by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Last Sunday, as Josette Temple was remembered at her memorial service at El Campo Santo Cemetery, one of the many stories shared was about her efforts to have her grandfather, Walter P. Temple, reinterred in 2002 at El Campo Santo from Mission San Gabriel, over six decades after his death on 13 November 1938. Temple, who was 69 years old, suffered from cancer over the course of several years.
Six years removed from losing the Homestead, his last property holding, after years of financial reversals, Walter was living in a unit in the rear of the home of his partner Maud Romero Bassity’s family in Lincoln Heights, a far cry from his peak prosperity during the early 1920s. An obituary in the Los Angeles Times of 15 November 1938 discussed his ancestry through the Workman and Temple families, noted that he was educated at St. Vincent’s College and Woodbury Business College, married Laura González, and owned the Homestead.
The paper added that “Temple rose from moderate circumstances to wealth through discovery by his son Thomas of oil on the family property, resulting in establishment of the later famous Montebello oil fields.” The 1914 accident by the 9-year old led the following year to the lease of the 60-acre ranch to Standard Oil Company of California and the first well was brought in at the end of June 1917 propelling the Temples to significant wealth.
Other details included his founding of Temple City (which was in 1923 rather than the prior year), the donation of the lot for San Gabriel’s City Hall and the property for the Elks’ lodge at Alhambra (where the Temples lived for several years), his marking the original site of Mission San Gabriel with a tablet, and his support of The Mission Play, a long-running pageant that glorified the Franciscan missionaries as saviors of the souls of the indigenous people (an interpretation that has long been reconsidered).
In noting his survivors, including his daughter Agnes and younger sons, Walter, Jr. and Edgar, the obituary also observed that Thomas’s “marriage to Gabriela Isabel Quiroz of San Gabriel is announced to take place at the San Gabriel Mission Saturday morning.” Temple, in fact, was hoping to live long enough to see the last of his children to step up to the altar. The Times of the 18th reported that hundreds attended the funeral the prior day and added that “interment in the mission cemetery followed the funeral rites.”
It was the hope of the family that he would be permitted to be interred next to his wife Laura in the Walter P. Temple Memorial Mausoleum at El Campo Santo, but California Bank, which owned the property, refused the request, even there were no tenants then occupying the Homestead (that changed two years later when Harry and Lois Brown purchased the ranch for their El Encanto Sanitarium, now next to the museum.)
Consequently, the Temples had to settle for burying Walter in the venerable mission cemetery and this post includes some photographs taken at the funeral service and the interment. One image shows the casket being wheeled from the hearse into the historic stone church and another takes in mourners following the coffin inside. The other trio of photos shows the burial site and mounds of flowers atop it once the graveside services were finished.
Thomas Temple and Gabriela Quiroz met in the early Thirties at the mission as he lived just south in the historic Ortega-Vigare Adobe, which still stands, and she resided nearby. As their romance blossomed, Thomas was also gaining significant regional recognition for his historical research into early Los Angeles-area history and the genealogy of families from the Spanish and Mexican period.
In 1934, the couple were the hosts of a Pioneer Reception preceding the Fiesta held in September for the anniversary of Mission San Gabriel’s founding, a tradition they maintained until the 1971 bicentennial of the mission, shortly after which Thomas died. The couple also helped to organize and preside over other events at the mission commemorating local history over their decades of deep involvement there.
A 13 November piece in the Times stated that “early California days are recalled with the announcement of the betrothal” of the couple, although they were actually engaged four years before. It also erred in stating that the nuptial was the first involving the Temple family since 1866 when “the bridegroom-elect’s great-grandparents. Mr. and Mrs. William Workman, were wed in the historic church.” A subsequent article correctly noted that the ceremony was for Thomas W. Temple, but then said he was the grandfather of Thomas W. II, when he was actually an uncle.
Notably, the paper reported that Gabriela was the granddaughter of Gabriela Bojorquez y González, said to have been a supervisor at the mission before it was converted to a parish church and added that her father, Gabriel, was the current choirmaster. A graduate of Alhambra High School, Gabriela was also the Fiesta queen of 1935. Later, she achieved the distinction of being the first woman police officer in San Gabriel.
The presiding officiant was Father Joseph Thompson, who also had a long pedigree in California, with his great-grandfather being Alpheus B. Thompson, an early American settler in Santa Barbara, while the priest’s mother was a descendant of the prominent de la Guerra and Sepúlveda families.
An accompanying photo, from the 1934 engagement and an original of which is from the museum’s holdings and reproduced here, shows Thomas wearing 19th century clothing including a cravat, patterned vest, watch and chain and frock coat, while Gabriela wore a historic Temple family wedding dress, as described (albeit, incorrectly) below.
In his long-running column “Along El Camino Real,” in the 19 November edition of the Times, Ed Ainsworth observed that
A historically important wedding in which joy will be tempered with sorrow takes place in old San Gabriel this morning . . . Mr. Temple Sr. had expressed the hope that he might live to see the ceremony, but death intervened. Nuptials will be carried on as he wished . . . The bride . . . will wear a wedding gown made in Paris in 1854 at the order of the bridegroom’s great-aunt Dona Rafaela Cota de Temple for her daughter.
The error with the dress is that Jonathan Temple, who arrived in California in 1827 by way of Hawaii after leaving his native Massachusets several years earlier, and his wife Rafaela had one child, daughter Francisca, but she was married to Spanish merchant Gregorio de Ajuria in Los Angeles in 1848. The Homestead has the Temple wedding dress in its collection, but its provenance is clearly up to dispute!
In its coverage of the Temple-Quiroz wedding in its edition of the 20th, the Times included a photo of the couple, with Thomas’s brother Edgar, standing outside the east entrance of the mission’s stone church. Jean Kentle opened the article by stating, “History—in the colorful California tradition—seemed to repeat itself yesterday morning when members of the ‘oldest families’ gathered” for the ceremony.
The writer added that the satin and princess lace dress, accompanied by a princess lace mantilla, was worn by three generations of Temple women and noted that Gabriela’s sisters Gertrude Callahan and Catarina Quiroz were her bride’s maids. Thomas’s best man was his brother, Walter, Jr., while the ushers included the other brother Edgar, cousin F.P.F. Temple III, and Gabriela’s brothers Tomás and Carlos. Among the singers for the bride’s choirmaster father’s musical contributions were her cousin Dolores Gracias and Thomas’s cousin Lupe Vigare.
Also described in the piece was the decoration of the historic altar with white chrysanthemums, while, Kentle sought to convey a poetic description by writing “sunlight smiled on the couple as they came down the aisle and out into the patio, the tiny leaves of the ancient pepper trees making lacelike shadows in a pleasant pattern over the friends” greeting the newlyweds.
Among these well-wishers were the de la Guerras of Santa Barbara, the Palomares’ and Carrions of Pomona, the Sanchezes of Montebello, the Rowlands of Puente, the Lugos of Bell, and the Yorbas of Los Angeles. Thomas’ close relatives included his cousin Charles P. Temple, Jr. and his aunt Anita Davoust Temple and her sons George and Pliny.
Aside from the engagement portait, there is, from the Homestead’s collection, a photo of the couple standing in front of the old wooden doors of the church flanked by Gabriela’s sisters. Gabriela wore the wedding dress and Thomas the suit from the portrait, though his neckwear was more restrained and formal, being tucked into his vest. In her hands, Gabriela carried a prayer book which had a ribbon festooned with gardenias and lillies, while her sisters carried bouquets of roses.
This week of “joy tempered with sorrow” was a notable one for the Temple family, whose public prominence waned with the loss of the Homestead, though Thomas did achieve some renown inthe Mission City as historian of both the mission (in early 1972, he was granted the honor of burial with the clergy next to this historic church) and the municipality.
Much of the historical material he assiduously collected and preserved was passed on to his nieces and nephews, including Josette Temple, whose bequest to the museum was recalled at last weekend’s memorial as was her dedication in bringing her grandfather “home” to El Campo Santo, where they now lie in peace just feet away from each other.