by Paul R. Spitzzeri
A little over a couple of months ago, Jon and Elaine Krebs donated a remarkable group of religious artworks rendered by Mary Workman, younger sister of Homestead founder William Workman, but not long afterward Mrs. Krebs indicated that there would be further items coming and those arrived at the museum this week. This is despite the fact that Mr. Krebs recently passed away not long after the couple moved during the terrible heatwave that gripped the Pacific Northwest. We are very grateful to Mrs. Krebs for the further addition to their very generous gift, with these latest artifacts comprising a framed photo and several photo albums with images from the last third or so of the 19th century.
As noted in the prior post, Mr. Krebs was the great-grandson of Elijah H. Workman (1835-1906), nephew of William and Nicolasa Workman of the Homestead and the middle of the three sons of William’s brother David and his wife Nancy Hook. The David Workman family lived in central MIssouri until 1854 when they journeyed overland to California and came to the Homestead to live with William and Nicolasa.
This stay was, however, all-too-short as David, employed in driving cattle in several-week trips to the gold fields of the Sierra Nevada Mountains was killed in summer 1855 in a fall while searching for a lost animal. His widow and sons then moved to Los Angeles where Elijah followed his father’s occupation of saddler and harness maker, opening the second such business (the first was that of the Foy brothers) in the Angel City. After a couple of years, he was joined by his younger brother, William H., and it grew to be a successful enterprise for the siblings.
In February 1862, Elijah traveled back to Missouri to marry his teenage sweetheart Julia C. Benedict and the couple had a son, Walter (who died a 14 years of typhoid fever), before she died in childbirth (the baby also did not survive) in 1870. A little under two years later, Elijah married another woman from his home county, Gilla M. Corum, and the couple had two daughters, Gilleta and Laura, before her death in 1882. Elijah married a third time, to widower Anna K. Webb, in 1884, but he again had to deal with the death of a spouse as she passed away in 1900, six years before he died.
Laura and her sister were born in the family home on Main Street, south of town, at Tenth Street, but, when she was young, they relocated to Boyle Heights, established by William H. Workman and two partners in the mid-Seventies and where Elijah built a short-lived hotel. In October 1898, she married Conrad Krebs, born in Wisconsin of German immigrants, long a resident of Salem, Oregon, and who studied law and literature at Columbia and Georgetown universities, and their son, Conrad, Jr., was the father of John.
As noted in the other post, Elijah Workman, as the eldest surviving (his older brother, Thomas, died in the 1863 explosion of the steamer owned by his employer Phineas Banning at the port at Wilmington) male of his line, traveled to England in 1884 to close the estate of his father’s family, following the death of Thomas, the last surviving silbling of David and William (are you confused yet?) He brought back to Los Angeles the artwork of Mary Workman, family letters exchanged between England and the United States, and other items.
Some of these eventually passed into the possession of Laura Workman Krebs and her family and, now, a selection of these artifacts have come to the museum, thanks to Jon and Elaine and their family. The framed photograph is a large and beautiful image of Laura in her wedding gown. Of the four albums, one appears to be mostly, if not entirely, comprised of cartes de visite (CDVs), small “calling card” photographs of people associated with the Workman family while they were in Missouri.
Another album, in cloth cover, contains snapshots that are mostly of Conrad, Jr. as a baby being held by family members, including his mother and grandfather Elijah, as well as scenes from parks, beaches, the Mission San Gabriel and the Los Angeles County Courthouse (this latter may have his father standing in front of it and may have been related to Conrad, Sr.’s work in the law.)
There are two larger photo albums that seem to be, more or less, from the late 1860s through the 1880s. The first is primarily stocked with CDVs, which were very popular in the 1860s and 1870s, which is when many seem to date. A few are from Boonville, Missouri, where the Workmans long resided, though they may also be connected to Elijah’s first two wives, Julia Benedict or Gilla Corum. The album, not surprisingly for an item some 150 years old, is in rough shape, with the binding largely worn away and pages detached, while there are also quite a few loose photos, including some larger-format cabinet cards.
So, while the photos will be removed, after photographing them in the pages to retain the original order, they remain where they are and have not been examined for identification on the reverses. Still, it does appear as it most are not inscribed, though this is hardly a surprise as original owners of the album, of course, knew all of the subjects—though that information was usually lost the next generation or further down the line!
In any case, there were some that were immediately recognizable, including a couple of William H. Workman and one of his wife, Maria (pronounced Mar-aye-ah); one of her and a baby, probably their eldest child, Boyle; one of Boyle and his sister Mary Julia Workman; the siblings Thomas W. and Lucinda Temple, children of Antonia Margarita Workman (Elijah and William H.’s cousin and daughter of William and Nicolasa) and F.P.F. Temple; and one of Thomas and his first wife, Refugia Martinez, who died in childbirth along with their child in 1869.
For decades, we at the Homestead had no known photos of Joseph M. Workman, son of William and Nicolasa, but earlier this year, while going through the estate of Josette Temple, we unearthed a wedding photo taken in 1869 of Joseph, his bride Josephine Belt, and their wedding party, including F.P.F. Temple and one of his sons. It turns out that this album donated by the Krebs family includes individual portraits from the wedding of Joseph and Josephine.
Then, there is the second large album, which has a mix of CDVs and cabinet cards, along with a few tintypes, and which contains the Workman/Belt wedding party (so now the Homestead has two of these!); a photo of Elijah and first wife Julia Benedict; the siblings Boyle, Mary Julia and Elizabeth Workman; and a young boy who is not identified, but the photographer was from Penrith and Carlisle in the area of England where the Workmans long resided, so it appears that contact with the remaining family members, Mary and Thomas, included connections with friends, since those two never married.
As noted above, there is work to do in removing the photos that are in album pages and seeing whether or not some are identified. A few are, either on the reverse or on the lower margin, inscribed so, for example, one 1870s cabinet card portrait is of Newton P. Richardson, a doctor who practiced in Los Angeles from the late Sixties through the early Eighties. But, we’ll hope for an occasional identification of a subject or that we’ll find other photos out there that will put a name to a face.
In the meantime, we are very happy to have received these photos and albums from the Krebs family with the visual documentation in the last third or so of the nineteenth century of members of the Workman and Temple families and friends and acquaintances from Missouri to Los Angeles. And, as the Portrait Gallery series continues, we may well see some of these photos featured, too.