Navigating a New Century Postlude: The Temple-Basye Family Feud, 1899-1903, Part One

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

The last two installments of the series of presentations on the Workman and Temple family in Los Angeles, proceeding decade by decade during the Homestead’s interpretive period of 1830 to 1930, have included discussions of some of the dramatic ups and downs experienced by the family, including the continuing political prominence and economic prosperity of the Workman family of Los Angeles, the loss of the Workman Homestead, where the Museum is today, in 1899, and much else.

One of the stranger aspects of the family story, however, involves the travails, trials and tribulations of Charles P. Temple (1872-1918), the youngest of the eleven children, eight of whom lived to adulthood of Antonia Margarita Workman and F.P.F. Temple. Charles and his next oldest sibling, Walter (1869-1938), owner of the Homestead from 1917-1932, inherited the 50-acre Temple Homestead, a remnant of the half of Rancho La Merced (which was 2,363 acres) lost by their father to Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin in the aftermath of the failure of the Temple and Workman bank, after the death of their mother in early 1892.

An 1890s cabinet card photograph from the Museum’s collection of Charles P. Temple (1872-1918).

The Temple brothers leased out part of the family’s 1850s adobe house to winemaker Giovanni Piuma and farmed on much of the rest of the tract even through much of the 1890s was a period of national economic depression and several years of drought in greater Los Angeles. The handsome, rakish Charles married near-neighbor Rafaela Basye, whose father Rafael was a nephew of Juan Matias Sánchez, co-owner with Temple of Rancho La Merced and builder, in 1869, of an adobe house that was on the ranch at what is now the corner of San Gabriel Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue in Montebello, in November 1898. The community in which the Temples and Basyes resided was long known as Misión Vieja or Old Mission, because the original Mission San Gabriel was situated across San Gabriel Boulevard from the Basye Adobe.

Very shortly afterward, however, the 25-year old Rafaela died and nothing has been located about her passing and its circumstances, but her family were convinced that Charles was responsible. On the last day of March 1899, Charles met his late wife’s brother James Basye in front of what one paper called “Schoninger’s” saloon, though this was without question the tavern, billiard parlor and store owned by Temple’s brother-in-law, Manuel M. Zuñiga and which happened to be located in the aforementioned Basye adobe.

The marriage listing for Rafaela Basye and Charles Temple, Los Angeles Herald, 10 November 1898. Within a few months, Rafaela died and her family blamed Temple.

As is so often the case, newspaper accounts were somewhat conflicting. An early account in the Los Angeles Times of April Fools’ Day, stated that

As a result of family troubles, the exact nature of which no one except members of the family knows [sic], Charles Temple and James Basye engaged in a pistol duel . . Whether there were an words preceding the resort to arms cannot be ascertained, as no person was within hearing distance of the two men. Those who witnessed the shooting say Temple drew a revolver and attempted to fire at Basye. The weapon would not work, and Bayse at once drew his own pistol and started shooting.

The account continued that, with his weapon disabled, Temple turned to run, but Basye struck him with his first shot, the bullet passing through the former’s right shoulder near the spine and the other five shots missing when fired in rapid succession as Temple tumbled to the ground, saving his life in so doing. A bystander, only identified as Andrade (this was another early family—in fact, an Andrade was co-builder of the Basye Adobe) was hit in the foot by a stray bullet. Basye, it was stated, went to get a second weapon, but was detained by friends, while Temple was taken to a house and treated by a local doctor.

A cabinet card from the Homestead’s holdings of Lucinda Temple, Charles’ sister, standing in front of the saloon, billiard parlor and store operated in the Basye Adobe by her husband, Manuel M. Zuñiga (with Charles as an apparent partner) and where the 1899 duel between Charles and James Basye, whose father co-built the structure, took place. Walter P. Temple later owned and lived in the building until oil was found on the hill seen to the right of the building next to the tree and brought him and his family a fortune.

The Times account, despite its initial statements about the vagaries of the reason for the duel, concluded by observing “Temple married Basye’s sister several months ago, and his wife died soon after her marriage under circumstances that led Basye to suspect Temple of wrongdoing.” Because of this, Basye purportedly “threatened to avenge his sister’s wrongs [death] if he ever met Temple in a place where both would have an even chance;” that is, in a duel setting.

A briefer summary by the Los Angeles Express of the same day reported that the combatants met on the road and drew their revolvers “after an encounter of words,” with Temple trying to shoot first, “but the weapon missed fire.” Basye then unloaded his gun as noted above. The paper then stated “the trouble between the two men dates back several months, when Temple married Basye’s sister, who, so it is alleged, died shortly after under peculiar circumstances.”

Los Angeles Times, 1 April 1899.

On the 3rd, Los Angeles Record offered its version of the “Old Mission Feud,” after noting that Basye was arraigned by a Los Angeles justice of the peace on an assault to murder charge and held in county jail pending a hearing for $2,500 bail (which he posted and was, therefore, released until a preliminary hearing.) The paper called the incident “an old-time feud” and reported that “Temple asked Basqe [sic] to take a friendly drink, thus showing a disposition to bury the hatchet.” Basye, however, refused “and a bitter wordy altercation ensued.”

This account, however, continued that it was Basye who fired first, while Temple peeled off a pair of shots that missed and, moreover, “it is alleged that Basqe struck Temple over the head with the butt of his revolver, after the weapon had been emptied.” The Record also noted that Basye turned himself in to a justice of the peace in nearby Whittier and bail was set at $1,000, but Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, Samuel P. Rowland, who just happened to be the husband of Temple’s sister Margarita, arrested Basye and took him to Los Angeles for proceedings.

Los Angeles Express, 1 April 1899.

That day’s Express expanded on its earlier explication of the incident by noting that Temple and Basye “chanced to meet in the road in front of the saloon at Old Mission” when the former “in a spirit of friendliness, proposed to Basye that they bury their old grudge and be friends again.” As Temple “offered his hand and asked Basye to come into the saloon and take a drink,” the latter turned him down and “said he never wanted to have anything to do with Temple again.”

After “high words” were exchanged, it was added that “both men drew their guns and began to fire simultaneously,” but, with Temple’s revolver, “the cartridge proved defective, and snapped,” so Basye unloaded his gun at his adversary, with this account saying that the sixth and final bullet took effect on the underside of Temple’s arm, which was raised to shoot, and passed above the elbow and into the shoulder, where it was lodged. Basye then advanced and “pounded the wounded man over the head with the butt of his heavy revolver.”

Los Angeles Record, 3 April 1899.

The article went to state that, while Temple rested at his house on the family homestead a short distance to the east of where the duel took place, Basye turned himself in to a sheriff’s deputy , was taken to Whittier where bail was set and then released. As noted above, when Basye was rearrested by Rowland, he was transported to Los Angeles and, the Express noted, he “grumbled considerably” given that he’s already posted his $1,000 bond in the Quaker City. After one night in the county pokey, Basye made the $2,500 bail and returned home to await his preliminary hearing, scheduled for 11 April.

The proceeding, however, was delayed for nearly a month for reasons that were not apparently publicized, but, on 2 May, Basye made his appearance before Justice of the Peace James and the next day’s issue of the Times, under the title of “Made Love Again,” began its brief summary by observing that the hearing “ended as all dramas do on the stage.” The account recorded,

It was difficult to tell in the justice court yesterday who was the chief aggressor, the affair appearing to be the result of a general drinking bout. Justice James read them a lecture on the evil of carrying firearms and drinking to excess, and then dismissed the case. A few minutes later the two men were seen grasping each other by the hand, and it was evident that the feud was declared off with an equal distribution of “honors.”

While the matter looked to have ended amicably, the family feud was far from over. A little over two years later, it was renewed with James Basye being replaced by his brother Thomas and the results being far more dire and the resulting legal proceedings embroiled in a good deal more drama.

Express, 3 April 1899.

Later in 1899, it was reported that Temple was robbed of over $100 when in Los Angeles and, among the stolen items, were two checks made out to “Temple & Zuñiga,” which indicated that the saloon in the Basye Adobe near which the duel took place was a partnership between Charles and his brother-in-law, Manuel Zuñiga.

In late 1900, after having trouble with delinquent taxes on three of his properties, Temple sold his inherited share, comprising over 130 acres, of the Workman Mill tract, a section of Rancho La Puente not subject to “Lucky” Baldwin’s loan to the Temple and Workman bank a quarter century earlier because it was given by William Workman to his daughter Margarita. She then deeded the divided 600-plus acres surrounding her father’s grist mill, located at the base of the Puente Hills where Workman Mill Road meets Crossroads Parkway South in the City of Industry near the intersection of Interstate 605 and the 60 Freeway to several of her children.

Times, 4 April 1899.

It appears that, with the $2,600 generated, at $200 an acre, from the sale of the land, which was long owned by the Patritti family, Temple decided to open his own saloon. Because of tighter licensing laws as the State of California and more local jurisdictions grappled with the rising tide of either the outright prohibition of most alcohol sales or major restrictions, he secured a charter from Sacramento for what was called the La Paloma Club, which operated in Temple’s residence. Such an entity, which had memberships, was considered better than your run-of-the-mill tavern or bar.

In 1901, Temple remarried, with his second wife being Susana Castino, the daughter of Italian immigrants, of whom many were settling in the Whittier Narrows area at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Susie, as she was known, lived with her parents near what is now La Puente when she, who was still in her teens, wedded the 29-year old Temple.

Times, 4 May 1899.

One of the La Paloma members was Tom Basye and, in early August 1902, when he and others who were part of the “club,” were carousing a little too loudly for the proprietor’s taste as it got close to midnight, Temple, came from the upstairs living quarters demanded that the party break up and the Basye, among others, head for home. A heavily intoxicated Basye and a likely equally inebriated Temple then faced off inside the establishment . . . and that’s where we will end this first part and return tomorrow for the second. Check back with us then!

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