Fits the Bill: A Receipt from H. Newmark & Co. to William Workman, 11 July 1866

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

From 1853 and for decades after, Harris Newmark was one of the most prominent residents of Los Angeles, with his wholesale grocery business growing to becoming a major mercantile success in the Angel City. One of his many customers was William Workman, as evidenced by the highlighted object from the Homestead’s holdings for this post: a receipt issued by Newmark’s firm to Workman on 11 July 1866.

On its face, the document doesn’t reveal much, other than that Workman paid $23.50 to bring his account to-date, but it is a rare representative piece related to Newmark, whose memoir, Sixty Years in Southern California, 1853-1913, was published just after his death in 1916 and which has long been a valuable resource to those interested in the history of greater Los Angeles, particularly when the prominent wholesale merchant, one of the early cadre of Jews who found opportunity here, related his recollections of his earliest years in the region.

It is not as colorful or breezy as Horace Bell’s jaunty Reminiscences of a Ranger (1881) or the posthumous On the Old West Coast (1930), but Newmark’s reminiscences tend to be far more reliable in fact and it is certainly filled with those, perhaps at the expense of a more engaging narrative.

Harris Newmark, his wife Sarah, their son Maurice and two servants and a child enumerated in the 1860 federal census at Los Angeles. Note Newmark’s self-reported worth as $3,300, including $300 in real property and $3,000 in his personal estate.

Yet, as was explained in the introduction and preface, Newmark basically compiled, at the urging of Charles Dwight Willard, who lamented “that many pioneers had carried from this world so much that might have been of interest,” his memories of people and events that culminated in “a mass of notes.”

Newmark’s sons, Maurice and Marco, became the manuscript’s editors, filling in forgotten information, interviewing survivors for more material, and more, but they realized they lacked the time to carry out the project. As Newmark wrote in his introduction, “fortunately, jus then they met Perry Worden . . . a scholar and an author of attainments.”

Hiring Worden was such that, “his aid, as investigator and adviser, has been indispensable to the completion of the work in its present form” and Newmark added that the historian “spent many months searching the newspapers, magazines and books . . . and he also interviewed many pioneers.”

In 1926, a second edition of the work was prepared with some revision and the Newmark brothers, in the introduction, added that they “had the benefit of Dr. Perry Worden’s patient coöperation and additional knowledge of Californiana” as the two worked on the “supplementing and the checking-up of numerous and sometimes elusive details for the proper and thorough discharge of their responsible duty.”

By the time the 1870 census was taken, Newmark, shown here with his wife and their six children, along with two servants, had a declared wealth of over $130,000, a huge increase from a decade prior. Most of the value, $125,000, was personal and the remaining $6,500 was real estate. Seven years later, Newmark bought the Temple Block after it was lost in the Temple and Workman bank disaster.

Not long after Walter P. Temple began receiving the royalties from Standard Oil Company (California) from crude pumped out of wells on his land near Montebello, he hired Johnstone Jones, a lawyer and former deputy district attorney, to write a history of the Workman and Temple families. When Jones fell ill and could not continue the task, Worden was brought in to carry on.

Despite nearly a decade of being on Temple’s payroll, albeit with frequent additional work being given to him, such as finding private schools in New England and England for the Temple children, Worden never produced much more than rough drafts of some chapters. All along, however, he promised his patron a work that would be superior to that of the Newmark book and Worden even resorted to anti-Semitic commentaries about the Newmarks to show what he apparently thought was insufficient gratitude by them for his contribution to Sixty Years in Southern California.

Yet, when a third edition of the work was issued in 1930, by which time the Temple project was essentially doomed because of Walter Temple’s imminent financial failure, Marco Newmark, with Maurice dying just as the new edition was to be begun, lavished praise on Worden, indicating that any rift was repaired, and a proper acknowledgment was duly made.

A receipt from the Museum’s collection from Newmark’s wholesale grocery and hardware business to William Workman, 11 July 1866.

Marco Newmark wrote that “at the outset, I wish to acknowledge that to the faith and vision of Dr. Perry Worden, our literary advisor, was due the enlargement of our original, restricted plan for a privately-printed narrative of more personal reminiscence.” In the preparation of the third edition, Newmark continued, Worden “is again lending an invaluable assistance, his ever-increasing knowledge of California and Californiana, his taste for an acquaintance with the art and technique of book-making, and his versatility from equally practical experience in varied editing, making him both an unwearying investigator, and a stimulating and indispensable associate.”

Forty years passed until a fourth edition of Sixty Years was produced with the well-known historian, W.W. Robinson assisting Harris Newmark II, grandson of the merchant, in preparations. Robinson’s introduction noted that Worden wrote an account for the Pasadena Star-News of 19 November 1938, just days after Walter Temple’s death, stating that he had “supplied, though three years [1913-1916] of painstaking, original research a large portion of the text needed to develop the thin, unpretentious brochure . . . into the rather imposing volume of 754 pages, handsomely illustrated and bound.”

Robinson called the project with Harris, Marco and Maurice Newmark and with Worden “a unit of harmonious achievement” and noted that the work “is a delightful monument to an outstanding pioneer” that “continues to be Southern California’s landmark chronicle.” That it very much is and the remainder of this post looks at the some of the references made in the work to the Workman and Temple families, including some very interesting and informative anecdotes.

Newmark (the spelling was originally Neumark) was born in July 1834 in Löebau, West Prussia and, while it is often stated that he was born in Germany, there was no united nation under that name until long after he left for America. Instead, his hometown later became Lubawa, now a town of about 10,000 in north-central Poland. His father Philipp was a merchant, originally in shoes and boots and later with ink and blacking, with small-scale operations in Sweden and Denmark and his mother was the former Esther Meyer.

The Newmarks were poor and one of the children, Joseph Philipp left for England and then the United States, settling in Los Angeles in the early 1850s. After working for his father for about four years from 1849 to 1853 and traveling a few times between Prussia, Sweden and Denmark, Harris received a letter from his brother, suggesting he join him in the Angel City. On 1 July 1853, Newmark left Gothenburg, Sweden, with a stop in England, before landing in New York. After a short stay there, he sailed to Nicaragua, crossed the isthmus there, and proceeded up the Pacific Coast to San Francisco. Another brief sojourn was followed by a voyage to San Pedro, where Phineas Banning, a fairly recent arrival, who became he “Port Admiral” at his town of Wilmington, drove Newmark to Los Angeles and a reunion with Joseph.

Newmark worked for his brother and his recollections of the Angel City in 1853 include the observation that “free-and-easy customs were in vogue in Los Angeles . . . there were few if any restrictions” with his remembrance that “the many and flourishing gambling dens caused me the greatest astonishment. He went into some detail about these and the “grog shops” plying all manner of alcohol and added that “human life at this period was about the cheapest thing in Los Angeles, and killings were frequent.” Not unlike Bell, he claimed that there “twenty or thirty murders a month” in the city, though detailed studies have found not much more than that in any given year—though who knows how many killings went unreported or little or unnoticed?

In any case, Newmark spent close to 40% of his narrative on his first seven years in Los Angeles and almost as much on the period from 1860-1876, with just a fifth covering nearly forty years until he ceased his recollection with 1913. He frequently mentioned Jonathan Temple, including the fact that he “started the first general merchandise store in town,” though it was in 1828 when he arrived in the pueblo not the prior year, when Temple was in San Diego.

Newmark noted that Temple hosted the first vigilance committee in Los Angeles, held in 1836, and “toward the fifties, he drifted south to Mexico and there acquired a vast stretch of land on the coast.” Actually, while it is true that Temple owned a large property between Acapulco and Mazatlán, his main endeavor, arranged through his son-in-law, Gregorio de Ajuria, was the leasing of the national mint of the nation, which he and then his only child, Francisca de Ajuria, held until 1893.

Newmark continued that when Temple returned after his travels, which included trips to New York and Paris, while his Los Angeles store was managed by Ygnacio Garcia, he “was soon known as one of the wealthiest, yet one of the stingiest men in all California. Elsewhere, it was noted that Temple, along with David W. Alexander (a close friend of William Workman and Temple’s brother, F.P.F.), owned a store at San Pedro from 1844 to 1849. Another notable anecdote was that the first Jewish religious services held in Los Angeles were “in the rear room of an adobe owned by John Temple,” though where was not stated.

Also mentioned was how Temple kept large amounts of cash in San Francisco with the revenue coming from the sale of cattle from ranches in the north, not just his Rancho Los Cerritos in modern Long Beach, and then he would issue drafts from these reserves, but sometimes had to resort to shipping coin from Los Angeles and pay a 1% fee “for safe transmission,” especially in those days of frequent highway robbery. In fact, Newmark also recorded how notorious criminal David Brown, who was lynched in early 1855 after committing a murder, “planned to rob John Temple on one of his business trips, but was thwarted because Temple changed his route.”

When Temple built his brick building (in 1857, not 1858 as Newmark indicated) that became the first of four structures comprising the Temple Block, Newmark recalled that the Main Street side was “above the level of the sidewalk” and, because steps were needed to reach the first of the two floors, the store spaces “proved unpopular and did not rent.” This led William Wolfskill, also a close friend of Workman and F.P.F. Temple, to tell friends “what a pity that Temple put all his money there! Had he not gone into building so extravagantly, he might now be a rich man.”

Temple did reconstruct the street and building so they were flush, which improved rentals. When he tried tar from the Rancho La Brea pits on a sand base for a sidewalk, however, the hot summer weather meant “the coating became soft and gluey, and was not comfortable to walk upon.” He was also credited by Newmark with being the first to plant shade trees in the city, doing so on 31 January 1861 and inspiring watchmaker Charles Ducommun to follow suit.

Actually, the other extravagance was Temple’s Market House, finished in 1859 in a broad “island” south of his brick structure, and Newmark remarked on criticism of the city’s working with Temple on the project, which involved leasing the ground floor to the municipality, which pocketed the rent of the stores there, though not to the satisfaction of critics. Newmark also recalled the Temple Theatre on the second level and observed that use of its two private boxes “became at once the ambition of every Los Angeles gallant,” while also recording that the décor was done by an unnamed San Francisco artist, with the first performance mounted on 22 February 1860. He did opine that the structure was not particularly well-constructed.

When Temple died in spring 1866, however, Newmark remarked on “the bad judgment of his executor” which “cost his estate dear’ because “valuable properties were sacrificed.” Even though the local economy was severely depressed after a half-decade of ravages from floods followed by drought, Newmark stated that Augustus F. Hinchman, who was married to a sister of Temple’s wife, Rafaela Cota, “was intensely partial” to San Diego, where he resided and “this may have prejudiced him against Los Angeles” in disposing of Temple’s property “at ridiculous prices.” This included the site of the future Downey Block, post office and federal building at $15,000, the Temple Block at $16,000, the Market House property at $14,000, and the 27,000-acre Rancho Los Cerritos for $20,000.

As for F.P.F. Temple, Newmark called him “exceptionally modest and known among his Spanish-speaking friends as Templito, because of his five feet four stature,” though he was also much younger than his half-brother, which may have accounted for the moniker, at least in part. The merchant recorded that F.P.F. and Antonia Margarita Workman “had a spacious and hospitable adobe” on Rancho La Merced, in the Whittier Narrows, that was 70 x 110 feet, though it was “later destroyed by fire.”

On the land surrounding the house, there were twenty acres of fruit trees and some 50,000 grapevines, partially fenced (Newmark also stated that Temple spent a princely $40,000 for fencing at his home tract), which was “the exception rather than the rule for even a country nabob [wealthy person] of that time.” Newmark added that Temple “should be credited with encouraging the importation and breeding of good horses,” having spent $7,000 on one purebred and then another “at a fancy figure.” During the Civil War, a regional effort to try cotton as a potential alternative to that raised on the Southern plantations, included Newmark’s recollection that Temple showed some mature bolls raised on Workman’s portion of Rancho La Puente.

An important local project in the 1870s was the negotiation with the Southern Pacific Railroad about it building a line from the north to the Colorado River at Yuma, Arizona but running through Los Angeles, as required by a bill in Congress. Newmark remembered that a committee was established to those railroad companies likely to build to the Angel City and he, Temple and others were part of that, while Newmark, Temple and H.K.S. O’Melveny were “a special committee to confer” with the Southern Pacific representative, “in drawing up ordinances for the County” for the project.

Much has been written on this blog about the Temple and Workman bank and its spectacular demise and Newmark also referenced the tragedy, stating first that Temple” made the fatal blunder of accepting the friendly advice that led him” to build the last of the structures, at a cost of $150,000 (a substantial sum in 1871) and “by long odds the most ornamental edifice in the city,” on the Temple Block and then open the bank. The institution had elaborate décor, with a beautiful native cedar counter, and on the surface, “nothing seemed wanting to success.”

The merchant, who amassed a substantial fortune by that time, remarked, however, that neither owner “had any practical experience in either finance or commerce,” other than being partners with Isaias W. Hellman, who went on to great wealth, in an earlier bank. As Newmark simply stated, “it soon became evident that anybody could borrow money with or without proper security, and unscrupulous people hastened to take advantage of the situation.”

Newmark also talked about the daring depredations of bandido chieftain Tiburcio Vásquez and his robbery of Alessandro Repetto at his ranch in what is now Monterey Park, involving sending a boy (Repetto’s son) to Los Angeles to get money from the rancher’s account at Temple and Workman. This has also been discussed on this blog before, but what was unique to Newmark’s account was that, when the bank faced its reckoning for years of loose management, and a loan was sought from Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin on, as Temple put in to Workman, “on rather hard terms,” Baldwin insisted that Juan Matias Sánchez included his land, on ranches shared with the others.

Sánchez, who traded extensively with Newmark, went to him for counsel and the merchant remembered,

I felt convinced that Temple & Workman’s relief could be at best but temporary, although I am sure that they themselves believed it would be permanent, and so I strenuously urged Sanchez to refuse [to agree]; which he finally promised me to do. So impressive was our interview that I still vividly recall the scene when he dramatically said: “¡No quiero morir de hambre!” A few days later I learned, to my deep disappointment, that Sanchez had agreed, after all, to include his lands.

When Temple and Workman were unable to pay back the loan in the face of the bank’s failure, Sánchez was also wiped out and, Newmark noted, “died very poor,” while Temple “died a ruined man; and Workman soon committed suicide.” He added, “thus ended in sorrow and despair the lives of three men who, in their day, had prospered to a degree not given to every man, and who had also been more or less distinguished.”

Elsewhere, Newmark claimed that Temple “breathed his last in a rude sheep herder’s camp in a corner of one of his famous properties,” but later in the book, he noted that he “passed away at Merced Ranch” and he former is a story that is not the case. As for Workman, comparatively little was said in the book, probably reflecting the La Puente rancher’s propensity for spending relatively little time in Los Angeles. The merchant purchased the Temple Block after the failure of Temple and Workman.

Newmark did recall that he “witnessed one of the most interesting gatherings of rancheros characteristic of Southern California life I have ever seen” in February 1859, this being “a typical rodeo, lasting two or three days, for the separating and re-grouping of cattle and horses, and took place at the residence of William Workman at La Puente rancho.” The Los Angeles Star newspaper coverage, however, referred to the gathering as a recogida, specifically for horses.

He remarked on the presiding of Felipe Lugo as Judge of the Plains and added “never have I seen finer horsemanship than was there displayed by those whose task it was to pursue the animal and throw the lasso around the head or leg.” After observing that guests including most of the elite rancheros and their retinues, Newmark concluded by noting that all in attendance were “ready to enjoy the unlimited hospitality for which the Workmans were so renowned.”

Of the “Los Angeles Workmans,” Newmark had a few very interesting anecdotes. The eldest son of Nancy Hook and David Workman (who died in 1855 driving cattle to the gold fields for his brother William) was Thomas, who was clerk for Banning and ran for County Clerk in 1861, despite being a Republican (he had to be to work for Banning, who had extensive Union connections, including the building of Camp Drum at Wilmington).

Newmark recorded that youngest son William Henry rented a corral for “supplying fire-water [liquor] liberally” to get Indians to vote. The Democrats, led by Tomás Sánchez, the county sheriff, got wind of the plot and gave such speeches as to turn the “voters” their way, even as “Billy” Workman “entered a vigorous protest, saying that the votes were his and that it was a questionable and even a damnable trick” perpetrated by the opposition—Thomas lost, but was soon killed in the horrific explosion of Banning’s steamer, the Ada Hancock at Wilmington. Middle son Elijah was only mentioned in connection with his planting of trees in the early Seventies at what became Pershing Square.

When the January 1855 lynching of David Brown took place, Newmark claimed, the steamer to San Francisco left in the morning, while the mob hanging happened in the afternoon, so “Billy” Workman, who worked for the Southern Californian newspaper, which was decidedly pro-vigilante, “sat down and wrote out every detail” before Brown was lynched and sent the account north.

William H, the book noted, was also a founder of the city library in 1872 and on the committee, at that time, that oversaw the building of the first high school, which opened in 1873, though his mayoral term of 1887-1888 was only briefly alluded to (part of the rapid review of those later years), though it was noted that Workman was chair of the board that wrote the city charter of 1888. He was also lauded for his crucial role in the creation of the chamber of commerce, which became a powerful entity in the Angel City. When Workman served as city treasurer from 19901 to 1907, Newmark, noted that “this compliment was more emphatic because Workman was a a Democrat,” albeit a conservative one, during a Republican reign of the local political scene.

While this is a summary of the mention of Workman and Temple family members in Sixty Years in Southern California, there is a great deal generally that a reader can learn from this remarkable history, particularly for the period through 1876. Anyone interested in that period and, to a lesser degree, the nearly forty years after that, are well advised to find and read this very informative and interesting work.

Leave a Reply