by Paul R. Spitzzeri
In 1870, William Workman, owner of over 24,000 acres of the Rancho La Puente decided it was time to provide for his heirs. The 70-year old rancher, farmer and banker had, three years before, finally received, with La Puente co-owner John Rowland, a federal land patent for the ranch after 15 years of wrangling with federal courts over its grant made to them in the 1840s during the waning years of the Mexican era.
The patent was issued in spring 1867 and Rowland and Workman wasted no time in having a new survey, following the original done in 1842 by Isaac Given, who came with them from New Mexico the prior year and who had some surveying training for the first land grant and another in 1857 by Los Angeles County Surveyor Henry Hancock, drawn up.
Completed in 1868, the survey, done by county surveyor George Hansen and assisted by William Moore and Lothar Seebold, provided for an exactly even division of land, including those in the valleys and those in the hills, among the two, with plots set out for each man. Remarkably, John Rowland’s copy, long held by the family of a collector, wound up being sold very recently by antique map dealer Barry Ruderman, who acquired it in 2021!
In any case, with Workman having legally separated his portions of La Puente from his old friend Rowland, he then turned to having his power of attorney assigned, in 1868, to his son-in-law, F.P.F. Temple, who was married to Workman’s only daughter, Antonia Margarita (known commonly as Margarita.) A future post here will delve into that document, but it was the same year that the two men joined forces with Los Angeles merchant Isaias W. Hellman to form Los Angeles’ second bank, Hellman, Temple and Company.
Around this time, Workman also decided it was high time to embark on a remodeling of his adobe house, parts of which dated back to 1842 and others from before the mid-1850s. He employed the first trained architect in our region, Ezra F. Kysor, who finished the Pico House hotel at the time, to redesign the residence so that the three-room adobe core and a small addition of the same material at the northeast corner were retained, but the rest of the adobe rooms, directed southward, were leveled.
New brick rooms were then built at the four corners, including two bedrooms, an office, and an enclosure for the water well, while a new second floor was built, also of brick, but which, apparently contained no finished rooms—after all, why would William and his wife, Nicolasa Urioste, who was a couple of years younger and whose children were long away from home, need more rooms, especially in a second floor that could get very stuffy during hot weather?
Scanty evidence suggests the house was finished about spring 1870, the best of this being that Workman ordered fencing around his dwelling, which he seemed unlikely to do if there was still major construction going on. Another piece of note is from his October 1870 will, which, in addition to making provision for his personal property and real estate to various family members, specifically referred to his recent constructed house.
Likely preliminary to the creation of the will was another pair of surveys Workman ordered, one being a “Map of Puente Valley” or the western section of La Puente that was part of his half-share and the other titled “Southwest Part of Rancho La Puente, A Portion of the Land of W. Workman,” which shared some elements with the first map, but had some other and important differences. A previous post on this blog featured an original of the first map which is in our collection and donated by the late David Workman, a great-grand nephew of William and Nicolasa.
This post highlights, also from the Museum’s holdings through the recent donation of the estate of Josette Temple, the Workmans’ great-great-granddaughter, the bill from Lothar Seebold, then a private civil engineer and surveyor, who produced both maps. Seebold dated his bill 18 July 1870 and charged $35.00 for the “Surveying & Calculating the S.W. part of Ro. La Puente” while he added $60.00 for the “Map & description of Boundary.”
Considering that Seebold did not just delivery a plain survey, which was the case with “Puente Valley” one he did at the same time (June 1870), but added an artistic border, grapevines around Workman’s name, and, more importantly, a rendering of the newly renovated Workman House, the charge of under $100 seems like an incredible bargain (though one should consider what a dollar could buy then!)
A clear reason why it was just the southwest portion of the ranch that was drawn up is because of the three principal bequests set aside at the top of the survey. Workman’s son, José, or Joseph, spent roughly fifteen years in the San Joaquin Valley superintending cattle for his father and brother-in-law, but, when he late in 1869, married Josephine Belt of Stockton, it was decided to give him property where the San Gabriel River and Walnut Creek intersect near today’s interchange of Interstates 10 and 605.
Notably, William elected not to hand over the deed to the property, but kept it, apparently because of some issues, largely unexplained, that he and his son had (more on that in a future post on a late 1910s through mid 1920s lawsuit concerning the property filed by Josephine Akley, the youngest child of Joseph and Josephine.) Still, the newlyweds built a house, farmed and ran sheep on their tract until Joseph sent a friend to request the deed, which William, angrily handed over, upon which his son immediately raced to Los Angeles to get it recorded.
The nearby tracts, situated along the north side of what is now Valley Boulevard and then was known simply as the County Road, were intended for two of Workman’s grandsons, Thomas (1846-1892) and William (1851-1917), while the grandson in between those two, Francis (1848-1888), was not given a parcel for reasons unknown—though, he later became his grandfather’s winemaker, so perhaps the Homestead, marked as “Field of W. Workman,” was intended for him.
The line running from the southwest corner of what became the Workman, or La Puente, Homestead, to the southern boundary of the ranch at the highest elevation of the Puente Hills, defined what was Workman’s to the left or west and what was Rowland’s to the east or right. More faintly, a line going up from the northeast corner of the Homestead does the same thing in differentiating parcels between the two ranch owners.
West of the Homestead and just left of a body of water shown emptying through a small watercourse into San Jose Creek, which was the southern border of the Homestead and is shown running southwest along the base of the Puente Hills and then into the Rancho Paso de Bartolo, owned by ex-governor and close family friend, Don Pío Pico, is another line running from the creek to Valley Boulevard.
This appears to delineate what Workman continued to hold and what, in 1868, he’d deeded to his daughter, and which was generally called the Workman Mill Tract. The mill is shown on the north side of the creek as it was starting to make the turn toward the Paso de Bartolo and eventually empty into he San Gabriel River, clearly defined curving through the map at the top left, in the Whittier Narrows.
The mill was somewhat new, having been built about 1868 and operated by contract with Workman by William Turner, who father, John, was a miller of long standing in the region. The land on which the mill stood and about 625 acres around it, however, were given to Margarita. Moreover, the hill area to the left or west of the lake and the line and to the right or east of the river is what we now call Avocado Heights and another new development that took place there was that F.P.F. Temple, Margarita’s husband, ran sheep there, having hired Norwegian native Andrew Kittilson to manage the herd on a sort of profit sharing basis.
That is another notable element concerning the transitional time period, which is the dramatic change in the use of the land at La Puente. After primarily raising cattle, first for their hides and tallow and then for fresh beef as the animals were sent to the gold fields in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Workmans, as with all ranchers in the region, were faced with decimated herds during the floods and drought of the first half of the 1860s.
With the second half of the decade, a shift in emphasis meant that farming was focused upon, especially wheat in that region north of Valley Boulevard where the bequests to Joseph Workman and Thomas and William Temple were made and further north, which is why the mill was built, as well as vineyards along San Jose Creek where the ink marks were made by Seebold at the south end of the Homestead.
Shown in that “Field of W. Workman” are the three red-brick wineries constructed by the Workmans in the middle 1860s, along with other outbuildings, while to the east is El Campo Santo Cemetery and a dark square for the red brick Gothic Revival St. Nicholas’ Chapel. It is very interesting that Seebold went to that level of detail in a small portion of the map, but the detail shown here helps make out some of these specifics.
Elsewhere are three tables of surveying data concerning boundary lines, stations, distances between these and other details, while the true courses are indicated above the larger table at the lower right and below the map’s title. At the bottom is the signature of county surveyor Frank Lecouvreur, who had to sign off of any maps submitted for filing at his office.
Finally, at the bottom left is the rendering of the remodeled Workman House with it being highly unlikely that Seebold would have included without, first, his client specifying that he wanted it on the map and, second, that it wasn’t yet finished (although the indication of landscaping was certainly not true to life!). Seebold’s details were such that we can readily see that the view was from the southwest with the projecting end of the structure, the circular insets on the second floor flanking the upper window, the four chimney stacks, the window trim and eave brackets and more are shown pretty faithfully. So, too, was the grape arbor running southward, or to the right, of the residence (although it should have been a bit taller as it looks like something you’d crawl through rather than walk under!) This actually shows that Seebold was actually a bit of an artist and not just a surveyor.
As to Seebold, there isn’t that much known about his relatively short life. He was born about 1835 in Prussia, in what, about half a year after this map was completed, became part of a unified Germany. When he came to the United States is not known, though there was, in 1857, a grocery in Leavenworth, Kansas (during the so-called “Bloody Kansas” period when pro and anti-slavery forces engaged in violence over their antithetical positions) run by “L. and A. Seebold.”
The first definitive date we can assign to him is when the oldest child born to him n his Missouri-born (but of German and Swiss parentage) wife Mary, daughter Jessie, was born in the Colorado Territory in 1860. Five years later, his eldest son Theodore was born in the Montana Territory and a reference was found that Seebold was a liquor dealer in the gold mining town of Nevada City, northwest of today’s Yellowstone National Park.
By 1867, Seebold and his family wound up in Los Angeles, where, that March, he opened the Los Angeles City and County Land Agency with Jonathan Trumbull, known as Juan José, Warner, who’d come to the Angel City in the early 1830s and who was a close friend of the Workman and Temple families. Apparently, Warner was going to act as a real estate agent, while Seebold would prepare maps, plans and surveys and the former’s facility in Spanish and the latter’s fluency in German and French were promoted.
Obviously, the partnership did not last long, as Seebold, who worked on that 1867-1868 La Puente partition map, soon went on his own with his civil engineering and surveying business. For a time in the early Seventies, he and Hansen had a surveying business together, but that, too, looks to have ended quickly, perhaps because Seebold decided to seek elective office.
After winning the race for Los Angeles city assessor in the December 1872 campaign, he assumed office and held that for about three years. Seebold showed no hesitancy to defend his work when property owners or others complained about his methods for assigning taxable value on personal or real property.
In August 1873, for example, as he was running for county surveyor on the People’s Reform ticket, comprised of Republicans in a region whose politics were still controlled almost exclusively by Democrats, Seebold issued a lengthy explanation to the Los Angeles Star about how Isaias W. Hellman, who’d bought out Temple and Workman over stark differences in how to run their bank and then formed Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank with former governor John G. Downey, refused to divulge how much cash was in the vaults of his bank, claiming it was the property of depositors. Yet, Seebold stated, not only did F.P.F. Temple freely provide that information, but stated he had office furnishings of more than double what Hellman had, so the assessor felt it fair to change Hellman’s amount from $1,000 to $2,500 for that item, as well.
The context was that Temple was running for county treasurer against incumbent Thomas Rowan, an employee of Hellman. Whatever personal enmity and bitter feelings might have existed between Temple and Hellman over the severing of ties two years before, there were accusations in the Star that there was a “Hellman Ring” in which he was too cozy with Angel City politicians, while Temple was portrayed as an anti-ring candidate.
Notably, Temple barely lost to Rowan in the September election, but Seebold toppled Lecouvreur and was still permitted to retain his city assessor position while simultaneously serving as county surveyor. There didn’t appear to any controversy with the latter position, as Seebld went out to draw new surveys of ranchos, most of which were rapidly falling to subdivision for townsites or new owners, while he spent much of this time on new roads, usually with two other “viewers” to determine the best route.
In September 1874, Seebold fired off another long missive to the Los Angeles Express to rebut claims made by its main competitor, the Herald and an unnamed “prompter,” that Seebold was not earning his keep as assessor, in that his responsibilities did not warrant what the Common [City] Council paid him and that state law limited his salary to $500 a year. Seebold rebutted these assertions in great detail and averred “that the only parties who complain against the assessment are a few rich men, who are constitutional complainers, and whose only grief is that at last one rich man has not almost wholly escaped taxation.”
Two months later, he specified that “prompter” by addressing the Herald as “Beaudry, et. al,” meaning council member, soon-to-be mayor and real estate kingpin of the era, Prudent Beaudry. Actually, the paper’s founder, Santa Barbara attorney Charles Storke, sold it to a syndicate including Beaudry, F.P.F. Temple and several others, who ran the paper for most of 1874, though Temple divested his interests and Beaudry continued to be a major stakeholder.
In any case, Seebold went into specifics in rebuttal about certain assessed properties and their real or supposed owners and lashed out at Beaudry, saying he was “entirely blinded by private interest, for since I did not—could not—and would not favor him in the assessment, he has persecuted me in and out of the Council, and did not shrink from the lowest tricks and misrepresentations of truth.”
By 1876, Seebold was no longer city assessor or county surveyor, perhaps having had too much of the battling with the likes of Beaudry and the Herald, though he did run for surveyor in 1877, though that was forestalled by his sudden death. When that happened in September, though, all that could be found was a very brief report by the Star that “Mr. L. Seebold, a former City [County] Surveyor and an old resident [a decade?] of Los Angeles, died very suddenly last Sunday afternoon, and was buried yesterday.”
Presumably, his last resting place was the old Protestant, or City, Cemetery atop Fort Moore Hill, which he once surveyed, but it is not known if this was the case. Another tidbit about Seebold is that he was hired in 1871 to make two copies of the Ord Survey of 1849, the first in Los Angeles, and it has been stated that the original was discarded after Seebold finished his copies.
This bill is a great little reference to a notable period in the life of William Workman as he made his plans at the end of his life, though they were not realized as intended because of the dramatic financial collapse the consumed him in 1876, and is also an interesting artifact relating to an early surveyor, whose work was important to a growing Los Angeles during its first significant and sustained period of growth from the late 1860s through mid 1870s.