Read All About It in the Los Angeles Herald, 31 January 1875

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Thanks to the Homestead’s collection of historic 1870s newspapers, we get a better understanding of greater Los Angeles life during the first half of that decade when the region was at the peak of its first development boom and when the Workman and Temple family were active participants in much of the activity taking place during the time. This latest installment of the “Read All About It” series takes us through the four pages of the Los Angeles Herald of 31 January 1875.

One of the notable articles concerned “An Important Land Decision,” in which local federal land registrar Alfred James forwarded his opinion to the General Land Office commissioner in Washington, D.C. on a claim made by attorney and future mayor Henry T. Hazard for lands in Los Angeles. The petition was filed by him in early 1872, but the hearing did not begin for over two years. What it covered was that in April 1855, the City of Los Angeles deeded four “donation” lots to Hazard’s father Ariel and his older brothers George and Daniel, along with a lot solely to Ariel and another to James R. Barton, who was just profiled in a multi-part post here.

Five years later, George and Daniel deeded their interests in the four lots to Henry, while Barton transferred his lot to Ariel not long after he acquired it. In 1866, Ariel then signed over his interests in the properties to Henry—who, therefore, had sole interest in the half-dozen pieces of property. Yet, when a land claim was filed by the City for what it considered its holdings under Spanish and Mexican era grants, a commission hearing the matter ruled, in early 1856, that only four square leagues, not quite 18,000 acres, was what was intended and this excluded the properties in question.

The problem for Hazard, however, was that the deeds to two of the lots went unrecorded for fourteen years, while the others never were. Beyond this, while “others were permitted to go into possession of different portions of said tract,” Hazard “did not present and urge his claim to a final determination within a reasonable time.” Also at issue was whether he “has maintained such possession and exercised such dominion over the said premises” as required by an 1866 federal act. Here, James opined that this was not the case and that he actually “voluntarily abandoned . . . and permitted the decadence and removal of the improvements therefrom.” Consequently, the register concluded, “in view of all the facts . . . I am of the opinion that the said application should be denied.”

In the editorial section, the Herald briefly discussed the visit of Bryant L. Peel to San Bernardino as a representative of the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad, which was formed in 1874 with F.P.F. Temple as president, though, by early 1875, he was supplanted by U.S. Senator from Nevada, John P. Jones, who took a majority share of the company’s stock. Peel told the paper “that many of the citizens of that county feel that they have cause to complain of the treatment they have received from our county,” but there was a change “and it passing away rapidly.” He claimed that “many prominent citizens are willing to take an interest” in the railroad and most would “soon be in favor of doing all they can in aiding the enterprise.” The company only built a branch line to Jones’ new seaside town of Santa Monica, while the main route, including passage through much of San Bernardino County via the vital Cajon Pass, to silver mining regions in Inyo County went unrealized.

Peel added that San Bernardino was “in a healthy and prosperous condition, with the signs of enterprise visible all around” and a separate letter to the paper, from “Veritas” and dated the 29th, reported that Peel was “endeavoring to interest our people in the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad, about which, previous to his visit, they knew but little.” The writer verified Peel’s impression and added that “strange as it may seem, the people of San Bernardino have conceived the idea that Los Angeles is their enemy,” and they have been taught to look with suspicion upon every enterprise or project which emanates from your city.”

Yet, it was noted, Peel’s biggest achievement during his sojourn was “eradicating from the minds of some that false impression” and Veritas felt that “there is no reason why harmony and good feeling should not exist between the two places,” as their success was directly connected. The missive continued,

The Colonel has been very assiduous in his efforts to wake up our people to their own interests, and has done much to make the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad project understood. Some who previous to his visit looked upon it with disfavor, and are now enthusiastic in its support, and we have no doubt that subscriptions to stock will be liberal . . . The proposition that the building of that road will greatly benefit San Bernardino is too plain to admit of argument, and our people are beginning to appreciate the fact and will no doubt render material assistance.

As to general conditions in that town, Veritas stated that it “is flourishing and improving more rapidly than at any former period” with many improvements, growth of business, and visitors filling its hotels.

Elsewhere, there was an editorial titled “The Story Not Half Told” which noted that the paper received a postal card from A.A. Proctor of Compton, pegged as “one of the richest localities in Los Angeles county,” but which said that his receiving notice that his Herald subscription had expired could not have come soon enough as “when you are done with Nordhoff’s style of writing up this country, perhaps I will subscribe again,” but he wanted “a proper representation of this country” after the disappointment he felt over “the glowing accounts given in your paper.”

Charles Nordhoff’s 1873 book, California: For Health, Pleasure and Residence had a major impact on the decision of many persons to settle in the Golden State, including in greater Los Angeles, while the Herald, through its daily and weekly print editions and its 1874 promotional pamphlet, was as enthusiastic a booster during this first boom as any other entity. Meanwhile, William T. Lucky, superintendent of city schools, received a letter from Illinois in which the correspondent, having read some issues of the Herald, “and while highly pleased with its descriptions of the country he yet cannot help wondering if they are not too highly coloured.” Another missive Lucky mentioned from Nashville indicated that the writer, having read the New Year’s Day edition of the paper, “is not more than ever anxious to make Los Angeles his home.”

The piece observed that the contrast between Los Angeles and environs and other parts of the country were such that residents from those areas “are to be pardoned for doubting” what they read or were told. Proctor, however, “is here and has seen and thought for himself,” and, while he did not provide details of his disappointment, there was another correspondent with the Herald who held that view, though, reportedly, this individual owned up to being more dissatisfied with himself than the area. Moreover, the paper was confident Proctor would see the error of his thinking and renew his subscription and claimed that hundreds of persons communicated that, when it came to the manifold benefits of the region, there was a “story not half told.”

For those outside of greater Los Angeles, the Herald solemnly offered that it had never “knowingly and intentionally overdrawn the description or account of any place or thing in the county of valley.” It added that its purpose was to report on California and its resources, climate, products “and its beauties” for the purposes of encouraging new settlers and, in so doing, “our purpose could only be attained by a close adherence to the truth.” The fertile soil, unmatched climate, diversity of agricultural products and other aspects were as advertised and “there are no gardens of Paradise here subject to pre-emption at the Government price of one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre.” Beyond this, “California was included in the edict of God that man should earn his bread by the sweat of his brow.” The piece ended, however, with the statement:

But this does not prevent Los Angeles valley being a desirable place for people who like good land, a mild climate and beautiful surroundings.

Also of interest was an article that included a note from Representative Sherman O. Houghton (whose two wives were cousins and members of the Donner family who survived the horrific ordeal of the party in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1846) that he was unalterably opposed to any change in the timeframe of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Congressionally mandated line to Los Angeles as part of its plans to build to the Colorado River at Yuma and proceed eastward and that his proposal on shortening the northern portion of the route to San Francisco would save nearly 100 miles.

Separately, longtime resident Juan José (Jonathan Trumbull) Warner showed the paper a letter from Houghton that Warner’s missive and a copy of the Herald of the 19th aligned with his opinion on a transcontinental railroad to southern California being ‘a work of national importance.” Additionally, the representative told Warner that he supported “a Government guarantee of interest on the bonds” of whichever firm was hired to build such a line and that this “can be done with entire safety and without any possibility of loss,” while he through the Texas Pacific Railroad deserved aid in this regard, though it never completed a transcontinental road. A direct line to Los Angeles was a decade away and that was a major contributor to the much larger Boom of the 1880s.

In the “Local Brevities” section was a brief notice that Governor Newton Booth issued a proclamation offering a $2,000 reward for the capture of Clodoveo Chávez and this, reprinted in the new advertisements section, stated that the bandit “is implicated in the perpetration of murders and other crimes.” What was not stated was that Chávez, who was wanted in Monterey County, was a member of the gang of the notorious Tiburcio Vásquez, who was captured in what is now West Hollywood in spring 1874 and would be executed in San Jose in several weeks. Chávez managed to elude capture, but, at the end of November 1875, was killed in Arizona with a grisly aftermath told by John Boessenecker.

A previous post here included a portion of poem submitted to the Herald by “Zoe Zella,” which was clearly a nom de plume and this edition of the paper featured another of her works, called two voices and here are some of the lines of the work from the local versifier:


Ah! but your sorrow is not very deep,

If you can lull it so gently to sleep.

How many there are no better than we

From whom all sorrow seemeth to flee!

Why should our burden be so very great,

Leaving to other a happier fate?

Think you it is right that a few should bear

The burdens of sorry, trouble and care?


Can you look deep into every heart,

Lifting each mask that is hiding a part?

Can you roam free through every cell,

Bidding Memory loose her spell?

Can you tell when the sweet, merry laugh

Hath not been wrung from a poisoned draught?

Can you always see by the smile’s bright glow

What a world of sadness may lurk below?

The world has plenty for us to do;

The vineyard is large, but the workers few,

Then up and be doing and dream no more—

The dreamer’s future hath nothing in store;

And life will prove but a dreary part

If we sink down ‘neath each burning smart,

And braver and truer are they who hide

Their troubles deep with a smiling pride.

In the new advertisements section is a public notice of a revision to an ordinance of the City of Los Angeles pertaining to licenses for certain business. In this case, the matter concerned bars, saloons, grocery stores and dance houses and the requirement of a $2,000 bond as well as the promise that such places be “quiet and orderly,” as well as “not permit Indians to obtain liquor . . . nor suffer any drunken Indians to remain about the saloon and premises under their control.” This matter had been a problem for many years, but whether the ordinance had any substantial effect is the question.

Another notable ad concerned an upcoming three evenings of performances by the Esther Society of Los Angeles comprising a “Grand Musical Festival” with the 1856 cantata “Esther, The Beautiful Queen” by William Batchelder Bradbury. The piece was under the direction of “Professor” Orrin W. Parker, a native of Ohio whose stay in Los Angeles was short, lasting from 1874 to 1876, but who lived for years in Oakland, where he was a member of the board of education as well as a music teacher. The concerts were given at the Turn Verein Hall on Spring Street with admission being $1 and reserved tickets available at Falkenau’s Music Store.

We’ll keep featuring these 1870s newspapers from the Homestead’s holdings in the “Read All About It” series of posts, so be sure to check in from time to time for those.

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