by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Today, the Puddingstone Reservoir covers the site, but, prior to the completion of the water storage basin in 1928, Puddingstone Canyon was a sylvan scene with its brush-covered slopes in this portion of the San José Hills, while a creek supplied Puddingstone Falls, a locale that is the focus of the highlighted artifact from the Homestead’s holdings for this post.
The earliest mention located of the falls came from the 25 March 1888 issue of the Los Angeles Herald and its lengthy article on the newly established railroad (on the Santa Fe line) town of La Verne. It was stated that a couple miles south was “Dry Cañon” with its “crazy-quilt rocks,” while
A few rods further down [a road is 16.5 feet] are the Puddingstone Falls, thirty feet high, in a wild, rugged, deep gorge broken through massive ledges of paleozoic rocks that have been upheaved and tilted edgewise a hundred feet high in some cataclysmic convulsion of former ages. The rock formation is a remarkably fine and rare exhibit of the puddingstone type of conglomerate rock, with the additional novelty of more tints and shades of color than a sample card at a paint factory. Below the falls is a sort of ampitheater [sic] enclosed by towering cliffs more than a hundred feet high, and here are caves and rocks and trees and water basins and lakelets, and riffles and rapids—a combination of glen, gorge and jungle on a gigantic scale, and an ideal place for a picnic, a sketchomaniac or “lover’s retreat.”
After describing a “Crystal Gem Rapids” a half-mile down from the falls and “Giant’s Gate,” a narrow pass between cliffs deemed superior to Pasadena’s well-known Devil’s Gate and where a fall of perhaps 100 feet likely existed “in former ages,” the article noted that “this mountain rift for a mile is called Puddingstone Gorge, because all the rocks are of that class, and the place is worth a trip from Los Angeles to see.”
The mention of picnics was, in fact, reflective of a common pastime for locals at the falls. The Pomona correspondent for the Herald, for example, reported that, on the first day of June 1892, fifteen young members of the Good Templars temperance (those abstaining from alcohol) society and the Methodist Church’s Epworth League spent the day there. Eight years later, the Pomona Progress noted that eighteen young adults went by bicycle on “a moonlight ride and picnic” to the landmark and “in that romantic spot they picnicked, [and] ate by moonlight the bountiful lunch which they had taken with them.” There were many other press accounts of such trips to the falls.
In 1903, there were reports that Henry E. Huntington’s Pacific Electric Railway system was contemplating building its line to Pomona from Covina, with surveyors favoring a route that “crossing the hills above Puddingstone Falls, takes the south side of the San José Hills into Pomona.” This made the folks of Lordsburg (the prevailing name at the time for La Verne) upset that they were going to be bypassed by the railway, though the line was actually rerouted to go through the town.
The Pomona Review of 12 October noted that a gap in the hills above the falls was projected to be crossed by a bridge with a good deal of grading. It added,
This romantic spot with its beautiful waterfall and picturesque hills, studded with live oaks, has long been the favorite resort for picnic parties from far and wide but all this will soon be changed, the owner [Cannon] having ordered the trees to be cut down for firewood.
The falls was not a towering, roaring example, but a modest and relatively placid one, though some of the history of its vicinity proved to contain cascades of controversy in the years during and just before this image was taken and then posted from San Dimas on 10 April 1907, reaching its destination in Roanoke, Illinois, a town northeast of Peoria, a couple of days later.
At that time, the falls and its surrounding area was owned by Charles Henry Cannon (1865-1923,) a native of Janesville, Wisconsin, near the Illinois border south of Madison, where his father, William, was a woolen manufacturer. It appears the family, as so many did during the era, migrated to Los Angeles during the great Boom of the 1880s, and William and his wife Catherine Liddell owned an orange grove, as so many did during the era, northwest of downtown Los Angeles. When William died in 1901, Catherine became administrator of a modest estate of some $16,000, but it appears that was what allowed the Cannons to purchase the ranch and build a house out at San Dimas.
Charles, meanwhile, became a clothing and shoe salesman in Los Angeles, including for the Jacoby Brothers clothing store and, it appears, Hamburger’s (later May Company). A woman working at the latter, Daisey Mayne, a native of England whose husband went to San Quentin for forgery and from whom she was divorced, then married Charles in 1895. There looks to have been a separation because he was in Santa Barbara working at a shoe store when he was enumerated in the 1900 census, but she and her child from the first marriage were not with him.
By 1902, Charles resided in San Dimas on the Cannon ranch and he was back with Daisey when another rupture took place within a couple of years. Dr. Walter Stapley, also born in England, came to San Dimas early in the decade. He was not only the Cannons’ personal physician but a good friend with Charles referring to him as “like a member of the family.” In early October 1904, however, Charles caught his wife concealing a note in her dress and then, when she tore it into pieces, he grabbed the fragments and pieced them together.
Daisey’s missive to Dr. Stapley was clear and damning as it stated that she was ready to leave Charles and run off with the handsome physician. Yet, a reconciliation followed and, when Charles confronted the doctor in the latter’s office in town, Stapley told Cannon, “Well, Mr. Cannon, you ought to shoot me. I deserve it.” Not long later, however, Daisey and the doctor ran off to Los Angeles and registered at hotels there and, when Cannon filed for divorce in mid-November, he learned that the couple left town and were, he thought, headed for South Africa.
Instead, Stapely and Daisy Cannon wound up in New Zealand, where they married two years later, and remained together until his death and she stayed in that country until her demise. As for Cannon, he married Ann Priest, another English native, in late 1905 and they resided at the San Dimas home on the ranch until another strange controversy burst forth a little more than two years later.
The Pomona Progress of 20 January 1908 reported on “the transfer of 100 acres of land owned by Chas. Cannon and including Puddingstone falls, to a Los Angeles syndicate.” Purportedly a cash transaction, it was stated that the party was to use the property for a suburban house. The paper added “for years Puddingstone Falls has been a place popular as a picnic resort not only for the people of San Dimas but also of Pomona. It is but a short distance from the station and has always been a picturesque canyon.” It was noted that the cascade was some fifty feet high “and until recently there has been considerable water constantly flowing over them.”
In its 3 March issue, the Los Angeles Times specified that Cannon was selling 150 acres to O.M. Orlow of the Angel City for $22,500 and that the unimproved hill tract included the falls. The proposed electric railway route was noted as was the belief that the tract was “well adapted for subdivision, there being many beautiful building sites.” It was concluded that Orlow planned to build a $25,000 residence on the property.
Three weeks later, the paper reported that Orlow acquired 200 acres for $25,000 in that first deal and followed with another transaction of $50,000 for 550 acres to the east of the falls area on the lower section of the north end of the hills. In saying that he was going to Europe for several months, Orlow indicated that he would invest over $100,000 in making the two parcels “another Smiley Heights,” referring to the hillside tract of large houses on orange groves above Redlands. He added that he’d ordered a trio of steel bridges to cross the canyon “and has begun improvements on an extensive scale.” The account ended by noting that Cannon acquired the ranch for $24,000, so stood to profit handsomely, while still keeping some of the ranch.
Yet, Orlow did not go to Europe and, in early June was arrested and charged for embezzlement involving $2,500 of fine Persian rugs from a Los Angeles dealer late in 1907. He was described in the Times of 7 June as “Dr. Orloff N. Orlow” who was “said to be a wealthy Russian dealer in objects of art.” Orlow, who had a curio store at Hoover and 26th Street, was arrested at his home in Los Angeles and was reported to have collapsed from heart failure while waiting for his arraignment.
He claimed that he was the target of a blackmailing scheme, while the complaint averred that his reported $30,000 yearly passive income from rentals of property in Russia was actually not the case and the attorney for rug dealer T.H. Kaljian stated that a proposed art exhibit by Orlow at Blanchard Hall not only failed to materialize, but that his client did not receive any returned rugs or a promised commission on any sales.
Orlow’s lawyer told the paper that Kaljian only wanted money from sales, not any rugs that went unsold (many were said to have been placed for sale at the Boston Department Store) and that his client’s inability to raise the $5,000 for bail was because “he will soon receive a large sum of money from his Russian estates.”
The following day’s Pomona Review mocked that “A San Dimas Pipe Dream Ceased” as it noted that Orlow “paid a small sum down, and forthwith circulated stories of what he proposed doing there with his great fortune from far-off Russia.” Wryly observing that “it would have taken [oil tycoon John D.] Rockefeller’s income to do what the Orlow pipe dream said he was going to do,” the paper stated that the plans included “the most costly and splendid mansion in Southern California” and an estate on the hills that would be such that “the estates along the Hudson [River, north of New York City] were to be cheap and tawdry in comparison.” Those steel bridges for a straight roadway and a sanitarium were part of the grandiose vision and the piece ended with: “He is as bogus a millionaire as ever smoked dope.”
In late July, the Los Angeles Express reported that the criminal matter was dropped as it was determined that the problem was one for the civil courts, though it was added that Kaljian and Orlow settled out of court. The article, though, noted that Orlow first drew public attention in Chicago in 1897 as “a clairvoyant and healer” who claimed “to be connected with the princely house of D’Alencon.” While in the Windy City, it was “as a physician, minister and teacher of metaphysics he became widely known and spent money lavishly for charitable purposes.”
In summer 1902, Orlow arrived in San Francisco “in a private [railroad] car” and settled into a mansion where he established a branch of “the Brotherhood of Divine Humanity of Simla, India” and had a chapel in which he pontificated on the “Philosophy of Atmos.” When the Brotherhood dissipated, he formed the International Society for Human Endeavor and had another legal fracas over valuable rugs obtained from an Armenian dealer.
In fact, a Topeka, Kansas newspaper printed a story in April 1902 that Orlow was leaving Chicago for San Francisco to establish a farm for the Windy City’s homeless children and the facility was to be modeled after the George Junior Republic concept that would lead to the founding of one in San Fernando, which then moved to what is now Chino Hills and has operated since 1907. The planned 3,800-acre project, of course, never materialized.
In 1905, the silk rug issue unrolled and the San Francisco Examiner discussed Orlow at length, asking if he was a French count, or a Russian nobleman and relative of the Czar, or from a Habsburg family from imperial Austria, or a graduate in medicine from Cambridge University in England, or a former officer in the German Army, or owner of Siberian mines or a private estate near St. Petersburg, or owner of a woolen mill in Hamburg or much else.
His activities in Chicago, purportedly full of philanthropy, included a fine for practicing medicine without a license and his decamping to San Francisco not only left behind those hundreds of homeless children, but a coterie of devoted women admirers who hung on and believed in every honeyed word that rolled off Orlow’s silver tongue. When he arrived in San Francisco, he carried with him an impressive collection of treasures from around the world, as well as his Brotherhood, but that ended when his business manager sued for the return of $2,000 loaned to the rich Russian nobleman.
Orlow’s last schemes in San Francisco involved a planned chain of ten-cent theaters and the “United Arts and Crafts of California” at a handsome house on Presidio Street near Jackson Street (one of four he “acquired”), but more trouble arose in the form of allegations of loans that went unpaid, this time from his attorney and many others, much less the investments in the theaters that went unrealized in terms of interest promised to those who ponied up. The article ended with Orlow blithely dismissing all the claims against him and then turned silent until the reporter left. Later to the paper, however, he intoned,
My family helped to make the laws of Europe and I always obey the law . . . I am of the Orlows of Russia. I have been an officer in the Russian and German armies. I have also served in India. But why talk further? I am not going to make my life history a morsel for the vulgar crowd.
Orlow then went to Los Angeles and his further adventures. After the dismissal of the criminal complaint with the rug dealer, creditors tried to force him into bankruptcy, but a judge ruled that Orlow had enough assets that such a declaration was not necessary. Three years later, in 1912, the Times reported that Orlow told Cannon that before he could claim his money in Russia, he had to pay “fees” to the government totaling $8,000, which Cannon obligingly supplied him—and, of course, never got back.
After fleeing the Angel City, Orlow spent several years in Seattle, operating the “Antique and Modern Arts” showroom. Some Japanese prints in his possession (who knew how he obtained them?) were shown at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute in late 1912. A New York gallery advertised, in late 1915, for the auction of purportedly rare and valuable Japanese prints and Chinese paintings from the good doctor’s collection.
In 1918, however, he was one of a large number of people who were listed in a New York ad from a storage company concerning items that were to be claimed or, if not, sold. Six years later, he died, telling people that he was actually the Austrian Archduke Johann Salvator, who was lost at sea in 1889. Though it was pointed out that there was a significant difference in both age and hairlines, Orlow, who some believe was a native of Greece, had enough supporters to believe his last tall tale.
In 1910, Cannon did find a reputable buyer for much of his ranch: Howard Huntington, son of the railway tycoon and book and art collector of renown. In the neighborhood just north of Puddingstone Reservoir, there is a Cannon Avenue as a reminder, though residents there likely have no idea where the name came from, of that early history.
As for the photo, it is yet another of the many historic objects in the Homestead’s collection that has a surface value and hidden ones, including the remarkable stories of Cannon and, even more dramatically, the mysterious Dr. Orloff N. Orlow.