Making a Statement: A “Report of Disbursements and Receipts” for Walter P. Temple, 20 March to 19 April 1922

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

A post on this blog from January highlighted a “Report of Disbursements and Receipts” from the estate of Walter P. Temple for a month period in December 1921 and January 1922. That document shows that Temple had income of just under $30,000 with about 80% of that coming from royalties from oil wells at his Montebello field lease developed by Standard Oil Company of California, now Chevron.

While his expenditures were over $35,000, more than 15% higher than his revenues, it was observed that having a deficit was not necessarily a problem if income remained high and, of course, providing this was not a regular situation. Tonight’s post looks at this kind of report for the period from 20 March to 19 April 1922 and we’ll see, actually, that this trend was continuing, though whether there was any concern expressed by Temple, his business manager Milton Kauffman or his attorney George H. Woodruff, is not known.

It should be noted, though, that the royalty from the Temple Lease was, in fact, down $4,500 from the earlier period, as income from those wells was just a little under $19,200. A smaller roytalty of a little under $1,000 was for gas generated from those wells. A sum of under $200 was also received as the royalty from General Petroleum Company for oil produced on the lease of Julia Davis Cruz, who helped raise Walter and his siblings and who inherited a property sold to her mother Venancia Peña Davis by F.P.F. Temple in the 1860s.

Just after Julia’s death in 1917, oil was brought in on that property and Walter assumed management of the royalties for Julia’s half-dozen beneficiaries, including her two brothers, her nieces and their father Manuel M. Zuñiga, who after his first wife Carmel Davis died, married Walter’s sister Lucinda. The second largest source of income comprised a general list of “Bills Payable” from the First National Bank of Alhabra for $4,400, though what these constituted is, of course, not stated. Another oil-related item of revenue was over $250 in dividends from stock Walter held in the Tex-Mex Oil Company, based in Texas and then Tulsa, Oklahoma and which had wells in both states.

There was also $1,500 payable through Title Guarantee and Trust Company from Elena Gastelum, who was formerly marrried to Julián Sánchez, son of Juan Matias Sánchez, the foreman for William Workman at Rancho La Puente and who co-owned Rancho La Merced with Walter’s father, F.P.F. Temple. Julián Sánchez died in 1916 and Elena (whose maiden name was Romo) married Louis Gastelum. The couple, with her two children from Sánchez, lived on a ranch in Whittier and Gastelum, a former stone moulder, owned a garage in the Quaker City.

It appears Walter Temple loaned Elena money and she was paying him back in installments, but a few years later, with a debt of $2,700 remaining, she and her husband could not continue payments and Temple filed a foreclosure through his attorney Woodruff and his partner Clyde Shoemaker, leading to a 1925 sheriff’s sale of Gastelum property to satisfy the debt.

Other personal items, perhaps all loans, were payments made by Laura Gonzalez Temple’s half-sister, Refugia; Walter’s niece Marguerite Guthrie, daughter of his sister Margarita Temple Rowland; and eight other people. There was also rents paid to Temple from those who had businesses in buildings he owned in San Gabriel and Alhambra, with one in the former denoted as “Hamburger Slim” and another from “Mrs. Adams,” the proprietor of the Temple Hotel in the latter. The largest rental was from Otto H. Schleusener, who ran the Temple Theater, which opened in late December 1921 and which was Temple’s first real estate construction project.

As for the disbursements, there were about 125. Some of these were salaries paid to Temple’s employees including Elmer A. Potter, who ran the office and also directly managed some of Temple’s real estate properties in San Gabriel, El Monte and Alhambra and who was paid $125 twice during the month. Three other employees Stanley Benson, E.G. Seeley and Sara H. Murphy were compensated weekly, with the first two apparently working for the Temple family, including as drivers, and getting paid $35 (Seeley also was given a $20 bonus), while Murphy may have worked in Temple’s office, likely in El Monte as the letterhead seems to show, and was paid $25.

Manuel M. Zuñiga, the husband of Walter’s sister Lucinda, was also paid a $100 monthly salary and was given a small advance. In the 1920 census, he was listed as a gardener at the Temples’ Alhambra residence where he and Lucinda also lived. Another family member, Nettie Temple, widow of Walter’s oldest sibling, Thomas, received her usual $25 monthly advance. Laura’s half-brother, Francisco, was treated for an unspecified reason at the Alhambra Hospital and $67 of his bill was paid out.

As for his business partners, Woodruff received $1,000 for legal expenses, though it does not appear this was a regular retainer, but, rather, for incurred billings as needed. There was also a small amount of almost $80 for Woodruff and Shoemaker for “oil lease expense,” presumably at Montebello. Kauffman apparently did not received a standard salary, but was paid $175, while there were also funds paid to him through the First National Bank of El Monte and the Los Angeles Trust and Savings Company of close to $500.

Meanwhile, there were several bills of Kauffman’s paid for by Temple including for insurance and purchases, among these latter being $200 at the prominent Barker Brothers furniture store in Los Angeles and $73 from Piuma and Briano, who were well-known winemakers, first at the Temple Homestead in the Whittier Narrows and then in Los Angeles. Perhaps Kauffman was purchasing some of the “sacramental wine” that the company was legally allowed to produce for Catholic church services during Prohibition?

Major expenditures were for real estate projects, though it can be hard to know what these were specifically for. As an example, $1000 was paid to Joseph Thurman, of a longtime El Monte family, for what was described as the “Prouty Lease” and the use of the word “lease” implies that Temple was or would be prospecting for oil on the property.

There was also money paid out for the “Meeker Lot” and the “Meeker Well” which seem to refer to the 100-acre ranch, a couple miles west of El Monte, owned by a family of bankers who migrated from Lincoln, Nebraska in 1916. George Meeker was the head of the household and his son Leo became a widely known figure in the region, running a bank at Garden Grove, two in Puente, the First National Bank of El Monte and, in early 1921, taking over what became the Long Beach National Bank.

In addition, there was $5,000 paid out to the First National Bank of Alhambra, with a $1000 for a Masonic Temple building in Ramona, which was Ramona Acres, soon renamed Monterery Park, and the rest simply denoted as principal and interest, almost certainly for property in Alhambra, such as downtown lots on which the Temple Theater was opened just the prior December.

Also concerning real estate were several property tax payments, including for parcels in Alhambra, almost $1300 for the Homestead, and just over $260 for the “Glenn Property.” Charles L. Glenn, a native of Tennessee, became a citrus grower in North Whittier Heights, now Hacienda Heights, by the World War I period, and, in 1920, his property was described as being on the east side of Hudson Road, later renamed Hacienda Boulevard. Glenn was also the recipient of a $1000 loan, doled out in two payments, during the month. Other loans were made to a Monterey Park man, George Smalley, and William Harmon Taylor, an oil prospector in partnership with Walter and others at Huntington Beach.

With respect to the Homestead, there were also expenses of over $2,500, including $1,000 to the First National Bank of Puente, perhaps for payments for the purchase of the ranch, $500 to a man who appared to have done ranch work and who was also paid for work on the “Meeker Lot”, and more than $500 to a Los Angeles furniture company. Another major expenditure was nearly $9,000 paid to contractor Joseph L. Worthington through Thomas Berry, a real estate agent and developer in Ramona Acres (Monterey Park) for a building Walter was erecting at the main interesection of Garfield and Garvey avenues, thought Temple soon traded the structure with George Pethybridge for one the latter started in Alhambra and which became the post office and Temple Hotel mentioned above.

Personal expenses comprised a great deal of the spending, with Laura Temple racking up about $2,000, including $500 in jewelry, $230 from the Southern California Music Company, and the remaining 70% unspecified. Under the heading of “Sundry Persons and Concerns,” Laura and Walter had $2,400 in checks written “outside of Office,” and Walter had an additional $535 in this manner for the Homestead, personal expenses, and payments to Luther Ingersoll and James Perry Worden for their part in a Workman and Temple history book project. The original author of that work was slated to be retired attorney Johnstone Jones, whose health prevented him from carrying out the project, though he received a $100 advance. There was also $25 for “oil painting,” which might have been for a work that was placed in the mausoleum completed about a year prior (this year is the centennial of that structure being finished.

The Temples also paid out almost $1,700 to the Pasadena and Los Angeles military academies, presumably for their younger sons, Walter, Jr. and Edgar, who would soon go to the Belmont Academy near San Francisco, not far from where their older brother, Thomas, was finishing his last year at the preparatory school at the University of Santa Clara. In fact, Elmer Potter sent Thomas a little more than $40 that month, presumably for school expenses.

Finally, there are a number of smaller expenditures, including just over $300 as a payment for a Cadillac Phaeton, a four-passenger vehicle from the luxury car maker that fetched about $3,000 at the time. Walter also contributed $261 to the City of Alhambra, probably for a civic project, while he also donated $300 to the Tournament of Roses for its new stadium, the Rose Bowl, which opened in October 1922. Temple became a pass holder for the famed Rose Bowl football game held each first of January. He also had a number of memberships paid for during the month, including to the San Gabriel Country Club, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the United States Chamber of Commerce.

While it looks like the Temples probably had something on the order of a quarter million dollars in oil and gas royalties from Montebello in 1921, it is worth noting that cash on hand was about $7,400. The long-term problem was that production from the Temple lease continued to decline in following years, but expenses ascended rapidly. A few months after this report, the family took a vacation in México and returned so inspired that they began building La Casa Nueva, an 11,000-square foot mansion, at the Homestead. A year later, Temple announced his Town of Temple project on 265 acres near San Gabriel and also invested in two 11-story office buildings in Los Angeles, continued projects at San Gabriel, El Monte, and Alhambra and persisted in trying to find a big windfall in many oil prospecting projects.

Just over a decade after this report was compiled, Temple lost the Homestead, the last major asset he possessed, due to foreclosure, not unlike, though on a much larger scale, what happened to Elena Gastelum. His story of sudden wealth and a long diminution of his fortune is, in many ways, a Roaring Twenties version of the time-old tale of the ups and downs of booms and busts and reports like this help us document that narrative.

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