Portrait Gallery: Thomas Workman Temple and Francis Workman Temple, ca. 1856

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

We’re so used to snapping photos on our phones for virtually anything that it can be hard to wrap our heads around the fact that, 150 years ago or more, it was uncommon to have more than a few photos of a person taken their entire life.  This was because photography was limited to professionals who used expensive equipment and materials and charged prices that limited availability.

It was not until the 1890s that the first personal cameras were issued by Kodak, though even these were costly and accessible only to those with some means.  It was not much later than that when personal cameras were produced in mass quantities that were far more affordable and the snapshot became much more common.

Photographs from the 19th century of Workman and Temple family members, who were very well off, are not particularly numerous, though there was still a significant difference between the era of the daguerreotype, up through about the mid-1860s or so, which were printed on glass and housed in leather cases for protection, and the ambrotype, which appeared locally in greater numbers from about the late 1860s and onward, and which were printed on paper.

Obviously, the former were quite expensive and, so, there are only a few of these that have survived.  William Workman, for example, appears to have had his first photograph taken in 1851 in New York when he was on his way to his only return visit to his native England.  Perhaps a year or so later, his daughter, Margarita, and her husband, F.P.F. Temple, likely had their first sitting, though whether this was done locally or in San Francisco is not known.

Tonight’s highlighted photographs from the Homestead’s collection are apparently 1920s copies of daguerreotype images of the Temples’ two eldest children, Thomas Workman (1846-1892) and Francis Workman (1848-1888.)  The young gents appear to be about nine and seven years of age, respectively, and what is striking about them is their clothing, which definitely reflects the socioeconomic standing of the Temple family at the time.

19941 Thomas W Temple
Thomas Workman Temple (1846-1892).

F.P.F. Temple, along with his father-in-law Workman, was a prosperous rancher and farmer, with substantial herds of cattle and horses and raising a growing number of crops on his half of Rancho La Merced, adjacent to the west of Workman’s half of Rancho La Puente.  Moreover, Temple owned considerable property in the gold fields of Tuolumne County, including in the towns of Sonora, Springfield and Columbia, the latter now a state historic park where two of the brick buildings were once owned by him.

Thomas and Francis both sport suits, including coats with wide lapels and matching trousers, smartly patterned vests, patterned neckties, and large collars for their shirts.  Moreover, the pair have watches tucked into the pockets of their vests and long watch chains.  Too bad we can’t see their shoes, which must have been of excellent craftsmanship to go along with their fine clothing.

Befitting the eldest children of a prosperous family, the two boys later came to assume important positions with family businesses.  Thomas, who was named for his great-grandfather, Thomas Workman, and, incidentally, was known as an adult as “Lord Chesterfield” for his fine clothes and excellent manners, went to work with a metal-working firm in Los Angeles before joining his father and grandfather’s Temple and Workman bank when it opened in 1871.

Then in his mid-twenties, Thomas was a popular young man about town and was involved in social clubs, was a mason, and was a founding trustee, in 1872, of the Los Angeles Public Library.  He owned a well-appointed home on Main and Third streets, then a fashionable residential area before it became part of the rapidly expanding business district of the city.

Unfortunately, his role as cashier at the bank clashed with debts he contracted to the same institution and, when it failed, in 1876, it was publicly revealed that he was in arrears in the tens of thousands of dollars.  Married that year to Nettie Friend, Thomas, who was briefly married to Rafaela Martinez, a relative of María Encarnación Rowland, whose husband John, owned La Puente with William Workman, before she died in 1869, settled on some land his mother owned separate from the property of her husband and father that was mortgaged to Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin for a loan he made to the bank.

After several years, Thomas and Nettie left California and spent several years in Hermosillo in the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora.  Thomas worked in real estate and other endeavors there and the couple had a son, who, sadly, died at a young age.  By the mid-1880s, the pair returned to Los Angeles, where Thomas continued with real estate and then, for several years, was proprietor of La Cronica, a Spanish-language newspaper of long standing in Los Angeles.

In early 1892, during a flu epidemic that swept through the region, Thomas died of the disease, with his mother and grandmother, Nicolasa Urioste de Workman, succumbing to it, as well.  He was just 45 years old.  Notably, quite a number of years ago, I was contacted by the chief of police in Pomona who was looking for the ancestry of his great-great-grandmother and asked if I knew about Zoraida Temple.

I hadn’t, but with information he provided and further research I was able to do, we learned that Thomas had Zoraida out of wedlock with Petra Bermudez, a neighbor from the Misión Vieja community in the Whittier Narrows where Thomas lived much of his early life.  It doesn’t appear that she spent much time with her father, however, and she married José Pérez in 1890 and raised her family in Pomona, evidently without any contact with her Temple relations who lived nearby.  I well remember the surprise, but also relief and appreciation which her descendant showed as we found a key missing piece to his family puzzle and this was a reminder of why what we do at the Homestead can be important on a highly personal level.

19942 Francis Workman Temple
Francis Workman Temple (1848-1888)

As for Francis, named for his father’s baptismal name of Francisco and his grandfather’s surname, he was more attuned to farm life, even though he was educated for a period at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or M.I.T., in the early 1870s.  His main pursuit for several years was assisting his grandfather Workman at Rancho La Puente by managing the vineyards and overseeing the production of wine and brandy.

His role was such that, when the bank failure occurred, Workman transferred his power of attorney to Francis from his father, F.P.F. Temple.  If the idea was to try and save some of the estate for his grandfather, there was little that could be done and, several months later, William Workman took his life in despair at the financial ruin brought about by the bank’s collapse.

Francis, meanwhile, remained on the ranch, living in the Workman House, and operating the vineyard and producing wine and brandy.  Evidently, he was able, with three full growing and production seasons, to make enough money to buy the house, outbuildings, El Campo Santo Cemetery, and 75 acres from Baldwin in 1880 for $5,000.

His proficiency as a viticulturist appears to have been substantial.  He left us a short handwritten primer, “How to Make Wine,” and amassed a decent estate in the dozen or so years that he occupied and then owned what became known as the Workman Homestead.

Unfortunately, Francis suffered from tuberculosis and frequently was absent from the Homestead, spending significant amounts of time in Arizona for his health.  One of his most trusted employees was a teenaged Laura Gonzalez, who evidently managed much of the ranch’s operations while Francis was convalescing.  She also carried out a clandestine romance with Francis’ younger brother, Walter, and we’ve shared some material connected to that hidden love affair.

In early August 1888, just three days shy of his fortieth birthday, Francis, who was a bachelor, died of the disease and passed away, it was reported, in the very room in the Workman House in which he was born.  This was less than four years prior to the death of his older brother.  The two now are interred in the mausoleum that Walter completed in 1921 and these images are among the few that we have of them, though in Francis’ case, we have some from the 1870s that were donated two years ago by descendant Ruth Ann Michaelis.

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