“Such Was the Foundation for the Wonderful Development Which Has Taken Place”: The Recollections of Los Angeles in 1875 by Jackson A. Graves, Part Two

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

This second and final part of a post on the reminiscences of lawyer and banker Jackson A. Graves (1852-1933) and his arrival in this region in June 1875, published in The West Coast Magazine, edited by John Steven McGroarty, in its October 1910 issue, takes the reader outside of a detailed descripton of the city of Los Angeles and into its suburbs and the hinterlands of the county.

As noted yesterday, Graves relocated to the Angel City from San Francisco to join attorney James G. Eastman as a clerk in a new law firm operated by the latter with Anson Brunson, though, after being admitted to the bar the next year, Graves joined the enterprise and then continued solo and in partnerships for the next twenty years, including with Henry W. O’Melveny in a firm that still exists and is simply known as O’Melveny.

A view looking east from the hill behind St. Athanasius’ Episcopal Church at the southwest corner of New High Street {at lower right) and Temple Street [out of view at the left]–the site later became part of the county court house property.

Because of his specialization in business law, with an emphasis on banks, he became a shareholder and then vice-president of the powerful Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank of Los Angeles, succeeding to the presidency after the 1920 death of its founder Isaias W. Hellman. Graves remained at the helm for just over a decade, stepping down a couple years prior to his death.

Graves followed his article in the magazine with his first book, about outdoor adventures in California and Oregon and published in 1912 by Grafton Publishing Company, which issued the magazine. The “Grand Old Man of Los Angeles” as he was known followed with a memoir, My Seventy years in California, which appeared in 1927, and he followed this three years later with a second volume, California Memories, both issued by the publishing arm of the Los Angeles Times.

In continuing with his narrative, Graves wrote that “after one got beyond the immediate city limits one found natural roads good, except at times of heavy rains” and this was because there wasn’t enough use of them to cause too many ruts or excessive dust. He noted that a favored local pleasure drive was up the Arroyo Seco, where Sycamore Grove, a city park by 1910, was enjoyed for picnics, especially among the French, German and Italian denizens of the city.

Cameron E. Thom, a county district attorney and mayor of Los Angeles.

Graves added that there were plenty of games and swings for kids, while music and danacing occupied adults, “but there was no drinking to excess; no rough or boisterous conduct.” Rather, everyone acted kindly toward each other and spent their days and nights “forgetting for the time their trouble, cares and tribulations. Longer Sunday and holiday excursions meant a trip out to Santa Monica and he continued, “the drive there in the early morning, a dip in the ocean, a dinner at Eugene’s and the drive home afforded one a full day’s amusement and recreation.

He then asked, “if the city was small and thinly populated, what of the county?” Graves stated that “East Los Angeles [Lincoln Heights] was almost unborn as yet” and that this community, established in 1873 as the first residential suburb of Los Angeles was owned by John S. Griffin and his nephew Hancock Johnson. The writer recalled that Johnson offered him a block of 4.5 acres free if he would build a house on it, though Graves remained in Los Angeles until he moved to his estate in Alhambra across Huntington Drive from San Marino.

Past East Los Angeles and within the area surrounding the Arroyo Seco, “there were no dwellings of improvements except the dancing pavilion at the Sycamore Grove and John Benner’s slaughter house, where Garvanza is located,” while Lincoln Park did not exist. As for Pasadena, it had been launched the same year as East Los Angeles by a colony from Indiana. Taking what Graves said was called “the Adobe Road” and what is now Mission Road splitting into Valley Boulevard and Huntington Drive were the communities, known in 1910, as Rose Hill and Bairdstown in modern El Sereno.

The home of Graves and his family, built in 1879 at the northeast corner of Broadway and Third.

Past the “four-mile house)” along the Southern Pacific rail line, he continued, “the present sites of South Pasadena, Alhambra and Dolgeville [west Alhambra] were sheep pastures,” though Graves did not recall that Benjamin D. Wilson and his son-in-law James de Barth Shorb launched the Lake Vineyard Land and Water Company, with F.P.F. Temple as treasurer, to create Alhambra, even though the resulting economic crash that included the failure of the Temple and Workman bank, stalled development, as was the case throughout the area.

Graves recorded that the 1200-acre Bacon Tract, owned by banker Henry D. Bacon and also known as the Marengo Ranch included the development of Oneonta Park, though the writer did not mention that it was named for developer Henry E. Huntington’s New York hometown. The tract included what became the famous Raymond Hotel in South Pasadena and Graves went into some detail about the property, which include an “old adobe still standing in front of the Raymond.”

The same residence after it was moved in 1889 because of the expansion of the business section of Los Angeles to Hope and Tenth streets. As the commercial core grew, the house was later sacrificed to progress.

To the east was “Gen. Geo. Stoneman’s place of several hundred acres, mostly in vines,” this being the well-known Los Robles ranch and other estates were mentioned, including that of noted lawyer, politician, and firebrand orator E.J.C. Kewen (who lived in the Old Mill of the Mision San Gabriel, a property once owned by William Workman when he was granted, with Hugo Reid, the lands of the secularized mission)—this latter was also owned by Huntington, though the incorporation of the city of San Marino was only a few years away.

To the east of Kewen’s property was “the home place of B.D. Wilson,” who came to Los Angeles from New Mexico with the Rowland and Workman expedition of 1841, and known as Lake Vineyard, “no owned by his daughters, Mrs. Geo S. Patton [mother of the amous World War II general] and Miss Annie Wilson. Adjacent was the Shorb ranch and that of William H. Winston, “both the property of Mr. H.E. Huntington” and including the Huntington Library, Art Galleries and Botanical Gardens, though it was added that some of the Winston property was sold to utility executive and developer William G. Kerckhoff. Other nearby tracts were owned by Isaac Van Nuys and the Bradbury Estate (this latter being the former Luther H. Titus ranch and where the Gainsborough Heath subdivision was later established in San Marino.)

California Supreme Court justice and then federal judge Erskine M. Ross.

Further east was the famous Sunny Slope Ranch of Leonard J. Rose, a German migrant mentioned earlier in Graves’ reminiscences as a livery stable owner in Los Angeles. On his tract, it was noted, Rose “made a reputation as a wine maker and as a breeder of trotting stock, winning for himself fame throughout the world.” Not mentioned was that Rose suffered enormous financial reverses and committed suicide in 1899—a son, Guy, was a well-known painter. The city of Rosemead was developed on some of Rose’s large domain and the Sunny Slope Water Company, an early supplier for Walter P. Temple’s Temple City project, still carries the ranch’s name.

Beyond Rose’s Sunny Slope was the ranch of Los Angeles attorney, and a founder of Orange in the county of that name, Alfred B. Chapman, and much of the 700-acre tract from the Rancho Santa Anita is now known as the Chapman Woods community at the eastern limits of Pasadena. To the east of this was “Santa Anita, the first property in the county owned by E.J. Baldwin,” who made the acquisition just prior to Graves’ arrival at Los Angeles and whose loan to Temple and Workman, foreclosed in 1879, yielded a princely domain to the San Francisco capitalist who died the year before this article was published.

Swiss-born capitalist Eugene Germain.

Graves then wrote that “from there on to Azusa there was not a house in sight” and that “after leaving a small settlement at the latter place,” then owned by British native and neighbor of fellow Englishman William Workman, “there were but two stage stations and the Cucamonga vineyard until you reached San Bernardino.” One of those lonely stops was Mud Springs, between Covina and what was still known as Lordsburg (soon renamed La Verne,) and which we know today as San Dimas.

With respect to the remainder of the eastern San Gabriel Valley, all the writer chose to relate was that “at San Gabriel there was a small settlement and another at El Monte and at Puente,” where the heirs of John Rowland and the Workmans still had most of the massive Rancho La Puente intact. Equally brief was the mention that areas southeast of Los Angeles including “no habitations until you got to Downey [established in 1873 by the ex-governor John G. Downey] and Rivera [where Pico Rivera is now].”


As to the sections south of the Angel City there “was open country until you reached Wilmington except for small settlements at Florence and Compton,” the latter subdivided by F.P.F. Temple and Fielding W. Gibson as Centerville and Gibsonville before George D. Compton acquired most of the tract and it was renamed for him. Long Beach, following a failed project called American City, was years away, while “the Centinella [Centinela] and Sausal Redondo Ranchos, of many thousand acres, were owned by Dan Freeman and were just beginning to be cultivated.” In 1874-75, however, Freeman partnered with Temple and ohers on creating the Centinela townsite, though, again, the resulting financial freefall doomed that project and the Boom of the 1880s late in that decade led to the rise of Inglewood and Redondo [Beach.]

West of Los Angeles “was almost all open country” with the Rancho La Cienega “mostly a swamp and the best duck and snipe grounds in California and Graves added that “from Santa Monica to Wilmington and from Agricultural Park to the ocean, in the winter months, untold millions of wild geese ‘honked’ and fed.” This, of course, referred to an important stop for migratory birds along the great Pacific Flyway, which, however, has diminished significantly because of development and other factors.


After brief references to the underdeveloped ranchos of San Rafael (Glendale) and Providencia (Burbank), the writer noted that the enormous 121,000-acre Rancho ex-Mission San Fernando was only recently divided, with the southern half going to the San Fernando Farm Homestead Association, later the Los Angeles Farming and Milling Company, though he did not mention its proprietors, Isaac B. Lankershim, his son James, and Isaac N. Van Nuys, the son-in-law and brother-in-law of the Lankershims.

Moreover, though Graves stated that the trio bought the 61,000 acres for $115,000 (and did so from ex-Governor Pío Pico, whose used the proceeds to build the Pico House hotel on the Plaza in Los Angeles) and that “its successor” sold 12,000 acres for $300,000 and then the rest for about $2,500,000, he did not mention that this was by a syndicate comprised of Huntington, Moses H. Sherman, Harry Chandler of the Times and others who were given an early heads-up about the coming of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, allowing them to buy the land cheap and, of course, sell dear!


As to the northern half of the San Fernando ranch, it was sold, just prior to Graves’ coming to Los Angeles to Charles Maclay and the cousins Benjamin and George Porter, with the former founding the town of San Fernando on the eastern section, while what became such areas as Northridge and Porter Ranch were on the west. With all of the recent activity in real estate development, he noted that “soon all of the San Fernando Valley will be thickly settled, making another rich community tributary to Los Angeles.” This included the film industry, just getting its start at the time of writing, and which would, of course, make its mark in Hollywood, Culver City, Universal City and elsewhere in short order.

As to Orange County, all that the author deemed necessary to say was that “Anaheim and Santa Ana were growing villages, but all around them thousands of acres, now highly improved and thickly populated, were open sheep and cattle ranges, ” including the massive holdings of James Irvine and his descendants. That county splintered off from Los Angeles County in 1889, which may be a main reason why Graves gave it very little mention.


He was, however, also very brief about streercars, noting that the Spring and Sixth Street Railway was formed by Robert M. Widney “and associates,” like treasurer F.P.F. Temple, while oil was being prospected “in the Newhall [San Fernando] district.” Here, again, Temple was among the early developers, working claims in the mountains to the west of Interstate 5 in Santa Clarita with some signs of success before the failure of his bank abruptly ended his efforts.

As he wrapped up, Graves, who boasted that he composed his recollections without looking at newspapers or records, not in talking to any authorities on local history, offered that:

Such was the foundation for the wonderful development which has taken place in this community in thirty-five years. Surely the population of this city in 1875 did not exceed 7000 people, one-half of whom were native Californians [that is, Latinos, rather than indigenous people]. In 1900 its poulation had increased frm 13,000 in 1880 [the federal census had just over 11,000, but these are always low counts] to 101,000 [the 1900 tally was above 102,000]. The census just taken, I am positive, will show its population in the neighborhood of 320,000 [it was, in fact, officially recorded as 319,198].

Predicting for the future from what has occurred in the past, can any human being paint the picture as it will be thirty-five years hence? To my mind we are yet in our infancy and our growth and development will be more rapid in the future than it has ever been up to the present time.

In the realm of Los Angeles autobiographers, Graves is not well-remembered (!) compared to Horace Bell, Harris Newmark or even Boyle Workman. When he issued his My Seventy Years in California, he had some very interesting things to say about the failure of the Temple and Workman bank, especially with respect to what Walter P. Temple’s hired historian, Perry Worden, had to say about the cause. We’ll look to explore that story this coming January, so look for that post on or about the 12th, the anniversary of the bank’s closure.

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