by Paul R. Spitzzeri
In the devastating aftermath of the early 1876 failure of the Temple and Workman bank, the first major business failure in Los Angeles history, the financial fortunes of the families were largely in tatters. Most of the land owned by them was put up as collateral, or security, for a loan made by Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin late in 1875 in a desperate attempt to save the bank.
There was, however, some property that was exempted from the loan, including land deeded by William Workman to his daughter, Antonia Margarita Workman de Temple. Often these transactions were simply to provide something for a female child out of an estate, while in other cases, it could have been done to protect assets in the case of a financial catastrophe, but we don’t why Workman provided these lands to his daughter.
Among the property given to her, as laid out in Workman’s October 1870 will, was the land surrounding the Workman Mill, which was built on the banks of San José Creek (often known as Puente Creek) as it skirted the flanks of the northwestern extremity of the Puente Hills and just east of the San Gabriel River. There was about 600 acres to what became known as the Workman Mill Tract and the land was retained by Margarita Temple after the bank’s collapse.
There is an old saying about “land rich and cash poor” and any property has to be made productive in order to be financially sustainable. Consequently, Margarita had to do something with the Mill property to be able, for example, to pay property taxes. Tonight’s post highlights, from the Homestead’s collection, an original lease document transacted on 30 October 1878 between her and Manuel Anguisola.
The document involved “a portion of the tract of land known as the Puente Rancho” with boundaries including part of the Mill property on the northeast, the Puente Creek on the southeast, the San Gabriel River on the southwest and “other land of the said Puente rancho tract” on the northwest. This 200-acre parcel is in the general vicinity of the interchange with State Route 60, the Pomona Freeway, and Interstate 605, the San Gabriel River Freeway in the southwestern corner of Rancho La Puente, with much of this being in the City of Industry.
An additional element was that the lease involved “that right to the use of the water for irrigation which is now and heretofore used for irrigating the land.” Where the water was drawn from is not specified, though it may have been from San José Creek, which had year-round water of sufficient volume to power the Workman Mill.
That structure was evidently built in the mid-1860s and the miller was William Turner, an Ohio native whose father was a longtime operator of mills in greater Los Angeles. The younger Turner ran the Workman Mill for about six or seven years and resided in a home next to it with his wife Rebecca Humphreys and the oldest of their children.
A series of posts two years ago detailed a terrible incident in 1874 that took place in the store that Turner ran with Workman’s ranch foreman Frederick Lambourn, in which an attempted robbery gone wrong led to the wounding of Turner and his pregnant wife, who then miscarried. A search led to the injuring and then lynching of the suspect, Jesús Romo.
For a time, Turner’s father, John, operated the mill, but that arrangement ended not long before the failure of the Temple and Workman bank, and it is believed the facility remained closed until a fire destroyed the structure in 1889.
As for the Anguisola lease, it involved a three-year term at $600 per year, payable in installments of half at the beginning and middle of the year, with the first payment to take place on 1 January 1879. At that time, Anguisola was leasing the “Ranchito” of Pío Pico, the last governor of Mexican California and builder of the Pico House hotel, and whose Rancho Paso de Bartolo bordered both the Workman half of Rancho La Puente and the Temple family’s half of Rancho La Merced.
Anguisola was born in Santa Barbara in 1848 to a Spanish sailor and his Californio wife and was raised in that area. In 1869, he married Virginia de Arnaz, whose father, José, was also from Spain and who, in 1848, married Merced Avila, who came from a prominent family that built the Avila Adobe on Olvera Street and owned the Rancho Las Cienegas west of Los Angeles.
Jose de Arnaz used an inheritance his wife obtained from an uncle to acquire interests in two regional ranchos, including half of Rincon de las Bueyes, which adjoined Las Cienegas. José and Merced de Arnaz had a large family with Virginia the eldest and another, Manuel, who married Lucinda Temple, daughter of Margarita Temple just a month prior to this lease. It seems obvious that this connection is what made the deal with Anguisola possible.
Though it is not known what Anguisola used the Mill property for, he was known to have been a sheep rancher and a grape grower and brandy manufacturer. The irrigation clause in the lease indicates that his purpose was to engage in viticulture, something that others, principally Italians, did in the Workman Mill area for years. Sheep raising, however, was also very common during the era, so he may have engaged in both.
The 1880 census found Manuel and Virginia Anguisola residing on the Rancho San José near the recently established town of Pomona, so his leasing of the Mill and Ranchito properties was evidently an attempt to engage in intensive agriculture beyond what he was doing in the Pomona area. He also had to contend with squatters at the Ranchito, a common problem with ranch owners and lessees in those days. Manuel was also an active member of the Democratic Party and ran for County Assessor in 1879, though he lost the campaign.
Within ten years, however, Anguisola died and his widow was in default of property taxes. She lived in San Francisco and San Diego before she spent her last years in San Fernando, where she died in 1933. The Mill property was then divided by Margarita Temple among several of her many children and gradually sold over the years.
The document was notarized, and perhaps written, by Juan José Warner, born Jonathan Trumbull Warner in Connecticut and who was one of the first Americans to live in Los Angeles, arriving a few years after Jonathan Temple. Warner, whose name is best known for Warner Ranch and Warner Springs, southeast of Temecula, was also a close friend of William Workman. Because Margarita Temple could not read or write, Warner wrote in her name and she affixed a mark in the shape of a cross indicating her illiteracy above Anguisola’s neat and careful signature.
Pasted to the document was a form provided by Warner that followed statute by stating the Anguisola and Mrs. Temple personally appeared before him to demonstrate that they were executiing the instrument of the lease. The form also had a pre-printed statement that, because Margarita was “a married woman, upon an examination, without the hearing of her husband, I [Warner] made her acquainted with the contents of the instrument, and thereupon she acknowledged to me that she executed the same, and that she does not wish to retract the execution.” This statement was made to make it clear that she carried out the lease of her own accord.
F.P.F. Temple, her husband, was still living, though a series of strokes damaged his health and he died in April 1880, not long after the lease was executed. Margarita struggled to maintain her financial position, married a much younger man to the consternation of her children, and experienced lawsuits with Baldwin over his attempts to formalize possession of as much of the Temple property as he could solidify following his foreclosure on the bank loan.
In January 1892, Margarita, her mother, Nicolasa Urioste de Workman, and her eldest child, Thomas, died within a few weeks of each other during a flu epidemic that raged across the region. By then, the Workman Mill property looks to have been largely disposed of by her children.