by Paul R. Spitzzeri
There was a flu epidemic underway in greater Los Angeles during the winter of 1891-1892 and one of the victims claimed by the contagion was Antonia Margarita Workman de Temple, daughter of Homestead founders William Workman and Nicolasa Urioste and widow of F.P.F. Temple. After the disastrous failure of the family’s bank in early 1876 and the resulting foreclosure by Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin on most of their property pledged as collateral for a loan he made to the institution, William Workman took his own life in May and F.P.F. Temple suffered a series of strokes culminating in his death four years later.
Margarita, as she was known, was left, a year after her husband’s death, to make arrangements, through her son Francis, with Baldwin to purchase fifty acres and the two family homes, including the adobe house built in the early 1850s and a two-story brick house into which they moved years later, at what was called the Temple Homestead. This was located on the Rancho La Merced in the Whittier Narrows and is near the southeast corner of today’s Rosemead Boulevard and San Gabriel Boulevard where the latter meets Durfee Avenue.
Over the next dozen years, Margarita and her youngest trio of eight children (there were eleven, but three died before the age of four), including daughter Margarita and sons Walter and Charles, lived at the Homestead, though with none of the comfort and wealth they enjoyed before the collapse of the bank. Meanwhile, the Workman Homestead, comprising seventy-five acres as well as the Workman House, El Campo Santo Cemetery with St. Nicholas’ Chapel, the ornate brick Gothic Revival structure with gilt ceilings and stained glass windows completed about 1860 and named for Nicolasa Workman, within its confines, outbuildings and other elements, was purchased from Baldwin by Francis W. Temple in fall 1880.
Two other sons, Thomas and John, lived near there mother on property on the Rancho Potrero de Felipe Lugo owned by her and deeded to them. Thomas, who was a cashier and debtor of tens of thousands of dollars to the bank, sold his property, however, and left California for several years, returning by 1886 to live in Los Angeles, where he worked in real estate and then became the publisher of La Cronica, the city’s Spanish-language newspaper. John occupied a 130-acre tract up Durfee Avenue from his mother and siblings and raised walnuts and other crops on the land bordering the San Gabriel River.
Riven with tuberculosis, which necessitated frequent extended trips to Arizona to relieve his lung trouble, Francis succumbed from the disease in early August 1888. The Workman Homestead was left to his brothers, William and John, but the former, who as a young lawyer tried to represent his father and grandfather in estate matters after the bank calamity and became increasingly frustrated with his mother, joined the Army and, after mustering out, remained away from California until 1910. So, he sold his interest in the property to John, who disposed of his walnut ranch on Potrero de Felipe Lugo and took possession of the Homestead with his wife, Anita Davoust and their two young sons.
In 1889, Margarita married Samuel P. Rowland, of the family which owned half of Rancho La Puente from the early 1840s onward, and the couple resided in Los Angeles, where Sam pursued a career as a druggist. Lucinda, the other Temple daughter, had a troubled first marriage with Manuel Arnaz, who was from a prominent Ventura family but was an alcoholic. After they divorced, she married Manuel Zuñiga, who was born and raised near the Temples on the Rancho Potrero de Felipe Lugo and who had three children by his late wife, Carmel Davis, daughter of a Temple family employee and whose sister, Julia, lived with and worked for the Temples, helping to raise the younger children.
In early 1892, Zuñiga operated a saloon and billiard parlor just a short distance west of the Temple Homestead in an adobe building built by Rafael Basye, nephew of Juan Matias Sánchez, the owner of the other half of Rancho La Merced. Two decades later, Walter P. Temple sold the Homestead and bought 60 acres from Baldwin’s estate, including the Basye Adobe, where he and his family lived until oil was found by nine-year old Thomas W. Temple II.
So, all but one of the eight children of Margarita who lived to adulthood survived her when the 61 year-old died of la grippe, as influenza was commonly known, in the early afternoon of Sunday, 24 January, though she did not pass away at her home at the Temple Homestead, but instead was at the Workman House, the residence she grew up in and which was owned by her son, John. It may be that, because her mother was still alive and was 90 years old, it was decided to bring Margarita to the Homested and try to keep Nicolasa from getting sick.
The grief stricken family issued the typical black-bordered funeral notices announcing that “friends and acquaintances are respectfully invited to attend the funeral at the home graveyard” on the 26th at 10:30 a.m. The “home graveyard” was El Campo Santo at the Workman Homestead and the service was conducted in St. Nicholas’ Chapel with interment in the family plot bordered by a still-extant and beautifully rendered cast-iron fence. In its brief article on her death, the Los Angeles Times reported that she’d been ill for just a week and eulogized her saying
She was a friend, indeed, of the poor who were in need, rendered assistance to them in want and in her death the many hundreds of people who received from her ready hand will mourn her loss.
It was added that a train would leave Los Angeles just after 9 a.m. and “will arrive at Puente in time for the funeral” as “carriages will be at the depot,” located in the town, established a half-dozen years earlier, “to convey parties to the house.”
Tonight’s featured object from the museum’s holdings is a handwritten document passed down through the family and which states “at a meeting held Jany 27 1892, the following parties were present: T.W. Temple, J.H. Temple & wife, Mrs. Lucinda de Suniga [the name was often spelled that way as the “Z” is pronounced like an “S], S.P. Rowland & wife [this being Margarita Temple], Walter P. Temple, [and] Charles P. Temple.”
The document continued that “the following testimony was heard in regard to the certain articles which were willed by Mrs. A.M.W. de Temple” and this was based on what was told to Besulsa “Bella” Riesgo, whose family lived near the Temples for many years at what was generally known as the Old Mission (Misión Vieja) community.
Lucinda was to receive “3 shalls [sic], one of collors [sic] and 2 Black, also the silk blue bed spread, also half of her clothing (Ropa).” Her sister Margarita was to also receive three shawls, these being traditional Californio shawls that were essential part of a woman’s wardrobe in earlier days, but not generally by the end of the century, as well as “the red bed spread of silk, also the other half of her clothing (Ropa.) Their sister-in-law, Anita Davoust de Temple, was to receive a rebozo, a flat garment similar to a shawl, but usually worn around the shoulders and head. Riesgo was left a black shawl, while a woman only identified as Rowena was left two shawls, one red and one black.
Margarita’s eldest child, Thomas, was left “al[l] the silver wear [sic] bearing his own name, also the altar with al[l] that contains [pertains?] to said altar.” It was common for Californio families to have altars in their home, so that, for example, Laura Gonzalez, the wife of Walter P. Temple had one installed in the house they owned in Alhambra and part of which remains in the Methodist church that occupies the site (the house remains as the rectory) now. The rest of Mrs. Temple’s silverware “that does not bear the name of T.W. Temple” was willed to W.P. Temple & Chas. P. Temple.”
Next was the gift to John H. Temple of “al[l] the horn stock belonging to her” and which was presumably kept at the Temple Homestead and to be transferred to him at the Workman Homestead. After his was the statement that “it was also resolved that the Piano which is now at the Temple Homestead belongs to Maggie as it always has been understood, and that she may remove it at any future time.”
This instrument is almost certainly the Chickering square grand, made in 1871, and which was passed down through her descendants and was then donated to the Homestead just over twenty years ago by Beverly Laughlin and placed in the Music Practice Room of La Casa Nueva, which is where it was during the late 1920s because Magarita Temple de Rowland lived on the Homestead at the time. When she left there in 1940, eight years after Walter lost the property, it was then given to a daughter and passed along to others until Beverly received it and took excellent care of it prior to its donation to the museum.
The last stipulation was made by Thomas W. Temple who stated “that as long as W.P. Temple, C.P. Temple & Grandmother [Workman] lived at the Temple Homestead, that said altar will remain ther[e], but in the event of a sale being made of said Homestead or renting or leasing of said house, then T.W. Temple shall have power to remove said altar with al[l] that belongs to said Altar, Out of said premises.” With this, the document ended with the verification that “Miss Bella Riesgo[‘s] testimony was corroborated by Mrs. J.H. Temple.” The item was folded into quarters and on one outer panel in Walter Temple’s writing is “Mother’s disposition of personal property.”
Terrible as the death of Mrs. Temple was, the situation became a triple tragedy within just a couple of weeks or so. Nicolasa Workman contracted the flu, which led to pneumonia, and that, combined with her advanced age, led to her passing away on the 4th of February at the Temple Homestead at La Merced. The family issued a funeral notice identical in format to that of her daughter, stating that she died at 2:40 a.m. and the funeral was to be held at her namesake chapel followed by burial in the family plot at El Campo Santo “at La Puente” on the 6th.
It may well be that Thomas, the eldest of the Temple children, was present for the funeral, because he, too, fell into “the grip” of the terrible viral infection and died at the Temple Homestead almost precisely a week after his grandmother, passing away at 3:20 a.m. on the 11th. A third identical funeral notice was issued, and because he lived in Los Angeles and was proprietor of La Cronica, the funeral was held at the historic Church of Our Lady of the Angels, or the Plaza Church. While the burial location was not given on the notice, he was interred at El Campo Santo, as well.
Seven years after this trio of deaths took place, John H. Temple lost the Workman Homestead to foreclosure. The property remained out of family hands for almost two decades, during which time El Campo Santo was very nearly destroyed through desecration of an owner who wanted more grazing land for his stock. Walter Temple successfully sued to stop the destruction, not knowing that, ten years later, he would buy the Homestead and have the chance to renovate the cemetery, including the building of a mausoleum on the site of the chapel and in which he reinterred the remains of his brother, mother and grandmother in time for the dedication of the edifice a century ago this spring. More on that in subsequent posts!