Read All About It: Yda Addis on “Mind, Soul and Heart” in the Los Angeles Herald, 8 November 1874

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Even though Los Angeles was nearing the peak of its first significant and sustained growth period, which began several years prior, the 8 November 1874 edition of the Herald, one of the three major English-language daily newspapers in the burgeoning little city, is surprisingly devoid of much news.

As the annual city elections approached (these were held in early December), the paper jousted with its rival, the Express, about the mayoral candidacy of Prudent Beaudry, a French Canadian of long residency in the Angel City and who had built up quite a real estate portfolio during the boom that included buying up large tracts in the hills west of downtown.

The Express was opposed to Beaudry, sniping that he should have paid more taxes given the reported $40,000 he spent in 1873 (on what was not stated), complaining that he went to the City to get permission to force the private water company to pipe the precious fluid to his hillside tracts, and, likely, much else.

The Herald was not just a supporter of the candidate, but it was then owned by the Los Angeles City and County Printing and Publishing Company, which counted Beaudry among its stockholders and directors, along with F.P.F. Temple and other local luminaries. So, it is hardly surprising that the paper would defend him, stating:

If a gentleman consents to be a candidate for office in this city and does not desire to have his private business paraded in the columns of the Express, he had better “argue” with that paper as certain Democrats argued with it last year. MR. BEAUDRY declines to adopt the policy of the persons who wanted the organ to support a Democratic nominee; and therefore his private affairs will be well ventilated in the columns of the Express.

Beaudry succeeded in his campaign (the “Announcements” section included listings for his opponents, George Tiffany, who, naturally, was co-owner of the Express, and Francisco Sabichi) and served two years as the growing city’s chief executive (his brother, Jean-Louis, was a three-time mayor of the major Canadian metropolis of Montreal and once lost a campaign against a William Workman—no relation to the Homestead founder!), though the last few months of his second term included the dramatic economic downturn that included the spectacular collapse.

Other candidates who took out cards in the “Announcements” column were the quintet of contenders for the office of City Marshal, including Jacob Gerkens, police officer Benjamin F. Hartlee, former marshal Francis Baker (who served from 1870-1872), detective Emil Harris, and John J. (Juan José) Carrillo. Carrillo won the contest and served almost two years, during which time the new office of police chief was created. In December 1876, Gerkens was elected chief and was then followed the next year by Harris, who remains the only Jew to serve in the office.

There were four candidates for city treasurer, including Henry Fleishman, who later was a cashier for some two decades at Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank under Isaias W. Hellman but in 1901 ran off to Central America with $100,000 though the bank secured a judgment for his Los Angeles property; Hemann Neidecken; J.L. Ward, and James J. Mellus. The latter, son of prominent early Angel City merchant Francis Mellus, won he race, but had the misfortune of depositing the city’s $23,000 fund in the Temple and Workman bank, so that, when the institution failed early in 1876, the city lost its funds and Mellus soon lost his job!

Otherwise, local news was scanty, with the “Local Brevities” column reporting that a second streetcar system, following the founding earlier in the year of the Spring and Sixth Street Railway (of which F.P.F. Temple was treasurer), the Main Street and Agricultural Park Railroad. This line, founded by ex-governor John G. Downey, Ozro W. Childs, and John M. Baldwin, began at the Temple Block at the triple intersection of Temple, Spring and Main streets and followed the latter south to Washington Street, then west to Figueroa Street and then south on that road to the city limits at Agricultural park, which is now Exposition Park.

With regard to transportation, it was also reported that two daily trains were in the works from Los Angeles to Los Nietos, in the modern Whittier and Pico Rivera area, via the new line of the Southern Pacific south from the city and then southeast from Florence to Anaheim. This was one of two new branch lines built by the company, the other going east from Los Angeles through the San Gabriel Valley, including through the Rancho La Puente where a Puente station was completed the past spring, and terminating at Spadra in today’s Pomona.

The company took over the Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad, opened in 1869 to the harbor at San Pedro/Wilmington, when an 1872 voter-approved subsidy included that line and, in 1876, it completed a link north to connect to the Bay Area. Another brief note stated that the SP’s contruction crew was working rapidly on the extension of the line to Anaheim from Los Nietos. Meanwhile, trying to hang on to its business was the Telegraph Stage Company, which cut its service time to San Francisco to thirty-six hours (from what was not noted), but it was only a matter of time before the SP line north was finished and so would be the future viability of stagecoaches.

This leaves us the featured article from the Herald on this otherwise dry and drab news day, the reprinting of an essay that won a prize at a local fair for its author, Yda Addis. The 17-year old, who arrived in Los Angeles from México the prior year with her family and who was among the seven students in the first graduating class from the city’s recently opened high school, quickly garnered significant local attention for her poems andother writings.

Addis would later go on to a life of considerable turmoil and trauma, as explicated in this blog in great detail, but during this period she was lionized as a leading literary light, the likes of which, in terms of extraordinarly talented young women, had not been seen since Ina Coolbrith, who became a renowned poet and writer in California, published a number of poems in Los Angeles newspapers nearly two decades before.

The essay was titled “Mind, Soul and Heart” and is an extraordinary production worth spending some time on. For one thing, there were foreshadowings of her own future in such statements as:

In former times the idea of suffering was almost invariably connected with authorship; and, in truth, not erroneously; for so poorly compensated were the services of literary men, that in many instances life was with them a continual struggle for maintenance . . . And was not this pain bitterer than physical suffering could be? . . . The poet, especially, pays dearly for the pleasure others enjoy . . . the poet—gifted with genius of the highest order . . .—yet allows himself to become gloomy and morose, seeing the darker side of every picture, and exciting the deeper emotions of the heart in his kind, only to direct them in the same channels which his own diseased fancies follow . . . excessive indulgence of melancholic predispositions streghthens and renders permanent those inclinations which are as yet mysteries of mind unexplored and unexplained.

Addis we on to write of those sensitive artistic souls “who have been refined through suffering and, in so being transformed, were “made more capable of expressing elevated sentiments.” She then lamented that “the selfish world” reads these lofty works, praises and envies the artist, and then demands more unceasingly, willfully ignorant that these works of genius came from “the agony of some hapless creature whose very life-blood was wrung forth, drop by drop, in its production.”

The precocious poet and essayist continued with the conjoining of the writer and the reader, contnued that “the poet, conscious that by suffering he was enabled to touch the chords of harmony, knows that alone by suffering can they be fully comprehended and appreciated; while the reader, knowing that his own woe respnds to the sentiment, feels that another’s agony called forth the expression.” Addis added that, while the form of Spiritualism that consisted of such trickery as “mysterious knockings and gymnastics of furniture” was the object of those who “scoff and sneer,” there was a type that was “a sound, pure doctrine.”

This version consisted of the connection of kindred spirits in which “we see ourselves mirrored, as it were, in others,” while she mused on the an idea of “previous experience” as if we are all reincarnated in recalling past ideas, events, and conclusions. She noted that, in such situations, a person feels or knows that something has been thought of or conceived before “but memory refuses to follow out the connection, and pauses bewildered on the very brink of discovery.”

The young woman pondered whether this condition was the fruit of “the punishment laid upon man for his first disobedience,” meaning, presumably, the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, because there was the pain which “involves conjectures relating not only to metaphysical subjects of earth, but also the innate longings of the soul for immortality and the probability of its gratification.” Still, Addis expressed hope that future people would be able to penetrate and grasp these mysteries eluding those of her time who were puzzled by the problem. Some fine day, she went on, “because of the clear understanding that shall then be, all men will be at peace and all love universal.”

This love, she cautioned, was “not the inane sentiment of lackadaisical misses and childish youths, but the strong, tender affection that comes once in a lifetime and outlasts even the gloom of the grave.” Through the association of this higher love with religion, Addis declaimed, the result would be “stronger than pride, which it conquers; deep as hell, whence it lifts the heart; high as heaven, whither it exalts the soul; wider than eternity, whose bounds it overleaps, no power on earth compares to it.”

Ascending in a rapture to her conclusion, the writer noted that, without love and its result of goodnes, there could not be a heaven, and life would be a sink “of misery and degradation, lower than the very brutes of the field.” Resisting this, however, Addis ended with:

But this must not—will not be; instead, we shall advance in wisdom and nobility, until little lower than the angels. And all this will God work by the union in purpose of Mind, Soul and Heart.

This would be heady stuff for a teenager in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis any number of metropolises in other parts of the United States, but for little Los Angeles, just starting to assert a trajectory that would, within a few decades, place it in the firmament of such cosmopoilitan centers, Addis’ essay is nothng less than a wonder of its time.

In summer 1875, she was one of those first seven scholars to graduate in the first class from Los Angeles High School and then went on to teach in the relatively new town of Tustin, followed by several years in that ocation in the Angel City. Her pursuit of writing, including impressive work on indegenous pottery in México, gained her some notoriety, but it also involved dipustes with powerful men in publishing.

While working on a history of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, she quickly wedded Charles Storke, the founder of the Herald, but the marriage lasted mere months before collapsing and engendering bitter battles that lasted about a decade. Destitute, demoralized and, possibly, deeply disturbed mentally (though that could also be said, perhaps, for her ex-husband), Addis suddenly vanished as the 20th century dawned and her essay, again, is striking in what it appeared to foretell about her. Whatever one makes of her tumultous and troubled life, the teenage Yda was definitely a distinctive denizen of 1870s Los Angeles as this prize-winning piece amply illustrated.

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