by Paul R. Spitzzeri
In the “Read All About It” series of posts, highlighting historic newspapers from the Museum’s collection, most of them have dealt with 1870s periodicals, which can be among the best sources of information for that second of three (the others being the 1840s and 1920s) focus decades during our interpretive period of 1830-1930. Moreover, the vast majority of the papers we have are from the first half of the decade when greater Los Angeles underwent its first significant and sustained growth boom with the population more than doubling during the late 1860s and into the mid-1870s.
This post features the 29 November 1874 edition of the Los Angeles Herald, the youngest of the three English-language dailies (with the Star and the Express being senior to it) and which was founded the prior year by Charles A. Storke of Santa Barbara. Storke, however, had a tough time of it and the enterprise was taken over by The Los Angeles City and County Printing and Publishing Company, which, for a time in 1874, had F.P.F. Temple among its stockholders.
One of the main features of the issue concerned the upcoming city election, which was held on 7 December. The leading candidate, and supported by the Herald, was Prudent Beaudry, a French-Canadian of long residence in the Angel City and who was a major property owner and developer, especially in the hills west of downtown, such as what became the Bunker Hill section.
The paper lambasted its competitor, the Express, for the latter’s commentary on the candidate, denoted as “the usual dose of libel” for accusing Beaudry of “having stolen a swamp” in his real estate dealings through “all sorts of underhanded means,” while also not paying his fair share of taxes—always an easy target against the wealthy. It concluded that, “should MR. BEAUDRY ever get down as low as the little traitorous, bribe taking organ of the [political] ring we shall find it swearing he is a saint.”
The Herald also ridiculed the new slate of candidates under the heading of “Independent Nominations,” with its mayoral candidate being George O. Tiffany and the paper attacking the “ring,” purportedly led by banker Isaias W. Hellman, and its selection of Tiffany over Francis Sabichi, who still headed the Citizens’ Ticket. It suggested “the ring managers have decided to make a secret move to change dummies . . . and play the latter gentleman for dummy.”
Sabichi, readers were told, “was overloaded with too much gas and water,” a reference to his positions on issuing or extending franchises on utilities during his service since 1870 on the Common (City) Council, including being its president in 1873-1874. The paper claimed that the “ring” floated both names to see which of the two men was likely to get the largest number of votes.
With respect to gas lighting services, the Herald warned taxpayers that the private Los Angeles Gas Company “are anxious to enter into a five years contract to light one hundred street lamps at the rate of six dollars and sixteen and two-third cents per lamp per month” and refused to ratify and agreement for less money and fewer years. The concern for the paper was that,
On the contract which they wish to make, and which will, no doubt be made, if the ring candidates for municipal offices are elected, the citizens of this city will be forced to pay a heavy tax for one hundred smoking lamps, not one of which will illuminate beyond the capacity of a fire-fly.
Moreover, these lamps were to be clustered in the downtown area and not help those taxpayers living outside that limited section who’d pay “for lights that they will probably see once a fortnight or oftener if they chance to come up town on other than moonlight or starlit nights.” Then, those denizens of the city “two miles out main street or of the northern end of ‘Sonora[town’ will exercise their privilege and demand lamps in their immediate vicinity.”
The result would be that “the burden of taxation will grow until it will become unbearable” and property values drop “and deter capital from coming here.” It was asserted that the proposed rates were more than double what they should be and would lead to an expansive and expensive lawsuit, so “the tax-payers should be warned in time and guard against the danger of being saddled with this five years tax.”
There were four tickets in the upcoming election, none denoted as Republican or Democratic, with the Peoples’ Ticket headed by Beaudry, the Independent as already discussed, the People’s Reform Ticket featuring L.J. Sacriste as its mayoral candidate and the Citizens’ Ticket offering Sabichi as its choice for chief executive. Quite a few candidates appeared on multiple slates beyond those for mayor, so James J. Mellus ran for treasurer on both the Independent and People’s Reform tickets, John Z. Morris was supported by the Citizens’ and Peoples’ tickets for assessor, and Thornton P. Campbell was on all four for a council seat from the first of three wards and Louis Wolfskill, Joseph Mullally, Charles E. Huber and William W. Robinson were candidates on three of the slates.
When the ballots were tabulated, Beaudry won the mayoral race and among the council members was Elijah H. Workman, from the third ward, even though he appeared on only one ticket, that of the Citizens’ slate. Wolfskill, who owned most of the Rancho San Francisquito in the San Gabriel Valley with F.P.F. Temple and Workman’s uncle, William, also secured a seat, one of several times he did so. Campbell, Huber, Mullally and Robinson also emerged victorious, while Morris won as assessor and Mellus for treasurer. The only Latinos to win election were Ramon R. Sotelo and Joseph G. Carmona (a native of Chile) as First Ward members of council and Juan J. Carrillo as city marshal.
The “Local Brevities” column of regional tidbits included a report that a new streetcar for the Spring and Sixth Street Railroad, headed by Robert Widney with F.P.F. Temple as treasurer and the first streetcar line in the region, was to arrive that day on a steamer at the harbor at Wilmington/San Pedro. Also noted was that “a desperate effort will be made to hold a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce” to select directors—this was a first edition of the body that failed and was later succeeded by a new one, still very much with us today.
In reporting that a gaggle of chickens bolted from a wagon parked in front of Delmonico’s Restaurant yesterday, the Herald took a dig at the Express and clucked that its rival “will doubtless state in its next issue that Mr. Beaudry stole some two or three of the fowls.” Cohen and Davis, proprietors of the Identical, a cigar and tobacco emporium, were highlighted for their quality items at low prices, for having a December raffle for a diamond ring, a chain and necklace and other jewelry, and for offering “a magnificent Christmas present” in the form of the raffle for just $2.50.
It being a Sunday, the paper provided notices for religious services at the Methodist Church South in the Grange Hall (where local farmers met), the Fort Street Methodist Episcopal Church, the St. Athanasius’ Episcopal Church and “public services, conducted by Rev. A.F. White, L.L. D.” at the Good Templar Hall, the meeting place for temperance advocates,” with this apparently a non-denominational gathering. Professor George W. Linton also was to lecture on “The Covenants Contrasted” at the Court House—this being the building constructed by Jonathan Temple in 1859 as a market house, but long used as the temple of justice in the Angel City.
For “Sunday Reading,” readers were given a story, translated from the German, titled “A Bible in My Trunk” about three boarding-house roommates who all clandestinely read their “good books” packed in their trunks and how it turned out that sixteen boarders, who all happened to be clerks, formed a reading “conventicle” so that “the moral effect upon our household was of the highest character.” There is also a poem, reprinted from a Presbyterian publication, called “My Cross” and a few lines may be of interest to some readers nearly 150 years later:
It is not heavy, Lord, yet oft I pine!
It is not heavy, but ’tis everywhere!
By day and night each hour my cross I bear—
I dare not lay it there; Thou keep’st it there.
I dare not lay it down; I only ask
That, taking up my daily cross, I may
Follow my Master, humbly, step by step
Through clouds and darkness unto perfect day
Finally, there is a “Letter from Spadra,” the hamlet established in the southeastern corner of Rancho San José in what is now Pomona and which was settled in 1867 mainly by people from the American South. The name was bestowed on it by William W. Rubottom, generally known as “Uncle Billy,” who lived in an Arkansas town of that name before coming to this region.
He ran a tavern and lodging place on the Rancho Cucamonga before establishing his new place, to which, also in 1867, he and F.P.F. Temple built a new cut-off road from Los Angeles to San Bernardino, which left Los Angeles and went through modern Montebello, past Temple’s homestead in the Whittier Narrows, through the Rancho La Puente of Temple’s father-in-law William Workman and John Rowland, and through Spadra on its way east.
The missive, however, began with a description of how the silver mining boom towns of the Panamint district of Inyo County—this was southeast of Cerro Gordo, another silver boom town where Temple and Workman were heavily invested and to where, also in 1874, they hoped to build the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad—near Death Valley. The correspondent, identified only as “Rover,” observed that if there were any skeptics as to the excitement at Panamint, “let him take a run on the rail to Spadra and all his doubts will soon vanish.”
The reference was to the recently completed Southern Pacific Railroad line from the Angel City that passed by Mission San Gabriel, El Monte and the Rancho La Puente (where a station was opened in April) before temporarily terminating at Spadra. The author continued that “immense boilers, mill machinery and supplies of all sorts are piled up at the terminus, awaiting transportation by mule power to the New Eldorado.”
The Los Angeles and Independence was intended to provide rail service for these and other purposes and the writer added that Panamint possessed potential, otherwise Nevada United States Senators John P. Jones, who would soon take a controlling interest in the L.A.&I. and have a branch line built to his new seaside town of Santa Monica, and William M. Stewart, “would not be spending coin with such lavish hands.”
Moreover, freighters returning from Panamint “write the most flattering accounts of affairs at the camp” and it was added that the route through Cajon Pass was not quite 200 miles “with comfortable stations” no more than 18 miles apart. Fortune seekers were heading up in droves and “the talk here is Panamint, and nothing but Panamint” with the thinking that the following spring would bring a full-on rush, even if there was not likely to be enough work to be found for the owners of claims.
Given the virulent anti-Chinese sentiment of the period, it is no surprise to see the writer intone that “many who have left for Panamint know no more about the mines than a China woman does of virtue’s walks” and specified were two “nobby” young gents from New York, “who fingers clearly indicated that hard work ever had been a stranger to them” and that “when they reach the mines their purses will be depleted and their larders empty; moneyless, inexperienced, friendless—what a rough lot is in store for them!” Further, it was reported that the greenhorns bought quite a bit of butter, but did not purchase coffee or other necessaries.
Still, not everyone was stricken with mining fever and there were new arrivals in search of farmland, thinking “it wiser to tickle the fertile soil” rather “than to go to an unknown region and swing the pick in search of precious ores.” A few days prior, about 30 families arrived several miles to the north and more were to be coming in the spring, with the correspondent continuing,
That the lands in this section are of unsurpassed fertility is acknowledged by all agricultural experts who have been here, and an abundance of water—that great essential—can readily be secured. Landholders here are wise and all intending to make actual settlement and improve their purchase can secure good farms at reasonable figures and on accommodating terms.
Finally, the piece ended with the observation that “the ‘big injun’ of this section is Mr. Rubottom” described as “a warm-hearted Missourian,” though it was stated he settled at Spadra fifteen years before, when it was actually about half that time. It was noted that on arrival he “without a single dollar in his pocket” but “now he is as comfortably fixed as any man in the State,” having turned down an offer of $30,000 for half of his ranch. While others found good fortune at Spadra, “none deserved luck more than the good natured, old fashioned, generous landlord of the Rubottom House.”
The Spadra letter promoted the area’s agricultural bounty and an editorial page piece titled “Answers to a Correspondent” addressed a man from Iowa who wrote to Los Angeles Postmaster H.K.W. Bent to ask about the prospects for a doctor in this region. The paper’s reply was that the climate was the best in the world and that “there is none better for health, comfort and happiness.” Of the roughly 27,000 residents of the county, about half were in the city, while such towns as Anaheim, Compton, Los Nietos (Downey), San Fernando and Wilmington were growing rapidly. As for physicians, it was claimed that “though this is the healthiest country in the world doctors appear to thrive here without taking their own medicine,” yet, “our friend might do well here as a dispenser of pills, but he would do better as a tiller of the soil.”
As always, newspaper advertisements are also of great interest and a few selections are provided here, including the admonition of the Goldsmith cigar store that those candidates for city offices should smoke fine cigars for “equilibrium of body and mind” and that, if the office seekers were “elected,” the stogies would bring happiness, but, if not, consolation. Also of note is one for a laundry at “Flour” [Flower] and Sixth streets that was sure to state that “NO CHINESE EMPLOYED,” which explains why it was called the “Occidental Laundry.” This was another blatant example of anti-Chinese discrimination that was rampant here and in much of western America at the time.
We’ll keep sharing issues of 1870s Los Angeles newspapers in the “Read All About It” series so keep checking in to read more about these great sources of information about the Angel City of 150 or so years back.