was counted in the 1880 federal census, he told the enumerator that his occupation was “Fighting for my Rights,” which was duly recorded on the census sheet! Left with very little compared to what he’d had in his heyday, Dalton died four years later.
Luis Wolfskill who served out his second council term at the end of 1876 went into mining, an interest of his father, and spent much of the remaining decade of his life in the deserts of San Bernardino County searching for a big strike, which never materialized. Luis also spent considerable time, effort and money trying to extricate his father-in-law from his troubles. He died in 1884 at only 36 and was followed within a few years by his wife, Luisa. Their several young children, orphans at age not far removed from that of Luis when his parents died within a few years of each other in the 1860s, were raised by relatives.
Almost a half-century after Baldwin bought the majority of San Francisquito from Wolfskill, Temple and Workman, Temple’s son (and Workman’s grandson), Walter P. Temple, flush with money from oil discovered for him in 1914 by his nine-year old son Thomas on the family’s small ranch in the Montebello Hills, bought almost 300 acres of San Francisquito.
The reason was to establish, in 1923, the Town of Temple, which was publicized as a monument to the Temple and Workman family, and it seems highly like that Temple did this knowing that the land on which his new town (renamed Temple City in 1928) sat was previously owned by his father and grandfather before being sold to Baldwin.
Unfortunately, Temple’s tenure with the town was tenuous and short. Following his father and grandfather’s footsteps in some ways, he experienced financial reversals by the end of the 1920s and sold his interests in Temple City in 1930. Still, the town’s existence nearly a century later is part of the legacy he sought to make public when he established it.