by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Tonight’s featured artifact from the Homestead’s collection is a remarkable wall map, measuring about 2 feet by 3 feet, from 1900, published by the book sellers Stoll and Thayer Company and drawn by engineers A.L. George and N.B. Blunt, with the very wordy title of: Sectional & Road Map of Los Angeles County Including Part of Orange & Ventura Counties Showing the Oil and Mining Districts Compiled From Official Records.
The map identifies by number over two dozen mining districts, mostly in the San Gabriel Mountain range, though there was one in the San Jose Hills not too far from what is now Mount San Antonio College, and over a dozen oil districts. The earliest of these was the San Fernando district, located mostly in the hills to the west of modern Interstate 5 as it moves from the San Fernando Valley into the Santa Clarita area.
That area is referred to on the map as the “Newhall Oil Fields,” and number 3 is identified as the Towsley & Temple section. The area today is still known as Towsley Canyon, just south of Santa Clarita where the Ed Davis Wilderness Park is situated, though, unfortunately, the web page says nothing about the oil history there. F.P.F. Temple was an early participant in drilling in this section during the mid-1870s and was said to have struck oil just before an economic collapse that included the failure of his Temple and Workman bank. He built a steam-powered oil refinery (a very small endeavor), as well. Just after that, the Star Oil Company hit a gusher in 1876. Six oil districts to the northwest in Ventura County are also marked.
Then there is the Puente Hills Oil District, which came into being in 1885 when William Lacy and William R. Rowland, son of John Rowland, co-owner with William Workman, on Rancho La Puente and a former county sheriff, found oil in the hills and created the successful Puente Oil Company. This region is not far from where Harbor Boulevard crosses the hills from La Habra and becomes Fullerton Road in Rowland Heights. Notably, the firm’s oil pipeline did not go west or south towards the ocean as became standard later, but east through the Puente and Chino hills ranges to the town of Chino, which was developed two years after Lacy and Rowland’s discovery.
Recent additions to those districts included Whittier and Fullerton, the former not far west of the Puente Oil Company lands and the latter, opened by Edward Doheny (whose Los Angeles Oil Field discovery in 1892 is marked as #1 on the map just west of downtown) following a geological decline along a section of the Chino Hills, though the name is misleading because Fullerton was just the closest town. There are became better known as Olinda, after a ranch of that name in the section, in what is today the City of Brea. In the very near future, most of the last remaining pumping wells in that area will be removed as large housing projects are now being planned.
Within two decades or so after this map’s creation, Walter P. Temple followed his father’s footsteps in oil, benefiting in the mid to late 1910s from a very fortunate discovery by his nine-year old son, Thomas, on the family’s property at Montebello. Walter then parlayed that fortune through the late 1920s into prospecting for oil in several areas of the region, including Whittier, Signal Hill, Huntington Beach, and Ventura, though none replicated the success of Montebello.
One of the map’s most important features from a historical perspective is the showing of the old Spanish and Mexican era ranchos, about two dozen of which were in Los Angeles County and granted between the mid-1780s and mid-1840s. By far the largest of them was the Rancho ex-Mission San Fernando, which covered most of the valley of that name at some 117,000 acres. The smallest was the Rancho Potrero Chico, in the Whittier Narrows at under 100.
The Workman and Temple families had full or part ownership in many of the region’s ranches. Jonathan Temple purchased in 1843, from relatives of his wife Rafaela Cota, the Rancho Los Cerritos, about 27,000 acres embracing Long Beach and a portion of nearby communities. His two-story adobe house there still survives as the Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site, though Temple sold the ranch for about 75 cents an acre in 1866 after several years of flood and drought wreaked havoc on greater Los Angeles.
In 1842, John Rowland secured a grant to about 18,000 acres of the Rancho La Puente in the eastern extremity of the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles County. Three years later, he and William Workman, added officially as an owner although residing on the ranch since it was granted, obtained a regrant and expansion of La Puente to nearly 49,000 acres—this is what is shown on the map. Though Workman’s portion of the ranch was lost by 1880 to foreclosure by Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin on a loan to the fatally stricken Temple and Workman bank, a substantial portion of the Rowland section was still in family hands (and about 100 acres still is.)
The Whittier Narrows area was the site of the first Mission San Gabriel compound, though being close to the San Gabriel River was a significant liability when flooding forced a removal to higher, drier ground at the current site. The Misión Vieja community that developed around the original location grew around several ranchos: La Merced, Potrero Grande, Potrero de Felipe Lugo, and Potrero Chico.
William Workman acquired La Merced by foreclosure on its grantee, Casilda Soto de Lobo, who was unable to pay back a loan from Workman. He turned it over to his daughter’s husband, F.P.F. Temple, and La Puente ranch foreman Juan Matias Sánchez. The three men later acquired the other ranchos in the area, but all were lost to Lucky Baldwin in his foreclosure of the bank loan.
Just to the north was Rancho San Francisquito, long owned by Henry Dalton, like Workman a native of England who also acquired the ranchos Azusa and Santa Anita. Dalton gave the western two-thirds of San Francisquito to his son-in-law, Luis Wolfskill (whose father was the first commercial orange grower in California with a large grove in Los Angeles). Wolfskill then sold one-third interests to F.P.F. Temple and William Workman, but that land was sold to Baldwin as the Temple and Workman bank was closed. In 1923, though, Temple’s son Walter, who made a fortune from oil found in the Montebello Hills portion of Rancho La Merced lost to Baldwin, bought just under 300 acres of the western edge of San Francisquito and established the Town of Temple, renamed Temple City five years later.
West of Los Angeles, William Workman took advantage of low prices during the drought years of the first half of the 1860s to pick up a portion of Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, which he kept for about six years until he sold it. Too bad, the land could not have been kept until the 1910s or 1920s, because the ranch became part of Beverly Hills!
South of that, Workman and Temple joined with partners to acquire the Rancho La Cienega o Paso de las Tijera and then acquired interests in the nearby Aguaje de la Centinela and Sausal Redondo. A townsite called Centinela was launched in 1874-75, during the peak of a regional boom, but that faded with the collapse of the economy and the failure of the Temple and Workman bank. The map shows Baldwin as owner of the La Cienega o Paso de las Tijera ranch, because his foreclosure made him its possessor. Today, the Baldwin Hills bears his name, but was partly owned by Workman and Temple for a short period in the 1870s.
On the coast was Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica, on which, in 1875 the new town of Santa Monica was established by Nevada Senator John P. Jones. Jones purchased a controlling interest in the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad, of which Temple was first president and which was to go over 200 miles to Inyo County in eastern California because of a silver mining boom there. Jones, however, installed himself as president, with Temple moving to be treasurer, of the railroad and had the first section built to his new town, in which Temple invested in some lots. Again, the economic downturn of 1875-76 led to the sale of the railroad to the powerful Southern Pacific though the town survived and later prospered.
Family members had smaller interests in such ranches as San Antonio, southeast of Los Angeles, where the Temples owned a portion; San Rafael, where the tract of Judge Jonathan R. Scott was acquired by William Workman in what is now Burbank; Rincon de Brea, in Brea Canyon between Orange and Los Angeles counties, where Workman and Temple acquired interests; and Rancho San Pedro, where F.P.F. Temple and El Monte’s Fielding W. Gibson developed a town at the ranch’s northern edge that became Compton (early names were Centerville, because it was roughly halfway between Los Angeles and the harbor at Wilmington/San Pedro, and Gibsonville.) Temple also had substantial public land parcels, outside of the ranchos, in what is now Monterey Park and Alhambra.
The roads depicted in the map were reflective of travel by horse-drawn conveyances with the automobile just starting to make its appearance in the region. Within just a couple of decades, that element of the landscape would change dramatically, so that, while many of the roads here, at least in part, still exist (Valley Boulevard in the San Gabriel Valley is an example of an old thoroughfare that maintained its form without a great deal of alteration), the development of auto travel significantly altered roadways in later years.
Many of the outlying suburban towns on the map were relatively new creations, dating to about a dozen years prior with the famed Boom of the 1880s (foothill towns, for example, like Sierra Madre, Covina, Claremont and the like), while some went back to the early to mid 1870s (San Fernando, Artesia, Pomona)—all of which sprung up on the rail lines of the Southern Pacific and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. A few, notably El Monte, Anaheim, and Compton, went back to the 1850s and 1860s.
There are also quite a few little hamlets that no longer exist, such as Lemon (now part of Walnut); Green Meadows, now part of South Los Angeles; Fruitland, now in the Maywood area near Vernon and Commerce; Tropico, near Glendale; and Palms, near Culver City. Some places changed names, so that Clearwater is now Paramount; Sunset is Westwood; and Shorb and Ramona became Monterey Park.
Some of us fanatics could go on all day and all night (and for many more of those) about all of the fascinating and often-minute details included on maps like this, especially as this one came after a decade of economic depression and debilitating drought, but just as a new boom period would hit the region in the first years of the 20th century.
It is interesting to compare to maps that came before it, including one from 1877 showing an even larger area, and those that followed (whether showing the reach of the Pacific Electric Railway–streetcar systems were just starting to make major headway into suburbia thanks to the arrival of Henry E. Huntington to the region around the time this map was issued—or the growing network of automobile-directed highways and streets.)
Maps are among the best sources for showing the development of a region and, large ones like this, can present a remarkable level of detail for a wide area, making this example particularly meaningful and valuable.