Read All About It in the Pasadena Standard, 12 January 1889

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Two of the most significant social movements in 19th century America were the abolition of slavery and the pursuit of temperance, or the abstention from alcohol and tonight’s featured artifact from the Homestead’s collection touches upon both, being the 12 January 1889 edition of the Pasadena Standard newspaper.

The paper’s editor was Dr. Hiram A. Reid (1834-1906), a native of Lisbon, a town in eastern Ohio roughly halfway between Pittsburgh and Akron. He worked as a printer while in his teens, studied at a Unitarian theological seminary at Meadville, Pennsylvania and, after marrying Rachel Fidelia Harris, a rare woman doctor (she got her degree in 1857 three years before she and Reid celebrated their nuptial), served as a chaplain for the 5th Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Los Angeles Times, 29 January 1906.

After the war, the Reids were at Nebraska City along the Missouri River in the Cornhusker State across from Iowa and Hiram worked as an editor when the 1870 census was taken. A decade later, the couple resided in the Iowa state capital, Des Moines, where Hiram’s occupation was given as a lecturer. In 1883, he followed his wife’s lead and completed a medical degree at Drake University in the capital city.

Two years later, the Reids migrated to Pasadena, which after its founding in greater Los Angeles’ first boom in the mid-1870s, was perched on the edge, as was the entire region, of the much larger Boom of the Eighties. After years of wandering, the Reids stayed put in the Crown City for some two decades, becoming well-known for their temperance work and other endeavors, while Hiram, failing to keep the Standard afloat for long, published a History of Pasadena in 1895, a decade before his death, caused by pneumonia following his appearance with his second wife, Addie, on their bicycle for two decorated for the Tournament of Roses.

With respect to this issue of his paper, it is rife with temperance-related material, one of which is the front page’s “The Foe is in the Field,” in which the Standard, stated as “devoted to all the highest and best interests, material, moral, social and governmental, of Pasadena in particular and South California in general,” observed that, as the state legislature was then in session “so is the liquor power in California.”

Specifically, there was a League of Freedom based in San Francisco that riled Reid with its flyer that explained that it would fight for the wholesale liquor dealers and brewers of the state against those battling to prohibit alcohol in the Golden State. Consequently, the paper warned:

The hundreds of people in Pasadena who have within a few weeks past signed petitions for a Sunday law [banning most activity on the Christian Sabbath] must understand that this so-called “League of Freedom” will fight their petition to the bitter end, in the legislature, by all the smooth, cunning and adroit tactics known to conscienceless lobbyists.

It was asserted that the League’s support of a state license for saloons would counter attempts to pass laws in cities and towns banning these places of business and that the “whiskey-born” organization “raves at Prohibition, fights local option, denounced HIGH license as ‘inflicting unjust hardships upon them [manufacturers and sellers of alcohol]’ . . .” The Standard exhorted its readers “let us stand firm to our position, and maintain our outlawry of liquor saloons to the last extremity, trusting God for the final outcome.”

Kate Field (1838-1896), an extraordinary actress, lecturer, journalist and publisher of her namesake weekly journal in Washington, D.C., was a supporter of licensing alcohol production and sale and a devotee of wine and her trip through California incurred the enmity of Reid and his paper. Declaring that “Kate Field is earning the $2,500 salary paid her by the liquor makers and sellers of Califonria,” the paper lambasted her for insisting that only California winer be served at the upcoming inauguration of President Benjamin Harrison.

Reid avowed that “Mr. Harrison is smart enough to not be driven like a pig to water or swill on this question just now” and attacked Field for “making speeches in five principal eastern cities, and also holding parlor seances with aristocratic ladies—’society women’ as they are called, to teach them to use wine—(California wine, you know, for IT is SO harmless)—at their family tables.

Field was denounced for criticizing the “craze of prohibition” and for telling a crowd in New York that “I believe that as human nature craves a stimulent [sic] and will have it, all laws to the contray, that the only place for this stimulant is at one’s meals, where it not only cheers and makes bad food good and good food better, but assists digestion.” To this, Reid added, “yes, and start with your children down the road to drunkards’ graves and a drunkard’s doom.”

As to Field’s purported co-opting of the Republican Party and its recent presidential election triumph, the Standard warned that her advocacy for California wine at the March inauguration was “the masked hand of the liquor interest shaken at the very threshold of the incoming administration and demanding a recognition of its claims as paramount to every other interest in the land.”

Adding that it would be ridiculous for Kansas to demand that its jackrabbits and Michigan its apples and New York its salt and Lousiana its sugar and North Carolina its peanuts be served exclusively at the inauguration ball, Reid implored,

Reader, don’t you see the insufferable gall and impudence of this California wine demand? that it is only a thin cover under which the liquor interest attempts to force itself into formal recognition as the national dictator?

In the Crown City, the paper extensively covered “The John Dolan Whiskey Case,” an April 1888 matter in which Dolan and his wife were charged with selling the devil’s drink to construction workers engaged in building the city’s Grand Opera House. The piece stated that a police officer “got a clue that a certain negro [who remain unidentified] working for Houlahan & Griffith [contractors for the building] had a hand in the thing some way” and so went undercover with the black man taking him across the street to Dolan’s house and telling the lady of the house “this man is all right; you can let him have what he wants; it[‘]s all right.”

At the trial, Dolan testified that his wife was “confined,” that is, pregnant, and so “it was necessary for her to have some liquor to keep up her strength,” requiring him to buy six gallons of whiskey and a case of beer.” He added that “when she got through she had a little left, and had let some of the neighbors have a little for sickness.”

Because, however, it could not be established that Dolan sold liquor himself—it was his wife—nor “kept a place for selling or giving away” the product, the case was dismissed. There was an effort mounted to arrest Mrs. Dolan and try her, but “the whole tribe—new baby, mother-in-law [midwife], negro, and all, had fled the city, and that sneak-saloon was broken up.”

The piece ended with the information that friends of the Dolans hounded the officer over his involvement in the affair that he quit the force and castigated local papers (this was the fourth issue of the Standard, so it was just about a month old) for not covering this incident because “they can’t afford to make the liquor fellows mad.”

There was more temperance-related material in the issue, including a column provided by the Pasadena chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU,) a powerful force in the movement, as well as sundry items of interest of a general nature. For example, a table of the six congressional districts (there are now 53) in California showed that, while the number of registered voters climbed in all of them, the growth in the 6th District, comprising “South California,” was 75%, from over 38,600 to just over 67,500 and that the total number of new voters, ust shy of 29,000 was about 4,000 more than the other five districts combined.

Another notable short item was about a new wharf to be built by the Southern Pacific Railroad at the port at San Pedro and which was to be 3,000 feet long and 100 feet wide, with five tracks traversing the full length. With the depth of water at tne end being 42 feet, “large sea-going vessels can tie up at each side and load or unload direct from the cars.”

In reports from the newspapers of nearby cities are such news as a new oil well at Whittier being drilled by Burdette Chandler (who, at the beginning of the decade, sunk one in the Puente Hills later developed by William R. Rowland and William Lacy) reaching 150 feet and showing very dark and heavy crude; the planting of barley and wheat was triple the acreage at Alhambra as the prior year; the ordering by Caleb E. White of Pomona of 25,000 orange trees to add to the 10,000 present in a grove that “will make the largest orange grove in the world;” and that a railroad was under construction in the Monrovia area.

The other big news of the week, however, was the funeral service of Owen Brown, the last survivor of the famous Harper’s Ferry raid of abolitionists led by his father, John, nearly three decades before, on a federal armory at that Virginia town. It was noted that “Owen was with his father all through the struggle between the free state men and the border ruffians in Kansas in 1856,” as well as being a participant in the raid which “struck the death knell of slavery, not only in the United States but througout the civilized world.”

Brown, who was 64, was one of the seven survivors who escaped through rugged mountains, swamps, and other wild areas through rain, snow and storms and surviving on acorns, raw corn and other rough foods. When two of the band left to get food, they wer captured and executed and Ownen finally made his way to the home of his brother John on an island in Lake Erie. It was in 1884 that Owen and brother Jason “took a homestead on a bench of mountain land five or six miles north of Pasadena, at the settlement now called Las Cacitas [Casitas].”

Later, the brothers moved higher up in the San Gabriels and these “two feeble old men . . . were much visited by touists and citizens, some from mere cruiosity and others from a warm sympathy with the historic career of the family. What was know as Brown’s Peak or Brown Hill had a wagon road and there was an incomplete donkey trail to the top, where, it was reported, Owen wanted to be interred and which Jason hoped to finish for his brother.

The article continued that, towards the end of the year, the Browns came down to a gospel temperance meeting in town, apparently leaving his last cent in the collection plate, but Owen was ill and, not having money for the streetcar, went to his sister’s house, where he died a week later of typhoid pneumonia. It was added that he’d been feeling ill for several months, but the day of the meeting, he’d worked vigorously and “then lay down in the bright sunshine on the banks of the Arroyo and slept.”

The Whittier State School for troubled boys opened in 1891 and became the Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility until it closd in 2004.

Just before he died, it was stated, Brown (as was Jason) was made an honorary member of the WCTU and he reputedly expressed his pleasure in contributing a dollar for the membership. Moreover, when he died, “he was buried with the white ribbon [symbol of temperance] on his breast.” The Standard reprted that his last words were “it is better—to be—in a place—and suffer wrong—than to do wrong,” apparently a reference to his abolitionist notoriety.

It was said that 2,000 persons attended the funeral with all of the Pasadena city trustees present, as were the students of the Pasadena Academy and large contingents of the Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War veterans) and Sons of Veterans. Mourners filed past the open casket with his face said to be “perfectly natural—little paler than in life, and looked as though he was only lying asleep.”

Among the pallbearers was Henry N. Rust, the well-known Pasadena nursery owner who was a neighbor of the Browns in Massachusetts and several old friends and associates of of John Brown, including some who were involved in the events of Bloody Kansas. The paper also recorded that there were four photographers present to document the eve for posterity. It was added that,

It is quite remarkable that there should be found in Pasadena so many men who were associated with John Brown in his mighty work, which up heaved the nation and made the entering wedge for the overthrow of slavery thirty years ago.

Reid found a way to mention his own History of Johnson County, Iowa, a tome of nearly 1,000 pages and its mention of one the pall-bearers and bosom friendsof John Brown, James Townsend.

As noted above, the Standard did not last long, but Reid’s 1895 history of Pasadena was his bst-known contribution to the Crown City. Still, this issue’s temperance content, as well as the coverage of the Owen Brown funeral, makes for interesting and informative reading on our local history over 130 years ago.

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