by Paul R. Spitzzeri
In the years after the Workman and Temple families settled in Mexican California, beginning as early as 1828, they became part of a sparsely populated and, therefore, tight-knit community of Spanish-speaking Californios (as distinct by necessity in isolation from Mexicanos) residing in the “Siberia of Mexico.” We can see some elements of these close connections in baptismal records as the relationships associated with padrinos (godparents) meant deep ties for the welfare of their godchildren but also reflect those of the families involved. Intermarriage is clearly another way to note the ties that bound these families.
As photography became more commonly available by 1870, surviving collections of family papers and artifacts can give us an idea of the web of relationships developing among people. A couple of recent examples in the “Portrait Gallery” series concern the posts about Ygnacio del Valle and his son, Reginaldo, with photographs of the father and son coming to the Homestead’s collection by donation from Workman and Temple family descendants.
Today’s highlighted artifact from that collection is another such instance, being a circa 1870 carte de visite photo, donated nearly twenty years ago, of Clotilde de la Guerra de Sepúlveda (1839-1918), a member of two prominent families. The carte de visite, also known as a CDV, was a (generally) 2″ wide by 3 1/2″ high photograph on a slightly larger mount. The name was simply because they functioned like calling cards as something you’d present to friends and family much as a person would leave their card when visiting a home.
The cards were patented in the mid-1850s by a French photographer, André Adolphe Eugéne Disdéri and they were a massive hit because they were much cheaper than the daguerreotype and other types and several poses could be taken on one plate, as opposed to the single image per plate with the more expensive types. By the 1860s, people were collecting CDVs and putting them in albums with thick paper pages to hold the cards. The museum’s holdings include about eighty of these images, with a few from the early 1860s and some as late as the mid-Nineties, though most date from the 1870s.
As for the subject Clotilde de la Guerra de Sepúlveda was born in Santa Barbara and was an hija natural, or child born out of wedlock, to Francisco de la Guerra, son of Santa Barbara Presidio commander José Antonio de la Guerra and María Antonia Carrillo, and María del Rosario Lorenzana. In the 1860 census at Santa Barbara she was among some two dozen de la Guerra family members in one household, including her father and brother Felipe Santiago, also born to Lorenzana.
Clotilde could not be located on the 1870 census, but later in the ensuing decade she married Andrónico Sepulveda, son of José Antonio Andrés Sepulveda and Francisca Paula Avlia, whose family built the famous adobe on Olvera Street at the Plaza. Andrónico was part of a large family and his younger brother, Ygnacio, became a lawyer and prominent judge in Los Angeles before moving to Mexico City, where he became a confidante of dictator Porfírio Diaz.
The two young men were sent back east in 1854 to go to school and it is said that they were accompanied by prominent merchant Alfred Robinson, who was married to Anita de la Guerra, possibly a half-sister of Clotilde. A well-known photograph shows Andrónico and Ygnacio with Antonio Yorba, a cousin and while some sources suggest it is from 1850, it must have been from at least several years later, given that the Sepúlveda brothers were born in 1840 and 1842, respectively. In any case, their attendance at private boarding schools in the Boston area was highly unusual for Californios and attests to the close connections between them and Yankees like Robinson, who was from Massachusetts as were Jonathan and F.P.F. Temple.
By 1860, the Sepulveda brothers were back in Los Angeles (Ygnacio, all of seventeen years of age, was listed as being a “student of law”) and living with their father, who owned Rancho San Joaquín in what later became Orange County. Andrónico had the distinction of being enumerated twice in the 1870 census, being counted in late June near his father and other family members at San Joaquín in what was then the Santa Ana township with an Anaheim post office and, just about two months later, in Los Angeles with his father.
Meanwhile, almost nothing can be found about Clotilde and her whereabouts, but, in the 1880 census, she and Andrónico, who was the auditor of Los Angeles County and had oversight over the books of the treasurer, were married and living on Buena Vista Street west of the Plaza with Andrónico, Jr., age thirteen. This young man, who does not appear anywhere in the 1870 census, though he was born, apparently also as an hijo natural in August 1866, to another woman, Andrea Avila, and, of course, his father’s mother was from that family. In the 1900 census, Andrónico, Jr. lived in Puente with the family of Thomas Rowland, son of John Rowland, and oversaw the maintenance of irrigation ditches on Rowland’s portion of the ranch.
A year after the 1880 census, Clotilde gave birth of a son, Paul, and she had another child who did not survive past childhood, according to the 1900 enumeration. As for Andrónico, Sr., he remained in his elected position as county auditor through about the mid-1880s and then moved his family to the south end of Boyle Heights by the city limits and farmed. In his 1892 voter registration listing, it was he’d lost his right left above the knee, though it is not known what happened. Notably, the 1901 city directory listing showed Clotilde as a widow residing in what was then still known as East Los Angeles, now Lincoln Heights, but there was more to that story.
In the 1910 census, she was living with her son, Paul, who was a real estate broker, his wife Mary McGann, and their ten-month old daughter, named for her grandmother, in the same home in East Los Angeles. Clotilde remained there until her death on 31 May 1918. In her obituary in the next day’s Los Angeles Times, it noted that she was “a daughter of the de la Guerra family,” a polite way to reference her out-of-wedlock origins. It continued that she was the widow of Andrónico, said to have had a business partnership with Thomas Rowan after the latter ended his mayoral term in 1894, but added that he “died in Mexico a few years ago.” It appears he abandoned his wife and went south, where his brother Ygnacio, as noted above, lived for many years and sources indicate that Andrónico passed away in 1914.
The Times reported that Clotilde wanted to be buried in her hometown cemetery, Calvary, “where she played as a child. Her funeral was held at Sacred Heart Church in East Los Angeles, where her pallbearers included State Senator Reginaldo del Valle and his brother Ygnacio, Jr. and John G. Mott, a nephew through the Sepulveda line, and then the body was sent to Santa Barbara for interment. Among her survivors were her half-sister, Herlinda, who was married to Ygnacio Sepulveda, Andrónico’s brother, five other siblings, including her full brother, and her son.
The carte de visite was taken by one of Los Angeles’ earliest professional photographers, British-born Stephen A. Rendall. A previous post here featured a Rendall carte de visite from about the same time as the one highlighted here. This image shows Clotilde in a pose in which she is turned away from the camera to the right and takes in some of the fancy bead fringe on her black dress which appears to be made of taffeta. Also of note is a brooch at the collar, her earrings, and a thin ribbon tying her hair at the back.
It is not known what her direct connection was to the Workmans and Temples, but, given the intricate network of close relations between prominent families, it is not surprising that the photo was presented as a “calling card” between friends, perhaps with Antonia Margarita Workman de Temple, who was about a decade Clotilde’s senior.