“Never Was a Ceremony So Impressive”: The Dedication of the Walter P. Temple Memorial Mausoleum, 24 April 1921

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Earlier today, John Sharpe, the resident historian of Clifton, England, where William Workman spent most of his youth, gave a very interesting virtual presentation from that village just forty or so miles from the border with Scotland on the Workman family, with special attention given to William and his older brother David, who migrated to the United States in the late 1810s and early 1820s.

During his talk, John noted that David Workman was buried in late 1855 at the El Campo Santo Cemetery established a few hundred yards east of William’s house and that just a little over two decades later, William was laid to rest in the burial plot near David following his tragic suicide in May 1876 following the staggering failure of the Temple and Workman bank.

For the remainder of the century, William’s grandsons, Francis W. and John H. Temple, successively owned the 75-acre remnant of the once-vast Workman portion of Rancho La Puente, including the cemetery. In 1899, however, John was not able to stave off financial disaster and lost the Homestead to foreclosure.

Los Angeles Times, 25 April 1921.

The second non-family owner of the ranch after that, Anaheim resident Lafayette F. Lewis, decided to maximize grazing land at the Homestead by initiating the desecration of El Campo Santo. This included razing the chapel, the cornerstone of which was blessed by Bishop Thaddeus Amat in spring 1857 and which, purportedly, caught fire not long before Lewis’ demolition of the building (bricks were allegedly sold for construction in El Monte), tearing down three of the four brick walls, removal of headstones and other destructive acts.

Francis and John’s younger brother, Walter, was then (in 1906) living at the Temple Homestead in the Whittier Narrows south of El Monte, and he galvanized support for a suit that successfully stopped Lewis’ degradation of El Campo Santo and required him to repair the destruction and pay damaged. Lewis forestalled this by selling the Homestead in 1907 to Eugene Bassett and his son-in-law Thurston Pratt.

Pomona Progress, 25 April 1921.

A decade later, the stunning surprise discovery of oil on land owned by Walter after he sold his family’s homestead and moved just a short distance to the west at the base of the Montebello Hills (land lost by his father, F.P.F. Temple, to “Lucky” Baldwin on a foreclosure of a loan made to the stricken band and then this 60 acres sold three years after Baldwin’s death by his executor to Walter) allowed Temple to buy the Homestead and the cemetery from Pratt and Bassett for $40,000.

It was a priority for Temple to renovate the cemetery, though an existing lease of the ranch to a Japanese farmer known only as K. Yatsuda did not expire until the last day of 1918. As soon as he could in the new year, and after toying with the idea of rebuilding the chapel, Temple hired architects Charles E. Garstang and Alfred Rea to design a Neoclassical-style mausoleum instead. Whittier contractor Sylvester Cook was employed for the construction of what became known as the “Walter P. Temple Memorial Mausoleum.”

Once the structure was completed, Temple began reinterring family members, including his grandparents William Workman and Nicolasa Urioste, his parents Antonia Margarita Workman and F.P.F. Temple, his great-uncle David Workman and several siblings. A post here at the beginning of March detailed the removal in late February 1921 of the remains of ex-Governor Don Pío Pico and his wife María Ignacia Alvarado from the long-abandoned Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles for reintement in the mausoleum.

Whittier News, 25 April 1921.

An article in the Los Angeles Times covering that event was written by Rose L. Ellerbe, a prominent woman journalist and writer of fiction in the Angel City for many years before her death in late 1928. She followed up with a piece on the official dedication and blessing of the structure, which took place on the afternoon of 24 April, and her article appeared in the following day’s Times.

In describing the scene, Ellerbe observed that

with the background of green hills, blue sky and fine old trees, the beautiful de[d]icatory ceremony of the church [sic], the bishop [John J. Cantwell of the Diocese of Los Angeles] presiding and assisted by Father [Henry W.] Gross of [All Souls’ Church] Alhambra and a number of priests from neighboring towns, never was a ceremony more impressive.

The journalist continued that “adding to the sacredness of the hour was the recollection of the first consecration of this holy ground and the adobe [sic] chapel, erected in 1858 by William Workman, when the Rt. Rev. Father Amat, first bishop of the diocese of Monterey and Los Angeles presided.” She added that, for years, members of the Workman, Temple and Rowland families “with their many Indian retainers, gathered for worship.”

Nothing was said, however, about the desecration by Lewis and of Temple’s litigation. Instead, Ellerbe noted that the remains of Workman and Temple families members lay “within the marble walls of the new chapel [sic]” along with those of the Picos. She reported that “Bishop Cantwell paid a brilliant and heart-felt tribute to the work and the lives of these pioneers who helped to prepare the way for today.”

Cantwell, she continued, “commended the native son who has honored his father’s and his own birthplace by the restoration of the old family home and the raising of a lasting memorial to his forebears.” As she erred in describing St. Nicholas’ as made of adobe and calling the mausoleum a chapel or church, Ellerbe was also incorrect that Walter was born in the Workman House (“the old family home”), while his father, F.P.F., was a native of Reading, Massachusetts.

Ellerbe noted that members of the Pico and Rowland families were present at the dedication, along with “a large number of the descendants of representative pioneers, Spanish, Mexican and American.” Clergy assisting Cantwell and Gross included the bishop’s assistant and priests who came from the Plaza Church in downtown Los Angeles, Montebello, Puente, Ventura, and Colton.

She concluded by reporting that

With old-time hospitality a large number of guests were entertained in the old ranch [Workman] house, which, with the completion of its restoration, will become once more a center of hospitality. Here will be found, when Mr. Temple’s plans are completed, perhaps the finest example of a California home of the old days in the state. Here the history of the past will be reconstructed and visualized for the future.

Ellerbe ended by intoning that this could only be accomplished by someone like Temple “who knew and loved the old days and the old ways.” In fact, he and his family loved to dress up in 19th century Californio clothing in the manner of the romaticized “Days of the Dons,” but, as the journalist stated, they also endeavored to “save the fast-vanishing relics now left to us,” at the Homestead and elsewhere.

There was some other local press coverage, though the Pomona Progress was very brief in its summary, calling the dedication “a notable ceremony” and observing that the “Temple ranch house” was “restored to its former grandeur.” The Whittier News had a much lengthier piece and its content has some differences with that of the Times.

For example, it noted that “the beautiful mausoleum which replaces the adobe [there it is again!] chapel of years gone by, is but a symbol of the other modern improvements which Mr. Temple has caused to be made to his old home, during the past year.” It highlighted,

the beautiful grounds, with close clipped lawns and shrubbery, the paved roads, the tennis courts, the large swimming pools [there was just one court and one pool, the latter really being a reservoir to irrigate walnuts and other crops], all these with the restored adobe house, give promise that after all these years, the spirit of hospitality which pervaded the rancho in 1858 is to return, only dressed in more modern form.

The account also observed that “the several hundred guests” gathered near the Workman House and then moved in a procession down what was called Evergreen Lane, because of the deodar trees lining, along with palms, the road, to the cemetery and the ceremony presided over by Cantwell. Walking back to the Workman House, guests enjoyed coffee, sandwiches and punch and “the hospitality extended at the rancho yesterday, brought back to the minds of many of the older generations, the days when the old rancho house was the scene of many festivities and gatherings.”

The article concluded by noting, “Mr. Temple expects to receive [revive?] this spirit of hospitality and is making of his home a veritable playground for the benefit of his guests.” The three brick wineries, erected by William Workman in the mid-1860s and used under Pratt and Bassett’s ownership as slaughterhouses and fruit and vegetable canning,” were undergoing renovation, with the paper stating “at present there is under construction a large motion picture theater and ball room, and this will probably be opened about July 1.”

This was in the largest of the trio of structures and had a movie projection stand over the front door, pool and ping pong tables along the sides, a full-size stage with a painted backdrop of Mt. Baldy by noted artist Boris Deutsch, and a piano. The winery building directly to the south was a cafeteria with a kitchen and dining hall large enough to feed 150 persons. Across from the auditorium and theater was the smallest of the structures, but which was still substantial enough to house nine cars and it had a gasoline pump installed along its northern side.

Walter Temple’s attorney and business partner, George H. Woodruff, wrote a letter a couple pof days before the dedication and which is in the Homestead’s historic artifact collection. In the missive, Woodruff wrote that “I was pleased to receive your cordial invitation to attend the ceremony at the cemetery and mausoleum on your Workman Homestead Ranch . . . and I had looked forward to being there with my family,” but he had to make an emergency trip to Utah.

After adding that he wanted to speak to Temple about some business matters, Woodruff expressed his disappointment at missing the event “not only because of the interest that I personally have in your work of restoring and improving this cemetery and mausoleum, but know if it something very close to your heart.”

The lawyer continued that “I would like to be personally present as a special mark of respect to you as well as to the memory of those whose resting places have received so much tender care and attention for you.” In a similar vein to what he said a half-dozen years about the Homestea being “a worthy mecca” for those interested in regional history, Woodruff ended his letter by praising his friend and client by stating,

I think that this is, and has been, a most worthy work on your part, and I am sure that it will be appreciated by everyone interested in the early history and development of southern California, in years to come perhaps even mor than it is at the present time.

The restoration of the Homestead and the funding for the operation of the museum by the City of Industry, with the 40th anniversary of our opening being ten days from today, is evidence of Woodruff’s prophesying.

We are fortunate that there are not only the three newspaper articles documenting the mausoleum dedication ceremonty, but that Thomas W. Temple II, the eldest child of Walter Temple and Laura Gonzalez, was an avid photographer. The 14-year old, who provided us almost all the visual documentation that we have of the Homestead from the 1920s, almost certainly took the half-dozen images shown here of the event, including Cantwell’s blessing, guests visiting the mausoleum and the burying ground behind it, and the procession returning to the Workman House and the reception.

As we commemorate the centennial of the completion of the structure and of the ceremony of its dedication, it is interesting to take in Woodruff’s last comment, what was reported on in the papers, and Walter P. Temple’s intention in building the mausoleum as part of the Homestead’s interpretation of the Workman and Temple families and greater Los Angeles from 1830 to 1930. Hopefully soon, we’ll be able to reopen the museum so that visitors can visit El Campo Santo and the mausoleum during this anniversary year.

Leave a Reply