by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Continuing this post based on the informative and interesting entries from Thomas W. Temple II’s journals from his summer vacation back home at the “Workman Homestead Rancho” in late July and early August 1924, we pick up with his writings of 7 August.
Thomas began by observing that “yesterday was Agnes’ birthday, 6th of August” and added that “It’s the first time she has been here [for her birthday] in 3 years.” In 1921, he went on, “she and mama [Laura Gonzalez Temple] celebrated their birthdays on the 14th of August 1921, 4 days before my return to S[anta]. Clara [University, where Thomas was attending the preparatory high school].”
Thomas recalled that “it was just after the San Gabriel Pageant and its memories were not quite effaced as yet.” This blog had a post a few weeks back about the pageant and the Temple family’s participation—Walter P. Temple’s plaque commemorating the location of the original Mission San Gabriel at Whittier Narrows in the Old Mission community where the Temples lived for some 65 years was also dedicated then.
He added that “the Lugos were over, Laura & Clarita [Clara]” and he recorded that the latter “I used to like—and still do, though she is engaged to a George Pryor.” The sisters Laura and Clara were daughters of Andres Lugo and Erolinda Valdez. The Lugos were a prominent early California family and owners of such ranches as San Antonio, southeast of Los Angeles where Laura and Clara grew up. Erolinda was raised on a portion of Rancho La Puente near modern Walnut inhabited by many New Mexican families who were associated with the Rowland family.
George Pryor, meanwhile, was the great-grandson of Nathaniel Pryor, a native of Kentucky who wound up in New Mexico in the 1820s, when Rowland and William Workman were living in Taos. In 1827, Workman and Pryor joined a fur-trapping expedition led by James Ohio Pattie and which trapped along the Gila River through today’s Arizona until it flowed into the Colorado where modern Yuma is situated.
While Workman and others decided to go back to New Mexico, Pryor joined Pattie and some of the group and ventured into California, where they were arrested and jailed at San Diego because they did not have permits to enter the territory. The men were released and some of them, like Pryor, who was known as Miguel, remained in the region. He married María Teresa Sepulveda and had two sons with her, including George’s grandfather Paul.
Clara Lugo and George Pryor were married in 1926 and had a son, also named George, but divorced after several years. In late 1938, less than a month after Thomas married San Gabriel resident Gabriela Quiroz, Clara married Gabriela’s brother, Carlos and became, in an interesting twist, Thomas’ sister-in-law.
Continuing his entry, Thomas wrote that in 1922, “we were in Mexico City” on Agnes’ birthday, adding that “it was the day we left there and a Sunday—that afternoon Magda Polin, daughter of 1 of Obregon’s right-hand men, took us through the national Palace at Chapultepec. That evening we slipped out of Mexico, with sad hearts. Adios, Mexico, Adios.” The reference here was to Magdalena’s father, Joseph Polin, who was married to a daughter of Alvaro Obregon, president of Mexico from 1920-1924 and who was assassinated after winning reelection in 1928.
In 1923, Thomas noted, the Temples “were spending a few weeks with Mr. and Mrs. Savin at Santa Barbara.” He added that “Mrs. Savin was Josefita de la Guerra” of the very prominent family from that coastal city. Her grandfather, Jose Antonio de la Guerra, was a native of Spain who moved to Mexico City at age 13 to live with an uncle. Joining the army, he became a cadet at San Diego in 1798 and was in Monterey before settling in Santa Barbara in 1806. He was the long-time commander at the presidio and owned several ranchos in the region with his descendants remaining influential in the area for many years.
Josefa married Alejandro Savin in 1920 when she was in her late fifties. Savin was born in San Diego in 1851 of a French father and Mexican mother. He lived and worked in Los Angeles during the 1870s and married Manuela Garfias Blanco, who had three sons from her first marriage to Pedro Blanco, and the couple had two daughters. Manuela’s father Manuel was one of the soldiers brought to Alta California by Manuel Micheltorena, an appointee of Mexico City and loathed by the independent-minded Californios who chafed under his administration.
In 1843, not long after arriving in California, Manuel Garfias was granted Rancho San Pascual, in what later became Pasadena, by Micheltorena. The governor was confronted early in 1845 by Pío Pico, head of the California legislature and who was supported in this effort by William Workman and others, in a “battle” at Cahuenga Pass near Los Angeles. After a minimum of gunfire in which a horse was killed, Workman and others on the governor’s side negotiated an agreement by which Micheltorena surrendered his office and returned to Mexico.
Garfias was still in the service of Micheltorena until the end, but, he remained in the area, having married Luisa Avila, whose family owned the Rancho Las Cienegas west of Los Angeles and built the Avila Adobe, which remains on Olvera Street and is the oldest surviving residence in the city. He joined the Californios in the defense of the region against the American invasion of 1846-47, served as a Los Angeles town council member and was the first elected treasurer of Los Angeles County.
Manuela was the second of the Garfias children and the family lived in an expansive adobe house built on the east side of the Arroyo Seco. While the Gold Rush years were good for local ranchers, the economy suffered afterward and Garfias, who received a U.S. patent for San Pascual, sold the ranch in 1858 to Benjamin D. Wilson, a prominent Angeleno who came to California with Workman and John Rowland in 1841. The Garfias family moved to Mexico, living at Tepic and San Blas in the state of Nayarit, and Don Manuel died in Mexico City in 1895.
After spending a year in Los Angeles County jail for trying to bribe a witness in a federal court case, Savin headed south with his family and became a successful merchant in Tijuana, Baja California. The Savins returned to Los Angeles, where Manuela died in 1919, upon which Alejandro married Josefa de la Guerra, remaining with her until his death in 1938, while she lived for another eight years, dying at age 86 at the end of 1946.
Thomas added that Josefa’s “older sister Doña Maria remembers when her mother Trinidad Ortega de la Guerra “used to take her to see our grandmother [Antonia Margarita Workman de Temple] at the old mission [the Old Mission community mentioned above], also she says that on these visits they would bring her to the old Workman Rancho here at Puente and make her play the organ in the family chapel.”
This is a fascinating and rare reference to St. Nicholas’ Chapel, the brick Gothic Revival edifice completed by William and Nicolasa Workman (and named for her) about 1860 in El Campo Santo Cemetery. The structure, which had stained glass windows and gilt ceilings, measured some 48 by 24 feet, and to have this statement about an organ in the chapel is a notable tidbit.
The Temples enjoyed tea “at the old de la Guerra Adobe, now a tea shop, on one of the vast verandas” with Mrs. Savin and others in recognition of his sister’s birthday.
As for Agnes’ birthday celebration in 1924, it was “an informal dinner at home, with a beautiful cake, and champagne from Guasti, wine and cocktails golore [sic].” Now, if this seems surprising, given the fact that America was in its fifty year of Prohibition, the centennial of which the museum is commemorating this year, it should be restated here that the law was well honored in the breach. The vineyards and winery of the Guasti family were located in Ontario just north of today’s international airport.
Thomas mentioned that there were only two others present, Lionel Weidye and Loretta “Tootsie” Duarte, granddaughter of Margarita Temple Rowland, Walter Temple’s sister, and who was so close to Agnes that there was a second bed in her room at La Casa Nueva for her frequent overnight stays.
He continued that “I toasted the health of our sweet sister on her 17th summer, wished her health, wealth and happiness.” As testament to how close the two older of the four surviving Temple siblings were, he stated, “she is all that we have—may she live up to our expectations, may we all live up to those of our dear mother.”
Keeping the praise going, Thomas added, “Inezita is fast growing into a beautiful sweet young woman, sensible and independent. She is doing wonders with her music, she also likes housekeeping and never stands for an untidy manner or appearance.”
Turning to La Casa Nueva, he reported “we take occasional walks through the new house that is gradually reaching completion. We expect Mr. [Roy Seldon] Price [the newly hired architect] out tomorrow, and hope to see some detail work. The sooner we get in the house the better. Perhaps by Christmas.”
Thomas ended his entry by lamenting “I have only a week and a half left before going back to school and am already getting prepared.” He added, “I hate to return in a way, yet I might as well for things can take care of themselves while I am away at school.” It seems, on first glance, unclear what he meant by this last part, except that he followed “Also I’m having as much to say about the new place as I possibly can, for we children are the ones to live and enjoy it in days to come.”
Clearly, he and his siblings were getting anxious to see La Casa Nueva, about two years in construction, completed quickly. The ambitious timetable of moving in by the holidays, though, was off by nearly three years, as the home, which was dramatically reshaped by the Beverly Hills-based Price, was not finished until late in 1927.
There is one last entry, so check back in a couple of days for that and more remarkable history from Thomas’ fascinating journal.