Read All About It in the Los Angeles Express, 4 December 1874

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

The Homestead’s collection of historic greater Los Angeles newspaper includes, as previous posts in the “Read All About It” series have featured, a decent selection of early 1870s examples from the Star, Herald and Express and, from the pages of these major English-language dailies, we get a good understanding of much of what transpired during the region’s first significant and sustained growth boom, lasting through the end of the Sixties until 1875-76, when an economic panic broke out and, among the many casualties, was the Temple and Workman bank and its owners, William Workman and his son-in-law F.P.F. Temple.

Tonight’s entry in the series is the 4 December 1874 edition of the Express and, as we saw in a recent post from the 29 November issue of the Herald, the two papers were not just competitors but political enemies as the city election was just a few days away. Prudent Beaudry, who’d accumulated quite a real estate empire, especially in the hills at the west edge of downtown, such as Bunker Hill, was a candidate for mayor and the Express was a vociferous opponent, as its “Beaudry Crucified” editorial amply demonstrated.

The piece began with the comment that “another desperate effort is made by the Herald this morning [the Express was the only evening paper in town] to save Mr. Beaudry from the obloquy [intense criticism] of the Bernard lot swindle.” This had to do with a civil court case involving Roman Catholic Bishop Thaddeus Amat (who blessed the cornerstone of St. Nicholas’ Chapel at the Workman family’s El Campo Santo Cemetery back in 1857) and the Herald was taken to task for “an effort [that] is made to bolster Beaudry’s character by weakening his unimpugned deposition as a witness in the case.”

While the details are sketchy, it was alleged that Beaudry approached a man named Bernard about a lot and told him his name was written on a city map as grantee of the property “and induced him to sign a petition to the Council for a quit-claim [to] it” with the candidate, who happened to be a member of that body, writing the document. Moreover, it was claimed that Beaudry did this knowing that Bernard was not the legal owner, but still asserted that “the deed had been mislaid or lost,” while testimony in the proceeding possessed a “crushing weight,” including the Bishop’s corroboration of Bernard’s claim of ignorance as to his claim.

The Express went on to aver that “the handwriting of Beaudry convicts Beaudry of resorting to false statement[s] in a formal document to obtain the lot from a Common Council of which he was a member.” Beyond this, it noted to readers that the case of Beaudry vs. Amat revealed that “the manner in which he had secured the title to this lot was pregnant with fraud” so the real estate speculator “placed the property in the hands of an old clerk of his” and, with this becoming the land “of an innocent purchaser, his case was strengthened” and examination into the matter “narrows to the party judicially in interest.”

A shorter piece, titled “Not a Word,” castigated the council member by stating, “Beaudry studiously eschews saying anything about the Antonio Avila grab,” this in reference to the mayoral hopeful’s 25% stake in a “14-acre bogus claim in ‘Sonora,” evidently Sonoratown, north of the Plaza, off which on Wine (later, Olvera) Street is the Avila Adobe, the oldest surviving residence in the Angel City. It was reported that Beaudry “wrote out a report as a member of a Committee of the Common Council recommending the Council to validate the title by making a quite claim deed to a party, in trust for the claimants,” yet, when it was learned that he had a financial interest, this “timely discovery . . . defeated this stupendous attempt at city land robbery.” The paper concluded, “no wonder he keeps mum.” As noted in the recent post, Beaudry went on to win the mayoralty despite the best efforts of the Express.

Note J.J. Warner’s humorous ad offering a $10 reward to anyone who could produce proof of the greatly exaggerated claims of the boosters Los Angeles Star publisher Benjamin C. Truman and author Charles Nordhoff about the wonders of Los Angeles.

Another interesting article on the editorial page concerned the silver mine of James B. Winston in San Gabriel Canyon, where a great deal of activity took place at the time and continues now. Winston (1820-1884) was from Culpeper County, Virginia, southwest of Washington, D.C., where the hamlet bearing the family name is now. A physician, Winston arrived in Los Angeles, after having resided in Kentucky, in 1849 as part of a caravan of gold-seekers.

He was a partner with Alpheus P. Hodges, also a Virginia-born doctor, in running the Bella Union (later the St. Charles) Hotel, the oldest in town, but also opened, by 1854, a drug store that also sold paint and oils. When David Workman was buried at El Campo Santo Cemetery at the Homestead in late 1855, Winston led a Masonic procession that handled the services for their brother Mason and he was a “disinterested gentleman” at the landmark trial of Biddy Mason, who was freed in a habeus corpus hearing in Los Angeles early in 1856. At the end of the decade he was back to operating the hotel, which was enlarged with a brick second floor and extensively remodeled and then leased by him, and also served on the Common Council.

In 1863, when mining activity was rampant on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, Winston was a trustee of a company working a claim there and, two years later, had interests in mining near Tehachapi. Also in 1865, he was one of the founders of the Pioneer Oil Company, which, as its name notes, was the first of its kind in Los Angeles. In the late Sixties, he was elected to the county Board of Supervisors and served into early the next decade, while the 1870 census recorded his occupation (though he continued ownership of the Bella Union) as a miner.

An early 1872 article in the Star noted that Winston, described as “a true-born educated gentleman; dignified, warm-hearted and elegant,” had “spent one, if not two fortunes in the subterranean vaults of the San Gabriel in developing mines of silver.” The paper added that he’d spent some $30,000 in gold but hadn’t produced that much yet in silver. In March 1874, Winston was one of several defendants, including the estate of his deceased partner John King, in a mortgage suit involving the Bella Union, the hostelry being sold due to mortgage debt a little more than a year later.

When William Workman was buried at El Campo Santo after committing suicide in the wake of the failure of his bank, Winston was one of the pallbearers with capitalist John E. Hollenbeck, former sheriff Frank Burns, Asa Ellis of El Monte, Southern Pacific Railroad agent Edward E. Hewitt, merchant Charles Prager, attorney John D. Bicknell and Charles Bush. Winston returned to a medical practice and was the Los Angeles city health officer from 1880-1883 with chronic rheumatism leading to his retirement and then death in September 1884.

The article noted that “the results of late explorations in this mine, on the San Gabriel [River], are of the most satisfactory character,” as a 300-foot tunnel following a vein of ore until it was believed that “there is not the slightest doubt now that the great fissure vein running through this mountain . . . has been worked into.” Moreover, it was reported that “some of the ore now in Temple’s Bank [that is, the bank of Temple and Workman] is as fine looking ore as we have ever seen.” While it was believed that “Dr. Winston’s energy and pertinacity is about the rewarded” and that “he has now unfolded a mine of great richness” which local capitalists were urged to invest in, it was not the bonanza it was made out to be.

Key components to this first regional boom included, of course, a flurry of real estate speculative ventures and a major emphasis on transportation improvements. With the first, a short article referred to “The Centinela Ranch,” which was soon (January 1875) to be the subject of a several-day auction for the Centinela Land Company, of which F.P.F. Temple was president. This area near Culver City and Westchester was visited by J. Ross Browne, a notable writer and booster of California who wrote to William H. Martin, who handled the auction, and stated:

With all my experience of the Southern part of California, I have seen nothing to surpass this tract in fertility of soil, beauty of location and advantages of easy access and salubrity [sic] of climate. For purposes of colonization, I know of no large body of land so near a growing commercial center, in California or elsewhere, to equal it.

Browne added that lots of five to several hundred acres could be highly productive with plenty of water through irrigation and he indicated that owners could grow anything that was raised successfully in Los Angeles or Santa Barbara counties. He went to assert, “it is my confident opinion that the value of shares in this magnificent tract will be quadrupled within two years—such is the extraordinary influx of immigration to the vicinity of Los Angeles at the present time.”

While there were extensive plans for a townsite, a railroad to the outflow of Ballona Creek to the ocean near modern Playa del Rey, and other high hopes, the Centinela project was one of those adversely affected by the economic collapse of 1875-1876, though, in the next boom, the much larger one of the later 1880s, Inglewood arose from the ashes of the earlier subdivision.

With respect to transportation, another editorial page piece of note was titled “The Cajon Route” and concerned the early efforts of the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad, of which Temple was president, to plan for a line from the Angel City to the teeming silver mines of Inyo County, more than 200 miles northeast in Inyo County (and where Temple and Workman were deeply invested in Cerro Gordo.) The article began by proclaiming that “we cannot better show to our readers the natural advantages and economical gradients of the Cajon Pass as a railroad gateway to our back-country than by reiterating the opinions of Mr. [James U.] Crawford, the Engineer.”

Having “thoroughly explored all the passes leading into the Mohave basin,” Crawford “pronounces the Cajon the most superior of all,” though the San Gorgonio might have been an exception. Speaking to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce (precursor to the current body) earlier in the week, the engineer, who’d returned from his explorations that morning, asserted that “I know enough already from an inspection of my field notes and profiles . . . [that] we have been successful in obtaining a first-class, cheap and direct railroad line across the Sierra Madra [sic; also, this is the San Gabriel range], that I shall not only be able to verify but to improve upon my report of June last that I shall be able to reduce my maximum gradient to about 130 feet per mile . . .”

Emphasizing the proper grades for transporting ore through the pass on its way to Los Angeles with an apt “measure of economy,” Crawford’s remark were praised by the Express as

it shows us to be placed in possession of a practicable gateway through the mountains for our contemrlated [contemplated] road, and reduced the success of this great indispensable enterprises to a mere question of energy, liberality, and public spirit on the part of our own people.

In “Local Items,” there was the news that “the fine stairway of the High School building is now completed, and it makes a shapely approach to the conspicuous edifice.” The institution opened the previous year and the stairway up from New High Street did allow for more ready access to the site on Poundcake Hill.

For the upcoming Christmas holiday, it was noted that “a nice present” at the store of Harris and Jacoby consisted of pairs of women’s kid gloves at $9 per dozen, with those having two buttons instead of one fetching $12. Accompanied by an ad was a notice that the Merced Theatre was to host a performance by the troupe of Florence Kent, also denoted as “lessee and manageress” of the venue, which opened in 1870 and the building of which still stands next to the extant Pico House hotel off the southwest corner of the Plaza. Kent and her compatriots promised a “New Bill Every Night” with a “Return of the Old Favorites!” and “Fun! Fun!! Fun!!!” The notice concluded that “the company is a strong and efficient one, and will give us an attractive dramatic revival.”

More railroad news included the report that the construction of the “Anaheim Ranch Railroad” of the Southern Pacific from Florence, south of Los Angeles” was progressing at about a half-mile of track daily. Rails were laid “for over a mile beyond New River,” that is, the course of the San Gabriel created by flooding in the winter of 1867-1868, and “with good luck the cars will be running to that pleasant burgh by Christmas.” Meanwhile, John Cassidy arrived in town “to superintend the building of the telegraph line for the ” Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company “along the railroad to Anaheim.”

Another important item was that “the Los Angeles Immigration and Land Co-operative Association yesterday completed their organization” by electing its officers. The organization went on, in 1875, to establish the towns of Artesia and Pomona, though its principals are best remembered in the latter because of streets named after them. These include President Thomas A. Garey, Vice-President J.T. Gordon, Secretary Luther M. Holt, Manager J.E. McComas, Assistant Manager, Milton Thomas and Attorney George C. Gibbs. The only officer whose surname is not associated with a thoroughfare there was Treasurer J.H. Carr.

Attorney Edward J.C. Kewen, a Southerner with a silver tongue but also a biting wit and penchant for scathing criticism of his opponents, was to celebrate his silver wedding anniversary with his wife at their home the following Thursday. The Kewen place was the former mill of the Mission San Gabriel and El Molino Viejo, now a state historic landmark, was part of the 1846 grant by Governor Pío Pico to Hugo Reid and William Workman for the lands of the Mission San Gabriel.

Kewen, however, acquired the mill in 1858 after it had been taken by “squatter’s rights” by Star publisher James S. Waite and then briefly owned by Dr. Thomas White, and lived there for about two decades until his death in 1879, at which time financial issues led to its sale by John E. Hollenbeck, who held a mortgage on it. Today, the property, which for thirty years was the regional headquarters of the California Historical Society, is run by the Old Mill Foundation.

A lengthy summary of the prior day’s meeting of the Common Council included reports on collections of license taxes and fees, delinquent taxes and fines; grading of streets; refunds to citizens for monies raised to buy the land for the new Southern Pacific depot, which was called the River Station (where Los Angeles State Historic Park now is) in 1876; reports on city lands respecting deeds, purchases, quit claims, and other transactions; the grading from Main Street from 6th to Washington streets for the Main Street and Agricultural Park street railroad; a bridge on 6th between Olive and Charity (now Grand Avenue) and others; recommended work on Zanja #8, deemed to be in poor shape, including a flume along where Dr. John S. Griffin, a prominent Angeleno resided; the order that the Zanjero keep his office in the city hall where the marshal had his quarters; a request from property owners for the construction of a culvert at Ninth Street and the County Road at the west end of the city and another at Ninth and Kennedy and Green streets (these and the County Road do not exist now by those names, though it would be interesting to know what they are know—does anyone out there know?); negotiations for a Babcock fire engine with exchange for the existing hook-and-ladder vehicle leading to an agreement for the mayor to sign and news that E.E. Hewitt of the Southern Pacific would arrange for free transport from the port at Wilmington; and miscellaneous news, like the rejection of Antonio Labory’s petition for the release of taxation on 5,000 of his sheep and the agreement to hire six special police officers for election day.

Advertisements are always interesting and informative to peruse so a few examples are shown here, including for holiday shopping. We happen to have the same day’s edition of the Herald in our holdings, so can compare and contrast the Beaudry bashing and other news next year on this date!

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