“The Instrument of Rescuing from Oblivion a Portion of the Early History of our Country”: An Historical Sketch of Los Angeles County, California, November 1876, Part Six

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Moving on to the sixth part of this post examining the November 1876 publication, issued by Louis Lewin and Company, of a Los Angeles County history developed for the American centennial, we continue with former District Court judge and attorney Benjamin I. Hayes’ patchwork essay covering the era from 1847 to 1867 and picking up with his summation of religion during the period. His first brief comment was about the Jews of the Angel City and he wrote, “the Israelites have always observed their festivals of the Old Law, by closing houses of business and meeting for worship at designated places. They number six hundred souls.”

He observed that the first Protestant sermon was delivered by a Methodist minister, John W. Brier in June 1850 at the adobe house of future mayor John G. Nichols, situated where Jonathan Temple built, in 1859, the Market House, long the county courthouse. Three years later, another Methodist, Adam Bland arrived to open the “Southern California Mission,” though there was just one resident of that denomination, John W. Potts, who was still in the Angel City in 1876, excepting an El Monte family who occasionally came to town for a meeting. At the time of publication, there were 260 members of the church in Los Angeles and Hayes listed the several ministers, while noting the churches in such areas as Compton, Orange and Santa Monica. At the former was Marion M. Bovard, who became the first president of the University of Southern California, when it was established four years later as a Methodist institution, while Bland was ministering in what became Orange County.

A portrait of Benjamin I. Hayes in his later years, uploaded to Find-a-Grave by Hal Eaton.

Hayes also discussed early and halting Presbyterian and Episcopal ministration, providing some information on such figures as the Rev. Henry H. Messenger, a former missionary in Africa who came to the region in 1866 and resided at Orange. In 1859, a First Protestant Society was organized and, five years later, the cornerstone was laid for St. Athanasius’ Episcopal Church, located on a lot donated by merchant Francis Mellus at the southwest corner of Temple and New high streets and the first permanent Protestant church building in the city. The chronicler listed the society’s trustees as well as the women who sang in its choir, including the wife of Winfield Scott Hancock, a noted Union Army general during the Civil War and Democratic Party candidate for president in 1880.

After a brief discussion that there was a Baptist church in Downey, a Congregationalist edifice, also on New High Street, and some detail given about the Presbyterians, the writer turned to his own religion, Roman Catholicism, which dominated because of the majority of citizens being Latino. He discussed such figures as Bishop Tadeo Amat (who, in 1857, blessed the cornerstone of St. Nicholas’ Chapel, built in El Campo Santo Cemetery by the Workman family at Rancho La Puente), and such prelates as Blas Raho, Francis Mora, and Peter Verdaguer. Hayes recorded that the Plaza Church was completed in 1821, though most sources state it was completed at the end of the following year, while a new roof was added two decades later and its current appearance was under the tenure of Father Raho. Newly completed was St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, which was begun in May 1871 and consecrated on the last day of April 1876. Also recorded were the chapel of Bernardo Yorba in Santa Ana Canyon, the Anaheim church opened in 1869 and the former missions of San Fernando, San Gabriel and San Juan Capistrano, with the first not operating.

The enumeration of Hayes and his son (lines 10-11) from the 1860 federal census with Hayes only declaring personal property valued at $1,000. Among his near neighbors were Nancy Workman and her sons Elijah and William H. (lines 24-26), African-American pioneer of the Angel City, Peter Biggs and his wife Juana (lines 27-28) and Jonathan Temple, his wife Rafaela Cota , Temple’s store manager Ygnacio García and a servant, Antonio Martinez.

As an example of the seemingly indiscriminate conjunction of facts, Hayes, in the midst of discussing these missions, suddenly noted that the Southern Pacific rail line, coming from the north and passing (by government fiat) through the Angel City, included a tunnel north of San Fernando that was to be completed on 20 September 1876. He also observed that the “Spadra [a hamlet now part of Pomona] trunk line,” which ran through the Rancho La Puente just a short distance north of the Workman family residence, passed by “the weather-beaten adobe walls of San Gabriel,” even though the old church is actually of stone, brick and mortar, though he added that the venerable structure had a new roof put on in 1863.

With San Juan Capistrano, Hayes recorded some of its history, including a significant discussion of its Italian namesake, while also briefly referring to John Forster, who lived there from 1844-1864 as well as the indigenous people, described by the Spanish missionaries as noted “for their gentleness of disposition” while, since then, “noticed for their comely appearance and good qualities,” even as the 1862-1863 smallpox epidemic, which wreaked havoc on native people and Latinos, “nearly exterminated them.” He added that it was likely given pueblo status, which only Los Angeles and two others in California had in the pre-American period, but “by sleepy neglect missed a confirmatory decree,” while recording that the 567-acre site was sold for just $709 the previous November and stating that San Juan “was the only town site that has been entered in the U.S. Los Angeles District,” likely the federal land office. He concluded by asserting,

In more prosperous days, was there ever a gayer people? And where a firmer fortitude in adversity? Primitive simplicity sought to keep the reign at San Juan . . . So in quiet lived Santiago Rios, Brigido Morrillo, Pedro Verdugo, Blas Aguilar, Hermenegildo Bermudez, children, grand children—and friends— . . . too far for excitement or news, unless when the politician irrepressible might stray within their fold, or a charmed visitor share the cheerful board.

Also discussed in significant detail was the January 1857 arrival of the bandits led by Francisco “Pancho” and Daniel and Juan Flores and who plundered several San Juan stores, killing one shopkeeper, before ambushing county sheriff James R. Barton (a former son-in-law of John Rowland of La Puente) and a small posse in modern Irvine. This is an event that will be covered in a future post on this blog, but Hayes noted that the massacre was such that “words cannot picture the horror and grief that filled all men” and that “revenge became instantly the sole thought.” Several citizen companies, including two Latino ones with one commanded by Andrés Pico, hero of the resistance against the American invasion a decade prior, set out after the gang. The result involved several lynchings, including of innocent men at San Gabriel, but Hayes focused his attention on Barton and the posse members, though he spent some time on the matter of Daniel, who was captured and awaited trial before Hayes until he, too, was lynched nearly two years later.

In the 1870 census, Hayes was residing at San Diego and practicing law ad was enumerated (lines 26-29) with his second wife, Adelaida Marron, his son from his first marriage and a daughter from his second. Nearby (lines 18-19) were newspaper editor and writer Benjamin C. Truman, who soon moved to Los Angeles and ran the Star, and (line 14) Alonzo Horton, of Horton Square fame, who boasted a $500,000 real estate value.

From the drama at San Juan, Hayes turned to natural disasters, including the “Noah’s Flood” of December 1861 and January 1862 a nearly continuous series of storms hit the region between Christmas Eve and 17 January, the latter of which featured a mid-afternoon torrent with thunder and lightning—but the chronicler averred that “freshets of the river have been exaggerated in the excitement of the moment” and, when the storm of the 17th eased, “soon the little irrigating streams of the city flowed on as usual, and the traces of the storm were easily effaced.” He went on to suggest that the flood was only slightly worse than previous examples on Christmas 1860 and 29 November 1859, yet then detailed problems with damage of the dam north of the Angel City, adobe houses that collapsed, impaired roads and, at El Monte, a new channel of the San Gabriel River was created (the Temple family, incidentally, had to build a makeshift raft to escape the floodwaters at their Whittier Narrows-area residence.) He also recorded the complete destruction of “the thriving New Mexican settlement of Agua Mansa (Gentle Water,” a community established by those who came with the Workman family and John Rowland two decades prior.

Also discussed was the earthquake of 9 January 1857, estimated to be 7.9 on the Richter scale with nothing near comparable to that intensity experienced since and which hit at near 8:30 a.m. Again, we’ll look to cover this event in another post on this blog, but Hayes recorded that “the earth’s motion was very gentle at first, those sitting at table supposing some one was shaking it; gradually it increased in violence till every house, with all its contents, were seen to rock from side to side, as if about to topple over.” The two-minute temblor was followed by a strong aftershock a half-hour later, then another an hour after that and other small ones through the day, though a 5 p.m. shaker was said to be nearly as intense as the main quake and another strong one hit at 11 p.m. and again at the same time the next night. Hayes quoted statements from newspapers in Sacramento, San Jose and San Francisco, as well as personal accounts from the Mojave Desert and Fort Tejon, north of Los Angeles, very close to the epicenter and where David W. Alexander, who managed cattle for his friends William Workman and F.P.F. Temple with Workman’s son Joseph, reported on the effect on streams and lakes, where fish were tossed onto the banks.

Hayes moved next to travel and trade, noting the importance of the arrival of steamships, as early as 1849, to the California coast as well as the overland stagecoach, while the opening of a Wells, Fargo and Co. branch in April 1857 was considered a landmark event, as were other transportation developments. Characteristically, the former judge tucked in disparate notes on the introduction of strawberries and bees, William M. Stockton’s orange orchard near San Gabriel as the best in the region, and the first land claims patent being issued, in 1859, to Manuel Dominguez for his Rancho San Pedro. As for telegraph, that reached the Angel City towards the end of 1860 (Jonathan Temple was invested in that project), while he gave his collaborator J.J. Warner credit for calling for a transcontinental railroad line at the end of 1840.

After discussing, in a disjointed way, the importance of the port at San Pedro, but only very briefly, Hayes recorded some of the early merchants from the last half of the 1840s, including Jonathan Temple, Abel Stearns, Alexander Bell, Benjamin D. Wilson and Albert Packard and Charles W. Flugge (who, with William Workman, went to meet with Commodore Robert F. Stockton at San Juan Capistrano early in 1847 to negotiate an amnesty for Californios defending Los Angeles in the resulting recapture of the pueblo by American forces.) By 1849, several foreign-born merchants included those from Spain, Holland, France and Germany as well as rare woman shopkeeper, a “Madame Salandie” who arrived by ship and also had a butcher shop and moneylending enterprise. The scribe also told of Temple and David W. Alexander’s store at San Pedro from 1844 to 1849 and which possessed a carriage purchased from the military, probably in 1847, and which caused quite an impact when it appeared in the Angel City, noting, also, Alexander and Banning’s pioneer stage line and that of the “man of iron,” John J. Tomlinson. Alexander was also credited with bringing in two sets of large freight wagons, in 1851 and 1853, that took business away from the ox-carts of old.

In the 1850s, mercantile endeavors were operated by such examples as Alexander and Francis Mellus, Jacob Elias, Charles Ducommun, Ozro W. Childs and John D. Hicks, José Vicente Guerrero, José María Fuentes, Morris Goodwin, John O. Wheeler and Osias W. Morgan, and Matias Sabichi. Benjamin D. Wilson was given a very brief biographical treatment and it was observed that he and Packard sold their business to Wheeler and Morgan. Over more than a page, Hayes recited a long list of merchants, along with brewers, bakers and others, and named a good many Jews who came to the Angel City during the Fifties, though none were mentioned beyond a listing—among these were the Newmarks, the Morris brothers, Samuel Meyer, Hyman Tischler, the Hellmans (including Isaias, “eminent since as a banker,” first with William Workman and F.P.F. Temple and then with ex-governor John G. Downey in the Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank), Wolf Kalisher, Isaac Schlessinger, and many others.

Mellus was given a fairly lengthy biographical sketch and was noted as coming to California just before his 15th birthday and, with contacts throughout the coast and his skills in drafting, navigation and foreign languages, he was lauded for his success “among the currents and shoals of commercial life.” More brief was mention of Jonathan Temple, along with Solomon Lazard, Mendel Meyer, John Lanfranco, and Prudent Beaudry, who finished his two-year stint as mayor of Los Angeles just after the publication appeared and who was praised for his Beaudry Terrace development on Bunker Hill.

Once more, Hayes wandered to other topics without a transition or connection, referring to the April 1863 explosion of the steamer Ada Hancock, which ferried passengers and goods to shore from anchored ships near Wilmington to San Pedro, and among the fatalities of which disaster was Thomas H. Workman, nephew of William Workman and clerk to the ship’s owner Phineas Banning, who survived the calamity, and then to ten early extranjeros (American and European foreigners) from 1836—half American and the others from France, Italy, Scotland and Ireland. As for others present in 1845, those still living included former mayor José Mascarel, Alexander, Henry Dalton of Rancho Azusa, Michael White of San Gabriel, Wilson and F.P.F. Temple, among others.

Next were expositions on some outlying areas of the county, including El Monte where “the arrival of the emigrants . . . gave the first decided impulse to agriculture” in the area, which “encouraged business in the city of Los Angeles, and ever since has aided it materially.” Hayes observed that “there is much of interest in its history” and claimed its “society is as well organized as in any part of the United States,” despite its frequent issues with squatters, violence, virulent Confederate support during the Civil War, and the questionable activities of the Monte Boys, a very loose assemblage of men who were often involved in “popular justice” matters in hunting for alleged criminals. This was followed by reference to the Rancho La Puente of John “Roland” and William Workman, the New Mexican colony headed by Santiago Martinez at the east end of the ranch and other tracts in modern Pomona out to Agua Mansa near modern Riverside. Hayes added that “long after 1850, were to be seen the adobe ruins of the great granaries which the Padres built in front of [north about a half-mile] William Workman’s dwelling, to store the grain harvested on the plain of La Puente.”

In 1857 was the establishment of Anaheim by German colonists and Hayes called this “an event, the magnitude of which we have not yet seen” as “its founders designed the largest vineyard in the world” west of the Santa Ana River. From fifty settlers, the community boasted more than 2,000 nearly two decades later, making Anaheim “the second town in the county” after Los Angeles. Hayes did note that, prior to the creation of the community, Teodsio Yorba “gave the earliest grapes in the county” and his brother, Bernardo, proprietor of a great ranch in Santa Ana Canyon, was praised as “the head and front of everything useful or elegant” among those who resided in that area prior to his death in 1858 (F.P.F. Temple was the guardian of Yorba’s youngest children). Some attention was also given to what was part of Los Angeles County until 1853 when San Bernardino County was carved out of it and Hayes noted that “the child has grown up to a vigorous manhood” and “the people have always been remarkable for industry, enterprise, and good financial management in public affairs,” while downplaying any issues between the two jurisdictions.

With the gradual division of the generally very large ranches from the pre-American era, the chronicler noted some early, unsuccessful efforts at subdivision, including Henry Dalton’s at Azusa (1851); John O. Wheeler’s at Rancho San Francisquito (modern Temple City, Arcadia and El Monte—1852); and portions of the Lugo family’s Rancho San Antonio just southeast of Los Angeles (1860). In 1865, ex-governor John G. Downey began to subdivide the Rancho Santa Gertrudes (though it was not mentioned that his high-interest loan, with James McFarland, who returned to his hometown of Nashville, to owner Lemuel Carpenter was foreclosed upon in 1858, leading Carpenter to commit suicide in despair) and, out of the Los Nietos Township, came cities like Downey, Pico Rivera and others. Hayes accounted the lands along the San Gabriel River from El Monte south as “our ‘corn country.'”

Before subdivision and the terrible flood of 1861-1862 and the following drought of 1863-1864, the cattle industry reigned supreme in regional economics and Hayes recorded that prices were about $15 a head during the Gold Rush years of the first half of the Fifties, but declined steeply and demand waned. In 1860, there were officially about 78,000 cattle in the region (though Hayes thought there were actually above 100,000), 60% owned by Latinos, with large owners including Abel Stearns (12,000); Juan Avila (7,200); Rowland, Workman and Isaac Williams (5,000 each); Jonathan Temple (4,000); and Ricardo Vejar, Ignacio del Valle and the Yorba brothers (3,500 apiece), heading the list. In 1865, he went on, there were over 90,000 cattle, 15,500 horses and 282,000 sheep, the last number climbing to more than a half million within a decade, while cattle dropped to just 13,000 and horses about 10,000.

Agriculture became ascendant, through viticulture and the production of wine and brandy (though northern regions like Napa and Sonoma counties quickly became dominant because of far superior product), along with oranges, wheat and corn. Oranges derived from Mission San Gabriel were planted by William Wolfskill, whose 1841 orchard on Alameda Street south of the pueblo is generally accounted the first commercial grove in California, and Louis Vignes, a native of France who came to this area from Hawaii in 1831 was given a biographical treatment stating he planted his oranges in 1834, while his vineyard was extensive and of good quality. The historian noted that, as of the first of 1876, there were almost 37,000 bearing orange trees and some 7,000 limes and lemons, while there were 4.5 million grape vines.

With respect to wine-making, such early vintners as Wolfskill, German-born Louis Wilhart, Leonce and Vincent Hoover (originally Huber) from Switzerland, William M. Stockton, Joseph Huber and the major producer Jean-Louis Sainsevaine, a native of France, who, with Benjamin D. Wilson, pioneered shipments of local wine to San Francisco and New York. There were also the Germans John Frohling and Charles Kohler and the Irish native Mathew Keller among preeminent figures. William Workman was not at their level, but did produce decent amounts of wine grapes and then, after building three brick winery buildings in the mid-Sixties, producing up to 11,000 gallons annually by the mid-1870s.

In the world of “mechanics,” Hayes talked of carpenters (Sheriff Barton being an early example) like William Abbott, later builder of the Merced Theater building that still stands next to the Pico House, and William H. Perry, whose Boyle Heights house is now at the Heritage Square Museum in Lincoln Heights, while Commodore Perry Switzer, who worked on the Pico House, became better known for his mountain camp above Pasadena, was among a long list. Other craftspersons involved work in house and sign painting, plasterers, shoemakers, blacksmiths and and wagon makers—the latter including John Goller, long well-known in the Angel City, Louis Roeder, Joseph H. Burke, a pioneer of Los Nietos and Pico Rivera, Charles Daley (killed with Sheriff Barton in 1857)—and saddlers like Samuel C. Foy, who started his business in 1854, and the Workman Brothers, Elijah (who opened solo in 1857) and his younger brother, future mayor and city treasurer William H.

Brick making began with Jesse Hunter in 1852 and Joseph Mullaly was a principal figure for many years, with John Rowland’s second La Puente residence, built in 1855 and still standing, made from his bricks. Mullaly’s firm had a big year in 1858 with 2 million bricks sold for such projects as Jonathan Temple’s Market House, long the county courthouse, the Aliso flour mill of Jonathan Scott and Abel Stearns, and Stearns’ Arcadia Block. Sandwiched in here was a muddled reference to some kind of “hiatus” in the late Fifties during which time baker George Lehman, in 1856, established his “Garden of Paradise” at the cylindrical adobe Round House. Hayes recorded that William Wolfskill looked askance at the busy building of Temple, saying “What a pity! If Temple had not built so much [including a brick 1857 structure that was the first of several structures of the Temple Block, completed by his half-brother, F.P.F., by 1871] he might now be a rich man!” Not only did Temple die quite wealthy, so did Wolfskill, who, nonetheless, began a building that housed the store of Solomon Lazard before Wolfskill’s death, in 1866, the same year as Temple’s demise.

Another interesting tidbit is the recording that Leonardo Cota, a pueblo official in 1845, called for all houses to be plastered and whitewashed, so that remote Los Angeles might be viewed as “the Paradise of Mexico” and to “show its magnificence” and “figure in the political world.” Cota decried that the Angel City’s structures were “dark and gloomy, and more like burial mounts of the ancient nomads than habitations for a free people.” Hayes then returned to San Pedro, noting the importance of Goller, Tomlinson, Alexander, Augustus W. Timms of Timms’ Landing, José Rubio, and Phineas Banning in that region. With “Old San Pedro” left aside in 1858, Banning, “marked by sagacity, foresight, and energy,” developed Wilmington (originally denoted as New San Pedro) and his efforts led to a massive growth in shipping in the nearly two decades since. As a result, Hayes wrote of the “Port Admiral,” that,

With our best recollections of all the past, we think we may justly say, that no one of our citizens has contribute more of labor with perseverance, or more of business ability than he has done, to the accomplishment of this result.

Coming to the end of his lengthy, if convoluted, essay, Hayes paid tribute to those who “are lost to sight” in death, including such prominent Californios as Andrés Pico, Manuel Requena, José Sepúlveda and Ignacio Avila, along with Americans and Europeans like Andrew A. Boyle, Williams, Vignes, Wolfskill, Alexander Bell and Workman and Rowland, of whom the scribe intoned, “companions of a hundred dangers and toils . . . [they] sleep together at La Puente, in the church-yard of the little chapel [St. Nicholas’, destroyed around 1903, and replaced by the Walter P. Temple Memorial Mausoleum, completed in 1921 and still standing], which both designed many years ago.”

Hayes then concluded with the caveat that, “twenty years of existence, while awakening curiosity, leave hints for instruction” and “errors we have have committed.” Noting financial downturns in the mid and late Fifties and the mid-Sixties, though he, remarkably, left out the recent crash that included, just months before, the failure of the Temple and Workman bank, the chronicler observed as the nation’s centennial, which begat this history and so many others around the country, was celebrated,

In vain, lament these failures of realization where hope was so much excited, or renew the torments of evils which time has cured . . . If there have been other critical years beset by solicitude and fear, of this great day are born only glorious inspirations, rejoicing all in one common country, under one Union—indivisible, perpetual!

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