Read All About It in the Los Angeles Express, 2 November 1874

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

With the 1870s being, along with the 1840s and 1920s, one of the three key decades in the Homestead’s interpretive period of 1830 to 1930, one of the best sources of information about greater Los Angeles as it underwent its first period of significant and sustained growth beginning in the late 1860s, are Angel City newspapers. The three English-language dailies, the Express, the Herald and the Star, are the most commonly-found of the city’s media outlets and the Museum’s collection has a few hundred issues, mostly of the first two, of papers from 1872-1875, the peak years of the boom that went bust in the summer of 1875 and, among other elements, included the collapse of the Temple and Workman bank, Los Angeles’ first major business failure.

This post looks at the pages of the 2 November 1874 edition of the Express, published by George Tiffany and John W. Paynter with James J. Ayers (who bought the paper several months later with Joseph D. Lynch) as editor. There is quite a diverse mix of material in this issue, though nothing really about real estate market, agriculture, sheep raising or other aspects often found in the publication during the boom.

There was an article about activities at the last night of the Southern District Agricultural Society’s fourth annual (the organization included F.P.F. Temple as one of its founders), held on Halloween evening (though there wasn’t a holiday to speak of at the time), with discussion about the great amount of attention paid to “Alden-cured figs,” which were dried at the newly opened East Los Angeles (Lincoln Heights) plant of the Alden Fruit Drying Works, recently discussed at some length in a recent post here.

The piece observed that “Mr. [George B.] Davis has done himself great credit and the county infinite service in having succeeded in presenting to the inspection of the public the fine display of fruits dried at the Alden works.” Given that the enterprise was just completed “and that these were the result of the first trials of the evaporators, the success of the process . . . is a matter for universal congratulation.”

Despite this, however, the main attraction of the night was the awarding of prizes for students of the city’s public schools for composition, drawing and penmanship. A committee of seven, including chair and County Judge H.K.S. O’Melveny, along with Star proprietor Benjamin C. Truman and two local women, decided the winners, with $10 given for the first premium and $5 for the second. The winners of the drawing division were from city grammar schools, while the remainder were from students of the high school, which opened the previous year.

For original composition and poem, the winner was Yda Addis, whose life and career were extensive covered in this blog through a long series of posts and who was given a larger premium of $15 for her verse, which was published on the first page of the edition and which, opined the Express, “possesses merit, and will add to the reputation of Miss Addis as a writer of genuine poetry.” Titled “Death Chimes,” the work contains a dozen stanzas, of which a half will suffice to show the young woman’s talents in versification:

Tolling out in solemn grandeur

From the church across the way,

Chimes of death are ever ringing—

Slowly, sadly, day by day

As the church makes sign of mourning—

Mourning for her cherished dead—

All the death-chimes seem like anguished

Wailings of the souls just fled. . .

Hark! another chime is sounding,

Who is this so lowly laid?

Lovely though in death’s wan slumber—

She was once a blithsome maid.

On the bosom still and breathless,

Interlaced her fingers fair;

And the marble brow is shaded

By soft, clustering, clinging hair

Tolling, tolling, ever tolling,

Death of good and death of bad;

Each by some one is lamented,

Each chime tells a story sad.

But it truly matters little

When or where our lives depart;

For whene’er it be, a death-chime

Tolleth from some loving heart.

In local sport, the afternoon of that last day of the fair included included a two-mile trot contest between three steeds, with the winner taking two heats of three. San Gabriel Valley orange grower Luther H. Titus was owner of Echo, who edged Vaughn, while a third horse, Moor, finished far behind, in two straight races. Another contest between Tommy Gates and Confidence was marred “on account of the foul driving” of the latter’s jockey, who “was called up and fined $25” with victory handed to the other horse “and all outside bets declared off.” A running race between two horses was easily won by Irene Harding as Regent lagged.

Among the news from Anaheim, from that city’s paper, the Gazette, was a tragic accident involving José and Manuela Corona who resided in Santa Ana Canyon near today’s Yorba Linda and Anaheim Hills. The couple was readying to start out in their buggy to attend a ball when another person’s saddle-horse got loose and, as it passed the buggy, José Corona reached out to stop it. In doing so, his own horses were startled and began to run, ejecting the driver. As the vehicle careened in a barranca, or gully, it leaned and “Doña Manuela was thrown head downward across the edge,” so that the seat hit her back “and inflicted such serious injuries that death resulted in a few minutes thereafter.”

Other news from the town and environs was that a brick store at Centre (Lincoln) and Lemon streets was being built by August Langenberger, one of Anaheim’s best-known citizens and whose correspondence with William Workman in 1870 has been covered here before. A joint-stock company was reportedly formed to build a hotel “with a view to the accommodation of such persons as may visit this section for sanitary reasons,” though it was added that the facility would be such that “the invalid and the tourist may enjoy to the full extent the unrivalled climate advantages which Anaheim is possessed.”

While it doesn’t appear the project got much further than this early concept, it is notable that the emphasis on the “health-seeker” was placed this early, because the region became widely-known later for its plethora of sanitaria, hotels and other entities catering to those seeking to recover their health in our region’s balmy climate. Finally, there was a brief note that Santa Ana notable Robert McFadden, an early prominent figure with his brother James, was looking to start a dairy and focus on producing cheese. The brothers, who hailed from Delhi, New York, called their property south of town by that name and the Homestead’s collection has a late 19th century photo of a dairy at Delhi—possibly that established by the McFaddens.

Another Gazette feature reproduced in the Express concerned “Favorable Indications” for a wet winter, something we certainly would like to see today, though predictions are for another dry one. This piece began with the observation that

The forebodings, created in the minds of our agricultural community, and more especially among stockraisers, by the early appearance of rain a few years back, have been almost entirely dissipated by the favorable seasons, which have since occurred.

There was then discussion of the fact that, in 1862, rain began to fall in late September and “from that time up to the severe rains in December of the same year,” there were enough showers to bring about new grass and, yet, not destroy the earlier growth. While November was known for being quite dry, there was enough grass to make for a good season.

Among the purchaser of purebred bulls from the Saxe Brothers was F.P.F. Temple, who spent a few thousands dollars on the animals.

Yet, when the account noted that there were “the severe rains in December of the same year,” one wonders if the actual year in question was 1861 when “Noah’s Flood,” which began on Christmas Eve and continued through near the end of January 1862 with an estimated 50 inches (!) falling during that period, decimated the area and California broadly.

In any case, it was noted that “the first rain was unusually early” in 1874 with showers falling regularly to the present time. It was reported that “in the [La] Habra hills and valleys the grass is already almost large enought [sic] to cover the ground” and it was anticipated that the season could wind up like 1862 (or 1861). For farmers, the rain was such that it served “to moisten his lands, and to place them in proper condition for cultivation” but not so strong as to prevent daily labor. To date, moreover, “we have had no appearance of those dry, blasting Eastern winds of past years, known as Santa Anas,” though it was still early November!

In the “Local Items” column was a note that there would be the monthly meeting that evening of the 38s volunteer fire company, which counted Elijah H. Workman, nephew of Homestead owners William Workman and Nicolasa Urioste, as one of its members. It was not for another decade that the professional, paid Los Angeles Fire Department was organized.

A vaguely worded note was that “‘one more unfortunate’ made an ineffectual attempt to kill herself” a few days before, this veiled allusion possibly concerning a prostitute. In legal news, former restaurateur John McDonald was arraigned a second time for the June murder of his wife—this matter recently covered in some detail in a post on this blog.

Another item reported the return from a long trip to his native haunts, specifically Sweden, in Europe of photographer Valentine Wolfenstein, of whose portraits the Museum has about thirty in its collection. Then there was the note that the Chamber of Commerce was holding its annual meeting that night in the County Court room, located in Jonathan Temple’s Market House long known as the Courthouse, and at which a new board of directors was to be chosen along with the carrying out of “business of the most interesting character.” The chamber folded, however, when the economy went moribund after the forthcoming crash and a new one, still with us, was founded in 1888 at the peak of the next boom.

A lengthy article of unusual content concerned the plight of a boy from the Los Nietos community, near modern Whittier, Santa Fe Spring and Pico River. Adolfo Leiva (1862-1921) had suffered from the prior three years from what the Express called “elongated tongue,” but which is known medically as macroglossia. The swelling was such that the organ “hung below the nether lip about four inches, spreading out to an unnatural width and a corresponding thickness.”

Among the many candidates for office in the ensuing early December city election was Elijah H. Workman for member of the Common (City) Council.

The condition was such that the lower jaw was affected, the child’s lower teeth were forced outward and the lip curled down and it was “preventing the boy from eating any solid food, and compelling him to subsist altogether on [a] soft diet.” Earlier editions of the local papers noted that Sheriff William R. Rowland, son of the late co-owner of Rancho La Puente, took pity on young Adolfo and brought him into Los Angeles for consultation with doctors and, while the boy resided temporarily at a house at Main Street near Ninth Street, he was seen by Doctor Kenneth D. Wise (1833-1916,) a native of Kentucky and Union Army field surgeon during the Civil War.

Wise, who came to the Angel City in 1872 and built up a large practice, though in heated competition with Dr. Henry S. Orme, was noted as a pioneer surgeon, with early Los Angeles woman doctor, Rebecca Lee Dorsey, reporting that he conducted the first appendectomy in the city. He also garnered attention nationally for his removal of a tumor weighing almost 60 pounds and was known locally for his handling of some challenging procedures—this was likely one of them.

Wise was attended by four other doctors as well as a pair of laymen as the surgery was conducted at the house in which young Adolfo was staying. The boy was laid down on a counter with his head resting on a chair. Remarkably,

the patient had been put partially under the influence of ether, but he was sensible during the whole time of the major operation . . . [and] the brave little fellow stood the operation like a hero, never flinching during the two hours that Dr. Wise was working upon him.

Wise began by inserting hooks in the sides of the organ “above where the amputation was to be made” and ran a string through to hold the tongue up. He then cut the tongue loose from the lower jaw where it was basically joined to the teeth. He severed part of the tongue, but an artery was struck and Wise quickly addressed the “copious stream of blood” that was emitted before making a similar removal on the other side.

The surgeon then took the remaining parts of the organ and sewed them together “forming quite a symmetrical looking tongue,” with the main concern obviously being concern for the arteries, though no complications arose in this regard. Wise visited Adolfo the day following the operation and reported “he was getting on splendidly” and that “the chances in favor of his entire recovery are now a thousand to one.”

The boy had no trouble speaking, did not complain of pain “and the newly formed tongue looks almost as good as anybody’s tongue.” The Express added,

This is certainly a great triumph for Dr. Wise as a surgeon, ad will redound to his credit in more ways than one, for it is entirely an affair of charity, as the mother of the boy is poor, and her expenses have been borne so far alone by the doctor and Sheriff Rowland. We would here suggest that this is a case where a public contribution could be collected to a worthy and beneficent end, as the mother will have to remain here with her boy for some time. The boy’s remarkable fortitude, too, is deserving of recognition by all who admire that sublime courage which knows how to suffer without complaining.

Adolfo went on to spend much of his early years at Los Nietos and then his later life in Pasadena, where he married Matilda Barreras and had six children, three sons and three daughters. As for Wise, he continued the practice of medicine into the early 20th century, though his aloofness led some to take his initials of “K.D.” and call him “King David.” Known for his “peculiar disposition,” Wise became a dedicated student of the occult and spoke of his conversations with the dead. It was telling that a medical journal obituary called him “a positive, aggressive character” who “was not by nature particularly genial.”

Per usual, there are usually interesting advertisements representative of local businesses, entertainment, and activities and a few samples are provided here. We’ll continue to regularly share other issues of 1870s newspapers from the Homestead’s holdings under the “Read All About It” banner, so be sure to keep an eye out for those.

Leave a Reply